A day out in the Brecks, 28 May 2017

I had a day to please myself today so headed west to the Brecks. My main objective was to see the Wood Warbler on territory on the edge of Brandon and it proved very easy indeed. I heard it singing from miles away so homed in on where it was and it showed very nicely doing circuits of a small area singing like mental!
I then had a long walk in Brandon Country Park where at least 4 Tree Pipits were singing plus a Firecrest. At the pond there was no sign of any Mandarins but a couple of 'feral' Yellow-eared Terrapins were basking and on the walk back I had Woodlark plus a couple of nice day-flying moths - Speckled Yellow and Mother Shipton.

Wood Warbler

Tree Pipit

Yellow-eared Terrapin

Pied Wagtail

Mother Shipton

Speckled Yellow

Before lunch I had time to pop into the Rex Graham Reserve for their Military Orchid open day. I counted c240 plants the vast majority of which were in tip-top nick. Also there were plenty of Common Twayblades, a rare occurence of a Southern Marsh Orchid growing on chalk and several Speckled Woods.

Military Orchids

Common Twayblade

 Southern Marsh Orchid - a rare example growing on chalk

A brief look at the roadside at Foxhole Heath failed to reveal any Spanish Catchfly but a Clouded Buff moth was a new one for me and several Cinnabars and Common Blues were out.    

Garden Spotted Flycatcher, 26 May 2017

Our run of Spotted Flycatchers in the garden continues, this being the 6th year on the bounce we've recorded them here in Pulham Market. Sometimes they stay, sometimes they don't so time will tell. This individual was doing circuits of our graden near the house and our next door neighbours calling a great deal and obviously setting up a territory. Also in the garden this afternoon we had Chiffchaff, 2 Song Thrushes, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Orange Tip and a huge Hornet.

Turtle Dove at Weybread GPs, 24 May 2017

I checked part of my patch at Weybread this afternoon, mainly for odonata but had a bit of a surprise. A singing male Turtle Dove in the large willow that overlooks Lily Pad Pit! It sat singing for some while allowing me to get some photographs before flying backwards and forwards a couple of times. The local Swallows were going mad and a glance upwards revealed the caue of their consternation - a large female Sparrowhawk. Also around Lily Pad Pit were 7 species of odonata - Red-eyed Damselfly, Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Banded Demoiselle, Four-spotted Chaser and then a Hairy Dragonfly which was my first at the site. Back at my van a young Treecreeper showed very nicely for a protracted period and 2 Common Terns flew noisily over.

A walk down to the mill gave me a pair of Grey Wagtails, 2 more Hairy Dragonflies, Red-eyed Damselflies, a handful of Banded Demoiselles and a couple of Green Nettle Weevils.

Earlier I'd visited an ancient meadow site where I was delighted to find a wide variety of Green-winged Orchids including the specimen below which appears to be 2 colour morphs in 1 and several of the variation 'alba'. Also there were some nice Adder's Tongue my first Silver-Y of the year, Common Blue, Large White and Small Copper.


Norfolk rares, 21 May 2017

My weekend began on Saturday with a long walk in the Gorleston/Hopton area but with little to report. Despite looking I failed to locate the odd/eastern Starling that Jeremy Gaskell had found a couple of days previously. The only things of any note were plenty of Common Whitethroats and Sand Martins along the undercliff and 2 singing Lesser Whitethroats along Warren Lane. It was however pleasing to note just how common House Sparrows are in Gorleston, simply everywhere!

House Sparrow

So, fast forward to Sunday and a day out with Jus and Andy. We began at a 'secret' location and despite fearing we'd have to wait ages we were watching a male Montagu's Harrier within minutes. Initially on the deck but then some great flight views as it showed off its radio transmitter aerial before disappearing miles into the distance. Also there we had a Barn Owl, Common Buzzard and a curious record of an adult Mediterraneam Gull that flew through!

Choseley Drying Barns was next and with some effort we eventually located 3 Dotterel in the stony field west of the barns. We got sufficiently good views to id them as a female and 2 males.  As there wasn't much else of note there we retired to the cafe at Titchwell for a cuppa before heading east to Cley where the boys were keen to see the Iberian Chiffchaff, especially Jus as he'd dipped it when I saw it in the week. It proved a real pain but eventually some adequate views were obtained and it also responded half-heartedly to a tape. Other than common warblers and a Little Grebe on Snipes Marsh that was about it. Simmonds Scrape and Pats Pool at Cley were a waste of time with no migrant waders apart from 4 Dunlin plus a late drake Wigeon and Stock Dove - yawn!

We saved the rarest thing for last with some good directions leading us to a lovely flowering clump of the uber-rare May Lily at what is thought to be it's only wild UK site. We finished with a roadside Red Kite

May Lily

Red-footed Falcon, North Warren, 18 May 2017

A bonus afternoon out as I'd finished a small decorating job by lunchtime!

Having missed a Red-foot last summer and not seen one for a while (particularly a female) it was a no-brainer today as I headed off to North Warren for the 2nd time in a few days.

The Red-footed Falcon was picked up nice and quickly from the viewing platform on the west side of the fen and showed very nicely in the company of c8 Hobbys but frustratingly wouldn't come as close as some of the Hobbys did! A Marsh Harrier was up and a Sparrowhawk joined the party over the reeds. A Kingfisher flashed past and a Water Rail squealed away. After having my fill I went for a wander and was pleased to note there has been a notable butterfly emergence in the last few days - I saw my first Brown Argus, Common Blues and Small Heaths of the year plus Small Copper and Peacock. Odonata have similarly emerged with loads of Azure Damselflies and a single Four-spotted Chaser. Birdwise a Garden Warbler showed well, a Cuckoo was calling like mad and then a lovely Nightingale started up and with some patience I got a brief view - always a magic moment.

Red-footed Falcon


Brown Argus

Common Blue

Small Heath

Small Copper

Common Whitethroat 

A lucky day - Caspian Tern and Iberian Chiffchaff, 17 May 2017

Today was one of those days when a combination of a day off, just going for it and luck all combined to good effect!
I was photographing a newly doable abandoned buidling in Norwich when news from Hickling came through. I'd not seen a Caspian Tern in the UK for a few years so decided to go for it. Upon arrival I was greeted with news that it was still there and so it was! Watching it for about 20 mins I rattled off a few distant record shots while a Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Cetti's Warblers, Reed Warblers, Sedge Warblers and Willow Warblers all sang. Also on Rush Hills scrape I picked out a single Common Sandpiper.

Caspian Tern

As fortune favours the brave I opted for a cross country drive over to Cley for the afternoon. I got as far as Cromer before the heavens opened but ploughed on regardless. Amazingly, I arrived at Walsey Hills to find only 1 car parked and 1 birder on site. These north Norfolk birders are fair-weather birders! I walked around the corner into the field at the back of Snipes Marsh and within a couple of minutes had a phyllosc moving through the sallows that looked promising. It showed nicely (making me regret leaving my camera in my van), worked it's way up to the top of a sallow and gave a brief burst of song. Bingo - Iberian Chiffchaff! It then flew along the rear edge of the marsh and was lost. In the next hour I didn't see or hear it again. I counted myself extremely fortunate to have scored so quickly and well with such an elusive bird. Bullfinch, Cetti's Warbler, Common Chiffchaff (annoyingly singing all the time!) plus 4 Little Egrets flying into their heronry in the wood was about it.          

North Warren/Thorpeness area, 14 May 2017

Essentially a long 8 mile Sunday walk with my bins but a few things of note were seen en-route. Birdwise the highlights were 8 Hobby over the fen at North Warren, 9 species of common warblers, the 4 species pairs - Willow/Chiffchaff, Blackcap/Garden Warbler, Reed/Sedge Warbler and Common/Lesser Whitethroat with Cetti's Warbler thrown in for good measure. Interestingly a single Cetti's Warbler was singing in completely dry heathland habitat near the old campsite north of Thorpeness.  2 Cuckoos were seen - at North Warren and Aldingham Walks.

It was nice to see my first Green Hairstreak and Small Copper of the year at North Warren with Brimstone, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip, Green-veined White, Small White and Large White also seen.

A couple of Hairy Dragonflies and a female Broad-bodied Chaser were also at North Warren fen and both Sea Kale and Tree Lupin were on the beach just north of Thorpeness, the former in profusion.

Sea Kale

Tree Lupin

Hockwold Washes and an early morning surprise! 13 May 2017

With a bit of a dearth of bird action we plumped for a trip out west to Hockwold Washes (Lakenheath) today. The idea being to move on from there if anything good turned up. It didn't!

On route to Norwich via the back lanes I had a Little Owl near Morningthorpe plus Bullfinch and at least 10 Common Whitethroats.

Little Owl 

Meeting at Jus's he had a rare Pinion-spotted Pug in a pot that he'd trapped the night before (very few Norfolk records). That was trumped by a real 'morning glory' of the moth variety as we drove round to James Lowen's house to feast our eyes on a mega Emperor Moth, one I've wanted to see for a long long time! Iron Prominent, Least Black Arches and Swallow Prominent were also on view. After a chat and a cuppa we bid James farewell and hit the road.

male Emperor Moth

 Pinion-spotted Pug

We reached Hockwold Washes after a brief failure to find White Stork at Elvedon. A quick look from the bank directly opposite the centre and we'd scored with the 2 Black-winged Stilts and Glossy Ibis within a minute! The heavens opened so we beat a retreat to the centre for a coffee while we waited for it to stop. When it did we walked the length of the reserve to the Joist Fen watchpoint. En-route there and back we had a couple of Garden Warblers, c3 Cuckoos, Yellow Wagtail, 3 different flight views of Bitterns (we had 4 birds including boomers), superb views of a perched Hobby, food-passing Marsh Harriers, and Stock Dove amongst the commoner warblers. At the watchpoint c15 Hobbys were swooping over the fen with a large number of Swifts. Into the bargain we had the first odonata of the year in the form of 2 Hairy Dragonflies, a teneral Large Red Damselfly and an unidentified blue damsel. 

Garden Warbler


Orange Tip

Reed Bunting

After another quick look at the Glossy Ibis and Black-winged Stilts we decided to have  look on Foulden Common as the weather was starting to improve. With a bit of patience and work I found 1 Grizzled Skipper and c4 Dingy Skippers plus Holly Blue while 2-3 Garden Warblers were in full cry.

Grizzled Skipper

      Dingy Skipper