Friday, October 16, 2015

Norfolk Again

Having felt a little frustrated at missing out on a few decent species during Mondays Norfolk visit with the Brandon Marsh team I decided on a return visit today, arriving at Salthouse just after 8.30am. Quite a gloomy start with a very stiff offshore breeze and waves crashing over the shingle. I battled my way around to the back of Granborough Hill but despite the relatively sheltered environment the best I could manage was a single Stonechat and several Meadow Pipits on the fencing, nothing except Goldcrest within the bushes. With high tide imminent the sea was almost up to the hill when I peered over the top but with the strong winds lots of Gannets were performing quite close in, four Guillemot, Razorbill and a couple of Red-throated Divers also passed through during my stay. As I arrived back at the car a bird being mobbed by a number of Corvids coming in across the hills turned out to be a Short-eared Owl, which flew high towards Cley still being mobbed.

One of a dozen or so Brambling at Walsey Hills
A brief stop at the Walsey Hills reserve to check out the track down to the hide yielded almost immediately, with at least a dozen Brambling, plus Chiffchaff, several Goldcrest and Coat Tit around the feeders. When I arrived back to the car I flushed a Greenshank off the pool which was feeding quite close in. Next stop 'Camp Site' Car park and after parking up I wandered along the track as far as the whirligig at Stiffkey. I bumped into a number of other birders who were in search of a reported Great Grey Shrike but nobody I spoke to had actually seen it, me included! A Peregrine over and tons more Goldcrest, plus a nice flock of Brent Geese feeding close in were worth the effort.

Best I could manage of the Pallas's Warbler despite it showing quite well!
With no requirement for one I don't carry a pager and so rely on my Birdguides App for my information but of course this relies on a phone signal, non existent here on the Norfolk coast it would seem!  Therefore being mostly in the dark and relying entirely on word of mouth I decided, having heard so many reports that from here on the best plan of action was to park up at Lady Anne's Drive and take the walk through to Wells Wood. However, an Isabelline Shrike was reported along the east track so I decided to tackle this first and maybe even have another attempt at the Red-flanked Bluetail, so frustrating on Monday's visit. As it worked out the Shrike was sitting up beautifully when I arrived offering some excellent views, my second in a week! The Bluetail of course was a different matter. When I arrived I was quite surprised to find few birders on site, this until I discovered that the viewing area had moved almost 180 degrees to the rear of where I was standing on Monday! I can actually claim to have had a half decent view this time around, albeit fleeting but I'm prepared to give it the 'tick'. As it turned out I needn't have spent the time and effort as I got a better view of a second bird later at the drinking pool in Well Wood!

Treecreeper - Good job I'm not looking for the perfect image!
Returning to my original plan to walk through to Wells Wood it wasn't long before I discovered a group on birders on a mission. This was the Pallas's Warbler and joining the enthusiastic and very helpful group it wasn't long before I had the little beauty in the bins, I even managed a record shot, although I think the ISO was on something like 3200! Full of beans I continued on and like last Monday every tree was dripping Goldcrests. I paused every so often to check out a number of 'Tit flocks' moving through and finally it happened! There among them a Yellow-browed Warbler, my only sighting this autumn after searching a million 'Tit flocks' and I was glad to get that monkey off my back. It didn't help though when the lady who'd appeared next to me told me she'd managed three today!

A terrific days birding and I was happy with my lot, despite missing out on more great species. I can understand the buzz of 'Twitching' when it's on a day like today but talking to a chap who had spent four hours this morning after the one bird, simply for the 'Tick' I still don't believe it's for me.

Species Seen:

Mute Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Red-throated Diver, Little Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Guillemot, Razorbill, Wood Pigeon, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Red-flanked Bluetail, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Redwing, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler, Pallas's Warbler, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit , Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Isabelline Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Brandon Marsh Wednesday

Spent the morning and early afternoon once more trolling the woods, willow and hawthorn around the reserve. What little time I did spend in the hides produced a ♀Pintail, Green Sandpiper and a single Snipe, this along with the usual waterfowl including a good number of Wigeon.

Increase in Redpoll around Brandon today!
Several flocks of Long-tailed Tits produced several Goldcrest, (2) Chiffchaff and a single Willow Tit near Carlton ditch, but unfortunately nothing more exciting. New Hare Covert and Horsetail Glade held (2) Nuthatch and (3) Treecreeper, plus a single Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Stonechat once again on Farm Field
Along the bund that runs from the 'Tip' area to Farm Field a number of Redwing were feeding on the hawthorn and among these at least three Fieldfare took flight. Although I can't be certain a bird flushed that crashed through the vegetation as I passed through the aforementioned bund may well have been a Woodcock. A single Stonechat remains on the Farm Filed. Several Skylark moving through overhead along with more Thrush flocks as the cloud cover increased and a definite marked increase in Redpoll around the reserve!

Omitted from original post:

Two Grey Wagtail and a single Pied Wagtail feeding from the roof of the concrete works opposite the volunteers car park!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Brandon Away-Day

Another chance to borrow the Warwickshire Wildlife Trusts minibus and with the Norfolk coast currently enjoying a huge influx of migrants in easterly winds there was only one place to be. With a dozen of the Brandon Marsh Team on-board we decided that our first port of call would be Beeston Common for the showy Isabelline Shrike, Red Kite on route.

After picking up Pete Worthy, who was already in Norfolk at the A148 roundabout we continued on for Beeston. However, early news of a Great Grey Shrike sighting at Little Snoring Airfield was well timed and a simple short diversion. Sadly with little information on the precise whereabouts and a couple of tractors at work around the airfield we were not surprised to dip on this one. However, my first Redwing of this autumn was located here thanks to Keith Barnsley and a fly over Grey Wagtail before moving on were something a least.

Isabelline Shrike at Beeston Common - Although very showy I felt that I could have done a lot better with the camera! Maybe this guy was simply too good to take my eyes off!
The Isabelline Shrike was quite a different matter and immediately on arrival a very showy bird was located offering stunning views, this despite the many visitors in close proximity! We spent a good half hour here before moving on, not managing to connect with a Yellow-browed Warbler also reported here, but Siskin and Lesser Redpoll were additions to the day list.

Lots of Meadow Pipit around Granborough Hill
Next stop Granborough Hill, an area I'm always tempted to search at this time of year. Many Skylark on the surrounding marshland, along with Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Snipe and Curlew but despite picking up nothing out of the ordinary what was apparent was the number of Goldcrest in the area. The sea was particularly quiet with a Diver Sp. offshore and back at the minibus for lunch, Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit, Ruff and Redshank in the surrounding pools, along with a Stonechat on the fence.

When news came through of a whole host of goodies at Holkham Pines the next destination was sorted and we decided to forego a visit to Cley for the reported White-rumped Sandpiper and head on through. As we turned into Lady Anne's Drive to park up I unfortunately missed a perched Little Owl seen by some of the team and frustratingly not called until too late! After parking up the  long walk down for a Red-flanked Bluetail produced superb views of two Red Kite overhead. Goldcrests, as mentioned earlier seemed to be in every tree, Migrant Hawker dragonfly were in good numbers and four Little Grebe in the 'Salthole' before finally reaching the 'crosstracks', the site of the Bluetail.

Goldcrests, Goldcrests everywhere!
With little experience of these so called 'twitches' I much prefer to spend my time on the move just enjoying the birding, when I saw at least 50 individuals huddled several yards into the trees I knew it wasn't for me! That said I did have a brief look but for someone who even hates queuing, peering through the dark forest at fallen lichen covered branches for a nano seconds view, even of a stunning bird such as this simply doesn't appeal. I'm glad to say that a little further on down the track my timing was impeccable, when I had some excellent, albeit brief views of a Radde's Warbler. Now if all 'twitches' were like that!! No sign of a Dusky Warbler also reported during our stay and while searching the surrounding scrub area for Ring Ouzel distant skeins of Pink-footed Geese were constantly on the move. Stonechat, Red Kite, Common Buzzard and Redwing were also noted.

Spotted Redshank - First time I've witnessed them feeding on the water so close in!
With the day fading fast (where did that go) our final destination was RSPB Titchwell and despite leaving sunny conditions at Holkham by the time we arrived a bitterly cold wind had developed and the sky had clouded over, dashing any hopes of a decent sunset. The highlights here were a couple of Common Scoter offshore, along with the usual selection of waders, which included some large flocks of Golden Plover, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwit , plus two Spotted Redshank. While watching the harrier roost at dusk two Water Rail appeared in the gloom below, 37 Little Egret were on the dead trees and a final tally of seven Marsh Harrier and two 'Ringtail' Hen Harriers were a great finish as spots of rain began to fall.

Although an excellent days birding with two cracking species in the bag I can't help feeling a little disappointed having not covered more ground and connected with some of our target birds for the day. That said the fish and chips on route home were superb and the company as ever most entertaining!

Species Seen:
Mute Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Common Scoter, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Common Buzzard, Kestrel, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Knot, Sanderling, Turnstone, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Snipe, Ruff, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, Stonechat, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler (H), Chiffchaff, Radde's Warbler, Goldcrest, Wren, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Marsh Tit (H), Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper (H), Isabelline Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Redpoll, Goldfinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting,

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Troll the Hedges!

You'd think that with all the Yellow-browed Warblers currently residing in the UK one would have the good grace to venture a little further inland. Although it would be difficult to get much further from the coast than Warwickshire! Since arriving back from France I've spent the best part of the days dissecting many a hawthorn, bramble and willow, particularly at Brandon Marsh hoping to strike lucky, but sadly to no avail.

One of three Stonechat - Farm Field at Brandon Marsh 
Having said that there's nothing better than being driven by anticipation and the many foraging flocks I've encountered have contained a host of species including Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Coal Tit , Willow Tit, Marsh Tit and Treecreeper. Doing the rounds at Brandon Marsh at least three large flocks of Siskin have been evident and the first Lesser Redpolls are beginning to arrive, still no Redwing as yet to speak of. Meadow Pipits can be found and most visits produce several Skylarks passing overhead, more often heard then seen!

Another Stonechat on Farm Field
Jays are up to their usual autumnal habits, busy burying the odd acorn, only to forget where they've hidden them and thus helping to populate Brandon with more oak trees! Farm Field is currently playing host to at least three Stonechat, although during a visit today I only managed the one. If you do happen to head that way your odds-on to encounter a Green Woodpecker, with an amazing count of eight today.

Brandon Marsh Great White Egret - Courtesy of Fred Stokes
Although I've not spent much time in the hides I managed a ♀Pintail and Peregrine on Sunday morning and its also evident that Wigeon have taken to Brandon, with over 100 on site most days. Perhaps preferring the calmer waters to that of nearby Draycote Water, where once they were numerous, Draycote now seemingly devoting itself entirely to sports activities. A phone call on Monday morning had me scurrying over to East Marsh Hide where a Great White Egret had dropped down in front of Fred Stokes. Unfortunately by the time I got there the bird had flown, such a rare visitor to Brandon. Another bird to look our for is a leucistic Black-headed Gull which appears to be a constant visitor among the many gulls.

Finally a couple of species absent here at the marina for the past few years have recently re-emerged. Firstly, a Kingfisher seen around the pontoons and a Little Owl, which another moorer spotted on one of the telegraph poles on Sunday evening!