Saturday, 30 April 2011

April ends with another patch first

The last day of the month produced yet another patch first, with a pair of Dotterel at West Runton.

Initially on the grassy end of the car park, the disturbance by dog walkers and joggers became too much for them and they were flushed, but fortunately only over the beach road and into the newly sown field on the other side where they continued to give excellent views.

A walk around East Runton produced a superb male Redstart, and then when calling back in at West Runton to have another look at the Dotterel another Redstart flew across in front of us and alighted in the hedge bordering the footpath across the fields where it showed well flycatching out into the field then returning to the shelter of the hedge out of the very brisk and cold easterly wind.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Dragon and Damselflies at Felbrigg

A walk down to the lake at Felbrigg today in the hope that there would finally be some Dragonflies present was duely rewarded with an excellent number of Species.

A newly emerged Broad-bodied Chaser was amongst the grass on the eastern bank of the lake, and at the southern end Damselflies were very well represented with a dozen or so Common Blues, a couple of Blue-tailed, a Large Red and a couple of Red-eyed.

At first I thought the Orange-Tip below was just being extra showy but after taking a quick snap I realised that it had actually somehow managed to impail its wing on some sedge, but fortunately after carefully snapping off the stem just above the wing it freed itself and flew off none the worse for its mishap apart from the hole in its wing.

Also on the butterfly front was this Small Copper, one of a few that were present, my first of the year.

Birdwise the Sedge Warbler was still singing from the reedbed and a Cuckoo was busily calling away from the woods to the west of the lake.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

More Seawatching

Some more seawatching today produced a summer-plumaged Red-necked Grebe going west and a couple of Arctic Terns heading east. As with the last couple of watches, a few Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and Guillemots were noted along with a couple of Red-throated Divers and some Common Scoter.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Northerlies produce the first Manxies

With the brisk onshore winds, attention has turned mainly from the land to the sea with a couple of seawatches over the last couple of days.

A seawatch from East Runton yesterday produced the first Manx Shearwater of the year with a single heading east. Good numbers of Gannets were also moving along with 40 or so distant Auks. A few Fulmars and a couple of Red-throated Divers were also noted passing by.

A seawatch from West Runton today again produced a single Manx passing, with this one heading west. A flock of 10 adult Kittiwakes east were noteworthy and a few Gannets and a steady trickle of presumed Guillemots were also passing by. From memory I think these are the earliest Manxies that I have ever recorded with a few recorded previously during May but these are the first in April that I can remember seeing.

An adult Med Gull flew east over the car park, and what was presumably the same bird was later seen over Cromer carnival field.

Migrant-wise a Lesser Whitethroat was noted at East Runton.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Reed Warbler

A walk round the patch this morning continued to reveal the large numbers of Common Whitethroats that have recently arrived, more than I can ever remember, with numerous birds occupying each area of suitable habitat and actively vying for territories.

With northerly winds having set in, along with a 50% reduction in temperature from the highs of saturday there appeared to be nothing new in, although a couple of Jackdaws tearing the hair off a cow, presumably for nesting material, was quite a sight especially as the cow didn't flinch one bit or make any attempt to shake them off its back.

Last stop of the day was the reedbed at Sidestrand, where as I approached I was greeted to the sound of a Reed Warbler singing away from it, the first on the patch this year. Nearby a Gorse Shieldbug was sunning itself on some brambles.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

CITRINE WAGTAIL - New for the Patch

For the third time in a week the cattle field at East Runton came up trumps today in the very unexpected form of a Citrine Wagtail. Unfortunately I was beaten to the find but with it being in such great plumage and naturally a new bird for the patch I was nonetheless very happy indeed that it was still present when I arrived.

It had only stayed briefly on the area grazed by the cattle before it moved to the adjacent field where we relocated it as presumably there was too much disturbance there from dog walkers. It showed very well in the company of a few Yellow Wagtails throughout the rest of the morning but became a bit more mobile in the afternoon visiting the carnival field and the paddock on the north side of the road but eventually returned to its favoured field.

A steady stream of birders visited the site during the day and being on a bank holiday weekend, and on the side of a busy main road, it also caused quite a stir with the holiday makers most of whom where genuinely interested and came for a look at what was attracting the crowd, but as usual a minority of people decided to shout stupid comments and blast their horns as they passed, presumably thinking they looked clever (not)!

It continued to perform well until late afternoon, but not long after the sea mist that had shrouded the area most of the day had cleared and the temperature as a consequence rose, it headed off strongly west along the coast.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Chip Chip Hooray!

East Runton yesterday produced the first Lesser Whitethroat of the year with one singing and showing well along the clifftop.

A check along the golf course today produced another singing down on the undercliff, and the local Fulmars were performing well up and down the cliffs on the updraughts.

A check of the cattle field at East Runton produced a Black Redstart plus a couple of Wheatears and about half a dozen Yellow Wagtails.

I then went over to Felbrigg Park where the Sedge Warbler was still singing in the reedbed and a Fieldfare flew over calling before alighting in the top of a tree. Unfortunately the second Mute Swan was nowhere to be seen so maybe they didn't hit it off and it has moved on again.

On the way back to the car as I was passing the small pool on the side of the road I heard the familar chip chip calls of Crossbills and I quickly picked up a pair flying off from the trees and heading back towards the lions mouth. After the good numbers present here last year they have been very noticable by their absence despite searching the area, so it was good to finally catch up with some this year.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Four at Felbrigg

After a fairly uneventful check of the golf course and around East Runton, I decided to head inland to Felbrigg Lake to check whether any Reed Warblers had made it to the reedbed yet, however although I was greeted by the song of a warbler it was a Sedge Warbler instead which I was equally pleased with anyway being the first one on the patch this year.

A walk round the lake edge looking for damselflies drew a blank but a very showy Orange-tip provided excellent photo opportunities.

The first Cuckoo of the year was then heard calling north of the lake and whilst scanning for it a large raptor was picked up which I quickly realised was a Marsh Harrier. To my amazement it dropped down and started to quarter the reedbed and also perched up in a dead tree on the side of the lake, although the local Crows weren't too happy and were repeatedly mobbing it until it eventually headed off south.

As I walked round the lake to try to locate the Cuckoo, I picked up another raptor high in the sky which quickly materialised into a Hobby which was busily feeding on insects high up before eventually flying overhead across the lake and off east.

A second Cuckoo then started to call in the wood behind the lake and with some patient stalking I eventually caught a brief view of it flying between the trees, so what at first had appeared to be a quiet day had gone on to produce four new birds for the patch this year.

Also of note were two drake Mandarins asleep amongst the trees and a second Mute Swan had arrived from somewhere so hopefully it will hit it off with the resident bird which spent most of last year on its own.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Blue-headed Wagtail etc

Although no new migrants for the spring have been noted over the last few days, there has been notable influxes of both Common Whitethroats and Wheatears all along the patch.

A Ring Ouzel was flushed from the clifftop at East Runton yesterday, and its good to see reasonable numbers of Sand Martins have returned to the cliffs under the golf course as breeding numbers have been low there in recent years.

Other recent highlights include a Grey Wagtail at Felbrigg Lake along with a drake Mandarin, and a Barn Owl was busy hunting the water meadows there during the day hopefully indicative of having young to feed.

A look around the patch today was looking to be uneventful until a check on the cattle field at East Runton revealed a small flock of c15 Yellow Wagtails were present. After a while of watching them I also noticed that a 'Blue-headed' type was also present with them which with a bit of patience came really close as the cattle were doing a circuit of the field. However after checking photos when I returned home I was a bit concerned about the amount of white below the ear coverts and thoughts turned to other subspecies or maybe a hybrid origin, but after later seeking opinions on the net, it probably is a Blue-headed just at the extreme end of their plumage range.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Common Whitethroat and Titchwell revisited

A walk round East Runton this morning produced the first Common Whitethroat for the year with a nice male singing in the traditional area that I always find my first one, plus the first Speckled Wood of the spring was seen sunning itself at the other end of the village.

With the news that the Iberian Chiffchaff was still present, I decided to pop back over to Titchwell and after spending a good amount of time listening to its song & sub-song etc, I was left in no doubt that this was indeed the bird heard briefly singing on Tuesday. It was good to hear it calling too and also listening to its bouts of pure chiff-chaffing which it started to do late on in the afternoon. It was also seen to undertake some sort of courtship display when it would shiver its outstretched wings and fan its tail whilst calling.

With it virtually constantly on the move and always having a branch or two in the way, digiscoping it was proving to be a really difficult exercise but it did stay still long enough on one occasion to grab the couple of shots reproduced below.

On the freshmarsh the pair of Garganey were showing well, although spending virtually all of their time asleep. The female did wake up briefly to allow her pic to be taken but the male unfortunately wasn't quite as obliging.

The first Damselfly of the year was also seen on the meadow trail with a Large Red seen briefly flying up into one of the willows, and other bird highlights included Cetti's, Sedge and Reed Warblers, a pair of Red-crested Pochards and a couple of Little Ringed Plovers.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Titchwell Chiffchaff

Compared to the previous few days, the last week has been a relatively quiet affair on the patch with no new migrants for the year noted, although there has been a notable arrival of Willow Warblers and Blackcaps plus the odd Wheatear and good numbers of hirundines moving through.

On the Butterfly front, the first Orange-tips and Holly Blues have been noted.

The most frustrating episode of the past week has to be whilst on a visit to Titchwell yesterday when a chiffchaff sp. was heard singing some way infront along the meadow trail. My initial thought was surely thats going to be an Iberian but before I could get near to where the song was coming from it annoyingly stopped singing. With no further sound of it and managing to convince myself that I wasn't entirely sure if I could actually recall what Iberian sounded like anyway plus being aware that 'mixed singers' had been recorded on a number of occasions I put it down to the latter, although I did mention its presence to another birder I spoke to along the path. With a brief listen on the way back drawing a blank and time pressing I left it at that and with it mostly forgotten I stupidly failed to check the song when I got home.

Anyway of course one of the first messages that came up on the pager this morning was 'Iberian Chiffchaff @ Titchwell - singing on the meadow trail'!!! Checking sound recordings on the web tonight the song heard matches those of recordings of apparent vagrant Iberians so I'm happy with that, but just annoyed that I didn't trust my instincts a bit more - lesson learnt for the future!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A Great (White) Day!

With the White-tailed Eagle still knocking around the north coast, another attempt today was made to get it in my former patch - the Cley 10km square.

After always being about 10 mins behind it this morning and it seemingly having (temporarily) gone south, I then initially camped out near Kelling Triangle hoping it would again head east along the ridge, but of course it headed west and out of the square nr Langham! I therefore repositioned myself on Cockfield airfield just to the west of the square in the hope it would do a U-turn, and after another 2 hours wait I did just that. So thanks to the pager messages and a quick change of position a number of us quickly were enjoying excellent views as it flew across the fields back to Langham and safely into the square!

We subsequently tracked it as it continued north east to the Bayfield estate where it settled down and showed well on and off over the next couple of hours. It was an amazing bird and its enormous size was truely evident when being mobbed by both corvids and the local Buzzards.

Far better pics than Sunday were obtained, although its always hit and miss with digiscoping a flying bird and relying on the auto-focus, but I'm pleased with the results below.

After the excellent views we had had and the bird disappearing over the treeline, myself and a couple of other birders stayed for a while chatting, and as we were a white bird lifted up off the bottom of the river valley and rose up infront of us. Its large size was immediately apparent, as was the fact that it was an Egret, and the three of us all watched it in somewhat stunned silence for a few seconds with the same thoughts spinning through our minds. I think I then exclaimed something along the lines of "Its a Great White" which the others immediately agreed and we watched as it briefly carried on south following the river but as it then hit a wooded section it veered off across the road and off to the southwest and out of view over some trees, and we all congratulated each other on our good fortune of being in the right place and the right time.

As it passed us I 'fired' off a couple of shots with the digital zoom on the camera to try to get something for the record, which although of pretty poor quality I think are just about OK especially if you squint!

To be greedy further views of the Eagle were then had from the other side of the estate, and I then returned home from my old stomping grounds after what was in the end an excellent afternoon.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Cranes Galore

With a sunny morning forecast I headed up to Incleborough again this morning, with singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs brightening up the walk. On reaching the hill my first Willow Warbler of the year was heard singing but it went quiet and evaded detection.

I set myself up on the summit and after a few minutes whilst checking out a couple of distant Buzzards, I picked up a flock of 4 Common Cranes way off to the south-east. I watched as they continued their approach and as they hit the north coast they seemed to dither about what to do next so spent the next ten minutes just circling round over the west side of Cromer.

They drifted over to above the hill then started to call loudly to each other in seemingly some argument as to whether to carry on west. At this point one peeled off and started to head back east which caused even more loud calls but it just ignored the others and back-tracked towards Overstrand whilst the others carried on west towards Sheringham.

I called a birder in Overstrand so he could look out for the one heading back and he soon called me back to say he was actually watching three! As I was currently watching the other 3 disappearing off west over Sheringham Park at this point it was obviously another group and quickly turning round and scanning back east I picked up the others circling off in the distance. One of the three then peeled off the group seemingly wanting to do its own thing which made me think it was the single bird that had temporarily joined another two, but as to whether there was six or seven birds involved wasn't clear.

With the news on the pager, the three that went west were tracked all along the coast as far as Brancaster at least so it was nice to see that others had caught up with them too.

A few pics of the original four are included below both before and after the 'split'.

A visit to West Runton produced 5+Shorelarks still in the field there and then the rest of the afternoon was wasted failing to get Raven and the White-tailed Eagle on my Cley Square List!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Patch Mega - White-tailed Eagle!

A walk along the golf course this morning revealed that it was much quieter today than yesterday with little movement evident. The only things of note were non-avain with a few Gorse Shieldbugs, good numbers of Ladybirds and an as yet unidentified moth sunning itself on the clifftop path.

A walk round East Runton produced a singing Blackcap and a few Butterflies including a species of White which didn't settle. A look for yesterdays Hooded Crows drew a blank.

A brief look at West Runton revealed that the Shorelarks were still present in the field and I managed to see all six this time, c30 Sand Martins were lingering along the cliffs and a couple of adult Med Gulls flew west.

The pager then announced that a White-tailed Eagle had gone west and then east over Titchwell and was continuing east over Brancaster. I therefore quickly made the decision to get to the top of Incleborough incase it tracked along the coast. On arrival I met another birder who was then leaving but after telling him about the Eagle he turned round and joined me to have a look for it. As we reached the summit a Ring Ouzel, which had been present earlier, was on show which made the trek worthwhile.

With no further news on the Eagle it wasn't looking good until after c15 mins of scanning Ian shouted that he had it and we watched as it briefly circled over the ridge immediately south of us before powering off to the south east. Views weren't great as it was always going away from us, but as it reached the Overstrand/Northrepps area it started to circle giving much better views in the process. Fortunately with the news quickly on the pager, I subsequently found out that a couple of fellow patchers were able to catch up with it at this point so I was pleased about that, as they were, especially as it was a Norfolk tick for one.

We continued to watch it as it stopped circling and again powered off south-east and I finally lost it behind the tree line when it was roughly approaching Mundesley some 10kms away, showing just how big a bird it was! A really amazing bird and a total surprise addition to the patch list, and which was subsequently tracked across the east of the county as it continued to head south.

Whilst it was circling I made a vain attempt to get a picture just for the record but as at this point it was already some 6kms distant I didn't think I would get anything but miraculously the camera did lock on to it a few times with the 'best' of the results included below tho they certainly won't win any prizes!