With Yellowhammer being the most obvious gap on my patch year list, I decided to have a walk round Sidestrand where I regularly see them. As I was walking down a hedgerow, I inadvertently flushed a Goose sp. from the beet field on the other side of the hedge and as I watched it fly off into the distance, I quickly narrowed it down to a Pinkfoot/Bean Goose and from its call I strongly suspected the latter. As I watched it heading off I was resigned to putting it down to the one that got away, and was annoyed with myself that I hadn't spotted it in the field before it took flight as it was a potential patch tick.
I continued to watch it as it was flying away and noticed that it suddenly started to circle round and then started heading back towards me. I crouched down low against the hedge in the hope that it may return to the field but it flew slightly inland and appeared to drop down in a field about a mile or so away. I decided that the best course of action was to go back and grab my scope and drive round to where it had apparently gone down and hopefully refind it to clinch the id.
I made my way back onto the main coast road and as I passed the beet field from the opposite side I glanced across it and noticed a large bird gliding slowly down into the field. I initially thought it was the goose returning but quickly realised the silhouette was wrong and presumed it was the heron I had seen a couple of minutes earlier, I casually raised my bins to check it out and was stunned to see that it was in fact a BITTERN and it was standing right out in the open in the middle of the beet field!
It quickly walked up against the hedge and out of sight but moving my position I quickly relocated it up against the hedgerow. As this was a patch Mega I made a few frantic phone calls and a few minutes later a couple of local birders had arrived and were enjoying this once in a lifetime patch bird.
I then dashed back to get my scope and camera and as I was returning I noticed that the Goose sp. was circling around overhead and it eventually came down in the same field as the Bittern but just over the brow of the hill. I decided to have another quick look at the Bittern first before going on to see the goose, and took a few record shots of it before it took flight and went over the hedge.
I then walked further along the road where the Goose could now be seen, and indeed it was a BEAN GOOSE, the second new patch tick of the day, and more amazingly both were in the same field! I took a few shots of it, but as more people had then arrived for the Bittern, I went to help in relocating it.
Unfortunately there was no further sign of the Bittern, which had potentially either flown straight inland when it flew, or it had subsequently been flushed by a dog walker who was making their way along the edge of the field, but at least the Bean Goose was hanging around for them to see. I then decided to get back to my original plan and carried on walking the nearby hedgerows and located a small group of Yellowhammers, the males looking beautiful in their bright plumage.
Having heard it calling on a couple of previous occasions, my target for the 25th was to try to see the Water Rail that was in the small reedbed adjacent to Felbrigg Lake. I decided my best bet was to set myself up by the small stream that runs in to the reedbed in the hope that I would see it walk across and waited patiently. I eventually could hear something moving about in the reeds and after a while could hear it making a few quiet calls as it was getting nearer and nearer. Another patient wait of about 15 minutes and I was eventualy rewarded with it quickly dashing across a gap in the reeds. I gave it about another 20 minutes and after having another equally brief view it eventually emerged in the stream where it fed for a few seconds out in the open, rewarding my patience well.
A return visit to the Bean Goose field on the 26th revealed that it was still around and had now taken up company with an Egyptian Goose, which in itself is a fairly scarce occassional visitor to the patch, and both birds seemed fairly settled feeding on the beet tops which had been left after harvesting. As the photo below shows, the Bean was pretty much the same size as the Egyptian Goose, and served to confirm its id as a Tundra Bean Goose as opposed to the much larger Taiga (sub) species. The short neck, limited orange on the bill, and deep lower mandible all reinforced the id as Tundra too.
Whilst watching the geese a couple of Foxes entered the field and started to chase each other around. Instead of taking flight, the two geese just froze, occasionally glancing around at the foxes who seemed more interested in each other than the geese, and they eventually both trotted off through the hedge and out of sight leaving the geese to carry on feeding in safety.
A trip down to West Runton later that afternoon produced a Barn Owl hunting the meadows down the beach road, and it conviniently landed on a post in front of where I had positioned myself and allowed me to get the photo below.
A another visit to Felbrigg Lake on the 28th showed that a few Pochard were now present on the lake, and a drake Pintail was lurking amongst the wooded islands on the far side, both of which were new for the year. A couple of Barn Owls were also noted hunting the adjacent meadows.
A look round Sidestrand on the 29th for a Peregrine that had been seen earlier in the week drew a blank, but I did manage to see the first Common Buzzard of the year perched up in a tree, and the first Grey Wagtail of the year too which was feeding around a manure pile in the field opposite.
An overnight snowfall made the scenery picturesque, and another visit to look for the Tundra Bean Goose on the morning of the 30th showed it was still feeding happily in the beet field, along with the Egyptian Goose, and it posed for some better photos than I had managed up till now.