Minsmere, 29 March 2018

Spring still keeps us waiting! There was a distinct winter flavour to things at Minsmere today despite the sun and reasonably warm temperatures.
My main target for the day was Jack Snipe which has been seen from North Hide fairly regularly recently. It took me 2 attempts during the morning and earky afternoon but I eventually scored with some nice views of a bobbing and feeding bird which remained hidden/obscured most of the time. Also there were 5 Common Snipe, the 2 Smew (both redheads) are still lingering on and a Bittern boomed.
In between times a walk along the north wall and a visit to East Hide gave me Chinese Water Deer, c25 Mediterranean Gulls, a single Dunlin and 2 lovely close-up Black-tailed Godwits that simply had to be photographed!

5 Common Buzzards were up at Ellingham on the way home.

Yearlist = 166

Black-tailed Godwits


         Mediterranean Gulls

Spring migrants on a very un-springlike day! 28 March 2018

I was out and about doing chores and deliveries today so had the chance to pop into a couple of sites along the way.  Luckily both were doable from beside my van because it's been a filthy wet and cold day!
At the same site as last year a pair of Little Ringed Plovers were surprisingly elusive initially but soon gave in to some nice views first thing this morning.
Then, later on, I headed out to Bintree near Guist from Mum and Dad's. Here, in the picturesque surroundings of Bintree Mill the drake Garganey was quickly found on a flood beside the swollen Wensum albeit quite distantly. Also there I counted 22 Shoveler, c25 Wigeon and 2 Gadwall before retreating back into the dry!

Yearlist = 164

        Little Ringed Plovers

A quick nip out to the patch, 26 March 2018

A quick after work nip to Weybread GPs was remarkable for absolutely nothing today!
My first Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshells of the year were in Harleston today but down at Weybread just 2 Little Egrets, a max count of 5 Oystercatchers, Sparrowhawk and 3 Barnacle Geese are worthy of mention. As I try to get to grips with some of the common flora I noted plenty of Coltsfoot and Lesser Celandine out along the fishermans path beside Ocean Pit. The floodwaters have receded with water levels now 4 feet lower than my last visit!

On 27th a quick wander around No.1 Pit revealed a female Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker

Yearlist still = 162


Lesser Spotted Woodpecker action and more, 25 March 2018

The first day of British Summertime and a whole day to myself to go birding!

With a complete dearth of migrants still I opted to head to the Brecks. Sadly the main reason for my visit, to get Parrot Crossbill on my yearlist wasn't to be but it was far from a wasted trip.

After giving the crossbills a go but scoring with a lovely high-up singing Woodlark, 2 Treecreepers, Sparrowhawk and Siskins I decided to yomp along the riverbank. It proved a very good call as within about 20 minutes of arriving at 'the spot' a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker flew over us from the other side of the river but didn't stop as it continued over towards the railway line. Luckily, abiut 10 minutes later it came back and this time stopped for about 2 minutes in the top of a spindly tree before flying over to the other side of the river once more. Also along the river were 3 Mandarins on a small flood, 2 Lesser Redpolls, Siskins, Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and a couple of groups of Redwings.  Back at the bridge a male Kingfisher showed really nicely (allowing me probably the best photos I've ever taken of the species) but the area around the church failed to turn up Firecrest, just a couple of Sparrowhawks and a Treecreeper. After bidding farewell to Marcus Nash and his group I moved on.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker



 Common Buzzard

Cavenham Heath was my 2nd site and I very quickly got onto 5 Stone Curlews for my yearlist and also went on to see 2-3 Common Buzzards, Marsh Harrier, 1 Little Egret, 2 Grey Wagtails, 6 Siskins, Chiffchaff, Water Rail and Common Lizard.

Grey Wagtail

 Common Lizard

An extended visit to Lackford Lakes finished my day. Here I eventually located a male Red-crested Pochard (the lengths you go to for a yeartick!) and also there had c6 Goldeneye displaying, 5 Lesser Redpolls visiting the visitor centre feeders, 2 Nuthatches, c5 Chiffchaffs, Song Thrush and 2 Cetti's Warblers amongst the common wildfowl.

Yearlist = 162

Red-crested Pochard

Lesser Redpolls


Another day, another yeartick. 24 March 2018

Today was hard work, to put it mildly. Belinda wanted a long coastal walk so we headed up to Winterton and set off up along north beach up to Bramble Hill and back through the dunes. There was not a single migrant to be had! All I could muster were 8 Sanderling, 6 Ringed Plovers, 2 Stonechats and a few curious Grey Seals coming to inspect us from the safety of the water.

So, on the way home I persuaded Belinda that a 'walk' in Waveney Forest would be nice, especially as she's never been. Needless to say we headed for the viewing mound to look out over Haddiscoe Island! David Richardson had been there a while and not seen very much at all but using his scope I managed to pick out a Short-eared Owl within a couple of minutes and watched it sparring with a Marsh Harrier. SEO had proved a bit of a nemesis bird for me this year so it was lovely to finally see one. Apart from a couple of Chinese Water Deer and then a Chiffchaff and a fly-over Redpoll sp on the walk back that was pretty much it for the day.

Yearlist = 160       

Cockley Cley and Wayland Wood, 23 March 2018

It's such a sad state of affairs but these days in Norfolk (and elsewhere no doubt) Willow Tit is an extremely hard to come by bird. In the past we used to see them regularly in the Brecks, the Upper Wensum Valley, Sculthorpe and also at Syderstone Common. I'd not seen one for at least 5 years but they have just about hung on in the Cockley Cley area. Ashley Banwell has been seeing them reasonably frequently and has done some sterling work in setting up 2 feeding stations along ride FR110 near the village. It was here I went this morning. It has to be said they are not easy here at all. There was no singing or calling going on today probably due to a brisk breeze blowing the treetops around and not much sun. In my 3 hour vigil from 09.00 to 12.00 I managed just a couple of brief views at one of the feeders where they visited the black sunflower seed but shot off again in an instant. As a bird alighted on the bird table I took just one shot of it which came out respectably. Despite the pine habitat I was surprised to see several Marsh Tits and there was a regular flow of Nuthatches, Coal Tits, Blue Tits and Great Tits plus a couple of loitering Siskins. A displaying Common Buzzard was overhead and on the walk back 2 Long-tailed Tits completed the set!

En-route to Cockley Cley I had a Little Owl near Great Cressingham.

If you go looking for these birds please bring a supply of black sunflower seeds to keep the feeding station well stocked.

 Willow Tit

Marsh Tit


 Coal Tit

With some time to spare I had ample opportunity to visit Wayland Wood for the first time in many years. Here my target was Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem my first botanising of the year. With precise directions from 2 contacts I was able to find them with ease. There were c20 flowering plants in one area, whereas 3 days ago there was apparantly only a singleton.

Yearlist = 159

              Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem

A very early Willow Warbler, Harleston, 19 March 2018

Until today I'd never seen a Willow Warbler in March, let alone on the 19th! One showed very nicely in a sunny corner of the church carpark in Harleston today while I was having lunch in my van.
After a weekend of bitterly cold and windy weather with snow showers it was still very cold today with NE winds so I guess it must have arrived a few days ago.
With literally no other birding to report here are a couple of panoramic photos showing how much water there is on the patch at Weybread GPs at the moment. The fishermen's path beside Ocean Pit is completely impassable.

As a footnote - a Blackcap was chorling away in our orchard in Pulham Market on 21st with 2 Redwings being the first ones on the deck in the garden. Also 3 Goldcrests, c12 Blackbirds and c6 Greenfinches plus 2 Buff-tailed Bumblebees

On the morning of 22nd, 117 Fieldfares and a single Redwing flew north over Tivetshall St Mary in one loose flock.

Yearlist = 158

Snowy Owl and Glossy Ibis, 11 March 2018

I awoke this morning and it's fair to say I wasn't in the happiest of moods (just ask Belinda!). The news that the Snowy Owl had flown inland and been lost to view at 18.15 yesterday semed to have spelt the end of my hopes to see it. I sought consolation in the fact that I saw one in Norfolk at Warham in 1991!

With  nothing much else on my agenda I decided to head down to Hopton near Garboldisham, an area I know well, for the Glossy Ibis of the last few days. Parking up a local angrily told me to move my car so my wheels weren't on the path. Despite my declaration I was only going to be a few minutes he insisted 'because someone in a wheelchair might come past'. I really wasn't in the mood for his shit so did some insisting of my own in the form of a 'f*** off' and went on to enjoy some nice views of the bird from about 30 meters from my car!

Back at my appallingly (not!) parked car I poured a coffee which promptly got thrown out of the window as I'd got messages from Jus and Craig Shaw that the Snowy Owl had been relocated at Snettisham! So, I admit, I drove like a nutter up to NW Norfolk via Thetford, Mundham etc

Arriving at the RSPB carpark I began the long walk to the far southern end of the pits where the 1w female Snowy Owl was showing nicely on arrival - yay! At only c80-90 yards distant it was sat in the long grass on a hummock behind Shore Hide. Apparantly it was sat on prey although I didn't see it. After having my fill I made the long sweaty walk back noting Grey Plover, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Curlew on the near edge of the Wash.

A 20 minute look at Wolferton Triangle revealed no Golden Pheasant, just a Common Buzzard low through the trees.

There were several Rookeries along the A47 on the way home including a particularly large one at Little Fransham

Yearlist = 156

Snowy Owl

           Glossy Ibis

Covehithe & North Warren, 10 March 2018

I'd planned a day out with Belinda today so it was no dashing up to the North Norfolk Coast for me. That will have to wait until tomorrow ;-)

Instead we went for a walk at Covehithe where the cliff and tree damage from winter ravages was much in evidence. Birdwise there were 6 Avocets on Benacre Broad plus a calling Kingfisher and a Marsh Harrier but nothing else of interest. On the walk back however a 1w Glaucous Gull flew south along the clifftop giving really close views as I looked over my shoulder at just the time if flew past me.  An albino Common Pheasant was near Frostenden as we cut though the lanes.

Later in the afternoon while visiting Aldeburgh I popped in to a soggy North Warren where 3 Spoonbills dropped in quite close to the hide after about 5 minutes and began feeding. One was tagged on both legs (yellow and green rings). c6 Little Egrets and c80 Barnacle Geese were also about in the very brief look I had.

A Barn Owl was perched on a post by the road in the usual spot at Starston on the way home.

Yearlist = 155  

A confiding Red-breasted Merganser, 4 March 2018

A very quick look on Oulton Broad this lunchtime and the drake Red-breasted Merganser was showing very closely by the boats on the front edge. I'd have got some great shots if only I had my lens so had to settle for using Belinda's 55mm one to get the shot below! There was no sign of anything else much there and walks along the coastline at Corton Cliffs and Gunton revealed no Little Gulls, just a 2w Mediterranean Gull on the beach carpark at Gunton.

Still, it was nice to be out as the thaw begins...

Yearlist = 154

Red-breasted Merganser

Whitlingham CP, Coues's Arctic Redpoll etc, 3 March 2018

After the enforced 'stay at home' due to the so called 'Beast from the East' which gave us c15 inches of snow in Pulham it was nice to finally get out today.
I headed into Norwich where I had other things I needed to do noting c15 Fieldfares feeding on berries in the village on my way out. After my chores I slunk off to a very slippery Whitlingham Lane.
Walking along past a frozen Little Broad I bumped into Dave Russell and soon after a small group of c12 Lesser Redpolls and c6 Siskin. I picked out a nice Mealy Redpoll amongst them but they quickly spooked and it was some while before we got them settled again up near the start of Great Broad. When they did I quickly picked out the Coues's Arctic Redpoll and it went on to show nicely. A quick stroll around the adjacent path into the trees and I flushed a most welcome Woodcock (a species that seems to have been suffering badly from the cold snap) before I turned my attention to the water. Eventually, Dave picked up the redhead Smew and I had a quick squint through his scope as I'd come out with just my bins. On the walk back I saw the Coues's Arctic Redpoll again, this time lower down and even better. A lovely frosty individual with just a single dark feather shaft showing on the undertail coverts. I watched it for a while with Dave Holman and David Bryant before leaving.
While visiting Mum and Dad a little later Jus rang to say the drake Mandarin was a Thorpe Green. I had a look on my way out of the city but couldn't find it. I walked down Girlings Lane to the old Norwich Union boat clubhouse and my hunch paid off as the Mandarin swam out from the bank of the River Yare near the railway bridge with some Mallard. A single Little Grebe was also there.

Yearlist = 153

Mandarin (far right) with Mallards

        This Mute Swan wandered up to birders and just sat down. Obviously just needing some love in these frigid temperatures!