2017 - Over and Out!

The year finished with a 6 mile walk around Westleton Heath and Dunwich Forest and the highlight was probably a cheese scone in the Dunwich Bridge tearooms!
Literally the only things of any note were a 2 Common Buzzards, Marsh Harrier, small group of Siskins, Marsh Tit, an unseasonal Red Admiral at the tearooms and then 2 Dartford Warblers on Westleton Heath when nearly back to the car.
I live in hope that UK birding in 2018 is better than 2017 has been! 

Wensum Park, Norwich, 30 December 2017

A couple of failed attempts during the day to see Ring-necked Parakeet around Wensum Park. During my 2 visits of the afternoon (13.00 and 15.00 - dusk) I did manage a Grey Wagtail, 3 Little Grebes (including one in full summer plumage!), 1 Cormorant, 4 Mute Swans, 2 Egyptian Geese, 2 Common Gulls and a couple of ringed Black-headed Gulls amongst the masses.
There was plenty of dodgy comings and goings in the wooded area too and the constant smell of weed in the air - oh how I love urban birding!
This rather colourful sign caught my eye too - clearly a lot of work has gone into creating it but does the wildlife of the park really include Large Copper, Swallowtail, Marsh Fritilliary and the completely ficticious 'Dusky Blue'?! I feel an email to Norwich City Council coming on...

Dunwich Beach, 23 December 2017

After a week of hardly leaving the house due to sickness I've perked up a bit at last and needed to blow the cobwebs away.

A long trudge north up Dunwich beach from the carpark was in order. On the way 4 Stonechats (3m 1f), a curious group of 5 Greenfinches and c70 Linnets was all I could muster. Once by the pools though I quickly found the loose flock of c50 Twite which are wintering once again. I made some attempts to photograph them (even though the light was awful and the birds skittish) because there were a number of colour-ringed individuals which I wanted to document and trace.
Walking well past the main pools I eventually found a Great White Egret as it popped it's head up from the reeds but then quickly flew back towards the pools where on my walk back it was joined by the 2nd bird. There were also 4 Little Egrets, 2 Marsh Harriers and 1 Common Buzzard plus a Common Seal on the sea.

A Grey Wagtail over central Halesworth finished things off.

Twite with bling!

     Great White Egrets 

Abberton Reservoir, Essex, 16 December 2017

The boys and I had pencilled in a day out and on Friday night we opted for Abberton. As it turned out we couldn't have chosen anywhere else where we'd have seen such a good selection of scarcities.

It was bright and sunny but bitterly cold so the cafe at the reserve centre was very welcome, especially their woodburner! In between spells of coffee drinking we even did some birding! The Layer de la Haye causeway was first up and revealed a nice Slavonian Grebe at reasonably close range plus 46 Goosander (my biggest numbers for donkeys years), 3 Goldeneye, Common Buzzard, a Kingfisher that flashed across the road and huge numbers if other wildfowl, most notably Shoveler and Pochard which were present in very impressive numbers. Even a female stifftail sp lurked proving there are still a few out there after their scandalous cull.

Round at the Layer Bretton causeway 2 redhead Smew showed nicely before we moved on to the screen overlooking Wigborough Bay. Here 2 Peregrines were on a sandy spit with one bathing, a male Marsh Harrier was in the distance. c30 Pintail and another dozen Goosander (bringing the day total to c60!) were also in the bay and we also added Stonechat and Song Thrush to the daylist.

Back once more at the centre we got a message from Darren Underwood that the hitherto elusive out of place Dartford Warbler was showing in front of Island Hide. We hot-footed it there and got some cracking views of this 1w male in gorgeous light. A couple of Stonechats were loosely with it. 

Back at the Layer Bretton causeway for the last light of the day we scored with 1-2 Bitterns clambering around in the reeds to the west, 2 Bearded Tits moved through a gap in the reeds,a female Marsh Harrier flew through, 8 Golden Plover over and 2 Great White Egrets eventually showed up to roost in the gathering gloom. 

During the day we also had c150 Fieldfares, c50 Redwings including some nice close views near the reserve centre, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and a total of 13 duck sp.

Dartford Warbler

Slavonian Grebe



Great White Egret going to roost in the gloom 

The duck that shall not be named ;-)

Oulton Broad/Lowestoft, 14 December 2017

A very nice few hours out in the sun albeit a tad chilly!

First port of call was Oulton Broad where I found the adult Great Northern Diver in double quick time. Moving between a boat jetty and the front of the Wherry Hotel I managed some half decent shots before moving over the road to check Mutford Lock. I was pleasantly surprised to find a wintering Common Sandpiper here along with a Little Egret, 3 Redshank and 7 Turnstone.

Through the Lowestoft traffic (nothing new there!) I went to Ness Pont where a search for Purple Sandpipers drew a blank. Luckily though I did find a juv Shag sat at close range on the rocks until a complete bellend decided to walk bewteen me and it and flush it. A Rock Pipit darted between the rocks but that was about all. I decided to warm up with an all day breakfast in the Lighthouse Cafe!

I made a quick visit to Leathes Ham on the way out of town. Apart from 3 Little Grebes and a Bullfinch it was notable for the large numbers of Shoveler present. counting was difficult due to the cover but I easily got to 110 

Great Northern Diver

Common Sandpiper

Little Egret




Santon Downham again, 9 December 2017

Despite the sub-zero temperatures we headed to Santon Downham for a walk today. The main aim was to try for Otter but despite much searching we failed with that. The whole area was pretty quiet as the Brecks so often is in the winter. Eventually I did manage to see c10 Parrot Crossbills at distance from the road near the level crossing carpark but was glad I'd seem them well before! A walk along the river yielded 3 Grey Wagtails, Little Egret, Redwings, 2-3 Little Grebes, 2 Nuthatches and c20 Siskins but that really was it.

 Grey Wagtail


September 2018 - South Africa here we come!

We booked flights for our next adventure a couple of days ago. After much deliberation we've opted for a 4 week trip to South Africa which seems to tick loads of our boxes!
For me the birding should be excellent and Belinda has long wanted to do the safari thing.
We'll be flying in and out of Cape Town spending roughly half the trip in the Western Cape/Garden Route and the other half in Kruger/Limpopo with a couple of internal flights.
So far things look very reasonably priced in terms of flights, car hire and accommodation which should mean we can splash out a bit more on safari!
The map below shows our very rough plan

Arctic Redpoll, Hazelwood Common, Suffolk, 2 December 2017

I decided to give this elusive bird a go today and elusive it was indeed! In 3 hours on site I managed just 3 views in bushes beside the track just down from the small carpark. It was with a loose flock of c20 Lesser Redpolls and 2-3 Mealy Redpolls feeding in a weedy set-aside field and popping up into bushes very occasionally. A classic 'exilipes' Coues Arctic Redpoll, very pale with white rump, frosty upperparts, a straw-tinged head/upper breast and very faint diffuse flank streaks. The light was pretty dreadful for photography but latterly the sun came out and I managed one shot in good light! There was also a large and very dark Redpoll present which I managed a shot of. It looks promising for a possible Greenland Redpoll
Also there were a fly-over Little Egret, Curlew, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Redwings.

Arctic Redpoll

    Arctic Redpoll (right) with 2 Lesser Redpolls  

putative Greenland Redpoll

Wot no Horned Lark? Staines, 29 November 2017

Jus and I headed off to Staines yesterday. The original plan had been to wait on news of the American Horned Lark while enjoying the Parrot Crossbills at Santon Downham. The first part of the plan worked nicely with 32 Parrot Crossbills counted around the carpark and even seen coming down to drink in a puddle by the toilet block. News from Staines didn't come through so with time getting on we decided to go anyway.

After the drive we got there at lunchtime. Walking up the slope onto the causeway, dodging the dog shit, past the dog poo bags hanging on the pallisade fence and turning right at the abandoned supermarket trolley (you get the picture!) we were greeted by negative news from those on site. Under leaden skies and with darkening moods we gave it about an hour and a half until we almost froze to death and gave up. At least the view was nice, oh wait, it wasn't! Joking aside we did get some nice views of a Black-necked Grebe on the south basin plus a Peregrine, 5 Pintail, Goldeneye and c60 Pochard but were glad to leave in the end.

With a bit of time left before dark we called in at Stockers Lake, Rickmansworth on the way back round the M25. After a long walk all round the lake we eventually found 8 Red-crested Pochards plus a handful of Ring-necked Parakeets, 2+ Kingfishers, 3 Goldeneye and 8 Siskins. Around the M11 and M25 while driving we also clocked up 7 Red Kites and 3 Common Buzzards.

Red-crested Pochards


Parrot Crossbills etc, Santon Downham, 28 November 2017

A little short day trip to the Brecks that I'd put off from the previous day because of the weather.
If only all birding could be as easy  - I pulled up on the St Helen's Well carpark at Santon Downham and walked just a few yards to watch c30 Parrot Crossbills in the sun! And very entertaining they were too with their feeding antics involving ripping pine cones off branches whole and holding them in their feet to extract the kernels. Some even flew carrying cones in their bills! The flock consisted of about 70% males. A couple of Nuthatches were calling, a Grey Wagtail and a Stock Dove flew over and on a short walk I found a flock of c45 Siskins in alders by the river.

Parrot Crossbills

I moved on to Grimes Graves next but a cold walk later only yielded Sparrowhawk so I cut my losses and headed for Lynford. The reported Scaup on Lynford Water turned out to be a Tufted Duck (!) but a walk down to the paddocks and around was much nicer. I eventually found 2 Hawfinches in the NW corner of the paddocks and also had a Kingfisher by the bridge, c25 Siskins, 3 Marsh Tits, Coal Tits, 2 Nuthatches, Treecreeper and Little Grebe.    

Marsh Tit



Gadwall pair

Sotterley, Suffolk, 23 November 2017

I spent a very pleasant hour wandering around Sotterley Park this morning. Despite it being a bit blustery I was able to find 2 Hawfinches without too much difficulty. They both allowed close approach as I just stood still and watched them feeding in a Hornbeam at the far end of the Dell. While there I also had Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush, all nice woodland species which reminded me of my childhood days watching these.
Later on near Thwaite (near Ditchingham) 2 Sparrowhawks were sparring c5 Fieldfares flushed from the hedge and there was an even later Red Admiral.

 The Dell, Sotterley Park

North Warren area, 19 November 2017

Really not too much to write home about but a very pleasant walk around Thorpeness, Sizewell, Aldringham Walks and North Warren in the sun yesterday.
Wildlife was restricted to some late insects in the form of c6 Red Admirals and 2 Common Darters plus a fly-over Grey Wagtail at North Warren. Despite a paucity of winter thrushes there were a few Fieldfares at Leiston Abbey and then an albino Common Pheasant near Metfield on the way home.

  Lengthening shadows at Leiston Abbey

Dodgy Pheasants, Hemblington, 27 October 2017

With the absence of any real birds to look at I took a detour to Hemblington on my way into Norwich this afternoon to look for some plastic pheasants!

They were rather skittish but I managed some decent shots of Reeve's Pheasant out of the 6 or so I saw but even though they were more numerous the 'Green' Pheasants (actually 'tenebrosus' ssp) were even more nervous so I need to return to get better shots of those!

There were loads of Red-legged Partridges with the pheasants, a female Marsh Harrier circled overhead and Long-tailed Tits were remarkably numerous with c50 seen. A Sparrowhawk, several Redwings and 2 Fieldfares were also recorded.

Reeves Pheasants

 'Green' Pheasants