Saturday, 31 December 2011

Review of the year

With another year gone, here's a quick look back at what has been an excellent year on the patch.

In total 190 species were seen on the patch with 9 new additions for the area - White-tailed Eagle, Citrine Wagtail, Dotterel, Bluethroat, Bonelli's Warbler, Pallid Swift, Humes Yellow-browed Warbler, Long-eared Owl and Woodlark. Additional species such as Greenish Warbler, Pallas's Warbler, Quail, Avocet, Great Grey Shrike and Tundra Bean Goose were only second records, with notable mentions also going to the 5 Grey Phals, and the autumn influxes of Short-eared Owls and Geese. Away from birds, the Willow Emerald Damselfly was the most memorable occurrence.

Further afield 2011 also provided a good haul of British ticks with White-throated Robin, White-winged Scoter, Rufous-tailed Robin and the putative Slaty-backed Gull, plus honourable mentions to the Eastern Black Redstart and Oriental Turtle Dove.

Continuing my interest in Butterflies, 11 new species were seen during the year - Adonis and Small Blues, Northern Brown Argus, Duke of Burgundy, Large Heath, Silver-spotted Skipper, Brown Hairstreak and Marsh, Heath, Pearl-bordered & Small Pearl-bordered Fritilaries, and on the dragonfly front Common Clubtail was also a new addition.

So overall a really excellent year, and here's to 2012 and many more memorable encounters.

Yellow-browed Warbler

The undoubted highlight of the last few days of the year around the patch was the discovery of a wintering Yellow-browed Warbler (on private land with no general access). With I think it being only the second winter occurrence in the county, following the one that overwintered in Stiffkey campsite wood in 2002/3, it was naturally an excellent record for the patch.

Extensive checking of the patch in readiness for the Jan 1st day-list, revealed that up to 6 Chiffchaffs are wintering in various locations, and 5 Mandarins (3 drakes) on Felbrigg Lake were a welcome sight.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011


Highlights during the last week round the patch have included a ringtail Hen Harrier which flew low west along the cliffs at West Runton, and a Sanderling up on the reservoir which was the first record for the site, and a pretty remarkable occurrence given their total absence from the local beaches this year.

Seawatching has produced a few Kittiwakes and Gannets continuing to pass through, along with Guillemots, Red-throated Divers and a couple of Great Crested Grebes.

A check of Felbrigg lake revealed that there are now 23 Mute Swans on the lake, easily the most I've ever seen on there, with a pair of Egyptian Geese, plus a few Gadwall, Teal and Tufted Ducks also present. Works have started there to alter the course of the stream that runs down into the lake in order to make it more meandering, along with the installation of a weir and a new bridge, however the intentions to flood the meadow on the north side of the lake during the winter are the most interesting aspect of the scheme with the potential of the birds that that might drag in, so it'll be very interesting to see what happens there.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Woodlark revisited

With the Woodlark continuing to linger, I took the opportunity to go and have another look at it yesterday with the hope of getting some views of it on the ground.

Having sussed out its favourite corner of the field, I quickly located it feeding amongst the furrows and then latterly on the grassy strip along the clifftop where it gave excellent views. Unfortunately the very blustery conditions meant trying to hold the scope and camera still was a near impossibility but I managed a couple of acceptable shots out of the couple of hundred blurry ones taken.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Spent the morning today walking the clifftop between Sidestrand and Trimingham looking for a Woodlark which was reported yesterday, but which I failed to find in a search late afternoon although the exact location was somewhat unclear from the message broadcast on the pager.

Having again drawn a blank, and not seen anything else of note along the cliffs either, I had decided to go elsewhere and was heading back to the car when my attention was suddenly grabbed by a musical call overhead and on quickly looking up I was thrilled to see the Woodlark circling round above me before dropping down in the middle of the field. A short while later myself and another birder again had good flight views as it flew round calling overhead before it flew off a short distance coming down on a bit of nearby heathland.

So a really excellent record being my first one ever for the patch and certainly not one I've had predicted here in December, and a great way to bring up the 190 for the patch this year.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Black-throated Diver & Bewick's Swans

A bit more seawatching was had today, this time from West Runton with the highlights being a flock of Bewick's Swans which headed west and a Black-throated Diver on the sea. A few Shelduck, a couple of Shoveler, Goldeneye, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Red-throated Divers were all noted passing by too, and a single Golden Plover was on the beach amongst the roosting Grey Plovers and Lapwings.

Not a great pic of the Diver due to the distance but you can still see what it is.

The usual Med Gull in the car park was a bit more photogenic!

Friday, 9 December 2011


With the very stormy conditions further north yesterday followed by a bit of a northerly airflow down the North Sea along the back edge of the low as it tracked eastwards, it was worth having a look at the sea today even though it was a WSW wind here.

Three hours of watching from Cromer was rewarded with 40+ Little Auks moving west, in groups of up to 4 birds. A few passed just beyond the breakers giving excellent views, with those, along with some others slightly further out, pitching down on the sea temporarily by the pier, before they carried on their way.

A Grey Phalarope was also noted heading west, briefly landing on the sea a few times to feed as it went, which is always good to see just to confirm the id. The other notable sightings were my first Great Northern Diver of the year, and a pair of Harbour Porpoise

Wildfowl were very notable by their absence with a Red-breasted Merganser being the only duck species noted, along with just a single Brent Goose. A couple of Great Crested Grebes, Red-throated Divers, Guillemots, Gannets, Kittiwakes, an Oystercatcher and a Dunlin were the other species noted during the watch.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


With the influx of geese that took place last month it was no surprise when 3+ Tundra Beans were found amongst a flock of c400 Pinkfeet which yesterday took up temporary residence near Northrepps. Although they were fairly distant they were still nice to see and given their previous extreme scarceness on the patch, still a very notable occurrence despite the numbers present this year.

Today saw me head down to Felbrigg lake to see if the Goosander which had been reported yesterday was still there, and after a bit of scanning I eventually found it asleep up against the far bank. Despite a number of walkers going round the lake it didn't seem that bothered so I made my way round to get a closer look and of course the obligatory snap of it.

Whilst watching it my attention was suddenly grabbed by something small whizzing across the surface of the water out of the corner of my eye, my immediate thought was Kingfisher but swinging round I was surprised to see it was actually a bat!

Over the next ten or so minutes I watched as it fed back and forth low over the waters surface obviously feeding on insects before it eventually disappeared up into the trees and presume it was having a bit of a feed up either ready for hibernation or just maybe because the overnight rain had prevented it from feeding last night, but still a great sight in broad daylight especially given the time of year and it not being particularly mild either.

This Heron was quietly stalking fish amongst the 'Mandarin trees', although there was no sign of the latter there, and back at the car the resident Little Owl was watched in its usual area of trees and a few Bramblings were also noted.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cley Peep

Following a phone call alerting me to the fact that there was a possibility that the Semi-p currently at Cley may well actually be a Western Sandpiper, I headed over there this afternoon to have a look at it.

On arrival I was greeted with the news that it had flown off, potentially into Blakeney Harbour, but decided that now I was here I'd stick it out just in case it returned. Constant checking of the Dunlin flock drew a blank, but a Peregrine drifting over eastwards brightened up the wait, however as it succeeded in flushing up most of the birds on the reserve and clearing everything off from Simmonds Scrape, maybe it wasn't that great after all!

Although most people had now left the hide, I decided to stay and eventually with a few Dunlin starting to slowly return to the area, I picked up a flock of about half a dozen flying into the scrape and immediately noticed that there was a smaller bird amongst them. I quickly grabbed the scope as they landed and confirmed that I wasn't imagining the size difference and although they were at the back of the scrape it was undoubtedly the bird so made a quick phone call to get people back to the hide.

After a while it flew onto the island right in front of the hide and allowed me to get a series of photos which hopefully could add something to the id debate.

At the time of writing the opinions as to its id have firmly swayed over to it indeed being a Western Sandpiper, which would be the first record for Norfolk, although there are still a few doubts being expressed, so developments over the next few days will naturally be closely followed.

A second wader present has also been causing some head scratching as to its id, but a small short-billed Dunlin seems to be the most likely option, although a hybrid origin has been muted along with other rarer suggestions. (N.B other photos of this bird give it a much greyer appearance than in the photos below)

As darkness approached a Merlin was watched chasing prey over the scrapes and was then watched on the ground devouring an item of prey in front of the hide, but sadly it was far too dark for photos at this point.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Long-eared Owl

Highlights round the patch the last couple of days have included a Black Redstart at Sidestrand, c30 Snow Buntings east along the cliffs at West Runton, with a Little Gull feeding offshore there, and the Scaup continues to linger.

Keeping up the unprecedented recent run of outstanding local birds, today saw a Long-eared Owl being found roosting in a garden at Northrepps. Presumably a very recently arrived migrant, this was my first one ever for the patch so was naturally an extremely welcome record indeed.

Although giving superb views through the scope, getting an in-focus photo through the countless branches with a camera which lacks manual focusing was a near impossible task, but a couple of shots came out ok to record the occurrence of this excellent patch bird.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

More Wildfowl

The notable influx of geese noted last week has continued to produce small flocks dotted along the patch during the last few days, including this Tundra Bean Goose which was amongst a few Pink-feet at Northrepps.

A few Whitefronts have also pitched down in coastal fields such as these two which were at West Runton.

Continuing the wildfowl theme this Scaup has lingered at Northrepps for a few days, and whilst watching it both a Waxwing and a Snow Bunting flew over.

Having seriously neglected it over the last couple of months in favour of flogging the coast, I visited Felbrigg Lake today and was pleasantly surprised to see probably the most amount of Wildfowl that I've ever seen on there. Most notable were 16 Mute Swans which was by far the biggest number that I can recall ever seeing there, and 2 drakes and a female Mandarin were as usual hiding amongst the trees at the back. Other species noted included Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Ducks and Pochard on the lake, a Water Rail showed well along the edge of the reeds, a Grey Wagtail flew over and a Marsh Tit was calling behind the lake to add to the variety.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Eastern Black Redstart

Took a trip down to Margate today to see the Eastern Black Redstart (ssp Phoenicuroides which has characteristic orangey-red underparts), which irrespective of the potential of a prospective future split, was just a really stunning bird to see. Present for its third day, it seemed quite at home happily feeding on the beach and cliffs only a few feet away from its small crowd of admirers, and presented some suberb photo opportunities.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Geese Galore

Today was notable for a number of flocks of Geese going over the patch, with the highlight being a group consisting of 2 Tundra Bean Geese and 9 Whitefronts which pitched down in a field at Northrepps, with the former species being only my second record for the patch.

The 2 Beans only stayed in the flock for a short while so only a distant record shot of them was obtained, but the Whitefronts seemed quite settled allowing better pics to be taken.

A number of other flocks of grey geese were noted going over, including a flock of 14 Greylags and 2 Whitefronts which came in-off the sea, with the origins of the former being intriguing.

A visit to Trimingham produced only a single Chiffchaff, and checks around other areas of the patch produced little of note in the cold and blustery conditions.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler

After yesterdays events, naturally Trimingham was the obvious destination of the day with the hope that the Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler would still be present, although after about an hour of searching it wasn't looking good, but a showy Firecrest definitely brightened up the gloomy morning.

However eventually a couple located a yellow-browed type and upon calling us over and seeing it up in the canopy it quickly became evident that this was undoubtedly going to be the Hume's, and after a brief disappearance it popped up again right infront of us and conviniently called too to confirm its id. It continued to be mobile and elusive until we sussed out where it had settled down to feed and was then treated to good views on and off during the next hour or so. So a great relief that it had stayed overnight and an excellent new bird for the patch list too.

A couple of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were also present in the scrub, along with a Bullfinch and a few Golden Plover were noted flying over.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Pallas's Warbler etc

Another excellent day on the patch today started with a walk along the clifftop between Sidestrand and Trimingham. A flock of 16 Waxwings flying east got the day going, closely followed by a Peregrine cruising the cliffs. Redpolls and Siskins were flying overhead, as did a Snow Bunting, plus various thrushes and Meadow Pipits.

As I walked along the Peregrine landed on the cliffs in the distance but soon after what I initially presumed was the same bird suddenly flushed from a much closer position than I thought it was, and I watched as it headed out over the sea. I then scanned further along and saw that the original bird was still further ahead so infact there were two and a great double for the patch.

Walking further along 14 Whitefronts came in-off and then joined up with a massive flock of Pinkfeet that were heading westwards slightly inland, and 9+ mobile Snow Buntings were on the cliffs/ clifftop stubble field.

Then came the real surprise of the day when a bird was flushed from the cliffs and bounded along infront of me before landing again. Initially it just didn't register what it was but on raising my bins I was shocked to see that it was a Little Owl. It sat momentarily on an outcrop before quickly flying again and disappeared into a hole in the cliff-face! Quite what it was doing here I don't know, and as to whether it was an incoming bird or a resident bird from somewhere inland is anyones guess.

I then got a call to say a potential Hume's Yellow-browed Warbler was at Trimingham so I quickly made my way there, but unfortunately it couldn't be relocated although a Hume's-like call was heard in the trees. However things suddenly took a turn for the better when a Pallas's Warbler appeared in the same area and eventually treated us to excellent views just above our heads. In fact at one point there was the Pallas's, a couple of Chiffchaffs, Blackcap and 1+Yellow-browed Warblers all in the same group of trees at the same time so it was hard to know which way to look! Further searching couldn't turn up the Hume's, but as an added bonus 2 Whooper Swans flew in-off and headed inland, my first of the year.

A late afternoon check along the beach for rare Wheatears drew a blank, but with the Hume's being reported again at dusk hopefully it'll stick overnight, especially as I missed the only other one to be seen on the patch due to being on Fair Isle at the time.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Great Grey Shrike and more

With the news that a Great Grey Shrike had been seen in East Runton, near to Cromer Waterworks, this was naturally my first port of call today and on arriving on site it was immediately seen briefly perched up before dropping out of sight.

Frustratingly it then decided to lie low for nearly the next two hours, during which time my first Waxwings(6) of the winter flew over heading south, and good numbers of Blackbirds, Redwings and Fieldfares passed over too.

Eventually it reappeared right in front of us virtually exactly where it had dropped down, and proceeded to show well, but being alongside the railway, each train that passed flushed it, but after a bit of a fly round it soon returned to the waterworks compound and occasionally came right onto the railway embankment performing admirably for us.

With the nights now closing in and it being such a dreary day into the bargain, I then did a whistle-stop raid on a few of the clifftop sycamore woods on the patch in the remaining daylight with the hope of finding a Pallas's Warbler. No such luck but I came close with the discovery of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Sidestrand which I was still more than happy with as it had looked like this was going to be the first autumn for quite a while that I hadn't self-found one on the patch. So an excellent ending to a great day on the patch and although the autumn is now fast coming to an end, hopefully with one last blast of effort over the next few days there may still be that one more decent bird to be found.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A few more Little Auks

After yesterdays variety, seawatching today was a bit of a let down with the number of birds on the move vastly reduced, with most notably a virtual absence of any wildfowl moving.

I still managed c6 Little Auks, with 4 singles on the sea by the pier at various points during the day, and a couple more whizzing through in the afternoon. A handful of Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye and Eider were noted passing by along with a couple of flocks of Wigeon and Brents but that was about it on the wildfowl front.

A lot of Gulls were feeding close in just beyond the breakers with a good number of Kittiwakes amongst them, along with a single Little Gull, Shag, a few Guillemots and a Red-throated Diver, but sadly the flock failed to drag in anything better.

A break from seawatching during the middle of the day produced a Snow Bunting along the cliffs by the lighthouse and revealed that good numbers of Blackbirds had come in, but not surprisingly with the coast being battered by the wind little else was noted.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


With a good northerly blow, a seawatch was definitely the order of the day today and during the six hours of observation an excellent variety of species were noted.

Patchwise, the undoubted highlight was 3 Avocets which flew west, with my only previous record on the patch being back in 2005 when a pair were seen passing on two consecutive days in late March. Other patch year ticks seen were a single Little Auk which flew west close in with 4 Dunlin, a Long-tailed Duck and a Pomarine Skua which was seen to take what was probably an auk off the water.

Others notable species seen included a Grey Phalarope which was watched feeding on the sea amongst a flock of gulls, 3 Bonxies, a few Little Gulls and Kittiwakes, an Arctic Tern and a Woodcock in-off.

Last but not least, good numbers of wildfowl were also on the move with Shelduck and Wigeon being the most abundant species, plus lesser numbers of Teal, Pintail, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Mergansers, Goldeneye, Eider, Mallard, Gadwall, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Ducks, Scaup and Brent Geese were all noted and kept the interest up throughout.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Early November

As is usual at this time of year Shags have started to appear offshore, but this year has seen higher than usual numbers of them both passing by and lingering on the sea. Quite a lot of them have been in pairs and are presumably siblings staying together, although a few singles have also been noted too such as this one on the groynes at West Runton.

The first returning Snow Buntings of the winter have started to pass through with a single west past Overstrand and three on the beach at West Runton, with one of them pictured below.

A few more Redwings and Song Thrushes have been noted coming in-off, along with several Starling flocks and a Woodcock, and the Tawny Owl that was first noted a couple of weeks back in Warren Wood continues to stay faithful to its roosting site although its always mostly obscured buried deep in the ivy. On the sea a nice flock of Eider were noted passing by along with a few Kittiwakes, and the usual Guillemots and Red-throated Divers were lingering offshore.

The first Stonechat that I've seen on the patch since the spring was noted at West Runton, where the usual wintering Med Gull continues to delight.

Monday, 31 October 2011

A Swift end to the month

Wednesday 26th saw me doing my usual check of the patch and having done the lighthouse area with little reward I decided to check out East Runton which I'd somewhat neglected over the last few days. The usual area was equally birdless so I decided to have a quick check of the clifftop paddock at Wyndham Park, but as it only held the local House Sparrows and a couple of Robins I was about to retrace my steps when I looked up to see a swift sp powering towards me seemingly having just come in-off the sea.

Mindful of the late date and the southerly airflow that we are currently enjoying, the possibility that it could be a Pallid naturally sprung to mind. It quickly passed overhead and then headed south over the coast road before veering east and headed off low over the houses on the west side of Cromer and out of sight. Views were frustratingly brief but its extensive pale throat, overall paleness of plumage and contrast in the flight feathers all pointed to it indeed having the potential to be a Pallid, so I set off to try to relocate it.

A five minute scan over Cromer drew a blank so I quickly went up to the lighthouse to check the cliffs there as in the past they have been particularly attractive to vagrant swifts with both Little and Alpine Swifts there previously. There was no sign but I bumped into Ian P up there and after a while of chatting and scanning he picked it up distantly back over the same area I had originally found it, so annoyingly it had probably not gone very far afterall.

We quickly raced back to Cromer and were able to watch it briefly before it headed off west, with these views further adding to the probability that this was indeed a Pallid Swift. I subsequently saw it briefly from Beeston Regis Church, and by this time other observers also caught up with it here and were confident that it was a Pallid too.

Thursday morning saw me back at Beeston Church and after a short while of scanning I picked up presumably the same bird feeding happily over Sheringham town. With the news quickly broadcast a good number of birders were able to watch it as it continued to linger till c11.30 before it drifted off east whereby I relocated it as it fed over West Runton for a short while.

Subsequently I picked up what may have been a different swift feeding way inland over the ridge at Sheringwood before it headed off further inland and was lost to view, and then an hour later a swift appeared briefly over Beeston Church before quickly heading west along the coast and disappeared off over Sheringham. Now whether this was the same bird doing a big loop, or whether two or even three birds were involved in these sightings I'm not sure.

After a gap of three days, another swift was seen over Cromer this morning, so I set about the task of relocating it and eventually managed to refind it feeding over West Runton where it lingered distantly for c20 mins before being lost to view. Presumably the same bird was then picked up over Sheringham where it remained for the rest of the day in the company of a Swallow or two, and as the day drew to a close a second swift joined them before they were all lost to view as dusk approached. With todays original bird seemingly continually changing appearance depending on the light and angle of viewing it was a real nightmare to clinch and what is evident is that autumn swifts are far from easy id's without prolonged and good close-up views and ideally they're photographed too.

Thankfully others managed to get some fairly decent photos of some of the birds involved this week, but with my point & shoot all I could manage is the one below of the first of the two over Sheringham today.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Late Sand Martin

Highlight of the last few days around the patch was a Sand Martin seen by the lighthouse on Saturday 22nd, which I think is latest date I have ever seen one locally so a good record.

My first Woodcock of the autumn was flushed off the clifftop along the golfcourse also on Saturday, although few other migrants have been noted recently apart from numerous flocks of Starlings coming in-off, and a few Redpolls continue to pass through each day.

Offshore good numbers of Little Gulls have been noted lingering, with good numbers of Kittiwakes and a few Arctic and Common Terns also joining these feeding flocks. A few Shags have started to appear offshore, along with Guillemots and Razorbills, and a single Bonxie was also seen passing by.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Grey Phalaropes

The last few days have been fairly quiet migrant wise, although a few flocks of Siskins have been noted still moving through.

A seawatch yesterday evening produced a Balearic Shearwater going west, along with a few Gannets, Kittiwakes and Auks.

Although I've been checking each day, no further sign has been had of the Willow Emerald Damselfly, although whilst checking today in sunnier and calmer conditions a good number of Common Darters were evident and a Rock Pipit was busily feeding around the edges of the reservoir as it has pretty low water levels in it at present.

A quick glance at the sea off Overstrand showed that there was the odd Diver and Gannet moving so I thought it was worth a bit more of a serious look, so I returned with my scope just in case. After a while of seeing a few more Gannets and auks, including a fairly close Razorbill, I picked up 3 smallish birds flying fast right a fair way out through my bins so I quickly grabbed my scope just in case they were Little Auks as a few had started to be seen now. I quickly got on to them and saw that they were infact waders, but given the distance they were away I was just about to take my eyes off them when they stalled and landed on the sea! They quickly got up and carried on east and although I was naturally thinking Phalaropes, I was also thinking would Sanderlings pitch down momentarily like that?

Anyway after a short distance they again landed on the sea and were obviously surface feeding before again flying and pitching down again to feed, and slowly coming slightly nearer in the process. By now it was evident that they were indeed Grey Phalaropes and the more you watched them feeding and then flying around before landing again, the typical jizz of a phalarope, both in flight and on the sea, was very evident despite them being over half way out.

They remained offshore for about two hours in total, occasionally splitting up, but constantly feeding then flying round a bit in search of food and then pitching back down again when they presumably found some. Fortunately given their prolonged stay a few locals sucessfully connected, before they eventually drifted fast away on the current and then flew purposefully west as daylight was closing in.

So an excellent patch record, especially with three together, and great that they hung around happily feeding out to sea, which is something that I have never seen before.

In addition to the Phalaropes, a single Manx Shearwater was noted heading east and a female Goldeneye, my first of the year, was seen heading west.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Willow Emerald Damselfly

A fairly quiet day on the patch today birdwise failing to find my own Yellow-browed Warbler, and failing to see two others that had been seen locally too. The only highlight being a Tawny Owl found roosting in an ivy covered tree in Warren Wood as it hooted loudly as I was passing.

However the day was more than salvaged when up by the reservoir I flushed an emerald damselfly from the grass in front of me. Fourtunately it only flew a metre or so, so I quickly set about the task of trying to id it as there was a good chance it was one of the rarer species. A check of the pterostigma ruled out Southern (which has a bi-coloured one), so the next thought was that it could be a Willow. It was proving hard to stand far enough back to focus my bins on it but at the same time make out the detail on the thorax so I decided the best course of action was to get a photo and blow up the picture on the monitor to check its appearance.

Luckily it allowed close enough approach for a decent pic and checking the results did to my delight show that it had the prominent side spur on the thorax typical of Willow Emerald Damselfly. I took a few more pics and then quickly made a phone call to get others to the site and stood well back to avoid disturbing it. However frustratingly, more so for them, as they were in sight it flew again but this time was caught up in the blustery wind and was swept away out of view and could not be found again despite searching.

With this to my knowledge being the most northerly record so far in the UK, and only the third site in the county where they have been recorded, this was an excellent record, and a Norfolk tick for me. One can only speculate as to its origins, presumably it had just arrived from the continent during the recent (south)easterlies rather than it being one moving north from Suffolk where they have recently colonised, although I guess it could have been around for a while undetected.

So a great find that I was really pleased with, and also delighted that the photos hastily taken came out pretty well too showing both the side spur on the thorax and the black-bordered orangy-brown pterostigma well to confirm its id.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

East Hills

A dawn visit back to Warham Greens this morning proved fruitless as the Rufous-tailed Robin had moved on overnight, but it was nice to see a few familiar faces from around the country. Whilst checking the coastal bushes a couple of Crossbills flew over and a Corn Bunting, and a ringtail Hen Harrier was noted on the saltmarsh.

With yesterdays initial news that the robin was on East Hills, I was only thinking last night that I should really know how to get out there should there be a major bird found there in the future and as luck would have it, whilst walking back with Eddie and Penny to our cars which were in the Stiffkey campsite car park they said they were going out later when the tide had dropped and said I was welcome to join them.

Now its been said before by others elsewhere, but its definitely worth repeating, do not attempt to go out there alone if you don't know the way, as with various creeks to cross and very soft sand in places the crossing is dangerous if you don't know the correct route to follow, and is still hazardous even when you do, and its easy to get lost especially on the way back, when you could potentially get cut off by the incoming tide.

Anyway the long walk out was brightened up with a couple of Lapland Buntings on the saltmarsh, but the hills themselves were pretty quiet with just a few thrushes and the odd Blackcap and Chiffchaff seen, along with a Short-eared Owl in the dunes, but nevertheless it was mission accomplished in regards to knowing how to get out there, so thanks to my guides, just hope I can still remember come next year!

Friday, 14 October 2011


Despite an initial movement, there were fewer birds on the move today, but still nice numbers of Thrushes and Finches etc were seen going through/coming in-off, with additional species to those noted yesterday including a few Mistle Thrushes, Grey Wagtail and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

At least one Short-eared Owl was seen to come ashore and a flock of 9 Crossbills flew east. Grounded birds were slightly better than yesterday with single Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Wheatear noted, along with a few more Goldcrests and Robins, plus a frustrating sighting of a bright phyllosc which came in-off but it bush-hopped quickly inland before I could get anything on it. 

With the warm and sunny weather there were still a number of Butterflies and Dragonflies around, with this Migrant Hawker being the most co-operative for photos.

Despite a lot of searching and the high hopes of finding something good, the day appeared to be going out on a whimper, until of course just after 5pm the pager announced that there was a Rufous-tailed Robin on East Hills nr Wells! Even though I knew that even if the tides would allow access there was little chance of actually getting out there before the light went, I still just leapt into my car and made haste westwards. En route a series of confusing messages were broadcast whereby it transpired that the bird wasn't on East Hills at all, or on the saltmarsh, but was actually on Warham Greens - obviously somewhere where I could get to before dark!

So after a bit more confusion/panic after arrival as to exactly where the bird was, managing to run past the crowd in the process, I eventually found the correct spot and after an anxious wait I spotted the bird fly out of the tree it had earlier disappeared into and then watched it as it moved two or three times further from tree to tree along the access track before loosing it from view. So far from brilliant views, but views nonetheless, and a total relief to have connected given all the earlier confusion and considering I thought I had no chance of even getting near it when I left home.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Yellow-browed Warbler and good vis mig

As expected there were good numbers of birds both moving along the coast and coming in off the sea today.

Best bird of a mornings searching round the patch was a Ring Ouzel over the golf course, whilst good numbers of Redwings, Fieldfares, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were all coming in in flocks of various sizes. Finches were also well represented with Brambling, Siskin, Redpoll, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Linnet all noted in varying numbers, along with a flock of Crossbills which were heard but not seen.

Meadow and Rock Pipits continued to be on the move, and other species noted flying through/coming in-off included Reed Buntings, Grey Herons, Pied Wagtails, Skylarks, Starlings and a single Swallow.

News of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Northrepps was too good to ignore and after a short wait and a bout of 'pishing' it appeared right in front of me and as ever was a real delight to see and being over 2km from the coast it was a notable inland record for the patch too. A finch flock there was noted to contain several Bramblings, and as the day progressed more small flocks were encountered along the coast. 

A bash round Trimingham produced the highlight of a couple of Short-eared Owls in-off, which were part of a major arrival of the species into the county today, the second of which landed briefly on the cliff-face, and then as the day closed in, a check of East Runton produced little extra of note apart from more Thrushes moving inland.

So an excellent day of overhead migration but this sharply contrasted with the complete lack of migrants on the deck, apart from a few Robins and Goldcrests which may have predominantly been local birds anyway, but hopefully with southeasterlies forecast throughout tomorrow, more continued effort of searching will pay dividends.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Hen Harrier and a few more migrants

A walk around the lighthouse area Sunday was rewarded with a ringtail Hen Harrier which appeared to be chasing something (potentially an incoming migrant) over the cliff top before being lost to view.

A large Pipit, probably Richards, was noted heading west amongst the continued passage of Meadow and Rock Pipits and a number of Skylarks were also noted coming in-off.

The continual rain today made searching for migrants a thankless task, but a mixed flock of c50 Thrushes in-off by the lighthouse showed that birds were arriving and hopefully with a dry day and continued easterlies, hopes are high for a decent days birding around the patch tomorrow.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

More action on the sea

With fairly strong northwesterlies blowing, attention over the last couple of days has turned to a bit of seawatching with this morning being the best of the two producing some hoped-for patch year ticks.

Wildfowl were the most abundant species with quite a few Pintail, c10 Red-breasted Mergansers, Shoveler and Scaup all being new for the year, along with a good supporting cast of Tufted Ducks, Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Mallards, Common Scoter, Brent and Pink-Feet.

Single Sooty and Manx Shearwaters were seen heading west along with a few Bonxies, and also c15 Skuas were seen way out with most casually soaring east high along the horizon which I'm happy to leave as skua sp's, although another nearby watchpoint apparently put these down as Poms.

A good passage of Gannets were also heading west, with a few Kittiwakes, Razorbills and Guillemots and Red-throated Divers also on the move. Waders were also passing, most notably half a dozen or so Snipe, along with Dunlin, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover and Oystercatcher.

A number of small passerines, mostly Pipits were noted flying west too, some far out to sea but some overhead too, of which some were Rock Pipits.

This evening the pager alerted me to the fact that a Long-tailed Skua was lingering off Cromer so I quickly hastened my way there, but it unfortunately flew west just as I was arriving so I decided to try to get in front of it and quickly carried on to West Runton. After a while of scanning the sea I picked up presumably the same bird*close inshore and watched as it passed by and in turn scattered a large roosting flock of mainly Black-headed Gulls off the sea before potentially going back down on to the sea presumably to roost as the light was fast going at this point.

The usual Med Gull was in the car park on its favourite post, and a few Rock Pipits were down on the beach feeding on washed up seaweed.

*Having subsequently looked at the photos of the Cromer bird it would appear that this was a different individual.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Early October

With unusually high temperatures at the start of the month, October has seen little change birdwise although a few Divers lingering offshore from the patch have provided a nice distraction from flogging empty bushes.

With the Sandhill Crane continuing to linger at Boyton, and my Dad not having made the trip up to Orkney with me to see the last one, we took the opportunity to go and see it today, and although it was sadly far too distant for any worthwhile photos, it was still nice to see another one anyway, just a shame it chose not to linger in Norfolk instead.