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.