Well Spotted

Record shot of the summer plumage Spotted Sandpiper at Titchwell today

The appearance of a Spotted Sandpiper at Titchwell yesterday was a big temptation. I needed it for a Norfolk tick. Unfortunately I was busy with Felbeck Trust stuff, including Surveyors Allotments. In a brief discussion with Andy, whilst doing another night survey (two Barn Owl hunting over a water meadow and taking numerous voles back to their nest being the highlight) we agreed that if the bird was there this morning we’d go for it. Early morning news was ‘bird still present’ so we set off. We parked and headed down the path to Parrinder hide passing a couple of birders en route who were getting long-range silhouette views of it on the bund. We carried on to the hide where the views were just as distant but at least you could make out the spots on this full summer wanderer from across ‘the pond’. Strong bill and leg colour were also distinguishing features. The bird never came close but, on occasions, it did get pushed by the Avocets into doing a few circuits. I managed a couple of record shots. A well spotted bird well spotted by the finder! This was my third new wader addition to my Norfolk list in the past two months. Not such a bad Spring after all!

Another distant record shot

Blogging on this site will take a short break whilst I attempt to complete our NCN 1 sojourn from Dover to John O’Groats. Fortunately this last stage is only 450 miles! I hope to post the occasional travel blog on TrevorOnTour

Cattle stampede

iPhone photo of a noisy Redshank sat outside Dauke’s

Duty day at Cley this week was a wet affair – it rained almost continuously whilst we were there. Not surprisingly most of our time was spent in the hides. Our morning session produced a selection of the usual summer birds but was generally uneventful. The afternoon ‘high-light’ (low point) was when a Hobby sped in from the east across the main reserve and in a low-level pass snatched an Avocet chick from the island on Simmond’s, right infront of us. I don’t recall ever seeing that before – shocking but spectacular at the same time. Then Jane said ‘I think I’ve got a Cattle Egret here’. I managed to get on the bird as it headed towards West Bank – sure enough it was. Within minutes another full summer adult flew west in front of the hide – followed sometime later by two more. At the same time John radioed through a fifth bird on Arnold’s! No chance of a phone shot unfortunately.

The blessing of bad weather

My first Bee-eater in the NENBC area – albeit long before the Club was created – was somewhere near Northrepps. As I recall it was around Easter-time and it was raining. Breaking news yesterday late morning was of four Bee-eaters at Trimingham! I was in Norwich doing family stuff, so it was late afternoon before I could get there. Fortunately they were still there – possibly because… it was raining! I managed eventually to see all four as they sat hunkered down in distant Hawthorns, making the occasional sortie for any bee daft enough to be out in the drizzle. Certainly they gave more sustained views than the party of nine which flew over whilst we were sea-watching in July last year.

Record shot in (thankfully) lousy weather – 3 of the four Bee-eater at Trimingham

Catch-up blog

Singing Willow Warbler in Felbrigg – found as part of our NENBC Breeding Bird Survey

It’s been half-term so we’ve had the kids and grandkids staying. My brother and his wife from Australia have also been with us for the Jubilee weekend. Net result is not a lot of birding done. Cley last Monday was good – Bittern, Curlew Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail and Little Ringed Plover were the highlights. I ‘night walk’ with the grandkids on Wednesday produce Barn Owl at Metton, Tawny Owls calling in Spurrell’s Wood and a Little Owl, perched on a Give Way sign near Felbrigg village on the way home, was a respectable result. A walk through Felbrigg Park to the cafe on Friday afforded the opportunity for me to do an ad hoc survey of my BBS zone. Just when you think you’ve got the place covered (involving four early morning surveys, a couple of ad hoc visits and a night survey) I came across a territorial Willow Warbler – singing from several song-posts. I don’t think there’s been a June record of Willow Warbler in Felbrigg (indicating possible breeding) since the Club was formed. It just goes to show a) what a funny year we’re having & 2) what’s out there if you look (listen)!

It would be rude not to

Lesser Grey Shrike at Norwich airport yesterday

Yesterday, when early morning news came through of a Lesser Grey Shrike at Norwich airport I’d already started on some DIY stuff, so when Phil rang to see if I was interested I said ‘assuming the bird stays, let’s go this afternoon’. The bird did stay (into the evening at least) so we went – well it would have been rude not to – and what a lovely bird it turned out to be too! This was my third in Norfolk – my first being at Weybourne, unfortunately before the NENBC got started. Present on that day were a couple of other Peterborough birders who had also made the trip over – Will and VdeR. By some queer turn of events Kevin was there yesterday – I don’t think I’ve seen him in the years between. Birding does that, brings people with a shared history back together after years apart. Something similar occurred when I was watching the Lesser Great Shrike at Sizewell back in 2013. On our way back we called in at Alby to see the Spotted Flycatcher – almost as rare in Norfolk now as Lesser Grey Shrike! Thanks to Alan for the arrangements to visit this private site.

Spotted Flycatcher – becoming as rare as Lesser Grey Shrike in Norfolk nowadays!

Nature in central Cromer

Common Broomrape – growing on a bank in the centre of Cromer – iPhone photo

Yesterday began in Felbrigg, looking / listening for Cuckoo, which had been reported the previous day. Apart from Red Kite, Little Owl, a couple of Tufties on the lake and that odd Chiffchaff with a strange song along the western shelter-belt – very little of note. Another lunch-time presentation from one of our UEA students – this time looking for correlations between water quality and a group of key bird indicator species in the Upper Bure – was followed by a Cromer Green Spaces assessment of sites along the Holt Road. It’s surprising what nature lurks in our town grass verges and other open areas. My first Common Blue butterfly of the year was in the Old Cemetery, whist a couple of Common Broomrape ‘spikes’ were present on a bank just meters away from the main car-park! Neither very common of course.

After the rain

One of an influx of Painted Lady over the past week

It was a day of enforced admin yesterday with steady, sometimes heavy, showers until mid-afternoon. Fed-up of being indoors I did managed a walk around Felbrigg late on before our NENBC Committee Meeting. It was very quiet on the birding front with the high-lights being: a couple of Little Owl and a Barn Owl out surprisingly early. I see that the Mute Swan family is down by another cygnet – now just four, including the ‘Polish’ youngster. The past week has seen an arrival of Painted Lady butterflies – judging by their relative tattiness, they are obvious migrants. Very few drags about still.

2nd Coming

Record shot of White-tailed Plover – now on my Norfolk list and my pant’s securely fastened once again!

Six weeks ago, in the hides at Cley, the chatter from the serious Norfolk listers was all about the White-tailed Plover at Ken Hill over the weekend – a much anticipated ‘first’ for Norfolk. I did get to hear about it at the time, but since I’d seen it at Blacktoft last year, when it stayed for several months, before moving closer to Frampton, where it stayed for a few weeks, I was confident I’d catch-up with it once the crowds had died down. The bird had arrived late Saturday afternoon, become more elusive during Sunday and, unfortunately had gone by early evening. I’d been caught with my pants well and truly down! I told myself it didn’t matter – but it did of course. Yesterday I was again at Cley for my duty day when the news came through that there was a (the) White-tailed Plover at Hickling! I was planning to leave Cley early but only because I had a couple of student presentations to attend with Carol in the afternoon. It was five o’clock before we were out of UEA and the news on the bird was not encouraging – ‘no sign since 13.50 in heavy rain’. Shall we or shan’t we? Well it was on the way home – sort of – so we set off. It was 5.45 when we arrived and there was still no positive news and the car park was virtually empty 😦 We’d headed off in the direction of it’s last sighting, when a passing female birder told us that the bird had just be re-located, at the end of a drain between two stands of reeds! We got to the bank just as the bird was moving energetically from one side to the other. Yeeees! We stayed for half an hour, during which time we got several more views, and more birders began arriving in the fading light. What an unexpected ‘grip-back’. The big question on everyones mind is where has the bird been for the past month and a half – hiding in plain sight?

Oh! and did I forget to mention the supporting cast? – a spanking Caspian Tern on the track to the WTP

Eradication survivor or vagrant?

Main picture – my own record shot. Insert – with grateful thanks to the finder

A couple of weeks ago – on our way to Derbyshire – we called in on our old ‘home patch’ of South Lincolnshire. On one of the local pits a Ruddy Duck had put in a brief appearance – the first in the area since 2007. Along with Red-crested Pochard, this area regularly held reasonable numbers of this introduced species in the 90’s. In 2005 DEFRA commenced a programme of eradication because of the threat which Ruddy Duck posed to the native Spanish White-headed Duck, through inter-breeding. Just three years later over 6000 had been shot and the population reduced by 90%. Over the following decade this pretty and comical ‘American gigolo’ was, to all intents and purposes, removed as a UK breeding species. The few which have evaded the guns – barely making double figures – have stirred birding emotions either way. The pro-removal lobby demanding to know their whereabouts so that they could ‘get the job done’, the anti-eradication fraternity quietly championing the cause of the ‘under-duck’. With so few left of the feral population, surely the question of genuine vagrancy is a possibility? In a year when over 50 Ring-necked Duck arrived on these shores – several reported within a 25 mile radius of this bird – could this have been the real deal? I guess we’ll never know – but it’s interesting to speculate. I saw my last UK Ruddy Duck at Titchwell in 2010.

Golden moments

Spoonbill this morning before the ‘Golden moment

Yesterday was my first sea-watch in nearly two weeks. It was foggy when I arrived at around 6.30, with a gentle on-shore breeze. I’d only been watching for ten minutes or so when a solo duck came past, heading west. Small, with fast wing-beats, dark above with brown head and chest and distinct double white wing-bars – a male Garganey! A UK sea-watching first for me and a deja vous moment from a few weeks ago in Spain. Common Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser were the only other duck species – the latter providing a good speed check from Weybourne. Three tern species – Sandwich, Little and Common – plus Kittiwake, Little Gull, Gannet, Razorbill and Ringed Plover all made for a pretty good session. Last night’s weather forecast suggested that this morning could be good for vis mig. I arranged to meet Andy at West Runton with the vague hope of catching up with Golden Oriole. I was there for 5.30 but Paul had been there since dawn. The only things of note in the first couple of hours were a Spoonbill west, two Mediterranean Gulls over Incleborough, a couple of Yellow Wags and a Hobby (which I missed). All that changed when Ian called ‘Oriole over the ridge’ – first two, joined then by another two, all four appearing to go to ground behind the village. Then almost immediately a closer bird, which flew straight through. My NENBC GO ‘duck’ well and truly broken!

Golden Oriole – taken in Spain last year alas!