Queensland here we come!

Well, rather randomly, I've booked flights to North Queensland in Australia!

For just over a couple of weeks in July/August to fill my boots with some Aussie goodies.
Belinda is going out to visit her son so I didn't want to be left home alone and while they're doing their thing I can do mine - birding!

The trip is very much still in the planning phase but I've hired a camper from Hippie Campervans (!) in Cairns for the duration. The map below shows the rough route I plan to take visiting Cairns, Kuranda, Yorkeys Knob, Wonga/Newell Beach, Daintree, Kingfisher Lodge, Mount Lewis, Julatten area, Lake Mitchell, Mareeba Wetlands, Atherton area, Wongabel, Yungaburra, Crater Lakes and back to Cairns for a trip out to Michelmas Cay and the Great Barrier Reef. 

Fire up the barbie....!

St George's Day in East Norfolk, 23 April 2017

A day birding with the boys which turned out rather well despite the general paucity of migrants around. We began early at Rush Hills, Hickling where we got some really good scope views of the singing Savi's Warbler within just a few minutes of arrival. This was our main target for the day because none of us had seen one well for years. A pity my photos are so poor! Into the bargain there were 2 Spoonbills, Whimbrel and the lingering drake Pintail on the scrape plus a Common Tern, singing Willow, Sedge and Cetti's Warblers and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler. A Bearded Tit also 'pinged' in the reeds but didn't show.

Savi's Warbler

Marsh Harrier

After a stop at Poppylands for refreshment we made our way to Happisburgh next and walked north from Cart Gap. Pretty soon we reached the large tilled field by the lighthouse and found 3, then 7 more = 10 Shorelarks. A few Ringed Plovers and Stock Doves were in the field too with c15 Sand Martins whizzing about near their cliff colony. On the walk back a nice male Wheatear, Common Whitethroat and 2 Whimbrel (going south) were added. On the drive back through Ingham/Stalham we stopped at a roadside nature reserve where we found c25 Early Purple Orchids and 4 (presumed garden escapee) Snakeshead Fritillaries.



Potter Heigham Marshes was next on out agenda, a site that is now accessible, even by car! And it is very impressive indeed with a huge potential for getting some rares in the future. Our visit started with a lovely summer-plumaged Great White Egret, c3 Little Egrets and then 4 Spoonbills dropped in and out of sight at the back (we later got some great views and photos!). Then 4 Garganey (3 drakes), and 5 Wigeon on the next pool followed by a circling Common Crane and 2 Common Buzzards over Heigham Holmes. The visit was completed with a late female Goldeneye, Common Sandpiper (1st for the year) and singing Reed Warbler.

Great White Egret


After a Turtle Dove dip and a quick look in at 'our' 4 Little Ringed Plovers we parted company at Jus's and I headed round the southern bypass to Longwater where the 16 Waxwings showed beautifully in cotoneasters and a eucalyptus tree to round off a rather splendid day.


Livermere Gull Dip, 17 April 2017

With news that the 1w American Herring Gull had put in brief appearances at c19.00 the previous 2 evenings Jus, Andy and I decided to give it a go on Easter Monday afternoon. Not surprisingly we didn't connect and there were also precious few gulls settling in the pig fields to go through.

All was not lost though as we did manage to see a pair of arable-nesting Stone Curlews, 2 Grey Partridges, a fly-over Yellow Wagtail (my first of the year), a male Wheatear, c15 Stock Doves, 3 Common Buzzards, 2 Roe Deer, c40 Linnets and also a handful of Tree Sparrows at a nearby site. It was also a nice social catch up with the boys and a few other hardy souls who had the same idea we did!  

Winterton & Waxham, 15 April 2017

Today was principally a walking day (especially as the weather forecast for Easter Sunday is crap!) with a long loop around Winterton and East Somerton returning via the North Dunes. The only things I could muster was calling but not seen Common Cranes, 2 Willow Warblers and in the dunes eventually 4 Wheatears (all males) and 2 Stonechats. Whilst sitting on the top of the dunes having lunch a single Whimbrel battled it's way north along the breakers.

Later in the afternoon a walk from Waxham south to the pipe dump and back via the beach got me my hoped-for 6 Ring Ouzels just inland of the pipes plus 4 Swallows, 2 Willow Warblers, 4 Stonechats and a Chiffchaff. c50 Grey Seals were also loafing on the beach. A lovely Red Kite also flew low over the coast road between West Somerton and Horsey.

Pretty hard work but at least a very small sprinkling of migrants.      

Broads Blitz, 14 April 2017

In between visiting parents and delivering Easter eggs I managed to get some birding in today. First stop was a spot I'd been tipped off about that holds 2 pairs of Little Ringed Plovers and lo and behold they showed really nicely along with a Green Sandpiper, 2 Oystercatchers and an Egyptian Goose family.

Little Ringed Plover male 

Little Ringed Plover female

After lunch I left my Mum and Dad's and headed for Rollesby Broad. Upon arrival my target - the drake Cinnamon x Blue-winged Teal hybrid was showing by the carpark together with 3 Mandarin (2 drakes, 1 female). Absolutely plastic fantastic but what a good looking bird!

Cinnamon x Blue-winged Teal hybrid


Following that I felt some 'proper' birding was in order so I opted for a walk out to Rush Hills scrape at Hickling. I found the drake Garganey nice and quickly but apart from that the scrape was quiet with 1 Pintail, 21 Avocet, 14 Ringed Plover and 3 Dunlin amongst the regular wildfowl. Along the Weavers Way path a single singing Reed Warbler, 3+ Sedge Warblers, 4 Willow Warblers, Cetti's Warbler and distant pinging Bearded Tits was about it.


The reported Glaucous Gull was next near Stalham but the bird I found was far from clearcut. RBA questioned the id from the first photo below which looks extremely Iceland Gull-like! Looking at other photos it does appear to be  Glauc but not the largest or biggest billed one you'll ever see. You never stop learning! I finished the day at Barton Broad where a nice Arctic Tern was showing from the viewpoint with 2 Common Terns plus Willow Warbler and Cetti's Warbler.

Glaucous Gull 


Bradfield Wood & Micklemere, Suffolk, 13 April 2017

A trip out in the Bury St Edmunds direction to the lovely ancient woodland reserve of Bradfield Wood. Oxlip has been on my wanted list for a while and this SWT reserve is a fantastic site for the species. They were pretty plentiful along the rides with even a couple of plants by the carpark! A few Water Avens were coming into flower and nice to see this locally scarce species. There wasn't much bird action so I continued botanising adding Wood Spurge, Common Dog Violets, loads of Bluebells, Wild Garlic and Wood Anenomes, Greater Stitchwort, Bugle, Dogs Mercury and Yellow Archangel as I gradually get to grips with the common species!

A quick call in at Micklemere after some shopping in Bury revealed a pair of Little Ringed Plovers, 1 Snipe, 1 Little Egret and just the usual, but quite varied, selection of wildfowl.


 Water Avens

  Wood Spurge   

Ashwellthorpe Wood and Weybread GPs, 11 & 12 April 2017

A brief after-work visit to Ashwellthorpe Wood on 11th revealed the first Early Purple Orchids of the year out. There were c30 in flower but with plenty to come. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and Nuthatch were all active and 3 Common Buzzards also seen. The wood was alive with Dark-bordered Bee-flies, I saw well over 100! Just outside the village a nice early Common Whitethroat was singing in a roadside hedge.

Early Purple Orchid 

Today (12th) saw me spend an hour or two at Weybread GPs where I concentrated on Ocean Pit. Hirundines weren't obvious when I arrived but by the time I'd left I'd seen c8 Sand Martins, c30 Swallows and 2 House Martins as numbers built My earliest Common Tern for some years was sat on one of the buoys for the whole time I was there and 2 Kingfishers were at opposite ends of the pit. A pair of Little Egrets were along the Waveney, the first time I've seen more than a singleton and a Common Buzzard was over to the south. 10 Barnacle Geese (all paired) were amongst the Greylags and Canadas and I counted 7 Oystercatchers.

Common Tern

 Barnacle Geese

Santon Downham, 9 April 2017

Despite not venturing out until after lunch we had a fairly productive walk around Santon Downham this afternoon. The temperatures of up to 24 degrees were very unseasonal and with them came hordes of people so we headed to some quieter parts.
There was no Lesser Spotted Woodpecker action but a fly-over Goshawk there was excellent as were 2 Hawfinches a little further on. There were several singing Siskins, a single Nuthatch and Willow Warbler.

Back near the bridge a singing Firecrest gave some superb views and then along the river between there and St Helen's Well were 2 Bramblings hanging on from the winter in riverside sallows. 

A sunny day out in mid-Suffolk, 8 April 2017

I started today checking my moth trap which I'd out out for the first time this year. There were 6 species in the trap and because I don't usually trap this early 4 of them were new for the garden list. Early Grey, Muslin Moth, March Moth, Common Quaker, Hebrew Character and Herald was the whole list on a cold clear night.


Early Grey

Muslin Moth

We then ventured out into deepest Suffolk stopping at the SWT site of Mickfield Meadow near Debenham where there was a superb display of Snakeshead Fritillaries which are now restricted to just 4 sites in the county.

Snakeshead Fritillaries

Then we decided to twitch the White Stork which has been at Sackers Green just SE of Sudbury for a few days. Luckily I saw it in flight twice (the 2nd time right over the car) within the first 10 minutes because it then went missing and I left and hour and a quarter later without seeing it again. It's unringed and apparantly wary but is in serious wing moult making it look a real mess in flight! Also there were 2 Common Buzzards. We then spent the rest of the day at Hintlesham exploring some of Belinda's childhood haunts with nothing much to report apart from a 'False Oxlip' (Primrose x Cowslip hybrid) beside the track near Ramsey Wood. Other than that it was the same birds and butterflies that have been around a while now.

   White Stork

'False Oxlip'

Breckland specialities, 6 April 2017

After a work call in Hepworth this morning I drove through the lanes to Thetford to a roadside nature reserve where James Emerson had given me some superb directions. I found the single Breckland Speedwell plant but sadly it's lost its flower in the last couple of days! All is not lost though cos it looks like it had more flowers to come. On the same verge I got Early Forget-me-not, Little Mouse-ear, Common Mouse-ear, Common Cornsalad and Ivy-leaved Speedwell.

Next I headed south to a site I'd been given for Tree Sparrow and what a good site it was - I saw c20 with very little effort.

A roadside stop near West Stow CP was next and I'd located wild Grape Hyacinch before I'd even got out of my van. Just around the corner and I'd also scored with Oregon Grape, a weird shrub with holly-like leaves.

Further look for speedwells near Tuddenham proved fruitless so I ended the afternoon at Cavenham Heath where 3 Stone Curlews showed very nicely as did a pair of Stonechats, 2 Common Buzzards and then down by the River Lark a Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail.     

During the day Brimstone, Green-veined White, Small White, Orange-tip, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell made up the butterflies.

Stone Curlew 
Green-veined White

Early Forget-me-not

Breckland Speedwell

Small Mouse-ear


wild Grape Hyacinth

Oregon Grape

Common Cornsalad

Common Mouse-ear

Ivy-leaved Speedwell