Monday, 28 February 2011

Sea sees out the month

The remainder of February around the patch has continued to be very quiet, with a build up of Gadwall (c10 pairs) and a single drake Wigeon on Felbrigg Lake being the only real change.

A Goldcrest which was visting the feeders in the garden to feed on both the fatballs and nuts was a most unusual sighting.

The final day of the month saw some nice brisk onshore winds so some seawatching off the patch was in order. A number of Gannets, Kittiwakes, Red-throated Divers, Eiders, Common Scoter and a few distant auks were noted, along with the first 3 Shelducks for the year.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Rainham Revisted

With the Slaty-backed Gull having been seen again at Rainham yesterday, I decided to revisit the site today to hopefully get more prolonged views of it this time.

Arriving at 7.30 I was surprised to find only a dozen other cars in the car park, and with the marshes shrouded in mist and then having spoken to one of the wardens to find out that the tipping area on the landfill may not be visible from outside the site, the prospects of seeing it didn't appear huge, but I was as ever up for the task and began the 2 mile walk along to the landfill.

A couple of Ring-necked Parakeets flew over to liven up the walk, and then a brief stop to check the pools on Wennington Marsh was completely hampered by the mist so I carried on to join the others at the Landfill.

Recognising a couple of other fellow Norfolk birders I joined them to peer through the perimeter fence and the bushes at the congregated gulls, but it quickly became evident that the current tipping area was indeed out of view from our position and that as a consequence we were only seeing a very small percentage of the gulls present.

Having drawn a blank (plus a curious report of the SBG flying over Dagenham), at c1045 we decided to check the pools on Wennington Marsh as we had noted a good number of gulls drifting off that way from the landfill, plus it was a change of scenery and the walk would warm us up a bit!

We joined about half-a-dozen others who were watching from near the Serin mound and after ruling out an GBB Gull which was being watched by some of the others on our arrival, I started what I thought would be the difficult task of sifting through the assembled gulls due to the distance they were away from us and the still relatively misty conditions.

However I immediately locked on to a large dark-backed gull, which was showing a blueish tinge to the mantle and a large white scapular patch. Unfortunately at this point it was facing away from us and was both partially obscured and preening so not much of the bird was visible but I certainly wasn't going to take my eyes off it. It momentarily lifted its head up from preening its breast revealing a streaked head and neck, the streaks being concentrated around the eye area forming a dark patch, and a very pale bill, and alarm bells immediately started to ring! How ironic that given the accusations of not knowing what I was looking at when I had previously claimed the bird, that yet again I was to be the one to pick it out!

Almost simultaneously another birder from the group came over to say he thought he had picked it out and upon quickly confirming we were looking at the same bird we hastened to get everyone else on it, and this time I would do my damnist to get a photo for the doubters should it fly.

After a frustrating couple of minutes of it remaining obscured and continuing to preen it finally gave a view of its back half revealing the large white secondary 'skirt' wrapping around the wing edge giving the final comfirmation, if it was needed, that this was indeed the Slaty-backed.

Phone calls were quickly made to alert those at the Landfill, and despite one horrible moment when it looked as though it was going to fly, it stayed put for everyone on site to see it, and indeed apart from a couple of fly rounds it stayed in the field and on the pools for another couple of hours allowing it to be grilled at will, with the primary pattern and thick white trailing edge to the wings added to the suite of features already noted. With it hanging around for a few hours it was sucessfully twitched from offsite, including some who had been at the Oriental Turtle Dove earlier that morning, making a lot of very happy and relieved faces.

Due to the distance and the mist, only record shots could be obtained with a selection included below, but despite the lack of quality most of the salient features are visible.

A dark Juv Iceland Gull was also noted in amongst the gull flock, seen both in flight and briefly on the deck, which was a great back-up bird as I hadn't seen an Iceland for a few years.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Another Firecrest in Felbrigg

Seawatching yesterday from West Runton produced about half a dozen Guillemots loafing around offshore, with most of them now in their full summer attire. A couple of Gannets and 2 Kittiwakes were also noted passing by, along with the usual Red-throated Divers which seem to be present in good numbers this year.

A walk around Felbrigg Park today produced a stunning Firecrest in a different area to the one seen previously there. Siskins were present in good numbers with the song of the males filling the air, a Lesser Redpoll flew over calling and 3 Roe Deer gave excellent views as they froze only a few feet away, with the aim of remaining undetected, their coats ragged due to moulting into their summertime fur.

Friday, 11 February 2011


A walk along the clifftop between Trimingham and Sidestrand today in the hope of some Twite or Snow Buntings drew a blank, but whilst scanning across the fields inland where 5 Hares were busy chasing each other around, I was delighted to pick up a male Peregrine sitting in the same field.

I watched it for a while before it flew a short way again landing on the ground, but it soon took flight again and this time majestically powered its way inland disappearing towards Hungry Hill.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Marsh Tits and Sanderling

With the very mild and sunny weather, birds seemed to be very much more in evidence today following the recent lull.

The first Sanderling on the patch this year was noted on West Runton beach, where 3 Harbour Porpoise were noted offshore.

A walk round Felbrigg revealed that most birds were in full song, obviously thinking spring had arrived, and the first Marsh Tits for the year were duely located by their song, with one in the north-east corner of the park and then another in the damp woodland at the back of the lake.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Quiet on the patch but good further afield

The last few weeks as expected have been fairly quiet around the patch as there is little movement of birds at this time of year.

The only noticable change has been the build up of wildfowl at Felbrigg with in excess of 80 Greylags now around the park, and on the lake Tufted Duck numbers peaked at 41, plus a few pairs of Gadwall have appeared along with a Coot. No further sign of any Mandarins however and no Pochards have returned to the lake so far.

As usual the West Runton Med Gull continues to delight in the beach car park, and I think he now recognises my car and knows a bit of bread is coming his way!

Away from the patch a couple of jaunts along the coast produced some good birds including Ross's Goose, American Wigeon, Spoonbill, Rough-legged Buzzard and Glaucous Gull being the most notable along the more expected Shorelarks, Snow Buntings, Twite, Hen Harriers, Water Pipit and Red-necked Grebe etc.