Short-eared Owl at Hardwick, 29 April 2013

Just a very quick post, I hadn't intended posting at all but a fluke find of a Short-eared Owl as I drove past Hardwick Airfield (near Hempnall) prompted me to get on here quickly. Not too shabby a find from the car!
At Topcroft nearby I also had my first singing Lesser Whitethroat of the summer.

I'm off to Georgia with Justin and Andy tomorrow for some Caucasus specialities so hopefully I'll have something to report when we get back...   

Song Thrush studies, 28 April 2013

I spent ages watching our local nesting Song Thrushes from the patio this morning so thought I'd share these photos.
Other stuff from out and about was a Common Buzzard, Grey Wagtail and Great Spotted Woodpecker on a walk in the Needham/Weybread area and back on Thursday 25th we had a solitary Orange Tip in the garden (still the only one I've seen so far).
We now have 2 territorial male Blackcaps in the garden but no sign of any females yet.

2 Goodies on the Suffolk Coast, 27 April 2013

Time for a bit of fairly local twitching today - it's good for the soul!

First up it was to Landguard for my first visit there for a long time. It proved a good call as the Eastern Subalpine Warbler found yesterday was still present on the ridge known as The Butts and within minutes I was being treated to some mind-blowingly close views. At one point it flew towards me and landed on the ground about 4 feet from my feet! Very obviously an eastern bird of the race 'albistriata' showing restricted brick red mainly on the throat and upper breast, wide white moustaches and a white belly.

Migrants were thin on the ground otherwise with 4 Northern Wheatears, 2 Barn Swallows being about it, apart from numerous Linnets on the common.

It then went from the sublime to the ridiculous with a drive round to Orford where the 1st summer Rose-coloured Starling eventually gave itself up in back gardens of Cotter Close in the village - what a manky individual!


Spiders in Thailand

When we were in Thailand back in February we had a quite a few spider encounters so I thought I'd post some pictures. I've been unable to identify them but they were big and I found them absolutely fascinating. Even the drab one which was on the wall inside the toilet at one of the hill tribe villages we stayed at.

Needless to say I didn't get too close!


Weybread again, 21 April 2013

An early frost but clear skies tempted me back to Weybread this morning and within a few minutes I'd added 2 new species to the Patchwork Challenge list. A Blackcap burst into song near the fisherman's track alongside the main pit where a single Common Tern flew west along the pit and seemingly kept going. Most of the geese were spooked off the meadow and onto the water by a light aircraft but this enabled me to pick out Pink-footed Goose again, this time 2 birds together. Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers were particularly active and a singing Treecreeper showed nicely in the alders. There now appear to be 2 pairs of Oystercatchers on the island. The real surprise was saved for the walk back though - a stunning drake Mandarin swam out from the bank of the main pit beside the track when I was almost back to the road!

Common Terns were tracked down to one of the medium sized fishing pits where 2 birds were present. The Common Whitethroat in Watermill Lane was in the same hedge as it was a few days ago and this time I had my camera with me to nab it!

Back at home a Blackcap was singing well but refused to let me get very close and 2 new butterflies joined the yearlist in the form of Large White and Small White.

The Patchwork Challenge list now stands at 80 species and 83 points.


The rich song of the Nightingale, deepest Suffolk, 20 April 2013

We were in deepest Suffolk today visiting some old childhood haunts of Belinda's. With unbroken blue skies it was gorgeous and from a birding point of view the spring has quickened a pace.

Completely unknown to me before today was Ramsey Wood, about 2 miles east of Hadleigh. This RSPB managed woodland was alive with singing birds and I'd heard Nightingale from the track before we even got up to the wood itself. Closer inspection revealed at least 2 singers with particularly good views of one leaping about singing in bare saplings. Blackcaps were suddenly everywhere with 2 - 3 Common Whitethroats, loads of Chiffchaffs, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker and then a fly-over Tree Pipit as we headed back along the track towards the car.

We bumped into an RSPB field worker doing a survey and she hadn't seen a single butterfly and wasn't sure she'd heard Nightingale as she thought it was too early. You have got to wonder!  

Near Hintlesham 3 Common Buzzards were circling together as we headed home.

4 species of butterfly were seen - Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone as well as the first Bee-flys of the year.

Common Violets were out in abundance and the first few Cowslips were along a south facing hedgerow.


Common Violet

Weybread GPs, a Patchwork Challenge update, 17 April 2013

A couple of spare hours this afternoon was put to good use - I thought I'd check Weybread to see if any more migrants have arrived after a few days of warmer weather and a southerly airflow.

Despite the brisk and breezy conditions it was pleasing to note the return of Swallows in quite large numbers over the main pit. A quick go through the flock soon revealed smaller numbers of both Sand Martin and House Martin. Whilst this trio could have been predicted a single Pink-footed Goose on the meadows most definitely couldn't have been! Add a daytime hunting Barn Owl a bravely singing Willow Warbler, 3 Chiffchaffs, Kingfisher, 4 Egyptian Geese, 2 Oystercatchers and 2 Lapwings made it a very worthwhile stroll. Red-legged Partridge was also finally added to the list with a pair on the meadows.

The resident [Swan Goose] appears to be paired with a Greylag and while on the subject of dodgy wildfowl a very dark hybrid goose looking like it had both Barnacle and Brent Goose in it was also on the meadow. I'm going to scour the internet to see if I can determine it's parentage!

Little Grebe was trilling on the overgrown pond by the old workings and an early Common Whitethroat showed very nicely in the hedge along Watermill Lane. Despite checking a few likely spots I couldn't locate any Blackcaps yet.

The list moves on to 77 species and 79 points.

Update - the hybrid goose appears to be a Red-breasted x Barnacle and looks like the same individual which has been seen at Strumpshaw Fen and Buckenham Marshes in 2011 and 2012. It appears to have wandered out of the Yare Valley! These photographs are by Will Soar

Lowestoft/Somerleyton area, 13 April 2013

I had a day out predominantly for geocaching yesterday but birding was never too far from my thoughts. Redwings and Song Thrushes were very evident with a large flock of c500 of the former at Somerleyton and another 40 at Blundeston. Chiffchaffs are now in in numbers and I had singing Siskins at Herringfleet Hills.

At the end of the day I was parked up near Lowestoft North Denes when a quick check of RBA mentioned Black Redstarts at 'the net posts' which were only 100 yards away! I strolled over (with no bins) and bumped into Dave Russell who told me by brother was just round the corner! Borrowing his bins (cheers mate!) I managed to see 1 - 2 Black Redstarts and then wandered over to the sea wall where 10 Purple Sandpipers, 1 Dunlin and 8 Turnstones were feeding at point blank range on the rocks.

In the 15 degree temperatures Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell were also both seen.

Beccles area, 10 April 2013

Does anyone remember this book?

I loved the whole series covering the seasons and the illustrations inside were so evocative. I was in the Beccles area today so decided on a stroll around Beccles Marsh to the north of the town. With the sun shining there was a real feeling of spring in the air which reminded me of reading these books as a youngster. It was real back to basic stuff but that does no harm every once in a while. OK, the 3 Cetti's Warblers along the Waveney might not be in the book but displaying Lapwings, calling Green Woodpeckers,  newly arrived Chiffchaffs, willow catkins and primroses certainly are.

On the way back along the A143 at Earsham near Bungay a van coming the other way wiped out a pheasant (he made no attempt to even slow down), the bird looked very dark so I did a u-turn and it turned out to be a Green Pheasant. With my interest (fetish?!) with escaped and non-native pheasants I'd been thinking of trying to track down some Green Pheasants in the Worstead area where I saw several many years ago. After this bizarre coincidence I'm even more keen to track down some live ones - sad but true!

Green Pheasant, Earsham

Quick pic, London, Easter Weekend

Just trawling through some photos from the Easter weekend in London and found this
Black-headed Gull with a very English background!

Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Bridge and London Buses!

Patchwork Challenge - Ring Ouzel, Weybread GPs, 7 April 2013

With my patchwork at Weybread GPs having been somewhat curtailed during February and March today was my first visit for ages. And at long last a few signs of spring!
Initially a single singing Chiffchaff at The Spong was very welcome but still turned out to be just a lone individual. Alongside the main pit I quickly added some new species to the Patchwork Challenge list  - Treecreeper and Siskin followed by a pair of Teal and 3 Shoveler on the water. I then spotted a bird in a meadow on the north (Norfolk) side of the Waveney and closer inspection confirmed it was what I'd thought it was - a splendid male Ring Ouzel! A really noteworthy inland record especially considering the paucity of migrants and at the time of checking there have been no other reports of the species in East Anglia today.
Other additions to the Patchwork Challenge list were several Jackdaws, a pair of Oystercatcher on the main island, a single Lapwing and on the walk back a pair of showy Reed Buntings beside the path. Displaying Great Crested Grebes are everywhere on the main pit where the numbers of Greylags have also built up considerably whilst a busy Marsh Tit was also seen well along the path. A solitary Small Tortoiseshell was amazingly my 1st butterfly of 2013.

The Patchwork Challenge list now stands at 68 species and 70 points         

Back in the garden in Pulham I flushed a Woodcock  - a new record for the garden

Winter drags on! Kelling area, 6 April 2013

A day walking in the Kelling/Weybourne area today and despite calmer and warmer weather not a single migrant seen! Still no Chiffchaffs singing and it's now 3 weeks later than they usually arrive. Kelling Heath came up trumps with Dartford Warbler in the usual spot and a circling Common Buzzard. Other than that a couple of Sparrowhawks, Great Spotted Woodpecker, several singing Coal Tits and some Redwings and Fieldfares summed up that it really is still winter!

Roll on a trip to Georgia at the end of the month for some Caucasus specialities...