Sunday, 9 December 2012

Ocean Sunfish

Whilst out this morning, Ben chanced upon this Ocean Sunfish washed up on the beach at Overstrand, and although the tide had started to come in by the time I went down to see it, it was still just floating in the sea amongst the breakers before the incoming high tide slowly carried it out to sea.

I've seen them previously whilst seawatching in Cornwall, and from the Scillonian Pelagics, but then views were just restricted to a fin sticking out of the water, so seeing one like this, albeit in sad circumstances, one could finally appreciate just how big they really are.

Friday, 7 December 2012


After having had a few flying over the patch in recent weeks, finally a Waxwing settled down on the patch this week, and at time showed cripplingly well down to a few feet, as the photos below show.

Saturday, 17 November 2012


Just when it looked like autumn migration was over, today produced the very welcome surprise of a Rose-coloured Starling in Northrepps. With it regularly visiting some garden feeders, the owners of the property to their credit realised it was something unusual and after reference to a field guide quickly worked out what it was. Thankfully they then informed a birder who lives in the village who was able to confirm the identification enabling a number of us to enjoy this new bird for the patch, which was the 261st species I've recorded here to date.
It was fairly mobile and elusive at times, but eventually gave good views around various parts of the village where the following selection of shots were taken.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A few late Butterflies and Dragonflies

A bit of autumn sunshine produced a few surprise insect sightings this past week with a Red Admiral in the garden on the 7th, followed by a Peacock Butterfly flying high over Overstrand prom on the 8th which gave the impression that it had just come in-off the sea.
A visit to Felbrigg produced a couple of Common Darters in the meadow to the NW of the lake on the 13th, and another Red Admiral was seen in the Co-op car park in Cromer on the 15th.
Birdwise a drake Goosander was seen on the sea off West Runton on the 10th before it flew off inland, and then the same or another was present on Felbrigg Lake later that afternoon.
Also at West Runton a Snow Bunting was in the car park and this Shag was on one of the groynes.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Black Guillemot and Great Northern Diver

Did a bit of seawatching this morning off Overstrand which proved very productive with a good tally of birds recorded. The large Common Scoter flock was still offshore and amongst them were a couple of drake Eiders. A Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye and a Great-crested Grebe were all noted heading west along with a good number of Razorbills and Guillemots and a single Little Auk.
Then as I was continuing to search through the scoter flock for something good I noticed an auk flying along the back edge of the flock, with the obvious white wing patches making me immediately realise that it was the Black Guillemot that I first saw on Saturday. I watched it fly for a few hundred yards before it pitched down on the sea but it was frustratingly lost to view as it dived, but nevertheless it was a relief to have finally nailed it.
A few birds were noted coming in-off including 3 Snow Buntings, and a few Starlings, Skylarks and Blackbirds, with one of the latter seen to pitch down in the sea twice, and although I feared the worse for it, happily with one last effort it lifted itself off the water and safely made it to land much to my relief. However the best bird recorded coming in was a single Waxwing.
I then changed position to slightly further west to try to relocate the Black Guilemot, but by this time the rain had set in making visibility very poor, but despite this I was delighted to pick up a Great Northern Diver on the sea which was still mostly in summer plumage and was a really smart bird.
The rain and poor light made photography pretty much a non-starter however I did manage this one shot of the diver just to record its occurrence.

Monday, 5 November 2012


A visit to Sidestrand today to look for some Waxwings that had been seen there earlier initially drew a blank, but just as I was about to get into the car, I heard a familiar trilling call above me and as I quickly glanced up 3 Waxwings flew over heading west and were quickly joined by another two which had obviously been in the vicinty unseen, and all 5 then carried on westwards towards Cromer.
I then headed to West Runton and did a bit of seawatching recording a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a couple of Bonxies, along with a few auks, Kittiwakes and Gannets.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

More Seawatching

With the Common Scoter flock still offshore I had another look at the sea today, with a Gadwall and 3 Eider present within the flock. A couple of Velvet Scoters flew west without stopping, a fair number of Razorbills were also noted along with a couple of Guillemots, a few Shags were offshore and an adult Med Gull flew west.
However most frustrating was a very brief glimpse of what was undoubtedly a Black Guillemot on the sea, but after it dived I failed to relocate it despite extensive searching as far west as the pier, but hopefuly it may reappear in the coming days.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Black-throated Diver and even more Shags

During the morning I did a bit of seawatching off Overstrand where a flock of c500 Common Scoter were feeding offshore which is a very notable tally for this part of the coast. I was hoping they would drag something good in, but all I could manage was a drake Pochard amongst them.
A female Pintail, my first of the year on the patch was noted amongst a small flock of Wigeon, and the other highlight was a Black-throated Diver, probably first seen briefly yesterday, which again was new for the year.
In the afternoon I again went to the pier to count the Shags, seeing 5 Swallows along the seafront on the way. By dusk again large numbers came into roost with a total of 75 being noted, which I believe is a new record high for the county. I suspect there is probably even more than that present but viewing the whole area, including those on the sea, at the same time to get an accurate account is pretty impossible but I was more than happy with the tally counted.
Below is a record shot, taken through a window in the lifeboat station, hence the poor quality, but it shows the main bulk of the roosting flock with a minimum of 66 birds present in the picture.

Thursday, 1 November 2012


Today I headed to the pier to have a look at the Shags which continue to roost on the lifeboat ramp and to hopefully get some photos. Also as some of them were colour ringed, I was hoping to be able to read the rings to trace their origins.

As the afternoon progressed more and more birds came into roost and in the process I was able to record 15 ringed birds so hopefully we'll get a good idea of their breeding grounds.
Whilst watching and photographing them I suddenly became aware that the size of the flock had rapidly increased as more birds were coming into roost with at least 50 birds now present on the ramp, and as dusk approached there was an amazing total of 71 birds present either on the ramp or on the sea in the near vicinity, so totally unprecedented numbers for the area and the county as a whole.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Red Kite

With the month coming to a close the final highlight of October was a Red Kite which, whilst at West Runton, I picked up coming along the ridge near Incleborough Hill, before it suddenly turned towards the coast and headed right over the beach car park and off over West Runton village.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Today saw me as usual checking the area around the lighthouse for migrants and just as it appeared it was going to be an uneventful search I spotted an egret coming along the sea about 100 yards offshore. Naturally I assumed it was going to be a little but raising my bins I was stunned and excited to see that it was actually a Great White Egret, my first one ever for the patch, and the 260th species that I have recorded here.
As it passed by I took a few record shots, but sadly it was just too far away for anything really decent, but still they were a nice record of the occurrence.

Having got the news out quickly it was subsequently tracked along the coast, briefly pausing at Salthouse before carrying on west, so I was pleased that others had caught up with it, and thus hopefully would prevent the rather sad and ill-informed comments which were made behind my back after the one that I saw at Glandford last year.
I then decided to head to West Runton to look for the Richards Pipit that had been reported early morning. I made my way along the clifftop to the rough strip behind the barns, the favourite haunt of the one I found there last month, and immediately had it in flight as it headed over to the clifftop path where it gave good views.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Black Redstart and Little Auk

Highlight today was undoubtedly this ultra stunning male Black Redstart, which along with a couple of females, was feeding around the rock piles on the beach at East Runton.

Nine Snow Buntings were also noted coming in-off, and a Lapland Bunting also flew over.
Whilst at East Runton I had noticed a scoter flock on the sea beyond the pier so on my way home I made a quick stop just to check through them. They all proved to be Common Scoter but whilst there I glanced across at the pier to check out the ever increasing number of Shags which were roosting on the lifeboat ramp, and immediately spotted a Little Auk on the sea under the pier.
I quickly made my way along the prom during which time it rapidly swam towards the surf line and then took flight and landed on the beach up against the prom wall. As I approached it again took flight and after circling the pier it again took shelter underneath it where it then gave good views on the sea.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Little Auks and Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll

With the strengthening northerly wind continuing overnight, seawatching was again the order of the day with the highlight being c6 Little Auks heading east although views were ultra brief as they momentarily rose above the huge troughs before vanishing again.
Good numbers of Kittiwakes plus a few Little Gulls were also noted passing by, along with a number of Bonxies plus 3 Arctic/Pom Skuas which went through too quickly to get a decent look at.
During the afternoon I received a phone call to alert me to the fact that the Arctic Redpoll that was present at Holkham was being strongly muted as a Hornemann's so I quickly headed along the coast and joined the small appreciative crowd enjoying superb close views of what by now had indeed been confirmed as a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll as it fed on the leeward side of the dunes.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Shags and Velvet Scoter

With the wind picking up from a northerly direction, after a fruitless look around the bushes in the lighthouse area, I embarked on a bit of seawatching and in the process of setting up I noticed a number of birds perched on the lifeboat ramp at the end of the pier.
Upon getting my scope on them I was delighted to see that they were as I had hoped Shags, the first of the year. Initially there was about half a dozen but as time went on more birds flew in to roost on the ramp, and there was probably up to twenty birds present in all.

Other highlight of the seawatch were a couple of Velvet Scoter which headed west, and it was also good to see large numbers of Kittiwakes on the move too.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Snow Bunting

Another day of battling with the foggy conditions although it did improve as the day went on.
A walk along the clifftop between Sidestrand and Trimingham was the most productive part of the day with the highlight being the first Snow Bunting of the year heading west long the cliffs.
What was undoubtedly a Waxwing flew in-off the sea but too high and distant to be 100% sure, half a dozen Ring Ouzels were in the clifftop bushes and on the cliffs themselves, a Blackcap and Chiffchaff were also noted in the clifftop vegetation, where the first Woodcock of the autumn was also flushed up from.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


With yesterdays dense fog continuing throughout today, it was again a struggle to find birds with the visibility so poor, and whilst numerous thrushes were still coming in-off their numbers were greatly reduced today.
Birds which were seen however included a couple of Black Redstarts on the lighthouse, a single Willow Warbler, plus a few more Bramblings, Reed Buntings and Chiffchaffs.
Highlight of the day though was a Woodlark which took up temporary residence in the car park at West Runton before eventually flying off high to the south. The gloom was far from conducive for photography but I still managed a couple of shots to record what was only the second Woodlark that I've seen on the patch following the one at Sidestrand last December.


Monday, 22 October 2012

Massive fall of Thrushes

Dense fog and a north-easterly airflow combined to produce a huge fall of Redwings, Fieldfares, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes on the patch today in numbers that I have never witnessed before. Everywhere I walked large numbers of thrushes were being flushed up from the undergrowth, woods and fields, with many many more continually dropping out of the sky at first sight of land.
A few Ring Ouzels were also mixed in with the incoming flocks, with other species noted around the patch including good numbers of Robins plus a few Bramblings, along with Chiffchaffs, Reed Buntings, and single Grey Wagtail, Common Snipe and Reed Warbler. However due to the dense fog which persisted throughout the day reducing visibility down to a few feet, the task of locating anything decent was severely hampered with most birds having to be identified on call or silhouette in the gloom.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Recent news

Its been fairly quiet round the patch over the last few weeks aside from finally finding the first Razorbill of the year offshore from Overstrand, and a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers in the Cromer area were as ever nice birds to find.
Off patch, news of an Egyptian Vulture heading west along the north coast on Wednesday set the pulses racing, and although it was relegated to an escapee whilst enroute, it was still an excellent bird to see as we caught up with it over Holkham where I grabbed a couple of record shots.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Sabines Gull

News that a Sabines Gull was heading east through the patch this lunchtime had me hot-footing it down to the seafront at Overstrand and after a short while of scanning I picked it up lingering offshore although somewhat distant. It then noticed an adult Kittiwake on the sea and flew over to join it before they both headed off west some 15 minutes later.
It was a really smart adult and still in summer plumage, and despite it being a fair way out I managed to get an ok record shot of it.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Barred Warbler

My good luck with finding birds on the patch continued today as whilst checking around East Runton I was fortunate to discover a Barred Warbler, only the second one ever I've had on the patch. After some initial brief and distantish views, I quietly repositioned myself amongst the bushes where it was feeding and was treated to some excellent views as it fed overhead on elderberries before moving off deeper into cover.
A check of West Runton failed to produce the Richards Pipit or Lap Bunting, but further checking round the patch revealed a few Redstarts and Whinchats were still present, half a dozen Common Whitethroats were new in, and a dozen or so Wheatears were also noted.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Richards Pipit

Today I again spent the day working the patch to try to find a good bird or two, and after initially drawing a blank, a check along the clifftop at West Runton came up with the goods.
The first decent bird encountered was this ultra confiding Lapland Bunting which was feeding alongside the clifftop path.
Walking further along up to a dozen Wheatears were busily feeding along the clifftop along with 3+ Whinchats, and then I then flushed a large pipit from the grass alongside the path which thankfully only flew a short way and landed in one of the clifftop fields. I was pretty certain it was a Richards Pipit but naturally ideally wanted some views of it on the deck.

Frustrating I couldn't relocate it in the field where it had gone down, but to my relief after about 3 hours of walking up and down checking all the likely places, I again flushed it but this time managed to keep tabs on it so over the next hour or so I managed to get some decent views on the ground, as well as hearing it calling in flight several times too. I was also able to get a few pictures too which all served to confirm my suspicions as to its id. and made an excellent reward for all the searching over the last few days.

Monday, 24 September 2012

A good fall of birds on the patch

With the deepest low pressure recorded at this time of year for 30 years moving north up the country from late yesterday onwards, the resulting heavy rain and ESE winds produced a good fall of migrants on the patch today, and although nothing major could be found it was nice to see a good showing of migrants at last with Redstarts, Whinchats, Pied Flycatcher, Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff all noted round the patch. Sadly the searching had to be abandoned with a big deterioration in the weather during the afternoon, but hopefully that bodes well for more birds tomorrow....

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Yellow-browed Warbler

With some winds finally conducive for migration, a good look around the patch today came up trumps when I found a Yellow-browed Warbler at Sidestrand. It was incredibly elusive remaining unseen for the first hour or so, despite frequently calling, as it did a circuit around the area, but finally after a lot of patience it eventually came out along the sunny edge of the trees and showed well but briefly before vanishing off into the trees again. While searching for it, a few Bramblings, the first of the autumn were noted in the trees too.
I then moved on to Trimingham where although no birds of note were seen, this Small Red-eyed Damselfly was found on the clifftop brambles and was presumably of continental origin.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Black Tern

Another check of the sea today revealed that there were still some birds feeding offshore, but by no means anywhere near the numbers of yesterday, however a Black Tern which was lingering amongst the other feeding terns was a very welcome sight being the first one for the year. Other birds seen included a flock of 3 Eider and the first Pinkfeet of the autumn were noted heading west.

Some recent news on the butterfly front, my first Painted Lady of the year was noted in the village yesterday, and having been absent from there so far this year, a small number of Common Blues have finally emerged in Felbrigg Park.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Sabs Gull and Balearic Shearwater

Whilst having a look at the sea off Overstrand late afternoon, it quickly became evident that there was a huge shoal of fish offshore with a large area on the waters surface positively bubbling away as they broke the surface.

Obviously this attracted the attentions of the local birds and over the next hour a massive flock of Gulls, Terns and Gannets congregated in a mass feeding frenzy and in turn attracted more and more birds from further afield, until the flock was of a size I've never witnessed before. A few Little Gulls, Guillemots, Red-throated Divers, Med Gull and Kittiwakes joined the throng, which inevitably also attracted the attention of well over a dozen Arctic Skuas.

Knowing that there was a chance something better could be pulled in I continued to sift back and forth through the flock which by now was spread out about a mile long, and that finally paid off when I picked up a Balearic Shearwater on the sea, which subsequently did a few fly rounds to better position itself within the shoal before it finally drifted off east on the sea.

I thought that was going to be the star bird but after a few more checks of the flock I located a small brown backed gull on the sea, and after an agonizing wait whilst it drifted off into the distance it finally took flight to reveal it was as suspected a juv Sabines Gull. Like the Balearic it too slowly drifted off on the sea towards Trimingham until it was lost to view, but shortly after presumably the same bird again appeared feeding out over the sea with the other birds, and then after a bit of a feed it settled back down on the sea, presumably to roost along with the other gulls.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Willow Emerald Damselflies

With time to kill between appointments in Norwich today, I popped into Strumpshaw to have a look for the Willow Emerald Damselflies there. Despite the blustery, and at times cloudy conditions, I quickly found a pair in tandem, and further checking of the ditch in the brighter spells produced up to 15 in total.

Unfortunately from a photography point of view they always remained too distant mostly perched up on the trees overhanging the far side of the ditch, however this Migrant Hawker was far more co-operative.

Thursday, 6 September 2012


Headed back to Winterton today but sadly despite searching couldn't find any of the Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies. However the Southern Emeralds were performing well again on the pools either side of the blocks.
Strangely whereas the ones on the north pool are all in pristine condition, the ones seen on the southern double-pool all have wing damage. The pics below are of a pair in tandem on the north pool, and then a couple of one of the males from the double pool. 

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies

Whilst waiting for the sun to come out at Winterton yesterday, I was wandering around the area by the pools looking at a few Common & Ruddy Darters, some Common Emeralds, and a Small Red-eyed Damselfly. I then noticed a 'blue-tailed damselfly' in the reeds on the pond north of the concrete blocks but was immediately struck by the fact that the blue tail band appeared to be very near the end of the abdomen, a feature of Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly.
Having recently been down to the New Forest where I dipped on Scarce Blue-tailed, I just thought it was wishful thinking and that I was seeing things, but the more I looked at it the more I was struck by the position of the blue tail-band. I struggled to get a few record shots as it was too far away for anything decent and just getting the camera to focus on it through the reeds was a nightmare in itself.
With the sun then coming out I noticed a few more bluetails appear out of the reeds and looking at them they all appeared the same which just added to my puzzlement. With the sudden appearance of the Southern Emerald Damselflies in the sunshine, the bluetails were kind of forgotten whilst I concentrated on getting some pics of the Southern Emeralds.
I mentioned my suspicions to some others who came to have a look but the 'bluetails' were by now mostly out of sight in the reeds, save for a pair in tandem. Eventually this pair flew up into the vegetation around the pool and finally I was able to get a good look and some decent pics, and with a quick check of the book became more convinced that they were Scarce Blue-tails as unlikely as it seemed.
I mentioned it to some others on my way back to the car, and then when reviewing the pics at home and looking at photos I was even more convinced as to their identity. I placed some pics on the web and despite an initial negative view, they were indeed confirmed as Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies this morning. So a new species for me and a self-find into the bargain, and quite ironic that after dipping them in Hampshire that I should find some here in Norfolk!

Presumably given their coastal location, they were of continental origin rather than a movement from within the UK, and apart from a report of one about 4 years ago, these were the only others ever to grace the County so I put the news out to let others have the chance of seeing them, and understand that one was still present today. Hopefully with some nice sunny and warm weather forecast for the end of the week they'll carry on performing for everyone, and undoubtedly I'll head back down there too to see if better views, and photos, can be had.
Below are a couple of the initial record shots that I took, followed by a couple of shots of the pair in tandem. On the male the blue tailband can be seen to be on segment 9 of the abdomen, with a slight extension up onto S8, whereas on normal blue-tailed S8 is wholly blue and S9 is black. Also the female shows a lack of anti-humeral stripes on the thorax, and a lack of a tailband too. The close-up shot showing the blue tailband on the male shows well the shape and location of the band and the two dark spots within it.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Southern Emerald Damselflies

With news on Saturday evening that there were Southern Emerald Damselflies at Winterton, I took advantage of the warm sunny weather to head down there today to have a look for them. Unfortunately on arrival at the pool in the north dunes, north of the concrete blocks, the area was shrouded in low cloud and mist but glady it eventually burnt off and almost immediately the Southern Emeralds started to appear.
I wasn't totally sure how many were present but I saw three (a male and 2 females) at the same time and ones on their own, plus a pair in tandem on a number of occassions. On the way back at least another two males were seen at the pool to the south of the concrete blocks.
The top 3 photos below are females, with one potentially ovipositing in the third, the fourth pic shows a male, and then a couple of shots of one of the pairs in tandem. The bicoloured pterostigma in the wing being the most obvious field character to identify the species.