Weybread GPs, 28 August 2018

A quick walk alongside Ocean Pit at Weybread this afternoon after I'd done my pre-holiday chores.

Initially it was extremely quiet with just 2 Egyptian Geese, 3 Barnacle Geese and c25 Great Crested Grebes. When I'd nearly got to the far end of the pit however things livened up considerably with a couple of patch ticks - a Spotted Flycatcher which showed very nicely with a couple of Garden Warblers in close proximity. A Reed Warbler was sub-singing in waterside Rosebay Willowherb and a Kingfisher was along the Waveney. 3 Willow Warblers were also rather vocal and 3 Lapwings were strangely flycatching over the open water of the pit.
Odonata were also intersting with a very late c10 Red-eyed Damselflies, c6 Common Blue Damselflies, Brown Hawker and Migrant Hawker.

    Red-eyed Damselfly

Burgh Castle, 27 August 2018

An afternoon out with Jus and Andy at Crown Meadow to see Lowestoft beat King's Lynn 1-0 followed by some local birding.

While at the match a single Swift and a Sparrowhawk flew over then 5 Swifts were over Gapton as we headed for Burgh Castle.

At Burgh Castle we quickly located the Cattle Egret of the last few days feeding amongst distant cattle of Breydon South Wall. It was a well marked individual with lots of orangey-buff on the crown, breast and back. A 2 Barn Owls were hunting too, one nice and close.

Moving a bit further to the south beside the roman walls we waited for roost time where we had a total of c60 Yellow Wagtails and 37 Pied Wagtails going to roost in the reeds. About 40 flavas roosted on our side with a further 20 on the Langley side. An impressive roost gathering of c500 Swallows and c70 Sand Martins was also quite a sight. 1-2 Barn Owls, c4 Marsh Harriers, Bearded Tit, a Common Sandpiper and c70 Curlew flying to roost were the best of the rest on a very pleasant still evening.  

Re-id = Armchair World Tick!

A brief visit to Dickleburgh Moor this morning yielded absolutely nothing of note apart from a good number of House Martins feeding low over the pools so now the rain has set in I've been tidying and re-organising files on my hard drive.
Looking at these photos from 2013 in Thailand I realised this bird from the gardens of Chiang Dao Nest is actually a Green Warbler and not the Greenish I had it labelled as. A 'new' World bird for me.
So even a wet Bank Holiday Sunday has it's plus points!

  Green Warbler, Thailand 2013

A random but very successful day in Norfolk, 25 August 2018

Belinda is away this weekend so I'm making the most of it!

After a lazy start my day took me to Buckenham Marshes this morning. This wasn't what I'd planned but a phone call from Jus when I was still in bed made me change my mind! The reason being 3 Whinchats which have lingered along the entrance track for a little while now and he confirmed they were still around this morning and he knew I needed it for my yearlist. They took a little while to find and were generally rather mobile and elusive but having seen them once I then tracked them down again later for some much better views. Also along the track were a Common Whitethroat, 2 Reed Buntings and then 11 Red Kites all in the air together looking back towards the station. The fishermans carpark pool held 6 Snipe, 4 Dunlin and 7 Ruff but little else. Then I picked up a Peregrine hunting over the marsh towards the old mill and to finish things off a Hobby was over the track as I left the site. Migrant Hawker, Brown Hawker and Common Darter were also along the track.


I had business in North Norfolk so I trundled up to Cromer next where after a little wait I found the  Polish-ringed juv Caspian Gull just to the east of the pier plus another 2w Caspian Gull showing some distinctive arrow-shaped dark scapular centres.  I bumped into local Andy Hale there for a chat before I left to grab a coffee on the way back to the car.

Caspian Gull

The resaon for heading north was that I wanted to pop into Cley Spy at Glandford in my search for a lightweight tripod suitable for travelling (because mine is sooo heavy!) and I lucked upon a second hand Manfrotto carbon fibre one there which fitted the bill nicely - job done!

On the way home along the Holt Road I popped in to Buxton Heath where despite only vaguely remembering where they are I found a Marsh Gentian in pristine condition.

Yearlist = 237

    Marsh Gentian

More Rare Yank Waders, Frampton Marsh, Lincs, 24 August 2018

Another Brothers trip out with Jus as we'd both got a Friday off.

A Hobby dashed across the A17 on the way

Our main quarry for the day was the moulting adult Stilt Sandpiper at Frampton Marsh and luckily it was in the bag within minutes of arrival from the visitor centre. Moving outside for better views (i.e. not through the glass window!) we soon learned of the finding of another yank wader on a nearby farm reservoir. After a walk of about half a mile we were very soon watching the lovely moulting adult Long-billed Dowitcher. Moving a bit closer along the edge of the water along a footpath we got some excellent views to confirm it was an adult and not a juv as had been reported. Within 15 minutes however it got up with a single Green Sandpiper and flew very high and strongly SE towards The Wash never to be seen again. A real jam-in! A neck-ringed Pink-footed Goose was also there plus 33 Little Grebes and a hybrid Canada x Greylag Goose.

Spending another hour and a half on the reserve we walked to North Scape where the Stilt Sandpiper had moved and was showing exceptionally well. Several Yellow Wagtails and 3 Little Ringed Plovers were also there while around the main scrape were also 1 Common Sandpiper, plenty of Ruff, Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings, several Dunlin, c4 Snipe, 2 Wigeon and loads of Sand Martins.   

Dragging ourselves away via a quick coffee in the visitor centre we decided to stop at Tydd Gote near Sutton Bridge on the way home where c40 Autumn Ladies Tresses were in flower and showing well. My 39th and final orchid sp of 2018

Yearlist = 236

Stilt Sandpiper

Little Ringed Plover

Autumn Ladies Tresses

My first UK Semipalmated Sandpiper since 1989!

Having been busy all weekend I was hoping the Minsmere juv Semipalmated Sandpiper would hang and and luckily it did! I bunked off work early and was in South Hide in record time to find the bird within a couple of minutes. Despite flying a couple of times it was pretty much on view the whole time I was there. As 29 years have passed since I saw one at Cley in 1989 it was very welcome (although in that time I have seen plenty on my travels!). Having a scan about also revealed a nice Black Tern tucked in amongst 29 Little Gulls, 2 Spotted Redshanks, 2 Common Sandpipers plus several Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Avocets and Ringed Plovers.

Yearlist = 234

    Semipalmated Sandpiper

The Birdfair and Rutland Birding, 19 August 2018

Jus and I made our almost annual visit to the Birdfair at Rutland Water yesterday.

Birding started before we got there with a surprise Kingfisher over the A47 between Peterborough and the A1 junction and a Stoat near Swaffham .

As ever it was nice to catch up with a few a few people - Ashley Banwell, Ben Moyes, Jon Dunn, Steff Leese, Alex Jones and lunch with Steve and Dot amongst others. We also attended 3 lectures - The Atlas of Larger Moths, Self-drive Namibia/Botswana and The Rare Mammals of Borneo which were all very good. The Birdfair wouldn't be complete without a book purchase or two and I got a couple of Helm fieldguides even cheaper than I could have on Amazon - The Birds of Japan and The Birds of East Asia.

By 16.00 we were done with the fair so took to some birding. It never ceases to amaze me how few people who attend the fair actually do any birding while they are there. I wonder how much birding many of them ever do in their new Country Innovations jackets?!

A long walk to Goldeneye Hide and we soon had the Red-necked Phalarope in the bag and on the walk there and back also added Great White Egret, showy Brown Hare and Song Thrush, several Willow Warblers and a stop in Snipe Hide where we had 6 Ospreys and a Marsh Harrier in the air together. We also saw a single Swift and Yellow Wagtail.

On the way out we called in to the Barnsdale area to scope the North Arm where the adult winter Great Northern Diver was found in lightening quick time.

Yearlist = 232


Brown Hare

Great White Egret

          Song Thrush

Shimpling and Dickleburgh Moor, 17 August 2018

Belinda and I had a ramble around the Shimpling area this morning with the man aim for her to try out her new Canon 70-300mm lens before we head off on our travels.
And very pleasant it was with 6 Common Buzzards, a few Blackcaps 'tacking' in the hedgerows and good numbers of butterflies - Brown Argus, Green-veined White, Large White, Small White, Comma, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and an absolutely tiny Common Blue which allowed me to pick it up. Apparantly the diminutive size of many of this 2nd generation is due to the high temperatures over the summer.

This afternoon I popped over to Dickleburgh Moor and gave a it a good check. My rewards were 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Snipe, 96 Lapwings, Turtle Dove, Stock Dove, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard.

All the photos below were taken with Belinda's new lens.

Brown Argus


Common Blue

   Large White

All fieldguides are not the same!

With the age old problem of luggage weight on long haul flights I've been doing some research into field guide options for my trip to South Africa. I had intended taking the excellent but rather weighty Birds of Africa South of the Sahara (Sinclair & Ryan) but a friend has just lent me the Sasol Birds of Southern Africa, 3rd Edition (Sinclair, Hockley & Tarboton) which is more compact and looks very good. Looking online however, specifically at NHBS, the 4th edition is drastically different in terms of plates and doesn't look very good at all.
Into the bargain I have also downloaded the Roberts Multimedia Guide of Birding in Southern Africa app onto my iPhone which is truly excellent (but not cheap).

Not being familiar with many of the species I set about comparing the various guides and deliberately chose an LBJ - Karoo Lark. And the results of my comparison vary vastly. Here are the plates for Karoo Lark shown after the book/app cover in which they appear:

All this has me thinking that the Roberts app is the way to go because it seems the most accurate, has photos as well as plates and also has the added advantages of having song/call recordings and obviously being very light! The 4th edition of the Sasol guide shows a very poor plate of an orange bird which I'd have real problems using for id! I've found a copy of the 3rd edition on Ebay for only £3.79 so will undoubtedly take that with me too. Being old skool I don't like to rely solely on modern technology.

You live and learn!       

A walk near Blythburgh, 11 August 2018

Today, amongst other things we had a walk through the woods on the south side of the Blyth Estuary just east of the village. There really wasn't a huge amount to write home about but along one ride we did have a few butterflies, the pick of the bunch was a single Grayling which initially kept trying to land on Belinda's back but eventually settled on the track for a quick iphone photo. That's probably going to be my last new butterfly species of 2018. Small Copper, Small Heath, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Red Admiral and Small White were also seen as well as Common Darters, Migrant Hawkers and a single Southern Hawker - typical late summer fayre.


South Africa countdown...

Three weeks today we'll be flying to Cape Town for our month-long adventure. And it can't come soon enough! I've been getting a little jaded with UK birding recently, probably something to do with nothing being about. The orchid season is almost over and August has just the few remaining butterfly and dragonfly species still on the wing.  Most of my objectives for the year are done and dusted. Having made some good inroads this year 2019 will hopefully be the year I complete my UK butterfly and orchid lists. That's the aim at least. 

Our SA trip has been long in the planning and despite a couple of 11th hour hitches with accommodations we're now all set to go. I have to say however that the admin at SAN Parks (the South African National Parks authority) is absolutely dreadful. Despite ordering it and paying £200+ in early June we still haven't received our 'Wildcard' which gets us free entry to all the national parks. Several emails have just been met with a variety of excuses! We have booked quite a bit of accommodation with SAN Parks (mainly in Kruger) but despite this it seem impossible to book game drives etc online as it says 'you have to stay at this camp to book this activity', which we are! Grrrr!

Our 'optimised' route around Kruger has been now been sorted which hopefully takes us along the best roads for wildlife. We have 9 days in the park to meander from rest camp to rest camp - Pretoriouskop, Berg-en-Dal, Skukuza, Lower Sabie, Satara and Olifants.

Birdwise, as ever on my foreign trips I don't lose any sleep over specific targets but if I had to name one species I'm quite keen on seeing it's Cape Rockjumper. And there's the small matter of my first ever penguins and albatrosses!

So, bring it on!


Quick local round-up, early August

A few bits and pieces seen in or from the garden in Pulham Market over the last few days.
With the sweltering temperatures I've not been tempted to venture out too far but at home I had a couple of garden firsts - a Purple Hairstreak around our oak just across from our patio and a Little Egret that flew east at 08.30 on the morning of 2nd August. Butterfly numbers seem to be dwindling but a nice settled Holly Blue on the shingle of the driveway stayed still for my camera. The big numbers of Swifts we were seeing a week ago have now moved on with just the odd singleton now being seen. Conversely House Martin numbers are well up, presumably because their numbers have been augmented with fledged juvs. Both Southern Hawker and Migrant Hawker have been around intermitently too.

  Holly Blue