Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Baby boom

Today my elder son's class visited UEA and they joined our ringing session in the morning. It was the warmest day of the year (still hot now at 22:30) but the birds were alright. Lots of babies about - mainly Great Tits but some other stuff as well - Dunnocks, Robins, one Treecreeper and this mega monster - Green Woodpecker. What a bird - the kids were obviously excited to see it up close. Seems to be a poor year for Blue Tits though.


Thanks to Iain, Maxim and Helena for the help and company.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Neotropical Breckland Nightjars

Last night I was lucky to get invited to the 'annual meeting' of Neotropical Birds veterans and superstars. My links to Neotropical birds are pretty weak but my local and nightjar connections got me the invite. We spent an enjoyable evening in Thetford Forest with our families (I came with Uri) in search of Nightjars and other wildlife. Walking in we had a singing Woodlark that was sweet. The nightjars performed alright with 1-2 churring males and nice views of a pair foraging together low over some open habitat. A Cuckoo was singing nicely until dusk, and after dusk we probably had a Long-eared Owl calling in the distance. There was very good bat activity, mainly Noctules and pipistrelles as far as we could tell from their looks and bat detector. We saw some Roe Deers, Muntjac, and a selection of moths, bugs and other types of bird food that interested mainly James. Nice evening to be out and great company.
Thanks to James, Mike, Chris, Guy and families for the good time!


Friday, June 12, 2015

Lost and found

After yesterday's news of Paddyfield and then Greenish Warblers on Blakeney Point, that was too much for me and today I went there with Drew. Blakeney Point is another of these mythical sites I heard about so much, and today was my first visit to this special place. We left Norwich ridiculously early, and arrived at Long Hills before 06:00, with almost no-one else on the point apart for another birder (Peter) who arrived with us. The walk was nice with lots of breeding birds on the shingles - Avocets, Little Terns, Ringed Plovers etc. Quite a few Gannets flew past.
It took us about an hour of searching and waiting around the fenced area until we got some views of the Paddyfield Warbler. Mainly flight views, but at a very close range and we did see it perched for a second once, complete with supercilium. Luckily it's not a WP tick for me, but those who did tick it today had, well, not the best views in the world. I would not tick it with flight views only, and I think that later on during the day the bird showed even worse.
After leaving the paddy in peace (until the twitchers who stayed at home waiting for news arrived), we continued to search for the greenish. Personally I was much more interested in the greenish as it would have been a WP tick for me, but unfortunately we couldn't relocate the bird. I spent several hours walking through the Suedea bushes but no sign of it.
However, at about 07:15, just as we arrived on Rusty Hills, I noticed a tern flying east past us. I lifted the bins up, and saw a Sandwich-sized bird, but hey the bill is orange! I noticed the bill colour only when it was going away from us. I quickly got the others on the bird, but it was flying east strongly, and into the sun, so the views were not good. However I did notice darker silvery grey to the upperparts. Also something in the jizz and flight action looked different from sandwich, hard to tell what. The two other observers (Drew and Peter) had the same impression like me. About the bill colour - I am pretty sure it was orange. Later on, for comparison, I watched Sandwich Terns flying past in similar conditions and I could clearly see that their bill is black. I saw the bill colour in bad conditions but my opinion is that it was possibly a Lesser Crested Tern, that I am familiar with very well in Israel. I have little experience with Elegant Tern. I really hope this bird gets refound on Blakeney Point or in another tern colony elsewhere in the UK.
While searching for the greenish warbler I found an wrecked Gannet. I picked it up to assess its condition, only to discover that it was infested with lice. Poor bird. Took me all day to remove the last lice from my clothes and body. We passed the bird on to the BP wardens.

Northern Gannet

Again I was amazed by how few migrants were about. Incredibly the only migrant on the whole point was this paddyfield. Yesterday there were two migrants...

Resident Redshank

The walk back was uneventful. Nice weather with increasing easterlies. Torrential rain now outside so tomorrow morning might produce something. Maybe another greenish?

Halfway House 

The Plantation

Rusty Hills 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Minsmere visit

Visited beautiful Minsmere RSPB today with my elder son's school. As always really enjoyed the wildlife and the facilities there. I was especially impressed by the level of the RSPB guides - both in their professional level and their attitude towards children and education. Well done Sarah and Alison!
The weather was not great so not too many birds about, still managed a Bittern, a few Hobbies and that's it. Lots of other wildlife around, including the stunning Southern Marsh Orchids:


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Give me two wingbars, please

After a very busy week I decided to go birding in the morning. The weather was unsettled, quite crazy in fact, with intermittent torrential showers and warm sunny spells in between, and the winds were better than average, so I hoped to find something good. Greenish Warbler was on the cards this morning - still need it for my WP list. Over the last few days several were recorded in extreme ends of the UK (Shetland & Scilly) so I was optimistic. Started off at Wells Woods. Lots of local breeding birds but no true migrants at all. Cuckoo and Siskin were the only birds worth noting. Kept my eyes and ears wide open but no wing-barred phyloscs. Nice to see many fledglings out. 

Lesser Whitethroat

Common Whitehtroat

My nest stop was Warham Green. Nothing here either, nor at Stiffkey campsite. Five Spoonbills were roosting on the saltmarsh off Warham, one of them colour-ringed:


Digiscoped from a mile away using Swarovski ATX95 and Canon 7D:

At Cley it was pretty quiet as well. I couldn't bother searching for the Grey-headed Wagtail that had been reported there earlier on. Two 2cy Little gulls were in the far end of Patt's Pool. Here flushed by a pair of aggressive Shelducks:


This male Reed Bunting was singing very close to the boardwalk. Shame the light was bad:


Here he is again with the famous Cley Windmill in the backgound:


Grey Heron - too close

Woodpigeon 

All in all, a quiet morning with no rarities but it was enjoyable nevertheless.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Flamborough and Bempton birds and friends

Spent a highly enjoyable long weekend at Flamborough and surroundings. I went up there with my family, and we enjoyed a perfect combination of great friends, good birding and beautiful scenery. On a dull Sunday morning I went out with Martin and my elder son Uri to check out an Icky that had been found by Mark Thomas earlier on near Buckton. We joined Mark and by the time we got there the icky had gone quiet and didn't show, but we had a nice stroll around and I enjoyed birding with Martin and Mark. The only bird of note was an acredula-type Willow Warbler, that chose Mark's ringing site to forage in. Mark trapped it later on - image of it is here (on Twitter).
Sunday afternoon was slightly sunnier and warmer, and there were few more birds on the move. While having tea in Martin's garden with Mark and Amity, a European Bee-eater the radios went off when flew over and was hawking insects with hirundines for a few minutes before heading off south (towards real sun...). All the locals were chuffed off course, and I was  quite amused. Almost ran to get my camera out of the car but gave that idea up. Well, despite having tens over my house in Israel every evening between April and October, I still enjoyed watching this UK rarity and I could relate to the enthusiasm shown by the natives. And then a Turtle Dove flew past...
Monday morning started with a short seawatch off Flamborough with Martin and Brett. Tons of local breeding seabirds on the sea made spotting something interesting more challenging. However we had one semi-decent Pomarine Skua, a few Common Scoters and that's it really.
Then I went with my family to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. I had wanted to visit this reserve for a long time, and at last got the chance. We had a great time there. Luckily we got there early enough before the bank-holiday masses arrived. The number of birds was breathtaking; I really love sites that provide multi-sensual experiences - view, sound and smell. Never-ending chaos of birds coming and going, screaming, quarreling, pooping and puking, nest-building and mating. Tens of thousands of birds feeding out on sea just off the cliffs.  
Photography-wise the conditions were not ideal. Light was shit, and I had Libby on my back in a kid carrier, but I cannot complain. And now for some birds:
I enjoyed most the Fulmars - the only tubenose breeding there. Not in huge numbers but very cool birds, and I had great views of them. 

Northern Fulmar





Auk numbers were incredible. I assume that some decades ago they were even higher but nevertheless this is very impressive. Not too many Puffins around and not the perfect views I had wanted, but hey, they are stunning and hilarious birds.

 Atlantic Puffin


Razorbills are great fun too. Sadly the closest one to the viewing platforms had a bad eye:



I found photographing flying auks very challenging - need to improve these in the future:



A few semi-bridled Guillemots among the masses:


Please don't poop on me!

argenteus Herring Gull - pretty bird

I like Kittiwakes because they are scarce in Israel, and because they are such neat little gulls:

Black-legged Kittiwake

A few first-summers around the colony, and some immatures as well, like this 3cy(?):


Is this a 4cy? Still some black on PC:

Gannets are very impressive birds both from long- and short-distances: 


I am no expert in ageing gannets - is this 3cy? 


4cy? 

5cy?

Lots of gannets

Lots of auks


As always when I visit RSPB reserves I am impressed by how well-organized they are. When we headed out Bempton Cliffs it was getting very busy but because of the very intelligent layout of trails, viewing platforms and information centers it never felt crowded. The clifftop section of the reserve is beautiful now and there were lots of breeding birds in the meadows. If I am not mistaken the pink flowering carpets are of Red Campion (Silene dioica).

Pied Wagtail



Thanks so much to our old and new friends at Flamborough, Buckton and Filey - you are all great! What a special place to live in. I find it amazing how friendship transitions from Facebook to 3D friendship often work like magic - I am so lucky that I have a bunch of new friends now.