Sunday, 13 April 2014

Norfolk Birding Day 2 - Snettisham

Early morning breakfast at 7.15 with the taste of cider and dodgy stir fry still coming up not the best way to start the day, but after some oj and coffee and a fair breakfast was raring to go. We had decided today to have a trip to Snettisham. On the way to the reserve we spotted some small birds on telegraph wires, always worth a look in farm country for Corn Bunting. After stopping we got out and saw that they were lovely Yellowhammers, Paul managed this shot when one curious bird flew a bit closer, Magic!

Corvids filled the ploughed fields, Rook, Carrion Crow and Jackdaws a plenty.

We drove up the path to the reserve near to some fishing lakes and straight away heard our first Willow Warbler of the year :) Walking past the lakes Shaun spotted a pair of Egyptian Geese with young.

Also there were Greylag mainly but the odd Canada Goose. In the hedgerow Paul spotted a pair of Bullfinches and we also had Greenfinch, Goldfinch & Chiffchaff.

Walking through the scrub we had mainly Linnets and a lone Little Egret was on the far lagoon. After a walk of about a mile, at the top end was a small colony of Black Headed Gulls and then we climbed up to the front looking out into The Wash. Dark Bellied Brents were on the mudflats with hundreds of waders, which were mainly, Godwit, Knot, Oystercatcher and Dunlin. It would have been great to get a closer look but the road through by the coastal bungalows was private with no access! Black Tailed Godwit in flight.

Walking down to the hides (only one remains after the storm of December 5th 2013) it was heartbreaking to see the damage that had been caused. It was quite frightening to imagine what that event must have been like for those living nearby as for that amount of water to come over the banks and wreck 5 of the hides was truly mind blowing. The main breach has been fortified and work on the hides will re-commence once the breeding season has finished. We flushed a few rabbits and a Stoat came out onto the path before disappearing into the scrub.

From the hide, we could see mainly Black Tailed Godwit, Avocet, Gulls and a few Dunlin. It was bleak bird wise and did not have the feel of a reserve at all. Hopefully things will get better over the coming years when things have settled down and repairs are completed. Walking back we had views of a pair of Buzzards and a pool contained about 7 pairs of Tufted Duck. I had an alert on my mobile that an Ouzel was at Heacham and a Cuckoo had been spotted at the Coastal Park about half a mile down the road, so we decided on giving that a go. We paid a £2 parking fee and set off walking around the coastal scrub and reedbeds (Snettisham Country Park), no sign of Cuckoo, but we did hear a couple more Cetti's Warblers and had a Stonechat and yet more Linnets. Later on we spotted a Wheatear

and then heard a Sedge Warbler singing on top of a bush near the reedbeds. Paul got this shot.

 A Willow Warbler was singing nearby as well.

After a few hours we decided to have a look around the estate at Sandringham and see if we could increase our total of ticks and get near to the 100 mark. Parking up we walked through some lovely ancient woodland that comprised both coniferous and deciduous trees. Nuthatch, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Coal Tit and Long Tailed Tit put in an appearance. Just then I heard the rhythmical call of a Goldcrest and we spotted it flitting high up in a conifer.

No sign of any woodpeckers though. What a beautiful area and so quiet, hardly anybody around. As we were leaving to make the journey back up North, we spotted a raptor high up overhead, lighter coloured long wings and a white tail with black bar at the end, it then hovered whilst tail twisting!! Rough Legged Buzzard in the bag and a great way to bring up the 100 species for the trip. Paul was made up as he had a few lifers in the bag, Shaun had a great trip and took some excellent photos, and my yearlist had a few more additions to take my total up to 161 with loads more Summer Migrants yet to be added :-)

Stay tuned for more blogs with trips to Anglesey & Lyn Brenig planned next few months.


Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photos)
Paul Kurs (photos)

Lincs & Norfolk Birding - Thursday 10th April 2014

Our short break down to Norfolk had finally arrived and myself Shan & Paul set off in the three seater van at around 5am for the four hour journey to birding heaven. The journey started with Shaun driving and myself and Paul squeezed into the front, this was soon to change as Paul decided to be the dog and get into the back of the van as he was getting dead legs! Upon first light & passing into Lincolnshire you get a feeling of the broad open spaces and ploughed fields, rape fields, vegetable crops and endless sky. The weather was fine with a few nice days forecast so all was well. During the journey we still bird from the van and all species are added to the total.

First pit stop and breakfast time in Little Chef at Boston. Breakfast birding brought about Song Thrush, Dunnock, Linnets, Buzzard being mobbed by crows and a Robin. Fully refuelled and £10 each lighter after tea and an Olympic Breakfast, we headed for our first destination RSPB Frampton Marshes. It was about 9am on arrival and straight out of the van we saw Curlew, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron, Teal, Mallard, Pied Wagtails in the fields opposite the visitor center and a Blackcap singing nearby. Walking over to the freshwater scrapes by the reception centre we could hear plenty of noisy Black Headed Gulls. They certainly look fine close up though!

Most of the Islands were occupied by the gulls and a few Avocets were nearby.

I said to the lads we must have a Med Gull amongst that lot. Sure enough, I spotted one strutting around like cock of the rock and managed a cheap phonescoped record shot as it was quite a way out.

Other birds we could see included Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Mute Swan, Shoveler, Goldeneye and a pair of resplendent Great Crested Grebes stood out nearby :)

Walking down a little further Shaun made us aware of hundreds of Geese in the sky in the background. And then we spotted some of them in the flooded fields. They were Dark Bellied Brent Geese.

Skylarks were climbing to the heavens singing all around us and there was swarms of midges everywhere but not a hirundine in sight! Mad hares were all around in the fields and were a joy to watch as they played on this great reserve with not a care in the world :)

Paul spotted a few Ruff dotted here and there, probably the most mis-identified bird ever due to various sizes and plumage changes :-

and then a fair sized flock of Black Tailed Godwit some immatures but most in reddish breeding plumage.

We then did a circuit of the lagoons up out onto an embankment that borders the reserve and looks out onto the saltmarsh. A few solitary Redshank were feeding out on the marsh along with a Little Egret but little else of note. Just then Shaun spotted a pair of Ringed Plover fly in to the lagoon, these were the first I had seen this year and looked fine. Scanning the lagoon I came across a solitary Little Ringed Plover also another year tick.

As we walked along we spotted several more Plovers busily feeding and squabbling with rival neighbours! A quick look in the hides produced nothing out of the ordinary bar a very pink Black Headed Gull! Spring was defo here and there were lot's of butterflies around the reserve, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and this lovely Brimstone,

Cup of tea before we left & to donate a few quid to the reserve.

Back into the van and next destination was RSPB Titchwell, we had decided not to check in at our digs until after we had been birding. As we drove on it was hard to see a field that did not contain a Pheasant or a Grey Partridge! Also we had Kestrel overhead and a bit later on a Sparrowhawk circling. In the car park at Titchwell, I was looking up at a big group of Raptors circling high above, with Red Kite, Buzzard and Marsh Harriers all on the thermals. I spoke to the lady at the entrance about the Black Kite sighting and she said it was most definitely a mis-identification as in 30 years of birding she had only seen 3 (hmm), Oh well. A Redstart singing in the bushes and a Yellowhammer on the track towards the first hide certainly got me excited. As we walked down we could see Marsh Harriers flying above the reedbeds, a fantastic sight. Paul spotted some Pochard at the back of a nearby pool and Reed Buntings were singing from nearby scrub.

Entering the hide we had views of Bar Tailed & Black Tailed Godwits, (flying up and wheeling around in big circles)

Knot, Dunlin and at least four Sandwich Terns. The Avocets were looking fantastic and easy to see why the RSPB made them their emblem bird :-)

Just then the explosive song of a Cetti's Warbler rang out from a nearby reedbed, brilliant :) Movement at a low down window in the hide made us look and it was the most showy Snipe we had ever seen!!

Exiting the hide and walking further on to the Parrinder Hide we could see more Redshank & Ruff in the odd creek and lots of Linnet in nearby fields on tide wrack. After a quick look out from the Parrinder Hide, where we saw Shelduck, Gadwall,(see pic)

Grey Plover,Curlew,Turnstone and some Pintail fly in. We then walked up to the beach for a seawatch as high tide was around 5pm. Out to sea there were rafts of Common Scoter and I picked up a few Velvet scoter in amongst them as the sea was very calm. Some Sanderling were busily feeding and happily chasing the tide in and out as they went along. No sign of any Snow Bunting (mostly all moved on North by now) but a few Pied Wags. A most curious sight was a Common Scoter that decided to come out of the sea and go for a stroll up the beach!

We decided to walk back to the van and drop the scopes off and just take the bins down to the Fen Hides and have a closer look at the Harriers. What a good decision this proved to be. After Paul had nearly stepped on a Robin near the van and myself on a fat Wood Pigeon, you get the impression these birds are fed by visitors!

After a quick pasty at the RSPB shop, we walked the Fen trail and came across a couple of Jays in the bushes. At the Fen hide we got another Cetti's Warbler who was calling but could not be seen. Walking on we came across another Blackcap, numerous Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Great Tit & Blue Tit. Arriving at the Fen pools, we got views of quite a lot of Tufted Ducks but further up in the corner Shaun spotted a pair of Red Crested Pochard. Lovely birds and another yeartick! This one having a shake :)

And the female moving along close behind,

Just then the Harriers appeared and a male had a small vole, 'get ready for the food pass' I said and sure enough the female came up from underneath and a successful pass ensued, captured by Paul & Shauns cameras :) Brilliant.

Back of the camera shot of female honing in for the food pass :-

And success as she grabs her meal :) Wow, cannot script stuff like this, amazing.

On the way back to the Van we heard a Grasshopper Warbler and also saw a pair of Red Legged Partridge on an unused farm path.

We decided to call in at Holme Village where there is a Golf Course near to the coast and see if we can see any migrants. Shaun & Paul got involved in a conversation with a rather eccentric chap who had been playing Golf and nicknamed him the Colonel. I could barely make out what he was saying but it definitely involved a Wryneck at some stage. I was busy spotting a rather large Mistle Thrush in a nearby tree. Anyways, moving on, we walked to the dunes and scoured the golf course with little luck until Shaun spotted a Wheatear on a bank. A bit further on a Swallow flew over, the first we had seen all day! Meadow Pipits and Linnets, but nothing else, maybe we were a tad early and the place will be alive most probably in the coming weeks. Last stop at Hunstanton and a quick look for any Ring Ouzels near the lighthouse (best early morning) no luck but a fine Grey Partridge having a dirt bath then strolling off :)

Back to The Crown Inn Gayton where we checked in got cleaned up and came down to the bar for a few ales for Shaun, Cider for me and a few glasses of fine wine for Paul. In between we fed our faces in the restaurant and then tried to engage in conversation with the locals "oo ar oo ar" the end of a great day. Bring on 2mo.


Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (photos)
Paul Kurs (photos) 

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Burton & Leasowe Sat 5th April 2014

Early morning start for myself and Shaun down at Burton Marsh. Arriving at 7am we walked the tarmac path towards Burton Point. It was cool and cloudy with a fair breeze blowing and not much was about. 1st bird spotted was a Blackwit flying over and then a couple of Little Egrets. Some Black Headed Gulls were feeding near the manure pile by Burton Marsh Farm along with a couple of Carrion Crows. Just then the cronking of a Raven alerted us to its presence as it sailed overhead, a truly awesome bird! 

Up near to the M.O.D shooting area we spotted a couple of Stock Doves in an old building and then I spotted a female Merlin out on a white marker post on the marsh. She soon flew fast and low over the banks into the range and flushed some small pipits, but had no luck with a kill. Out on the marsh a few Teal and a lone Mute Swan looked very lonely. A quick scan of the sandstone facade was fruitless in the search for the Little Owls, oh well plenty of time this year for success. A blackbird and a few Linnets were the only small birds around in the gorse bushes. On the way back Shaun spotted a Marsh Harrier being mobbed by a Crow, a very pale bird. Next to the cattle grid by the big reedbed Shaun took this picture of a nice Male Reed Bunting who was heard calling.

Most of the tide wrack has been shifted from the farm side out onto the marsh and three or four Wheatears were now in view, great to have them back. Here's a nice male perched on a rotten log that I phonescoped :) Can't wait for later this month when Reed, Sedge & Grasshopper Warblers return along with Whinchat.

The weather was closing in and starting to rain as forecast so we opted for a quick trip up to Leasowe Lighthouse to see if we could spot an Ouzel. On arrival the tide was well out but the usual Turnstones and Redshank were feeding not far from the front keeping away from the fisherman who were digging for lugworm bait. Yesterday had seen an Osprey and a Glaucous Gull, but alas no such delights today :( 

Walking down Lingham Lane towards the fisheries was good, we saw Blue Tit, Gt Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Mistle Thrush & Song Thrush and lots of noisy House Sparrows. Shaun got this great shot of a bird in mid flight just after launch :) 

By the bridge over the river we scanned for any white banded blackbirds, without success, but there were plenty of Greenfinches 

and Linnets and quite a few Collared Doves, including one in a hedge not very well concealed sat on nest!! Walking the lane past the fisheries I spotted a pair of Blackcaps (male & fem) they were both picking through the flowering buds & probing for insects. 

We stopped to have a chat with Dave (local birder) who told us he had found the female Ring Ouzel yesterday up by the golf driving range, but had not seen it today. He advised the one at Red Rocks was still showing today. Never mind, will find one day! A few other birders reported it was quiet, apart from an early Swallow that flew through, not much to report on migrant front. 

A quick walk back past the lighthouse produced a pair of Dunnocks wing flicking and a cock Pheasant calling from the nearby field. Skylarks were all around us and singing away very happily. Both hungry, it was time to head back as the rain was getting worse. 

Thanks for reading and watch out for my Norfolk blog next week when myself Shaun & Paul will be venturing to North Norfolk next Thu/Fri. 


Mike Buckley
Shaun Hickey (Photography)