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.