Waxwings and Whoopers

One of the six (later 7) Waxwing at Beeston Common

I was out yesterday before breakfast to try to catch up with the flock of Whooper Swans which have been hanging about Aylmerton Stone Cross for the past few days. I gave the area a good look over but alas no sign. Back home eating breakfast an NENBC alert from Tony comes through -‘six Waxwings at Beeston Common’! It’s been a while since I saw these lovely birds in the area so I decided to give India photo editing a miss and headed off. As might be expected for this species – which generally hang around until they’ve exhausted their food supply – they were still there. Remarkable sedentary and in poor light they didn’t give themselves up to good photos but nice to see all the same. On my way home I decided to go the back roads past the Stone Cross – this time I could see six white blobs across the field. Actually they were reasonably close but part obscured from the road by a dip in the field. On the drive home I realised that both species would make relatively easy additions to my ‘NENBC Eco list’. I returned home, got the bike ready and spent the next couple of hours retracing my steps, but this time using pedal power. Both species now added to my Eco list.

Whooper Swans near Aylmerton Stone Cross

Back to British birding

Kites over Felbrigg – of the Red variety, not the Black we left in Delhi

We arrived back mid-week from our birding trip to India. In need of some fresh air, and a break from photo editing, we went for a walk in Felbrigg yesterday afternoon. There was a reasonable variety of wildfowl – Mallard, Teal, Gadwall, Tufted and Wigeon – single Snipe, a couple of Red Kite and a large flock c.80 Siskin, feeding in the Alders near the top sluice. No matter how interesting the birding is abroad it’s always good to get back on home soil. I’ll be publishing a selection of India 2022 photos on TrevorOnTour in due course.

Black Kite – a town park bird in India

A brief intermission

Our duty day at Cley was cancelled due to the closure of the Visitors Centre – plumbing problem! Since then it’s mostly been admin in preparation for our upcoming trip to India. Postings on this site will resume at the end of November but I’m hoping to feature some of our trip highlights on TrevorOnTour.me as we go. Thanks to our friends at Bird.Club we have a fully functioning trip site, where we can keep records, post photos and stay in touch – the ideal birders traveling companion!

November notables

Great Egret at Felbrigg – found by AC

It’s been a fairly slow week for birding – not altogether surprising as we slip into November. After the relative excitement of Cley over last weekend, the highlights have mostly been out at sea – with one notable exception. On Friday the winds went briefly round to the north, bringing a cold air-stream and some excellent sea-watching: three skua species, 1250 Kittiwake, plenty of divers & ducks and a movement of auk – mostly Razorbill. Later the same day a call from Gresham Phil confirmed that the Great Egret was still at Felbrigg. I got there inside twenty minutes and enjoyed good views of the bird, in the trees west of the lake, before flying off south. It’s been back since. Only my second record for the park. Despite the winds returning to the regular south / south-westerly direction, yesterday’s sea-watch was just as good. Significantly less volume but some good quality, including: four Egyptian Geese east, Marsh Harrier, Puffin and Great Crested Grebe west, a close group of Little Gull and the usual assortment of regular sea-watch species. In complete contrast this morning’s efforts were pathetic!

Record shot of one of seven Pomarine Skua – Friday’s sea-watch

Playing catch-up – again!

A terrible record shot of the uncharacteristically distant Desert Wheatear – Cley NWT

Unfortunately there was insufficient daylight left on Sunday, after I got back from my trip up Blakeney Point, to go for the Desert Wheatear but I was hopeful that I’d catch up with it on my ‘duty day’ at Cley on Monday. I went deliberately early to get it before ‘work’ but by the time I arrived on site the damn thing had melted away. It was late morning before it was picked up again and, as usual, I was at the other end of the reserve – having been watching the Long-billed Dowitcher on one side of Iron Road and a couple of Shore Lark on the other. Hastening along the shingle ridge towards Brackish Pool I nearly stepped on five Snow Bunting. The Wheatear was in view but miles away on the newly cut reeds the other side of the Main Drain. I’ve never seen a Desert with a strong preference for this type of habitat – they’re usually (as the name implies) somewhere stoney and much more approachable. Lunch was followed by a spell in the hides – three Little Stint, a perched Kingfisher and an adult Yellow-legged Gull being the highlights. Not a bad day at ‘the office’!

iPhone shot of adult Yellow-legged Gull in the afternoon

Sunday sizzler

The superb Alpine Accentor on Blakeney Point – a UK and Norfolk ‘first’ for me

When Phil told me about the Suffolk Alpine Accentor I was very interested. It’s a bird I’d never seen in Britain and I was very tempted. Unfortunately I had a prior Cromer Green Spaces commitment on Friday lunchtime which rather put a spanner in the works. With the prospect of no car over the weekend I put it to the back of my mind. I enjoyed a typical late autumn sea-watch this morning – Little Gull being the highlight – and was busy doing some admin when the message came through of an ‘unconfirmed report’ of an Alpine Accentor on Blakeney Point! By lunchtime the report had been firmed up, but Jane was still to return with the car and when she did, it was out of battery! I managed to squeeze enough juice into it by 13.30 and headed off for the Cley beach car-park. An hour’s yomp up the Point and I settled down with 30 or so other birders to enjoy the Sunday sizzler. The bird shuffled around a vegetated depression in the dunes and showed well for the duration of my stay. A late Swallow on the walk there, and later over the main reserve, whilst we watched the harriers going to roost, was icing on the cake.

Pallids play hard to get

Negative news on the Pallids at Cromer this morning – but some nice company though!

Yesterday morning, on our way back from the hairdressers and trip to the Sheringham Museum with the grandkids, we’d just reached the outskirts of Cromer when I spotted a swift low over the Blue Sky Cafe. I swung into the carpark and with my back-up bins watched three (Pallid) in the pouring rain working back and forth. I drove back home, dropped off my passengers, grabbed my kit and hastily returned. By which time, of course, they’d moved on. In the evening, whilst I was getting ready for the NENBC indoor meeting, four birds were watched over the Carnival Field before appearing to go to roost on the cliffs. To avoid another ‘dip’ like the other day, I set off this morning in the dark, got to the spot before dawn, and waited… alas it was negatory! Still the sunrise was nice!

Shore Lark surprise

A stunning pair of Shore Lark in a Cromer car-park

I had the idea of going back to the west cliffs yesterday to see if the swifts had indeed roosted over night. I checked the forecast and sunrise was 07.39. I set off in good time but bumped into Roger on the way. He’d already been to the site and told me the birds had been found, using a thermal imaging devise, before flying off out to sea! We carried on in the half-light to the cliffs where hopeful observers were still staring out to sea. Accounts varied, some seeing one bird others two – Common, Pallid or one of each. A speck in the sky above Beeston was the closest I came. I’d just got back home when the report of two Shore Lark on the Carnival Field (same place as the swifts were being looked for) came up on NENBC. I jumped in the car and headed across town. There they were, with very few observers, on the cliff-top carpark – feeding in the gutter. Having got some acceptable record shots I drove back to collect Jane. On the way I thought it was worth the effort to walk back to get them on my Club ‘Eco’ list. Mercifully they were still there when I got back – departing shortly afterwards – having inevitably been disturbed by dog-walkers. I’ve seen Shore Lark in the NENBC area on three previous occasions but they are always good value – and to get them in the CNN area was definitely a bonus.

Swift return

Best shot of Pallid Swift at Cromer East Cliffs yesterday

During our ‘duty day’ at Cley NWT yesterday news of a Pallid Swift around Beeston church began to filter through. Could this be one of the same birds seen (and missed by me) around Cley on Sunday? Things got more interesting when a BirdGuides report came late afternoon of ‘Pallid Swift, two over Morrisons petrol station (in Cromer)’. I grabbed my gear and headed for the east cliffs where indeed two swifts were flying up and down the cliffs. The general consensus of those watching was that, helpfully, it was one of each – Common and Pallid! Certainly one bird looked slightly browner, more contrasting on the upper wing, with a paler throat and ‘thicker’ wings. This, compared with the other bird which looked darker – a regular swift. Doubtless, as better photos begin to emerge, there will be confirmation of the id. Back at Cley, the Long-billed Dowitcher remained elusive until late afternoon, three juvenile Little Stint were still on Pat’s Pool and the growing flock of Snow Bunting at the end of East Bank has grown to ten – including some superb males.

iPhone photo of Snow Bunting – need of Cley’s East Bank

Never poo-poo a Hoopoe

Hoopoe at Beeston – an NENBC tick for me

The Beeston Hoopoe was looked for over the weekend and either not seen or, if it was, not reported. For me both mornings started with a sea-watch, producing more of the recent same: the steady movement of Little Gull continued, along with Gannet and Razorbill, a smattering of wildfowl and a few passerines making landfall – mostly Skylark and Meadow Pipit. Yesterday was blustery with pulses of heavy rain, so the two Swift species which came in off the sea at Cley proved difficult to pin-down and even more difficult to identify. Thought by some to be possibly Pallid or just Common by others. Gresham Phil and I went over around lunch-time and stayed a couple of hours. Each time some news came through we arrived at the location ten minutes after the birds had departed. A bit of a frustrating chase. Back home and the phone went – it was Phil saying that the Hoopoe had just been reported, flying from the Bump into the caravan site. I was out the door and on site in fifteen minutes only to be greeted with negative news – the bird had gone to ground again. A walk round looking in all the likely places produced nothing, then the muffled shout went up – there it was, feeding quietly amongst the caravans. It didn’t stay long – long enough to get it firmly on my NENBC list and get a grab shot – before it flapped off on those diagnostic black and white stripped broad wings. Thanks to the finder, those birders who quickly shared the latest news and the tolerant residents of the caravan park. My only previous Hoopoe in the Club area, albeit before we were formed, was in the middle of Cromer, on Elvington Lawns.