Monday, 6 November 2017

Bird Watching - Starting them Young

As Autumn has drawn to a close a few birds have appeared in Norfolk but I found myself busy on the days the birds appeared. Although for once I had some time off work while Norwich Beer Festival was on, and on 24th October meet James and Karl for a lunchtime session. Bird related beers (and nature) were at a premium, I started by sampling Jo C's Stout Robin and then People's Raveningham Bitter (it had Raven in the name!). Among a few other beers Three Blind Mice's Milk Worm (almost Silk Worm and their Lonely Snake wasn't on.) and East London's Orchid had enough'nature' about the to tempt me. James and I then went for a walk in Train Woods hoping for a bit of fungi, but the dry weather meant little was about. However the Eyelash fungi Scutellinia sp. was a new type of fungi for me and I learnt quite a lot more about leaf mines from James.

I deciding to put down the DIY tools I took Agnes on a walk around part of the patch to Antingham. Although not two until tomorrow (7th) she is very good at spotting birds already, even if shouting 'Birdie' scares a few of them off. Lots of the expected common birds including a very large mixed tit flock, which also held 2 Goldcrest, Agnes particularly enjoyed the Long-tailed Tits that came within a few feet and also a hovering Kestrel. I enjoyed watching both Marsh and Coal Tit birds I rarely see on this area of the patch. A pleasant couple of hours well spent.

With news of the White-billed Diver moving backwards and forwards along the coast. Before going out for lunch at the weekend I got Laura to stop off at Walcott, an hour of strolling along the wall and a bit of sea watching proved successful, when the White-billed diver was located by another kind birder, i also saw a Great Northern Diver and numerous Red-throated Diver. Gannet drifted past in large numbers, a Little Auk scurried through going west and a Guillemot was surprisingly my first this year in Norfolk. Highlight of the day was not the life tick in White-billed Diver, but Agnes shouting 'Look Turnstone' as we got back into the car, after Laura had pointed them out to her at the beginning of our walk.

Today while making a brief stop near Norwich Airport to collect Birthday presents, Agnes correctly identified a fly-over Pigeon, (I left her off not being specific to Wood Pigeon) and while she pointed out high flying gulls (birdies), I heard the call of a Hawfinch and on turning around 2 few over our heads.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Optimistic Birding - Rewarded

Today (18th) was the only day during my annual two week 'Autumn Migrant Holiday' where the persistent Westerly winds gave way to a light Easterly/North-Easterly, and with a little bit of drizzle forecast I was probably a little over optimistic of taking something from a quiet Autumn.

Without the car I had two 'public transport' options head East and walk from Sea Palling or head North and start at Cromer. The train pulled into Cromer station at 8am, the light was poor with drizzle in the air. Looking out to sea I picked up a Fulmar and distant Gannet. Between the Doctor's Slope and the Lighthouse, Chaffinch (17) and Robin (18) seemed to be moving East along the clifftop, but it was too dull to see anything in the woods. A lone Redwing was in the gorse, but on reaching the golf course I was a little underwhelmed.

Looking out to sea a bank of cloud was heading towards me, then half way across the Golf Course while on the Coastal Path I seemed to be awash with Goldcrest (48), with them appearing in every bush. In this short stretch of maybe 1km I also saw my favorite bird of the day a Firecrest, a female Ring Ouzel and 3 Song Thrush all appearing to be new arrivals. A large flock of Goldfinch (100+) also held a few Linnet and Greenfinch but little else. Approaching Overstand my 'fall' of birds evaporated as quickly as it arrived, reverting back to being Robin and Chaffinch.

I stopped for a cuppa and toast in the cafe before continuing East, the light had improved now and I picked out 3 Red-throated Diver offshore. I was getting towards Trimingham before the next birds of note a flock of c30 Meadow Pipit and 30+ Skylark, that split and merged over the stubble fields. 60+ Cormorant were on the beach with a fixed gull flock and 6 Brent Geese headed West. The Clifftop Wood was silent, 5 Starling flew in off the sea and a Grey Wagtail flew over calling. I was aware of an elusive Barred Warbler behind the Pilgrim's Shelter on Monday, but wasn't expecting for it to be boldly sitting up in the hawthorn hedge. Needless to say it wasn't there long and despite knowing exactly where it was hiding I could not see it again.

The Coastal Path briefly comes inland to avoid the radar station and here a small group of 5 Yellowhammer had the company of a male Reed Bunting. Past the beach ramp at Trimingham I was skirting the caravan park when a smart male Stonechat appeared at close quarters. Sadly I gave him only brief attention as a large mixed flock of finches appeared from between the caravans (i suspect someone had put seed down) among the group of 50+ mainly Chaffinch and Goldfinch I picked out at least 2 Brambling. Walking towards Mundesley a heavy drizzle set in and I saw very little extra. Behind the Holiday Camp (on my patch), I turned up a lonely Goldcrest, 2 Reed Bunting and c20 Skylark before turning inland towards home. By Paston Great Barn a group of Redwing, my first thrush flock of the day passed over. Walking the Paston Way along the old railway line and via Pigney's Wood I saw only the expected resident birds.

I arrived home 7 hours and 26km after getting off the train in Cromer, time for a cuppa and sit down. Maybe it's already to late in the Autumn but I failed to see single Wheatear, Chiffchaff or Willow Warbler, but the fall of Goldcrest and great (if brief views) of the Barred Warbler have to be the highlights of an enjoyable if tiring day.

Monday, 16 October 2017

A quiet Autumn so far . . .

The weather this Autumn hasn't been ideal for migrants on the East Coast, with low numbers of  relatively common birds reported. In fact we haven't had any weather window that have encouraged me to change plans and head for the coast. I have however stumbbled across a few birds and the month has gone on.

On Tuesday 5rd October i headed to Sheringham, not really to bird watch but just a wander really with Agnes, however the binoculars went in the bag as normal. With a NW wind blowing it was worth a quick look over the sea. Sea watching with a 2yr old, a limited supply of snacks and no scope isn't easy so i only managed 20 minutes, long enough with the help of a 'prepared' birder to spot a Sooty Shearwater and a Guillemot.

Walking too work via the River Wensum the regular Grey Wagtail have been in evidence, appearing to defend territories, but probably trying to finally chase off their fully grown young. I've also seen the Kingfisher on at least 3 mornings, and had a small group of Redwing fly over on 6th Oct.

At home Blackbird numbers seem up in and around the garden and our Song Thrush has returned, Redwing have also been heard flying over a few mornings and seen on the 12th Oct.

Today (16th Oct.) enjoying what may well be the last 't-shirt' day of the year, Agnes and I headed for Cromer Zoo. After getting off the train we first walked the cliff top along the Runton Road car park, a group of Meadow Pipit flitted about the grass and a group of Starling appeared to come in-off but may have just circled around. The only migrant i can be sure of was a late Yellow Wagtail in the horse paddock near the zoo. I also saw this rather smart Small Copper butterfly enjoying the sun on my way home.

It is only mid October so we still may get some easterly migrants, but with hurricane Ophilia bearing down on the west coast. they'll probably arrive after my 10 days holiday that i started on Saturday.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Colletes, Paxillus, Phylloscopus

No not a magic spell cast by a bespectacled wizard, but in and around my garden last week.
In fact it was a rather poor week nature wise as on the best days for migrants I was working and when I was off I tried to tidy the garden between rain showers. I did however see two Ivy Bees (Colletes hederae) and spot at least 7 species of fungi in the garden. Photographed below Brown Rollrim (James feel free to correct my ID) which seems quite previlent  this year I've only ever seen a couple fruiting bodies in the garden but had 12+ large exampled near our birch. Dad kindly popped over and cut my grass while I was out, but before I got any other photos.

Finally on Friday walking the short distance too Waitrose I had a Yellow-browed Warbler (Phyllospocus inornicus) calling, but the heavens opened before I could see the bird and walking home all was quiet.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Better than PG Tips .....

....Kingfishers at breakfast time. Walking to work alongside the river Wensum this morning a Kingfisher whizzed passed in a flash of electic blue and further along a second (?) was perched up. A delightful start to the morning, and in contrast too the chaos that i've read about and very nearly joined at the Pallas Grasshopper warbler twitch earlier in the week. (I only stayed at home because my wife had the car and dropping her at work would have been to convaluted). The simple things are often under valued, I also noticed more birds calling as the mornings have gotten darker the birds are no longer singing while I sleep.

For the record I don't like PG Tips, Yorkshire Tea for me!