Friday, November 21, 2014

Settle for less

Difficult times. My ability to go birding is really limited nowadays with enormous workload and busy family life. So I need to make the best of the rather limited opportunities I have. Last week had a Ring Ouzel at UEA. Wednesday went out with Nick M. to Grimes Graves to look for the Great Grey Shrike there that didn't show. Pretty sure I heard a Hume's Warbler calling once from the woods there but it did not resurface. Just for the record, if one gets found there later on. Apart for that not much else - a couple of Stonechats, two Fieldfare. 
This morning quite nice ringing at UEA. Arrived just after they had released a rather greyish-looking Chiffchaff. Lots of tits but this Treecreeper was a real sweetheart:

Sorry about this crappy phone pic.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I love tits, big and small

Sorry about the title, but I knew the content is rather unsexy for my European readers so had to spice things up a bit to get you all to read this.
Anyway, yesterday I went ringing with the UEA ringing group at Horsford, just north of the city. Lovely site, and lots of birds in the general area. Ringing was pretty busy, and dominated by tits of course - blue, coal, great and marsh. Some other bits and pieces - some finches, Goldcrests etc. And I do love tits. They're charismatic and full of character.

Coal Tit

Marsh Tit

Great Spotted Woodpecker - what an amazing tail! The longest, tough tail feathers support the climb up trunks, and there is moss growing along the shafts.

Thanks to Dave, Phil and all the others.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

As good as it gets

Northerlies blowing here in Norfolk so I went out seawatching with Quentin at Cley this morning, and what a brilliant morning it was. We arrived (too) early and as soon as there was enough light to see somehting, we noticed that there are tons of birds out at sea. Pretty early I got on to the first Little Auk of the day going past west. Then we had another, and another... Lots of groups of two and threes. It was a pretty big day for Norfolk - we logged 66 until 12:00! The northerlies kept blowing all day and should blow all night too, so tomorrow there's a chance for even more - huge numbers in the NE today. What sweet birds they are! Few landed on the water close to shore, and a couple even flew inland - probably into Cley reserve...

Little Auk

But most were seen in conditions similar to this:

Until about 09:00 birds were going in both directions, but from then onwards there was heavy passage from west to east - constant stream of birds. Biggest numbers were Kittiwake (we estimated 1000 or more) and Gannet (about 800). Skuas never stopped passing through. Most were Great Skuas (250!) but a count of 80 Pomarine Skuas was impressive.

Great Skua 

Pomarine Skua - dark 1cy. I managed to screw up all of my pom shots.

There were also 3-4 Arctic Skuas, and 1-2 probable long-tails but they were too distant. Little Gulls went through in big numbers mainly during the first couple of hours - we ended up with a total of 400!

Other highlights included 1 Grey Phalarope, 2 Sooty and 4 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Med Gulls, 3 Black-throated Divers among the many red-throats, 7-8 Puffins among the hundreds of commoner auks, Shag, 4 Velvet Scoters and many other sea ducks - so much fun!

Common Eiders

Gannet - 1cy

Kittiwake - 1cy

We were inside the Beach Hide so were relatively protected and conditions were pretty good today. Nice double rainbow just before we left - this is a result of bad panoramic shot I took with my phone:

 Pretty surreal shot - Gannet and some Kittiwakes flying through the rainbow...

I have a confession - I had two lifers today! Can't remember when I last had two lifers in one day in the WP. They were Little Auk, and (embarrassing I know...) Great Skua. Somehow I managed to miss them in the past, despite spending many hours seawatching in the UK, Helgoland, Scandinavia etc.
Thanks to Quentin and all the other birders who shared with us this great morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Surfin' UK

Went birding this morning with pretty high expectations - winds swinged to easterlies yesterday and there was some rain at night. I met up with Quentin and we left Norwich early. Arrived at Warham Green right on time. Lots of thrushes just as we get out of the car - feels good! We birded there for some time but in fact apart for many thrushes and finches there was not much else. Some birds of interest included 2 shy Ring Ouzels and a Merlin. Redwing, Blackbird and Song Thrush still dominant but numbers of Fieldfare are on the rise.
We then continued to Wells Woods, expecting to find lots of thrushes there too but it was very quiet there. Another Ring Ouzel and a Woodcock at the Dell were the only birds worth noting. We encountered some nice mixed flocks but there was nothing mixed in with them apart for the usual suspects. Walking back we started seeing large flocks of thrushes coming in from sea - very impressive. This continued for a couple of hours - many hundreds of thrushes, and also hundreds of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits etc.

Long-tailed Tit


Our next stop was Holkham. Lots of Pink-footed Geese in the fields:

We walked down to the beach and very quickly found the Surf Scoter - super quality bird! It was hanging around with some Velvet Scoters. Nice to see all three species together. Too far to photograph properly but very good scope views (WP tick for me!). 

Surf Scoter - male

Not too much at sea otherwise - some Red-throated Divers, Guillemots, Razorbills etc. Thrushes and other passerines continued to pour in from sea, but the weather was too good so they probably pushed on inland.
Our last stop was back at Stiffkey Campsite. I walked west to check the hedges, and Quentin walked east to check the woods. It was very quiet. But Quentin scored better than me - he found a Yellow-browed Warbler just east of the woods. Nice.
Thanks to Quentin for a nice day!

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Went ringing this morning with the UEA ringing group at Waxham on the E coast. Weather was not promising so expectations were low, and indeed there were very few migrants around and up in the air. I really liked the site though, it has a good potential - looking forward to return there on a good day. We ringed mainly Meadow Pipits but also some Goldcrests and other common birds.


Because of the slow catch I had time to walk around a bit. Few migrants around - some Redwings, Bramblings, Lesser Redpolls, and one flyover Lapland Bunting was nice. Some pinkfeet and cranes in nearby fields. The Grey Seal colony on the beach is impressive:

Thanks to Iain, Claire and Tony for an enjoyable morning.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Radde's Madz

Had a super day birding with James Lowen along the N Norfolk Coast. After yesterday's terrible weather, there was a nice fall on the coast and some good birds were found yesterday afternoon. James picked me up early and we left Norwich before dawn with high expectations, that were boosted by lots of calling Redwings and Song Thrushes over the city.
Our first port of call was Warham Green, where yesterday's bluetail wasn't relocated. We birded the hedgerows for a couple of hours. Big numbers of migrants around - not a huge fall but very good numbers of Goldcrest, Robin, Blue Tit, and many many thrushes, especially Redwings. Some large flocks of pinkfeet flew out of the saltmarsh as we arrived, there were many Bramblings mixed with all the finches around, Woodcock, and we had 2-3 Red Kites flying around. Good, solid birding, but we were really keen to find something good ourselves (like a Radde's Warbler...). At first nothing. Then I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler. Then we saw another. Then I had brief views of a Little Bunting perched on top of a bush with some Reed Buntings. It ducked down and out of view. We searched for it and saw or heard nothing, so I was getting worried that I hallucinated, but luckily later on it was seen by others. Pheew. 

Pink-footed Geese



Reed Bunting (not little)

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Another nice one was a Ring Ouzel, about halfway between Warham and Stiffkey Campsite. We birded in that direction to see a / the Red-flanked Bluetail that was found at the eastern side of the wood. We had lousy views of it, poor bird, there were far too many twitchers walking around its patch and making so much noise - the bird was high in the canopy of the Sycamores there, and wouldn't come down to where it wanted to be. Also here was a Yellow-browed.

Ring Ouzel - best shot ever


After we had enough of the shameful twitch that evolved there, we continued on to Wells Woods. We parked the car and while having a coffee by the car two Yellow-brows were calling around the carpark, and this 2cy Med Gull hawked for insects above us:

We searched for the Radde's that was found there earlier on (not by us!), nevertheless it was good to see it - a welcome WP tick for me.

Radde's Warbler 

Again, I was really disappointed by how some twitchers behaved. Some idiots really paid no respect towards other birders on site, or towards the bird. Again, it was badly harassed and was clearly stressed. 
We birded the area for a couple more hours, and found nothing too special. Also here there were big numbers of migrants, especially thrushes. But what was really incredible was the Yellow-browed warblers - we had at least 6 or 7 there, casually flying around. Very cool. 


Mistle Thrush

We ended the day at Holkham Pines, that failed to produce anything more exciting than a couple more Yellow-browed Warblers, bringing our daily total to over 10! Not bad.