Monday, 23 April 2018

Migrant Waders and Wheatears

Yesterday (22nd) after having an adventure with Agnes at BeWILDerwood, I had a couple of hours to myself so headed for a bit of birding. I decided to first head to Norfolk Wildlife Trust's newest reserve, and part of my patch Pigney's Wood. The screen by the scrape has now been removed, it had been vandalized on my last visit but now there's no cover to view the scrape. This combine with the over grown margins in the conservation area meant I had no chance of seeing any migrant waders if present. The site was full of singing Blackcap and Chiffchaff, but no Whitethroat as yet. During my relatively quick lap of the site, although few birds were seem butterfly numbers were good, with Large White, Small White, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Peacock, Holly Blue and Red Admiral all seen.

I headed to Trimingham next, determined to fine a Wheatear, my nemesis of recent weeks! Approaching the clifftop to the West of the Clifftop Woods, I spotted my foe and then a few of his friends. In total at least 7 Wheatear (6 male/1 female) were close by, also lone House Martin and 7 Swallow flew West. In the Wood I found 3 Chiffchaff and a Willow Warbler, before heading home. Going via the 'Quiet Lane' I found a small group of 6 Whimbrel in a field south of the village. While driving through Gimingham I noticed the fishing lake have almost been drained, an about turn and I was soon watching two Common Sandpiper enjoying the recently exposed mud.

Today (23rd) I had noticed that two Dotterel had be found near Happisburgh. So after arriving home from work and popping to the chippy I was able to park up at Happisburgh by 7pm, after a quick detour via Gimingham. Id been told a Green Sandpiper had also been present at the fishing lakes and luckily it only took me 5 minutes to locate it. West of Dogget Lane off Cart Gap, a lone birder soon guided onto the male bird in the plough in the closet field to us. I soon located the more striking female, as she slowly walked towards us, halving the distance. I spent about 30 minutes watching the birds before they settled back down towards the rear of the field. Without doubt the best views I have had of these delightful birds, I'm used to hazy distant views at Choseley. Typically I had no camera, but I managed a couple of record shots with the phone. Walking back to the car I was serenaded by two Yellowhammer to top of a delightful evening wander.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

More Badgers at the Allotment

On Tuesday (21st) after a busy morning helping dad cut and split firewood ready for next winter, I had a wader around Paston Cliffs. Towards the Paddocks a couple of Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail were all of note, still no Wheatear! Walking East a small group of Meadow Pipit flew through, among them a rather dark individual looked like it may have been a Rock Pipit, the birds only briefly alighted on the cliff face and I couldn't get a decent view. At least 8 Yellowhammer are still present and the Linnet flock surprisingly seems larger than during the winter. The field closest to the Gas Terminal was being ploughed and planted with potatoes, most of the gulls normally on the beach had headed up top. The Glaucous Gull present in the area for a while was unmissable, joined mainly by Herring and Black-headed Gull but also 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull. 5 Stock Dove joined in the feast.

Early Tuesday morning I had set up the camera trap while at the allotment, and after collecting it on Thursday as further images of badgers. These looked smaller/slimmer than previous clips so I wonder if these are younger individuals? During day light hours the camera was set off at regular intervals by a steam of small birds coming in to collect nesting material from the detritus of old bedding spread by the badger's sett. Blue Tit, Great Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Chaffinch and more interesting Long-tailed, this means i must now lookout for the delight of a Long-tail Tit nest nearby.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Mystery Pellet

Last while walking back along the track from the allotment I picked up a small bird pellet. Until this morning I forgot it was in my bag (in a pot). The pellet was very compact and had hardened since collecting so I only managed to pull out the largest bones. These I believe belonged to a Field Vole, with distinctive zig-zag set teeth, seen at x30 magnification.

I realised that most raptors produced pellets, but only recently discovered in fact almost all birds produce them. Does anyone have an option on what bird this came from? My thoughts are either Kestrel or Tawny Owl.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Wheatears In The Mist?

After taking Agnes to the in-laws, doing some shopping in the city and pottering at home, by 1pm the thick mist I had awoken to still persisted. I had considered going to look for the American Bittern after shopping in Norwich, so really wanted to do some sort of birding despite the murk.

I decided to have a wander around Happisburgh, an area I've not yet visited this spring. Parking at the Village Hall a few Pied Wagtail were around the Cricket Pitch and more flew over calling, but out of sight in the mist. Walking towards the Old Coastguard Lookout this greeted me, and viability seemed worse in person.

Before reaching the Pill Box my eyes were drawn to a small silhouetted bird atop the muck heap, finally a Wheatear? As I crept closer to investigate 2 female Ring Ouzel burst from the scrub to my right and quickly disappeared in the mist, flying inland. Turning back to the muck heap my 'Wheatear' was actually a male Black Redstart. He was showing very well, but in the poor light I couldn't get a photo. While I followed him around the buildings though I flushed 2 Goldcrest that seemed rather tired and in no hurry to move off.  Four Redwing and two Fieldfare then got up from the very edge of the plough, I must have walked past them once at least. I left the Black Redstart atop the Pill Box and walked the coast path towards the church. Some Linnet and Redwing flew over calling but I saw no birds until I was beyond the caravan site. Here I disturbed a third Ring Ouzel this time a male, I seemed to be on top of the bird before noticing because of the poor viability. Walking back along Beach Road and through the village I saw the usual Tits, Finches and common birds.

Typically as I return to the car the mist started to lift a little. This enabled me to participate in some drive by birding, slowly scanning the fields and meadows between here and Walcott from the car. No sign of that illusive spring Wheatear or a transient Yellow Wagtail, but a dozen or so Fieldfare were near Witton as I returning home and the mist again descended.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Effort Rewarded

On Thursday 5th after a short stop at the allotment I called in to have a cuppa with mum. Agnes wanted a nap while there, so I had an hour to kill. I headed off to East Ruston an area in the past I have seen Osprey in the spring. I had no luck, with a pair of Buzzard and lone Kestrel the raptors on display. On the pools a few Teal and Tufted Duck remain and a Canada x Greylag goose was with the Greylag flock. Walking the small heath area I saw 2 Adder in the sun and a couple of lizards I could't quickly identify as they scuttled off.

After grabbing some food shopping on Friday morning Agnes and I had a short walk at Paston Cliffs. The Black Redstart from Wednesday was not around and migrants seemed thin on the ground, in fact two singing Chiffchaff were the only migrants. The resident Linnet, Yellowhammer and Skylark were however in full song and 2 Meadow Pipit were om the cliff face. Driving past Stow Windmill on the way home, 2 Swallow on the wires were the first on the patch this year.

On Saturday 7th I headed to Waxham in the search for a 'Spring Wheatear' and some migrants. Parking up behind the church a heavy shower passed through, so I started my search in light drizzle. Just East of Shangri-la a Tit flock held 4+ Chiffchaff and 1 Willow Warbler none of which were calling. A fellow birder highlighted a Firecrest further East which I soon located. It was then rather quiet until just before the Pipe Dump, except for regular small groups of Linnet flying East. A lone male Siskin in some scrub was unusual and briefly had me dreaming of a Serin. Flushing a Male Ring Ouzel it flew inland over the chicken sheds and pair Stonechat seemed to be on territory just East of the Pipe Dump.  Next I found the bird of the day a male Whinchat just beyond the Poplar Farm Gap, with the naked eye I thought Stonechat, but on raising my binoculars could not miss the striking supercilium. 2 House Martin were hawking over the flooded area of Pipe Dump and were new for the year. On wandering through the dune slacks 4 Roe Deer at close quarters were a bit of a surprise. 50+ Seals were by Polar Farm Gap and 4 additional Ring Ouzel (3 Female and 1 Male) flew from the dunes. A single Swallow flew North as I approached the car. During the morning 15+ Chiffchaff were seen most being silent, and 250+ Linnet has passed East mainly in small groups of 5-10, a further Swallow was near Sea Palling driving home.

Saturday afternoon I again found myself at Cley NWT, this time with the family meeting a friend for lunch. Agnes got very excited looking for birds from the old visitor center mound. Little was on the sighting board I hadn't seen earlier in the week, so we decided on a walk in the quieter surrounding of Kelling Heath. The walk was dominated by the call of Chiffchaff and Linnet enjoying the warming sun. I did hear a distant Dartford Warbler but on getting closer all had gone quiet, and with non-birding friend I couldn't spend long looking. We popped back to Cley village to get some smoked fish and nibbles, from here looking West I saw my first Sand Martin of the year.

During a quick stop at the allotment to collect some spring greens tops for the chickens later on Sunday, I was surprised to hear the unmistakable call of a Ring Ouzel in the neighbouring meadow, sadly though with limited viewing I couldn't see the bird.

The previous week is probably the most concerted effort I have made for Spring Migrants in many years, but with a few nuggets it was very rewarding and made me realise I should get out more even for a hour or so.