Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Blackcap and Alpine Swift continues to linger despite weather

My first Blackcap of the year was recorded today with a male in sea-buckthorn bushes along the cliffs at Cromer, and which was heard to be quietly sub-singing.
Despite a 50% reduction in temperature and numerous showers, including a few hail storms, the Alpine Swift continues to linger, ranging between the town and the lighthouse. In somewhat warmer and sunnier conditions yesterday it was often seen in the company of a few Swallows, with a small trickle of them moving along the coast in the afternoon.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Felbrigg and Alpine Swift still present

A trip up to Felbrigg Park today was very worthwhile with the two Firecrests showing well in the car park, a few groups of Crossbills were seen flying round, with a pair watched feeding in the larches, where there were also good numbers of Lesser Redpolls and Siskins present, and a number of Chiffchaffs were seen and heard in the woodland.

Down by the lake, a Barn Owl was hunting the fields, despite it being mid-morning, on the lake was a Mute Swan, a few Tufted Ducks and a pair of Mandarins which flew in calling and then engaged in a bout of mutal preening and other courtship display.

An Oystercatcher was standing on the lake wall, the first I've seen down there this year and a Sand Martin was feeding over the water. On the adjacent meadows 2 pairs of Shelduck have recently arrived, a male Reed Bunting was singing from one of the hawthorn bushes, and a Grey Heron flew over. Also a number of Egyptian Geese were also present flying from tree to tree which always seems weird for a goose.

Despite the light rain and the fact that it hadn't been seen by the people looking when I arrived, I still ventured up to the lighthouse for a look for the Alpine Swift and almost immediately picked it up flying round by the church, it then flew up to the lighthouse, did a few circuits and then started to feed over the trees inland of the coast road, so is now present for its 7th day.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Alpine Swift day 3 and first Swalllow of the year

My now usual morning walk along Cromer golf course was passing by fairly uneventful, apart from 3 Wheatears which quickly disappeared over the cliff face as the grass-cutter approached, and still a few Chiffchaffs singing along the cliffs.

As I was heading back towards Overstrand I noticed a now very familiar silhouette approaching high from the east, an Alpine Swift! It drifted up high above the sea and then I temporarily lost it, but swinging round I was delighted to see it flying around the cliffs behind me, and upon climbing up to a high point I was treated to amazing views as it was flying round in front of me for some twenty minutes, and I often had to duck for fear of it hitting me it was coming so close round my head feeding on the insects being pushed up in the updraught of the cliffs. At one point it was joined by my first Swallow of the year, with the two of them majestically flycatching together around the cliffs.
I guess this was the time to have a DSLR, as my little point and shoot camera was failing miserably to get anything decent despite the very close-up views, although I did manage a pic which I guess is slightly better than yesterdays effort.
It eventually drifted west but I then picked it up again around the Lighthouse area and was able to get a couple of locals who had just arrived on to it, as well as a group of tourist birders who had fortunately picked the right day to go for a walk along to Overstrand. We continued to watch it for about an hour and a half, during which time more people arrived to enjoy it before it drifted off westwards. A few more Swallows and a Sand Martin were also seen passing through whilst we were watching it.

I headed back towards the east end of the golf course and on my way back my attention was drawn to the sound of a Curlew calling and picked it up coming along the cliffs high up, the first record of one that I've had through the patch so far this year. At the far end of the golf course a Black Redstart was on the roofs of the bungalows.
I then headed along the coast to West Runton checking the spots where the Swift had previously fed on the way just in case, and then upon arriving in the beach car park I scanned Beeston Bump off to the west and there was the Alpine Swift flying happily around the top! As I watched, it slowly drifted towards me and then flew right past along the cliffs before heading back towards Cromer in front of the approaching rain. A simply amazing bird and I couldn't believe my luck in finding it twice today.
A check of the ploughed field revealed that there was still at least 3 White Wagtails in with the Pieds and on the sea was the unusual sight of a Brent Goose on the sea close inshore feeding on the seaweed being brought in on the incoming tide.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Sand Martin and White Wagtails

A morning walk along the golf course produced the first Sand Martin of the year, plus a female Stonechat and a Fieldfare over.

A visit to West Runton revealed that the clifftop field was being ploughed with a good gathering of 'alba' Wagtails feeding in the freshly turned over soil, with at least a couple of White Wagtails evident amongst the Pieds.

Alpine Swift from the window!

A very timely early morning text alerted me to the fact that the Alpine Swift had left its roost site and was now heading east along the coast.

As my bathroom window overlooks the coast, I quickly positioned myself and after 5 minutes or so picked it up over the house and then watched as it headed ESE towards Sidestrand, where it briefly paused to feed over the trees surrounding Sidestrand school, before it headed off SE.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010


An early morning walk along Cromer golf course revealed there had been a mini arival of migrants with a number of Chiffchaffs singing from the woods and cliff-face vegetation and a Wheatear flushed from the clifftop by the lighthouse.
Further along I discovered a Black Redstart flycatching from the bracken and gorse just above the turf slope, and then quickly noted a second and then amazingly a third one, plus a Wheatear and a male Stonechat all on the same slope, which due to it catching the morning sun obviously had a good supply of insects on tap.
Whilst watching them I managed, by total luck, to get the picture below of one of the Black Redstarts in the pursuit of a fly, whilst the Wheatear looked on.
A trip down to West Runton produced 4+ Wheatears along the cliffs and in the car park, including the first female, and then my attention was grabbed by a group of large gulls starting to actively congregate on the sea and a look through my bins revealed that one of the Great Black-backs in the group was in the process of eating something. I got my scope on it out of curiosity, and it appeared that it was most likely a small (probably Little) Grebe which quickly disappeared head first down the gulls throat! Offshore a Gannet and 4 Red-throated Divers were noted passing by.
Having just finished a trip to the local supermarket, I received a phone call to say that an Alpine Swift had just been seen over Overstrand village but it had been lost to view and it wasn't clear which way it had headed. I quickly raced over there, dumping my shopping on the way, and then quickly scanned over the village and along the cliffs but drew a blank.
I then made the decision to have a go of chasing after it, and plumped for the option of it heading west so went back to Cromer and took position on a high point and scanned over the town, but again no sign. I then scanned to the west and quickly picked up the distant but unmistakable silhouette of the ALPINE SWIFT hawking over some pine trees just beyond East Runton, so heading further along the coast I picked it up again looking back west from between East and West Runton and phoned the news out so other observers could enjoy this suberb bird.
It then flew quite strongly west, fortunately passing right overhead and disappeared over West Runton. I then relocated it again over the village and managed to get the first couple of birders on to it who had just arrived, and it then settled down for a while giving more observers the chance to connect with it, and I managed to get the record shot below of it as it passed overhead.
After a while it headed back east and it was relocated over Cromer, where after feeding over the town centre for a while we watched as it made a number of apparent attempts to fly up onto the church tower. It then, after another attempt, disappeared from view and we presumed it had gone into the tower to roost as there was no further sign of it until dark.
This bird is part of a national influx of these stunning birds that have overshot southern Europe, and which we are experiencing in the UK at present, with at least a dozen or more being reported over the last couple of days, with at least one or two others in Norfolk today.

Monday, 22 March 2010

First Coot returns to Felbrigg Lake

A walk along the golf course produced a few more singing Chiffchaffs, but little else on the migrant front.

A trip up to Felbrigg Park was rewarded with the Firecrests continuing to show well on and off, and a number of Crossbills flying over and feeding in the larches. A walk down to the lake failed to produce any Mandarins, but a Coot was a real surprise as they had all moved off when the lake had frozen over before Christmas and had not returned until now. Somewhat strangely it was a very shy individual, spending all of its time hiding under the over hanging branches in the back corner, and seemed totally reluctant to come out into the open water.
Many frogs and toads were around the lake and in the feeder stream, and you really had to be careful where you were walking to avoid stepping on them as they were crossing over the paths.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Tawny Owl and Chiffchaff

First stop of the day today was Warren Wood and as I entered the wood I thought to myself on a day as nice and sunny as today if there were any Chiffchaffs about they'd surely be singing, and within 5 seconds of that thought I heard one singing just in front of me! A second bird was also heard but my phone then rang and it was my Dad letting me know that he had located a roosting Tawny Owl in Felbrigg Park.
So the Chiffchaffs were left till later and I quickly made my way to Felbrigg as Tawny Owls are hard birds to actually see on the patch, although I hear them calling now and again from the house throughout the year. Fortunately it was still present when I arrived buried deep inside a conifer with just its head and the top of its breast on view, and was as always a very nice bird to see. Whilst we were watching it a few Crossbills were heard flying around the trees and a couple of Sparrowhawks were circling up high over the park.
We then returned to Warren Wood where after initially hearing one in song again, I eventually located one of the Chiffchaffs high up in the trees where it was seen chasing off both Great Tit and Blue Tit when they got too close to it.
A Small Tortoiseshell was on the adjacent playing field, and a male Stonechat was watched flycatching from the bracken tops on the edge of the golf course.
I then went to Trimingham where I quickly located a singing Firecrest which had been seen earlier in the morning, and after a walk along the clifftops there, I found a second bird in Pond Plantation. Just to make sure it wasn't the original bird just having moved I rechecked the first bird was still there, which it was, and I managed a quick picture of it through the branches.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Crossbills and more migrants

A walk along Cromer golf course produced a female Stonechat and a fox asleep down the bottom of the cliffs, and a few Redwings were still in the sea-buckthorn bushes.
A visit to West Runton produced a different Wheatear from yesterdays bird, and a hirundine sp. (most likely a Sand Martin) flew in off the sea and disappeared inland before I could get a look at it through my bins. The Med Gull was as ever patrolling the car park for food and had now moulted out the last few white feathers from its head and was now sporting a complete black hood.
Next stop was Felbrigg where a Mealy Redpoll had been reported, and I managed to find a few Redpolls feeding high up in the larches with some Siskins and Goldfinches but viewing was pretty difficult looking high up and into the light, so I decided to have another look another time when conditions were better.
A number of flocks of Crossbills were flying around the trees and then having discovered where they were coming down to drink, excellent views were obtained. A Grey Wagtail flew over a couple of times and landed in the stream for a short time and at least a dozen Common Snipe were flushed from the adjacent water meadow by a dog.

Back in the car park the Firecrests were showing well and a Tawny Owl was heard but evaded attempts to locate its roosting site.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Patch Mega and first Wheatear of the year

A walk along the golf course was proving to be fairly uneventful when my attention was drawn to the unmistakable calls of BEARDED TITS coming from behind me, I quickly swung round and watched in disbelief as a pair flew strongly east along the cliffs before gaining height and disappearing into the distance towards Overstrand.
This was my first ever record of Bearded Tit on the patch, and looking through past bird reports, although they are an irruptive migrant in autumn, a record of a spring movement in the county appears to be a very rare occurrence and I couldn't find any similar record in the previous 10 years.
I then went to West Runton, and as I was walking along the clifftop path a bird flew along the field edge some way in front of me, and on raising my bins I was delighted to see that it was a Wheatear, my first of the year, and the first one that I am aware of to be recorded on the north coast far this spring.
It was extremely flighty, but I managed a quick record shot before it disappeared off into the ploughed field.
With temperatures today hitting 18 degrees, the warmest day since October, butterflies started to make an appearance, and I recorded Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone during the day.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Peregrine and Goosander

Whilst having a look to see if yesterdays Black Redstart was still about, I noticed a raptor circling round over the village, and as soon as I had it in my bins I realised it was a Peregrine. It continued circling round overhead for a couple of minutes or so, so I took the opportunity to grab a few record shots, before it purposely headed off inland at some speed.

I then had a brief walk along the clifftops towards the golf course and whilst glancing out to sea my attention was drawn to a medium sized grey bird with a dark head and white wing flashes coming along the tideline below me, and again upon getting it in my bins I was delighted to see that it was a female Goosander, the second excellent patch year tick of the day, with both birds being very scarce and far from guaranteed to be seen on the patch during the year.
A visit to West Runton in the afternoon revealed that there was a pair of Stonechats present, the first that I had seen at the site since before Christmas when they moved off with the onset of the snow and freezing temperatures.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

The first spring migrant arrives

After what has seemed like a very long winter, I chanced upon my first migrant of the spring today in the form of a Black Redstart in Overstrand. Traditionally one of the earliest spring migrants, I always manage to find a few on the patch each year, and this beauty drew my attention as it flycatched from a roof as I was walking past.

A Grey Wagtail flew over Cromer and 4 Common Buzzards were seen distantly from the golf course.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Mandarins and Stonechat

After being very erratic in their appearances during Jan & Feb, the Mandarins have made a welcome return to Felbrigg Lake, with 3 pairs present during my visit today. Also on the lake were some Pochard, Tufted Ducks and a pair of Gadwall.

The West Runton Mediterranean Gull is rapidly attaining its summer black hood, with only a few white feathers remaining around the bill now. 

On the 6th, a male Stonechat along the lane into Northrepps was very welcome, being the first one on the patch this year, with the pre Christmas snow having driven away the ones that were around last year. Also a family group of 4 Roe Deer were seen on the walk back.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Yet another Waxwing

March started with another Waxwing, this time at West Runton, which as always provided a good photo opportunity which was too much to resist.