Sunday, 29 January 2023

A little Canada goose in Norfolk

Back in 2012 we saw a Richardson's Cackling goose at Cley and assumed that was that but the bird failed to get accepted so didn't make our list and has haunted us ever since. We don't twitch the islands and this isn't a species easier seen on the mainland especially in the south so when James M found one this week in Norfolk we planned to give it a try at the weekend and hope for it to stick.

This morning we headed north up the A10 stopping at Welney where we year ticked Tree Sparrows among the House Sparrows and then connected with Cattle Egret as three birds flew up and over the bank as a cyclist passed. A Barn Owl was seen on the fence outside the main building and it was nice to see and hear the thousands of Whoopers. News came through that the Little goose had been seen so we packed up and headed north again. We arrived at the concrete pad in Brancaster and joined the guys on site. Graham J kindly allowed us to view the Goose in his scope for the tick before setting up our own to get longer views. The bird was distantly feeding in a field with c3000 Pink-footed Geese. 

From here we went to Holkham with Graham and managed to jam on Firecrest as we entered the boardwalk area. A sea watch delivered a few more year ticks as a small raft of Common Scoter drifted west with at least one Velvet Scoter. Lot's of Mergansers and a single Long-tailed duck were seen and Graham found a Red-necked Grebe. 



We stopped at Abbey Farm, Flitcham on the drive south and year ticked Yellowhammer but failed again to find the "resident" Little Owls.

Year list now 153

Life list 437

Thursday, 26 January 2023

finding time

Somehow I'm finding time to get some birding in despite my growing family commitments. I doubt this will continue for long but I'm enjoying it all the same and living in the moment for now.

Today I had a couple of spare hours so popped over to the Bittern hide at the valley stopping on the way to check Strawberry pond and to year tick Mandarin duck. I found 22 birds on the small pond with 20 Mallard and a few Moorhen. I took a few quick images and continued my short  journey through the forest to the valley. At the hide I enjoyed good views of the Bittern as it caught a couple of small Perch and then a large Tench. Outside the hide I found a female Kingfisher and watched her fish for a while and Dave told me of a drake Smew on Seventy Acre so I connected with that too although it was a bit distant for my 400mm lens.

Year list now 145

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Med Gulls at Southend

I had to drop my son to an appointment in Rayleigh today so took the opportunity to look for Mediterranean Gulls on Southend beach. Armed with a loaf of bread I drew in the locals which were mostly Black-headed Gulls with the odd Common, Lesser-black back and Herring Gull. Amongst the large frenzy coming to my bread were several Med Gulls including first winters, second winters and adult birds.

Adult With Gold

2nd winter Med Gull

1st winter

1st winter

1st winter

2nd winter

Later I moved on to Wallasea were I enjoyed good but distant views of two (possibly three) Ring-tailed Hen Harrier and a Barn Owl. On the lagoons were plenty of waders including Grey Plover, Avocet, Dunlin, Redstart and Black-tailed Godwit. Time ran out fast before I had to leave to pick my son up for the return journey up the A127 and home.

The pointless year list is now 145 

Saturday, 21 January 2023

Couple of quick ticks this morning

With the grandkids due at lunchtime I had a couple of hours spare and decided to visit Lemsford springs again and try for Jack Snipe with the colder weather hopefully keeping them there for my visit. I left early, too early actually so decided to carry on around the M25 and quickly tick the Lesser Scaup on Staines reservoir. We found the bird sleeping with the Pochards but didn't hang around as time was of a premium. Three Black-necked Grebes the only other birds of note in the short visit to the reservoir.

The Lesser Scaup amongst the Pochard raft


Following the success at Staines we moved quickly back around the 25 to Lemsford and found the hide a little busy but we squeezed in and were rewarded with great views of 14 Green Sandipers, 3 Jack Snipe, 2 Common Snipe, and a Grey Wagtail. There was also a couple of Little Egrets and a Grey Heron. Henry WJ told us of a Firecrest he'd found by the entrance gate but we failed to find it. There's not been a Firecrest seen at Lemsford since 1984 so a good find today for Henry. The warden also told us a couple of interesting facts whilst we watched the Snipe, one of the Green Sandpipers present is the oldest known in the world at 12 years. It was also recorded flying to Norway in 24 hours and found to be nesting there in an old Redwings nest. Also one of the Little Egrets on site is the most recorded with something like 600 reports if I remember things correctly. The warden certainly has a passion for the reserve and the birds that visit it.

Jack Snipe and Green Sandpiper

Jack Snipe

Jack Snipe

Jack Snipe

Jack Snipe

Jack Snipe

Just the two year ticks and a London tick too.

Year list now 144   London list now 230

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Raptor fest

Well I managed to free up another day today which is not an easy task but I decided to make the most of it and popped up the M11 for a full day out with the Jims. We arrived at the Eldernell car park in Cambridgeshire for first light having seen a Barn Owl on route. A walk along the bank and we managed to see just one Long-eared Owl tucked away in the brambles, I took a couple of pictures keeping a good distance to give the sleeping bird due respect and left it to rest as we moved on to the small copse where we'd heard of a visible roosting Tawny Owl and it wasn't long before we'd found it sleeping in the hole in a tree. Protected from disturbance by the river running in front of the copse it was happy to just sit out in the open. 

Long-eared Owl

Tawny Owl

The Jims picked up year ticks with a large flock of Fieldfare and a Green Woodpecker before we started the walk back. We saw many Whooper Swans both settled out on the marsh and flying by. Five Cranes flew over followed by another three then two more before we spotted four birds on the far bank. A Peregrine flew by and landed on the marsh to add to the Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Kestrel, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk already seen. The best bird of the visit was a male Hen Harrier which came up to challenge a Buzzard and stayed in view for a few minutes as it looked to see off the bird. As we got back to the car park we spotted a Kingfisher by the bridge but failed to find any roosting Short-eared Owls. A Merlin was seen as we drove out.

Cranes above the Lapwing at Eldernell

Our next stop was Holkham which was an hours drive away but having failed to visit the place on new years day due to the car park being full and closed we just had to give it another try. As we pulled in we searched for Grey Partridge and I asked a couple if they'd seen any only for them to say "no but we've just found this Long-billed Dowitcher " We put news out then I took some pictures of the Dowitcher as it fed with a small group of Black-tailed Godwits among the vast flock of Wigeon. Sadly we spotted a couple of Pink-footed Geese that were showing the distressing signs of bird flu.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

Dowitcher and Wigeon

Long-billed Dowitcher

A covey of Grey Partridge were seen with four Snipe before we headed off out into the gap. Arriving at the roped off are we found ten Shorelark and 30+ Snow Buntings but the sea was choppy and no Scoters could be found. Having enjoyed great success at both Eldernell and Holkham we decided to give the Wareham Green Pallid Harrier another go having dipped it on new years day. We parked this time on the concrete pad down Garden drove and walked down to the marsh finding a smart Great Egret feeding close in. As we scoped the raptor action started with first Marsh Harrier then a ring-tailed Hen Harrier followed by our first views of the Pallid Harrier as it came in and flew low through the grass along the front edge of the pines. We enjoyed views of more Marsh Harriers and a couple more RT Hens along with a couple of Merlin several Barn Owl, Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk but as the light fell the crowd waiting lost patience and started to depart we found ourselves as last men standing along with Jamie M who at 4.45pm just as we'd started putting scopes away called that the Pallid was returning to roost. It flew over from behind us and went straight to roost.

Brent Geese

Grey Partridge

Great and Little Egret

Shorelarks and Snow Buntings


I celebrated a thoroughly enjoyable days birding, twelve raptor species and the ten year ticks with a stop at MR Chips in Swaffham on the way home.

Year list now 142


We've been trying to get to Dunge since 2nd January but my family commitments have prevented us travelling but on 15th January we decided to make the effort in a rare window where my diary was clear enough of caring/babysitting/school runs and general home work.

We set off early arriving at Dunge for first light and set about a sea watch in very strong south westerlies. None of the locals had braved the head on winds. Lot's of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Auks delivered our first year ticks and a continuous movement of gulls failed to deliver anything of note. Large numbers of Cormorants moved through but little else apart from a couple of Teal and a few Red throated Divers.

At ARC pit the Jims had a fly in Bittern which I missed and with water levels really high there were no waders to scan just a large raft of ducks which held nothing unusual. At Boulderwall farm we found a Glossy Ibis and a pair of Raven feeding on a carcase. 

Glossy Ibis

Glossy Ibis

Kestrel at ARC

At Scotney we ticked the feral Barnacle Geese before a drive around Walland marsh were we found 34 Bewicks and a small distant herd along with 3 Whooper Swans.

On the way home we gave the Pallas's Warbler at Swalecliffe a go and managed to hear it but failed to see it. On the beach we searched for a reported Purple Sandpiper but failed. During the search we year ticked Ringed Plover with over 50 birds present along with Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank, Oystercatchers and Turnstone.

Year list now 132

Friday, 13 January 2023

Waxwings in Ipswich

We made the trip up the A12 to Ipswich this morning and found the seven wintering Waxwings in Blanche Street. It's a small street with a single white Rowan Tree so it wasn't too difficult to find the birds which spent much of their time in the top of a large oak dropping to feed on the Rowan for a few seconds every half an hour or so. The light was terrible making it difficult to obtain images and we moved on after an hour or so.



Seven Waxwing



Marsh Tit

Great Tit

A dip at Euston for Golden Pheasant delivered four bonus year ticks with Coal Tit, Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and Nuthatch before we moved on to Lynford where we failed to find the expected Hawfinch. 

Year list now 123