Covehithe, 28 December 2015

Belinda joined me for a stroll at Covehithe and it was lovely down on the beach with superb light for some scenic photos. I wasn't there on the off chance though, there were birds I wanted on Covehithe Broad! Luckily they were nice and easy - firstly 9 Bewick's Swans and then the main target in the form of a distant Slavonian Grebe (after we'd walked up to Easton Bavents cliffs and back it had come much much closer!). 4 Goldeneye were also on the broad with a handful of Gadwall, c4 Little Grebes and a Cetti's Warbler busrt into song as we started the walk back. The feral [Barnacle Goose] flock were on fields at the back of the broad and the flock is now huge! Amongst them were a single feral [Red-breasted Goose] a few Egyptian Geese and a single Brent Goose. 8 more Brent Geese flew south offshore.

A quick drive to Lowestoft followed so we could nab the Great Northern Diver on Lake Lothing and nab it we duly did from the railway footbridge, but not until after lunch in Nicholas Everitt Park!  

Hickling area, 23 December 2015

With the first day of my Christmas break off work heralded by blue skies I ventured up to the Hickling area today.

First port of call was the lane between Hickling village and Sea Palling where the Cattle Egret of the last couple of weeks performed very nicely in the winter sun. Not after an initial anxious 10 mins where the bird looked like it wasn't there only for it to 'appear' on cue! A Barn Owl was hunting over the back of the fields and c1500 Pink-footed Geese flew over.

The only other plan I had for the day was to do the Stubb Mill roost so I headed there mid afternoon after lunch at Winterton beach cafe (where I couldn't find any Snow Buntings on north beach).
The roost was nice, mainly due to the fact that I'd not been there for years and have been meaning to go back plus the sun was out. My totals were c18 Marsh Harriers, 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Sparrowhawks, 2 Barn Owls, 9 Common Cranes, c150 Pink-footed Geese and a Chinese Water Deer. Strangely there were some nice passerines about too - several Bramblings, a large flock of Fieldfares with a few Redwings mixed in, 2 Stonechats, Coal Tit, a Redpoll sp over and a Carrion Crow with a white throat patch! Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal and Egyptian Geese also made it onto the day list.


Siberian Snow Bunting

Inspired by the new Winter edition of the Birding Frontiers Challenge Series I found this old photograph taken at Vadso in Northern Norway in May 2011. With the amount of white on the rump and right up onto the lower mantle this bird just has to be a Siberian Snow Bunting of the race 'vlasowae' which has recently been proven to be more regular in the WP than previously thought. Given the nomadic habits of Snow Bunts I reckon this one is one we should be on the look out for on the east coast.


A strange days birding, West Norfolk, 9 December 2015

By 'strange' I mean not very successful!
Firstly a look at the Fisher Fleet in King's Lynn resulted in the Iceland Gull being absent so I cut my losses there are moved on to Snettisham where I also dipped the Pallid Harrier. The long walk south from the Shepherds Port carpark at least gave me some exercise! There was some consolation in the form of a nice Great White Egret on the saltmarsh with several Little Egrets, a Peregrine, Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzard and a couple of Rock Pipits, an extremely late Swallow north past the chalets, loads of Knot and Pink-feet on the walk but the main prizes of the day eluded me totally.
I even had another look at the Fisher Fleet before the long drive home but to no avail :-( 

Unseasonal Hoopoe, 15 November 2015

My latest Hoopoe by a good 2 and a half weeks was showing nicely on arrival at Crostwick this morning. Feeding actively in a paddock over a tall fence requiring tip-toes viewing for some!

Then, after a Sunday lunch at Poppylands we headed out along the Nelson's Head track at Horsey to fill our boots with Grey Seals (already quite a few pups) and also had 3 Snow Buntings, Sanderling and Dunlin there while a big flock of Pink-footed Geese were distant from the top of the dunes looking inland.

Continental/Eastern Goldcrest?

Inspired by reading the excellent Birding Frontiers Challenge Series books of which I now have both the Autumn and Winter volumes I've been looking at some of the big numbers of migrant Goldcrests we've had this autumn.
So, I'm just throwing this one out there to see what others think. I've photographed a several Goldcrests in the last few weeks and some show a noticably greyer nape and neck sides than others which may just be an indication of eastern origin. The only references to eastern birds I can find in literature is in A Guide to Warbler of the Western Palearctic, Parmenter and Byers that birds 'become paler and the wings slightly longer  as the species ranges eastwards' but the Handbook of Birds of the World states 'geographical variation partly clinal, birds becoming darker and slightly larger from W to E' which is totally contradictory!
BWP states 'British birds generally darker and dirtier...with green-brown tone to nape easily seen (and, by contrast, grey nape of continental birds thus also obvious)'  and  'larger and cleaner birds with noticably more striking wing bars (due to broader white tips occur in large falls of migrants on the east coast of Britain may be of the Siberian race coatsi or intergrades between it and nominate regulus'

Here are a couple of photos that hopefully illustrate my point. I'd be glad of any input!

Individual showing distinct grey nape and pale undersides - possible 'coatsi' or intergrade

Individual showing more green-brown nape - probable nominate 'regulus' 

 Another individual showing more green-brown nape - probable nominate 'regulus' 

Siberian Stonechat, Caister, 23 October 2015

A mid-afternoon exit from work in Mattishall enabled me a little time to streak along the A47 to see this little beauty.
Showing almost straight away with a winter male Common Stonechat for company and comparison. Despite seeing many of these in spring in Kuwait over the years this has to be the best looking one I've ever seen. A real frosty pale and contrasting 1w male of the race 'maura'. And of course, since my last one Siberian Stonechat is now a species in its own right!


Borneo Frustration!

OK, it's rant time!

Belinda and I are off to Borneo (Sabah) in March/April next year and one of the must visit areas is the Danum Valley. There are only 2 accommodation options - the Danum Valley Field Centre and the Borneo Rainforest Lodge. DVFC refuse to answer emails even though I've tried 6 different ones (they are renouned for this apparantly although most people eventually get a response). Alternatively the price I've been quoted for BRL is a mere £2200 for the 2 of us for 4 nights!!!!! WTF! And that's tagging onto another group and their guide. For that price I want a personal guide available 24/7 who even wipes my arse upon request!

Time to think again about that phase of the itinerary me thinks... 

Holkham Meals, 20 October 2015

Today was my first chance to get up to Wells and it was just my luck that there had been a bit of a clear out of migrants following a starry night.

Nevertheless I managed some good stuff in the 4 hours my carpark ticket allowed me. The Red-flanked Bluetail was showing nicely around the drinking pool and I saw it on both my walk there and my walk back. It was being constantly hassled by a Robin though so rarely settled for long. I then managed to re-find the Olive-backed Pipit about 200 yards further west but as I was watching it in an spindly oak some marauding idiot birders ran up to me and flushed it. Later on it was seen in flight and calling over the drinking pool. Other than those 2 goodies it was all common stuff - still loads of Goldcrests, lots of Redwings and a few Skylarks over, Siskins, 2 Redpolls, 2 Song Thrushes, a late Tree Pipit that showed nicely and my first Pink-footed Geese of the winter.

Comma and Migrant Hawker were the only insects.  

Feeling Twitchy in North Norfolk, 15 October 2015

Finishing work at lunchtime meant I could at last spend an afternoon birding - yay!

My primary aim was to see the Daurian Shrike of the last few days at Beeston Common and after the drive up there and a very short walk it was showing very well upon arrival. Despite being oput out as an Isabelline sp it looks a dead cert for Daurian to me. It continued to show really well for the whole hour I was there.  A single Chiffchaff and a Common Buzzard where the only other things seen.

While talking to Dave Norgate the news came through of an Olive-backed Pipit at Muckleburgh Hill and despite initial scepticism it seemed to be pinned down. I dashed there to find it missing but within about 15 mins it was re-found and it showed nicely albeit briefly low down in a single isolated oak. A lovely bright and clearcut individual - boom!

I finished my unashamed twitchy afternoon with a Great Grey Shrike on the marsh at Salthouse looking west from Beach Road. A couple of close Little Egrets and the first of the winters Wigeon were also by Beach Road.

Not a bad 3 hours!


Orwell Estuary, Shotley Gate - Chelmondiston, 11 October 2015

More of a hike than a birding walk but with 18.5km covered we felt good about ourselves afterwards!

A few good bits and bobs were seen en-route with the best being reserved for the stretch between Shotley Gate and Chelmondiston - 2 Kingfishers on rocks at the waters edge, 2 Rock Pipits, Grey Wagtail, c6 Black-tailed Godwits, loads of Redshank and Lapwings and a Peregrine that shot through going up river were the pick of things. Into the bargain there are still no shortage of Goldcrests in coastal bushes, the first few Brent Geese have arrived and the stretch also held c12 Little Egrets. A couple of Red Admirals and a single Comma plus Common Darters and Migrants Hawkers were also braving the October sunshine.

Kessingland etc, 1 October 2015

From my lack of blog posts you may have guessed I've been a bit busy! I finally got a day off today though and headed to the coast to see what I could find.

At Kessingland Sewage Works it was quite hard work but I eventually managed to winkle out a Yellow-browed Warbler which called from thick ivy but refused to show. A Cetti's Warbler burst into song briefly whilst 4 Grey Wagtails flew over. Other than that c4 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blackcap, a few Goldcrests and a nice photogenic Great Spotted Woodpecker were all I could muster.

At Gunton Wood there had been another YBW and several Firecrests reported but despite my best efforts all I could muster were c20 Goldcrests and a Blackcap!

After doing some other bits and bobs I finished the afternoon in Yarmouth Churchyard where I found the Yellow-browed Warbler in holly by the gates to the cemetry and got some nice views of this active and vocal individual. A few more Goldcrests were in the cemetry too. There has certainly been an arrival of those.

I'm on Twitter at last!

OK, I've given in to the 21st century and signed up for Twitter! I'm gonna keep it to just bird and other nature stuff so it's pretty relevant to this blog.
Follow me at @Chris_Lansdell

Bluethroat and another Wryneck, 30 August 2015

Despite not making a very early start and then getting caught in every hold up possible Belinda and I eventually made it to Winterton late morning. Not before bumping into Jus at Martham on the way where he had 7 Mediterranean Gulls in a field.

After a walk up the North Dunes at Winterton the male Bluethroat showed surprisingly quickly around one of the ponds but despite several nice views it steadfastly refused to come out in the open so no photographs. Being so scarce in recent years it was nice to catch up with one again.

After a coffee at Winterton Beach Cafe we headed for Caister for some more unashamed twitching. The Wryneck here showed very nicely in the grass by a path c500 yards south of the Beach Road carpark before it flew over the fence into gorse on the golf course. A Whinchat was also on the GC and upon getting back to the car Dave Holman produced a Vestal moth he'd caught in the heather at Winterton!

On the way home a Kingfisher flew over the A1064 from the Filby Broad side to the Rollesby Broad side. 

Lowestoft, Kessingland and Corton, 27 August 2015

It's good to see autumn migration has spluttered into action so with a day off I headed to the Suffolk coast to seek out a few migrants of my own.

Lowestoft North Denes was first and after absolutely nothing in Sparrows Nest or near the net posts there were at least some bits and bobs on North Denes proper. In a complete circuit I managed c5 Whinchats, 3 Northern Wheatears, plenty of Common Whitethroats and then 2 Tree Pipits at the northern end. A single Whimbrel flew south and a pair of Common Terns were still feeding young on one of the groynes. A male Sparrowhawk was in Sparrows Nest on the walk back to the car.

With news of a lingering Wryneck at Benacre Pits I headed off to Kessingland next but after the long walk couldn't locate it despite a damned good try. There was very little there too, all I managed was a single Painted Lady and more Common Whitethroats. On the walk back however, just north of the sluice a lovely Short-eared Owl flew high north and nearing the caravans a couple of Common Redstarts flitted about around some tamerisks whilst I also saw 4 Reed Buntings and a juv Green Woodpecker.

With failure of my target at Benacre I was pleased to hear of another Wryneck at Corton Old Sewage Works so fighting my way back through the Lowestoft traffic I made my way there. Unluckily the bird was favouring the inside of the fenced compound but after some while I picked the bird up in the weeds in the south east corner of the compound where it showed for just a couple of minutes before shuffling out of view again. A nice showy Whinchat was also around the perimeter fence and posed nicely for the camera. It was the only bird of the day that did!

The day finished with a new garden moth - Hummingbird Hawkmoth no less. Get in!       

Whinchat, Corton Old Sewage Works

Wryneck, Corton Old Sewage Works

Short-eared Owl, Kessingland

 Short-eared Owl, Kessingland

Tree Pipit, Lowestoft North Denes

 Green Woodpecker, Kessingland

Rutland - Bird Fair and birding, 21 August 2015

Having not been to the Birdfair for a couple of years I headed off for a Friday visit with Jus and Andy. A very enjoyable day was had with plenty of catching up with people, 4 interesting lectures (Borneo, Northern Peru, Somaliland and The Sound Approach) some nice ideas for future trips and of course a couple of book purchases!

The tank of trapped moths at the Butterfly Conservation stand had some goodies to look at with September Thorn, Pine Hawkmoth, Chinese Character, Rosy Footman, Black Arches, Swallow Prominent, Pebble Hook Tip, Peppered Moth, Ruby Tiger, Red-green Carpet and probably others I can't remember! 

A visit here wouldn't be complete without some birding so after the fair had closed for the day we headed off to a few of the hides. In a couple of hours we managed Hobby, Common Buzzard, Tree Sparrow, 2 Treecreepers, Bullfinch, c5 Yellow Wagtails, 4 Common Sandpipers, 6 Green Sandpipers, 2 Greenshank and a Ruff plus good numbers of Little Egrets and c4 Egytpian Geese which presumably aren't mega common in the midlands. The star attraction was the Ospreys however and after seeing and photographing a nice singleton from Mallard hide we then finished the evening off with a family party of 2 adults and 3 almost fully grown young around their telegraph pole nest from Manton Bridge.


Common Sandpiper




This weeks moths, August 2015

Moth trapping this week (the first time the trap has been out for yonks!) gave a me several new species for the garden plus a mystery specimen which is going to be looked at by Jon Clifton. That specimen is a footman which looks very like a Hoary Footman which would be a Norfolk first but could also be a faded Scarce Footman which would only be a garden first!

The new garden additions were Ruby Tiger, Pine Hawkmoth, Brown-line Bright-eye, Brown-tail, Scalloped Oak, Ear Moth, V-pug and White Satin Moth.

More on the mystery footman when I know...

Mystery footman

Pine Hawkmoth

Brown-line Bright-eye

Ruby Tiger

 White Satin Moth

The Brecks, 1 August 2015

A day walking with a camera down in the Brecks on Saturday began with a very close encounter with a big Grass Snake on the road near Santon Downham. A long walk around Santon Warren revealed plenty of insects with Large, Essex and Small Skippers, Gatekeepers, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Large White, Small White, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Brimstone.
Also identified and photographed were Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle, Common Green Grasshopper, Field Grasshopper and Garden Spider
There were a few Broad-leaved Helleborines in the usual spot but some initially promising looking other helleborines proved to be stunted Broad-leaved specimens rather than the hoped for Green-flowered.

During an evening BBQ at Knettishall Heath on the way back a Red-legged Shieldbug (aka Forest Shieldbug) entertained us on the picnic table.

Grass Snake


Broad-leaved Helleborine

Common Green Grasshopper

Field Grasshopper

Garden Spider

Large Skipper

Red-legged Shieldbug

Small Skipper

Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle