Wednesday 29 June 2022

Honey Buzzards back at Swanton Novers

Swanton Novers and Great Ryburgh used to be the places in Norfolk to watch Honey Buzzard but they've been absent for years now probably a decade or more so when four birds were reported at Swanton Novers a couple of days ago and me having a particular passion for HB's I decided if I could get a day out this week it would be at Swanton Novers.

Tuesday was my only window and with little interest from others I was left to go it alone all be it at late notice. I set off early to avoid traffic and to get the most from my time off. I guessed the HB's wouldn't be out and about until mid morning so made a stop at Snettisham to casually twitch and year tick the Great Reed Warbler. This involved a mile walk along the embankment to the kissing gate where the bird could be heard and with a little patience seen low down in the reeds on the side of the river. Along the walk I encountered at least nine Turtle Dove and I'm told the reserve holds eight breeding pairs which is great news. A Kingfisher was watched and the Swifts were really entertaining hunting low along the river. Oh and I'd seen Barn Owl on the journey up remarkably only my second of the year.

A singing Goldfinch

Record shot of the extremely vocal Great Reed Warbler


The kissing gate.....GRW in the reeds just below the gate and loyal to that spot

On the sea I had lot's of Sandwich and Common Tern. Shelduck moved in large numbers and I picked up a year tick with a single drake Eider. Curlew and Oystercatcher flew by and Avocets were busy out on Ken Hill marsh. 

On the route up my phone had died so I firstly had to find Snettisham without satnav which was straight forward but now I had to do the twenty miles to Swanton Novers by memory which I managed to my relief arriving at 9am. The car park was already full with around thirty birders ready to hoping to enjoy seeing these birds back in Norfolk after such a long period without them at the site. We didn't have to wait long when a male came into view and flew along the tree line before turning and heading towards us. Fantastic! Then the views kept coming with three birds in the air at one time plenty of "wing clapping" display some interaction with a Goshawk lot's of Common Buzzard and a few Red Kites. As things slowed I left early afternoon. 

Honey Buzzard

Honey Buzzard flying over the tree line (views much better through the scope)

Another Honey Buzzard
The view from the car park

The car park and the crowd 

On the way home I stopped firstly at Cranwich heath where I enjoyed my first Tree Pipits of 2022 and then a quick stop at Weeting Heath gave me my first Stone Curlew of the year. My scope came in handy as with only one Stone Curlew on view and that being just a head poking up from the distant gravel the other occupants in the hide had all but given up on seeing one with just binoculars to help them until I arrived with scope in hand. I couldn't find any Spotted Flycatchers although they have been reported by others this year.

I made the journey home without drama and without my phone.

An expensive solo run which I'll probably end up doing again in some fashion to help the Jims get on some of the these birds for year ticks but it was without doubt the most productive HB watching I've experienced, not the closest I've had but the most in terms of volume of sightings and by far the most display I've ever witnessed. Welcome back!

Year list now 221

Now how do I get the time and money to get to Bempton for that Shrike with the red tail?

Friday 24 June 2022

Garden birding

I've spent quite a bit of time at home of late apart from the odd release day for Eleonora's Falcon and the Bee-eaters and a short trip for the Hoopoe in Herts but the garden has been busy and given me a small birding fix during the many home days. The nest box I put up for the Blue Tits was used and they have fledged but as yet no second brood. The Robins lost their single fledgling on day one but have now fledged another two birds which are doing well. The Sparrows continue to use the nest box provided and numbers in the garden are up above forty already. Starlings visit with their young as do Collared Dove and Woodpigeon. The Magpies in next doors tree have raised two young and defend my garden against the local Crows. The local Jackdaws are visiting with their young on occasion too but provoke a similar reaction from the Magpies so don't stay long. The Dunnocks have fledged this week and I've had young Great Tits, and Greater-spotted Woodpecker too. This week alone I've had three Buzzard, a Red Kite and a very large female Sparrowhawk over along with the daily Swifts and Gulls with both Herring and Lesser-black backed seen daily with the Black-headed gulls. Heron and Geese fly over most mornings and the Parakeets visit at both ends of the day for a few nuts and some apple. The Toadflax I planted is being used by the local bees and now has what I think is Toadflax Brocade caterpillars all over it. Butterflies continue to use the flowers provided and the pond holds lot's of Newt.  

So you can see I'm still getting a fix on most days even if days out are still limited a bit.

Juvenile Dunnock

One of the two second brood juvenile Robins


The fact she's out and feeding again would suggest the young are close to fledging

Juvenile Greater - spotted Woodpecker

The Foxes still visit daily but still no young seen

Hoopoe at Hinxworth

The Jims still needed Hoopoe for a year tick, Rob had never seen one in the UK and whilst I'd seen the Duxford bird earlier this year I never turn down the chance of seeing Hoopoes so we set off  mid morning yesterday for the 45 minute drive up the A1 to Hinxworth in Hertfordshire.  We parked outside the church made a donation and then made the short walk down the track to the last paddock where the Hoopoe was on show.  Whilst the bird was active it remained distant and was quite mobile taking short breaks to sit in the trees before returning to feed but it would select a different field after each rest which made it all the more entertaining. We spent around three hours watching it before heading home satisfied with the views but a little disappointed it never came close enough for my little 400mm lens but it didn't stop me grabbing the below record shots.

NB: Whilst the church are very happy and accommodating the people mucking out the horses are less happy with their audience.

Thursday 23 June 2022

Trimingham Bee-eaters

I, like most people that call themselves birders love to see Bee-eaters so when news broke of Norfolks first breeding attempt I planned a visit thinking we'd let the crowds die down a bit and go midweek but on arrival yesterday it was still busy with well over a hundred people at any one time. The volunteers are doing a great job organising viewing and monitoring the birds. We paid our £5 entry and walked the few yards to the viewing area to find six birds sitting on the wires. The birds displayed and were seen to mate on several occasions. I'm told there's at least eight birds and the monitors believe they now have three nest holes but one may be double chambered as we watched three birds enter the same hole. Butterflies were on the menu with the bees and a couple of dragon flies were taken. All in all a fabulous morning watching these birds do their thing. These are my third UK breeding Bee-eaters after Nottingham and the Isle of Wight. I hope they do well but seeing Sparrowhawk bother them was a bit concerning and one bird already has a large gap in the wing after being grabbed by the Sprawk. I'm told the volunteers are also worried about the local Foxes but let's hope the birds do indeed manage to fledge some young here.

some of the birders

The Quarry

Looking back from the car park

The nest hole with a Bee-eater exiting (bottom right honest)

As a birder it was a great experience watching their aerobatics and hearing all the calling and I may well return for a bit more if they're successful 

Year list now 216

Friday 3 June 2022

Another visit to Worth to see Nora

I was lucky to get another free day today and picked Worth as my destination. I stopped at Oare on the way down as I was under the impression that I couldn't get into Worth until 8am. A quick walk out to the hide and back delivered just the two year ticks with my first Barn Owl of 2022 and a very distant Turtle Dove. Lot's of Stock Dove at Oare this year but it was otherwise very quiet. I thought I might have picked up Little Tern here but sadly it wasn't to be on this visit. I left Oare and made the short drive down to Worth arriving at 7.45 to find the car park had been open since 6am which was a bit disappointing as I could have arrived earlier if I'd known. 

A walk around to the back of the wood and I found a group of birders already watching the Eleonora's Falcon. The bird showed really well between 8 and 10am before drifting high and out of sight. The Red-footed Falcon showed well too but remained a little distant. Nora returned at lunch time and spent the next couple of hours hawking high over the Great wood. Whilst waiting I checked every Buzzard that came over and there were a few but I somehow missed the single Honey Buzzard that flew over the car park at lunch time. I did get onto a very distant White Stork which was more of the blob by the time I picked it up after a shout from the guys further down the line as it  flew south around 2pm  over the farm towards Sandwich. As I left I dropped a few coins in the collection wellie by the car park and made the journey home without hold up but on checking news services I did notice that the Golden Oriole was seen twice after I left.

year list now 215

Sedge Warbler at Oare

A splendid day in good company watching what will no doubt be the bird of the year