Friday, 30 April 2010

Good passage of Swifts

A walk along Cromer golf course this morning revealed that there was a good westerly passage of Swifts taking place along the cliffs, plus good numbers of both House Martins and Swallows also moving through.
A dozen or so Yellow Wagtails were also noted passing over, a Ring Ouzel was seen in flight a couple of times below the cliffs, 4 Wheatears were on the turf slope, and a pair of Yellowhammers were a welcome sight on one of the greens.
A walk round East Runton produced a couple more Wheatears, but little else new on the migrant front. The resident Song Thrush was as usual singing its heart out from its favourite perch, and its nice to see that there are quite a few present around the patch this year as they had been becoming a pretty scarce bird locally.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Whinchats at Felbrigg

A visit to Felbrigg Lake today revealed that the Reed Warbler was still in the reedbed and had now been joined by a Sedge Warbler too.
I then noticed a bird fly up onto an adjacent fence and when getting it in my bins was very pleased to see it was a cracking male Whinchat. It then flew across the reedbed over to the north side of the lake where it was joined by a second and they were watched feeding from the fence and from trees in the reedbed itself.

Other birds of note included a Wheatear around the gorse clump, a drake Manadarin along with a third Coot now on the lake, a Common Sandpiper flew round calling before flying off high as it started to drizzle and a Barn Owl was hunting the water meadow.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Red Kite, Green Sand, Swift and Hoopoe!

With the news that a Red Kite was heading towards the patch from the west, I quickly made my way to a good vantage point, and after a few minutes picked it up drifting south-east over Felbrigg Park. After watching it for sometime I decided to chase after it as views had been somewhat distant, and also to try to gain a bit more knowledge of the way birds track through the patch for future reference.
I caught up with it again over the north side of Roughton, and then followed it continuing south east where a quick stop at the entrance to Northrepps aerodrome produced excellent overhead views of it, and I managed to get a few pics before it drifted off towards Southrepps.
A check of East Runton produced 10+ Yellow Wagtails in the paddock at Wyndham Park, plus my first Swift of the year. Then when scanning the sky for more I picked up a wader heading over west. Given its shape and flight I had my suspicions as to what it was and as I quickly picked it up through my scope, its white rump and dark underwings confirmed that it was as suspected a Green Sandpiper, a bird that I haven't seen on the patch for a good few years, so I was very pleased that I had luckily picked it up going over. On the butterfly front, my first Green-veined White of the year was noted.

News of a Hoopoe at Sheringham was enough to tempt me further along the coast, but due to incorrect location details given I found myself at the wrong end of the golf course to where the bird had been seen. Anyway I sat up on top of Skelding Hill which served as a good high vantage point and watched others arrive in the distance and then start to walk along the field where it was believed to be. After a while I picked it up in flight and then watched it on the ground, although as it was nearly a mile away views were very distant to say the least but nevertheless totally unmistakable on the flight views gained.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Reed Warbler and Merlin

A check of the patch Monday revealed a few left-over Wheatears from yesterdays big numbers along the coast, plus good numbers of the common warblers filling the air with their songs.
A visit to Felbrigg Lake produced the desired result with a Reed Warbler, the first of the year, singing in the reedbed. A lot of patience resulted in a brief flight view and after a further wait it was eventually watched singing from a bush on the lakes edge.
Birds on the lake included a drake Gadwall, a new Coot which had joined the one that recently appeared, and a drake Mandarin flew in. On the north side of the lake, a Wheatear was present around the gorse clump.

A check of the cliff-top fields around West Runton today produced a few Yellow Wagtails and Wheatears but little else of note birdwise was seen there or around East Runton, but with the increasing temperatures butterflies were again out in force with the most notable species recorded being my first Orange-tips, Speckled Woods and Red Admiral of the year.
I then called in at Trimingham, and as I rounded the northern edge of Pond Plantation I scanned the ploughed field to the west and picked out a 'blob' in the field some distance away in the heat haze, but initially couldn't really decide what it was so carried on scanning the field. I then returned to the blob and started to pay it a bit more attention, and through the haze was pretty sure that it appeared to be a bird of prey which appeared to be eating something in the field.
I quickly hastened down to the clifftop, constantly checking it was still there as I went, and then made my way along towards it. With each look I was changing my mind as to what it was as the heat haze was still making viewing difficult, as was assessing its correct size, but what was evident was it was busily tearing apart some prey and was unconcerned by my approach. Eventually I got near enough to get a decent look at it through my bins and was delighted to establish that it was a Merlin, mainly still in juvenile plumage but with some blue feathering evident on the back. Knowing that another local birder was in the area I quickly phoned him and then sat down so not to disturb it whilst watching it continue to devour its meal. Fortunately it hung around long enough for the other birder to connect before it eventually flew off low along the clifftop towards Sidestrand.
This was only the third Merlin that I have ever seen on the patch, with the other two only being fleeting views, so it was a real pleasure to watch this one at close quarters on prey, but as is typical with encounters such as this I had left my camera in the car not expecting to see anything!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Wheatear influx

An early morning start revealed that there had been a good arrival of migrants, with lots more of the common warblers in the bushes, but most notable were the large numbers of Wheatears that were evident along the coast, many of which allowed very close approach giving good photo opportunities.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Pied Flycatcher - My first spring record on the patch

A walk along the golf course on Friday produced a few Wheatears, a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a House Martin through with other hirundines. An afternoon walk around Beeston was rewarded with a Ring Ouzel which landed briefly in trees before flying off inland, more Wheatears and both Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats singing in the bushes.

On Saturday a walk around East Runton and Cromer produced my second Sedge Warbler of the spring singing from a large area of brambles, more Lesser and Common Whitethroats, plus numerous Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers all singing away.
Early evening news came through of a female Pied Flycatcher in trees around Subway car park in Cromer, and although the light was fading fast I thought I'd give it a go just in case, so was delighted when upon arrival I noticed a quick movement up in the tops of the trees and a look through the bins revealed that it was indeed the Pied Flycatcher. It quickly flew along the trees and dropped into a hedge where it showed briefly before disappearing, presumably to roost.
This was the first spring Pied Flycatcher that I have seen on the patch, and a very welcome bird as I usually have to work very hard to find one each autumn, and some years have missed them completely.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Some more photos from Felbrigg

A walk round East Runton showed that a few more Common Whitethroats had arrived, but no other new arrivals were evident, although my first Comma Butterfly of the year was noted. However with the wind forecast to finally turn round to the south hopefully the next few days will produce some more migrants.
A visit to Felbrigg revealed that the Common Sandpiper was still feeding along the edge of the lake, and a Yellow Wagtail was again providing excellent photo opportunities posing on the lake wall.

A pair of Mandarins were on the lake, with another male seen heading off into the main wood, but no sign today of the two Crested Ducks.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Black-Necked Grebe - first patch record

With the news that a Black-necked Grebe had been seen off West Runton and was drifting east, I quickly made my way to East Runton to see if I could relocate it, but upon arrival discovered that there were a number of wind-surfers on the sea there, so my hopes were not high thinking it would probably have quickly moved off from the area.
A number of Sandwich Terns and a few Gannets were seen passing but after an hour or so of scanning the sea with no luck, I decided to check the sea further along towards Cromer as I guessed it had probably long gone past where I was.

To my delight, just as I arrived in Cromer, news came through that it was indeed off there, and after having found somewhere to park, I was watching it close inshore just to the west of the pier. This constituted my first ever Black-necked Grebe for the patch so I naturally delighted to have caught up with it, and the fact that it was a stunning full summer plumaged bird was a great bonus too. Black-necked Grebes are scarce birds in the county and 'at sea' records are even rarer, so this was a great record for the area.
Fortunately I got to meet the original finder of the bird so was able to pass on my thanks to him for his discovery, and managed to get a record shot of it.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Whitethroats and Hirundines

A morning walk around East Runton revealed a couple of newly arrived Common Whitethroats in the bramble scrub, with the second one quietly sub-singing.
I then revisted Felbrigg Lake to see if the birds seen yesterday evening were still present, and as soon as I had reached the lake I immediately picked out my first House Martin of the year flying round with a fairly large hirundine flock over the water.
From time to time, both Swallows and Sand Martins from the assembled flock would briefly land on the fence along the north side of the lake, enabling me to get the pics below.
Whilst watching the hirundines, a few Manadarins were busy flying round and occasionally landing briefly on the lake before flying off again. When a pair landed on the water I quickly made my way round to the south side and quietly stood in the trees along the bank, and to my delight they swam towards me and the drake briefly climbed out of the water onto the tree roots right in front of me and started to display to the female, enabling me to get the shot below.  

Yesterdays Common Sandpiper was still feeding along the north shoreline, but was too wary to come close enough to get any better pics today, with my best effort below.
Also present were the two Crested Ducks, presumably a pair, and afforded better views than yesterday, with their bright red eyes making them look really stunning.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

More migrants arrive and Crested Ducks too!

Sedge Warblers are always very scare birds on the patch, and to see one you have to rely on finding an incoming migrant in clifftop scrub, so I was pleased to hear the familiar song of one whilst I was taking a look round East Runton this morning. After locating where the song was coming from, I finally managed a few fleeting views as it flew a couple of times between bramble clumps, landing briefly on top of one before disappearing back inside. The only other bird of note found on my morning round was a Lesser Whitethroat.
Whilst paying an evening visit to Felbrigg Lake, I noticed two ducks sleeping under the trees at the back, with their heads tucked in under their wings. With them not looking right for female Mandarins, or any other duck come to that, I was somewhat puzzled as to their id, but suspected some kind of escapees.
A quick dash back to the car for my scope to get a decent look at them had given them time to wake up and they were now feeding along the waters edge. I still couldn't put a name to them but a quick check of literature at home later revealed they were Crested Ducks from South America, with a pic of one of them below.
A Common Sandpiper, the first of the year, was feeding along the shoreline on the north side of the lake, and a Yellow Wagtail, also the first one seen this spring was watched flycatching from the lake wall and adjacent trees.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Lesser Whitethroats arrive

A visit to East Runton this morning produced a couple of singing Lesser Whitethroats, and a Yellow Wagtail flew over calling but evaded detection.

Coastal movement included a few Linnets and Goldfinches but little else of note was seen around the patch, although it was nice to watch the local Sand Martins busily collecting grass from the clifftop path to line their nests with.

Friday, 16 April 2010

A quiet week on the patch

With a cold northerly wind blowing for most of the week, no new migrants have been noted over the last few days, but the winds have produced a few Gannets moving offshore.
A couple of 'tenebrosus' morph Pheasants have recently appeared, favouring the field opposite the golf practice ground, and are really stunning looking birds.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Holkham Shorelarks

Today saw me attempting to try to get some decent photos of the 15 Shorelarks at Holkham, but as usual they never kept still enough to get a great pic by digiscoping, but I still got some decent shots nonetheless.

Sunday, 11 April 2010


A visit to Felbrigg today produced the regular Firecrest in the car park and a single Crossbill flew over calling, with another two or three in the trees behind the lake. A pair of Mandarins were on the lake, and 3 more, two males and a female, were watched flying over in hot pursuit of each other. A Barn Owl was hunting the meadow, where Shelduck and Oystercatcher were also noted, along with the resident Canada and Greylag Geese, and a single Coot, Mute Swan and the Tufted Duck flock were also on the lake.
A small flock of Sand Martins and a couple of Swallows were feeding over the lake and the adjacent trees, with one of the latter landing briefly on the fence enabling me to grab a quick pic, although it was into the light.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Common Crane - third time lucky

With more clear and sunny weather, the afternoon was again spent looking for any raptor movement through the patch. A number of Common Buzzards were seen, but as usual it was unclear as to whether these were true migrants or just local birds having a fly round.
A brief 'chacking' from a nearby tree didn't at first register, then as it called again as it flew off across the field I quickly realised it was a Ring Ouzel. It briefly perched atop a hedge then carried on inland.

Having missed a couple of opportunities of Cranes going through the patch this year, including one over yesterday, when news came through of one circling at Stiffkey, hopes were raised of a third chance, but which way would it go? No further news came from points west, until I received a welcome call to alert me that it(?) had just gone over Incleborough and was heading towards me. A few seconds later I had picked it up flying over the south side of Cromer and watched as it disappeared into the distance towards Northrepps.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Red Kite Day

With clear sunny conditions and little wind, the day looked good for raptor movement, and it didn't disappoint. In between looking, I had to take a brief trip into Cromer and whilst walking into the town, still looking skywards, I noticed the distant silhouette of a raptor approaching from the east, and even without bins its flight action made it instantly recognisable as a Kite.

A mad dash back to the car to get my bins and then an equally mad dash up to a high point so I could see over the town initially resulted in frustration as there was no sign of it, but after a quick scan further west, I picked up a (second) Red Kite circling round with a Common Buzzard before it slowly drifted off westwards along the Cromer-Holt ridge. Two Red Kites had earlier been seen near Northrepps and two birds were tracked moving west further along the coast, so presumably these were the same two that had temporarily been separated.
Just over an hour later a third bird was picked up over the council offices, and although distant from where I was watching from, it was on view for at least 20 minutes as it too lazily drifted west off along the ridge, getting occasionally harassed by the local crows and Sparrowhawks on the way.
A few more Willow Warblers were evident today, and a few Sand Martins were going through.

Yesterday there was also a fairly good passage of Sand Martins moving west, and a flock of at least 25 were prospecting the cliff face near West Runton. Also yesterday, a Ring Ouzel was seen briefly in flight along the undercliff below the golf course before disappearing into dense scrub, a flock of c25 Common Scoter where seen offshore from Overstrand, and the first Small White butterfly of the year was seen at Cromer.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Ring Ouzels galore and more migrants arrive

With a Ring Ouzel having been seen at Northrepps early morning, a gentle stroll over there was the first task of the day, and whilst passing the nursery, I made a mental note to check the paddocks at the back if there was no sign in the area where it had been reported. As there wasn't I retraced my steps and headed off down the path towards the paddocks, but was quickly stopped in my tracks as there on the path in front of me was not one but three Ring Ouzels, which were drinking from puddles on the track by the 'Shrieking Pit', and then soon after a fourth one appeared on the track!
They then moved into the paddocks briefly, but a dog-walker flushed them off along an adjacent hedgerow, and then a second dog-walker was too much for them and they flew off across the fields revealing that there were actually five birds present. As they continued across the field, calling away, a sixth bird flew up and joined the flock, which was presumably the bird first reported this morning.
I managed to take a few pics of them before they flew off, including a record shot of three of them together.

A couple of  Wheatears were noted in the field north of the nursery, and a number of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were in song. A walk along the golf course revealed three more Wheatears on the turf slope and a steady trickle of Swallows and a single Sand Martin were going through west. A Muntjac and a Fox were seen along the cliff base, and whilst watching the latter my attention was drawn to the calls of Sandwich Terns and a pair were noted fishing offshore before carrying on west. Another Tree Pipit flew over the golf course near the lighthouse, but was heard only, and more singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were along the cliffs and in the woods.
A visit to East Runton revealed my first Willow Warblers of the year, a couple more Ring Ouzels were flushed from just in front of me by another dog walker, and my first female Blackcap of the spring was also seen.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

An early Tree Pipit

An afternoon walk along the golf course produced my first Tree Pipit of the year, with one calling as it flew east past the lighthouse. I think this constitutes my earliest record for the patch, with the previous best being one through on the 10th April in 2008, again along the golf course. The strong southerly also produced a few Swallows moving through, and with the rise in temperature from recent days, Butterflies were again on the wing with single Brimstone and Peacock, plus a few Small Tortoiseshells.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A few more Blackcaps

A walk around the lighthouse area revealed that there had been a mini arrival of Blackcaps with a few birds in song in the clifftop woods. One was doing an excellent mimic of a Nightingale which got me going for a few seconds, and later it even did a bit of Red-legged Partridge! A few more Chiffchaffs were also evident in the woods and along the cliffs below the golf course.

The remainder of the Easter weekend was fairly uneventful, a lone Swallow flew west along the golf course on Monday, a Green Woodpecker and a Sparrowhawk along the cliffs and a few finches and corvids were on the move. A male Blackcap was in the garden, and it was nice to see Great Tits busily taking nesting materials into one of my nest boxes.

Hopefully with the weather set to improve and temperatures on the rise as the week progresses, we should see a bit more migrant activity in the forthcoming days.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Black Redstart at Felbrigg

A visit to Felbrigg today produced the surprise find of a Black Redstart down by the lake, which although mobile, eventually gave good views perched up on the fence around the lake and in the bush in the small inlet.

A few Swallows were lingering over the lake and reedbed, and on the lake itself were 23 Tufted Ducks.

Various flocks of Crossbills were flying round the area just to the south of the car park, with probably at least 30 different birds present, and the Firecrest was still singing in the car park itself. A pair of Common Buzzards were seen over the south side of the park from Metton Road.