Monthly Archives: January 2016

Norfolk Day Four

Originally this was planned as a three day trip but as I was enjoying it so much and also had nothing planned at home I had arranged to sat on for a fourth day. the plan was  first to go back to Flitcham for another go at the Pallid then onto Downham Market for the Serin and to finish up at WWT Welney for Whooper Swan. I left the B&B well before eight on a cold bright sunny morning. Just before Holkham I saw a Barn Owl hunting. On the estate itself just beyond the wall was another and then over the next three next three miles I saw two more. Four in less than ten minutes. Back at Flitcham I joined the rank of birders to wait for the Pallid. After an hour I was getting cold so it was time to leave. A good move as apparently it wasn’t seen until mid afternoon. So on to Downham Market where I soon found the location for hopefully seeing the Serin. It was pretty obvious that many birders feet had passed this way. So another cold wait started. With very few birds around entertainment was provided by the occasional train on the nearby line and several F15s, Tornados and typhoons passing overhead. After forty minutes or so I decided to go for a stroll. Ill-timed as it happens for I was a little way along the path when I saw a lone bird flying in. I got it in the bins and yes it was the Serin. Arriving back on the mound I was informed that it had given a good but brief perched view before diving into cover. It was another fifteen minutes or so before it reappeared but when it did it showed well. This one was a UK tick rather than a lifer but none the worse for that. Next stop was the nearby nbakers for a hot sausage roll and a chunk of bread puddding to sustain me on the short drive to Welney. This was only intended to be a short visit to tick off Whooper Swan and hopefully Ruff. The Swans were easy, big and white you can see them miles away in the Fens. The Ruff took a little longer but good views were had.

Then it was time to head home where I arrived at five o’clock. In all I managed ninety-five species. A little short of my expectations but the weather, especially the wind was the reason, certainly not a lack of effort or time in the field on my part. Of the ninety-five species seen, eighteen were year ticks, two were lifers and one was a UK tick. Also noted were many Hares and a couple each of Roe and Muntjac Deer. With no more birding planned for the month I shall be ending January with a list of a hundred and fifty-one! A figure I usually reach in April.

Norfolk Day Three

After another good cooked breakfast and with the forecast looking decidedly iffy, more strong winds and rain, a day at Titchwell seemed to be the best choice. A bit of seawatching to start and then plenty of hides to spend time in when the rain arrived. A look at the wet fields at Holkham on the way found loads of Teal, Wigeon and geese. arriving at Titchwell I headed straight for the beach as it was not long gone high tide. As I arrived Pete and co were just preparing to leave having arrived a lot earlier. I spent just over two hours here as there was a fair amount going on. Sanderling, Grey Plever and Barwits on the beach and Scoter, Cormorants and Merganser on the sea. I found a Slavonian Grebe quite close in and good views were had as it drifted past on the tide.

Later another small grebe was found.This time quite distant. General agreement was that it was a Black-necked. Despite careful checking of the Scoter flocks no-one managed to find a Velvet although one was picked up later in the day. With the rain approaching it was time to head for the hides where a good bit of time was spent looking for a Spotted Redshank amongst the regular type. No success with this search unfortunately. After the rain passed it was back outside where time was spent looking for Water Pipit. This time we (Pete and Co had returned) managed to find our quarry and had reasonable but distant views. Time was now getting on so I wandered of to the Fen viewpoint where I missed a Barn Owl by about thirty seconds. Consolation came in the form of a couple of Snipe and the great sight of many Marsh Harriers coming to roost. At one time there were at least nine in the air together. On the drive back to Wells light rain put paid to any chance of a Barn Owl sighting. After another fine meal at the Bowling Green it was off to bed where again I slept well. The benefits of good Norfolk air and lots of exercise.

Norfolk Day Two

Day two started with a nice cooked breakfast which was eaten while overlooking the harbour. Wonderful.        Brekky

Today I was heading further east, initially to Weybourne and Sheringham. At Weybourne i was looking for the waterworks in Beach Road which was easily found.  A flock of Redpolls whivh included a couple of Mealys had been in the area recently. On arrival Pete and co were already looking but with no luck. After further hunting we wandered down to the beach where on the adjoining fields we found a large flock of Pink-footed Geese. The sea was watched for a while with only Great Black-backed Gulls and a Seal being seen. I then went to Sheringham. Turnstones were soon found but I had no joy with Purple Sandpiper. The tide was on its way out so they appear to have moved on from from the rocks by the Funky Mackerel Cafe. Moving along the front my next bird was, I hoped going to be a Black Redstart. This bird had been frequenting the area around the Burlington Hotel. A few minutes of prowling around the area came up trumps with so good close up views of my second Black Red of the year.

Next was Cley. I arrived at the same time as the rain so having got my permit I hurried along to Daukes Hide where I ate my lunch while watching good numbers of Ducks and a few waders. Mainly Wigeon and Teal along with Lapwings, Redshank and Avocets. A couple of Marsh Harriers were showing their mastery of the air appearing to be enjoying the strong south-westerly winds.

When the rain stopped I set off for a walk along the East Bank to the beach. This was easy walking with the wind behind me. The downside was that it was that it was hard enough trying to stand still yet alone watch birds. Reaching the shingle bank at the back of the beach i was glad of a liitle shelter from the wind and set out to find the flock of Snow Buntings. Success again and I sat myself down to watch them feeding. Amazingly hard to pick out against the pebbles and shingle I managed a count of twenty-two along with a few Goldfinches.

After battling the wind back to the car I then moved onto Warham Greens to look for Hen Harrier. Again I managed to find a sheltered spot and started to scan. Loads of birds here, Curlew, Redshank, Little Egrets and Shelduck. I soon found a couple of Harriers, both Marsh but a few minutes later got the first of five Hen Harriers, Four ringtails and a fine grey male. I watched them for a while in the fading light just enjoying the solitude of this wonderful place. On the walk back to the car I found a flock of around three hundred Brent Geese, a covey of five Grey Partridge and a single Bullfinch. Back to Wells and after a shower it was off to the Bowling Green Inn for a very nice meal.

Norfolk Day One

The alarm going of at a quarter to four heralded the start of my trip to Norfolk. A time that I haven’t seen for a few weeks. Early starts are an easy habit to get out of. I left the house at a quarter-past aiming to be at my first stop for half-past seven. I had four target birds for the trip and had planned accordingly.  First bird was to be the Serin at Downham Market but as it wasn’t reported on Saturday afternoon or Sunday instead headed for Wolferton for Golden Pheasant. Having made good time and after a splash and go fuel stop at Tescos Kings Lynn I arrived at The Triangle at twenty past seven. Initially I parked on the southern side to wait for the light to improve. Then I decided to drive down to the village and back as it was a place I hadn’t visited before. Other than some unseen singing Song Thrushes en-route Blackbird was the first bird on the trip-list. This was closely followed by a Sparrowhawk that flashed across the road in front of me. Returning to the Triangle I parked and settled down to wait for a Golden Pheasant to appear on one of the verges. I had set half-eight as the time to leave but as this approached I decided to give it to a quarter to. A good decision as about ten minutes later a male of the aforementioned species was seen in the rear-view mirror a hundred or so yards back along the road. Alerting some other birders who were parked further along the road I had a good look at the bird as it fed on the verge. It stayed until a passing car sent it back into the undergrowth.

Then it was onto my next site which was Flitcham. This for the longish staying but elusive Pallid Harrier. On my arrival I found that, annoyingly I had missed it by twenty or minutes or so. So the next couple of hours were spent keeping an eye out for the Harrier whilst watching the amazing amount of birds at this wildlife friendly farm. Good sized flocks of various birds were seen including Linnets Chaffinches and Sparrows. Three Grey Partridge skulked in the field margins while a Sparrowhawk made a couple of appearances. Certainly a worthwhile place to visit if you are in the area. From here I headed to Choseley Barns an area that a Rough-legged Buzzard has been frequenting. I stopped for a few minutes but to be honest was a little bored with scanning fields so upped sticks and headed for the coast. Thornham was my chosen spot as there were three Shore Larks in the area. Another of my target birds. I had been informed that it was a fair walk to get to the right area so sat and eat a sarnie before heading off along the sea wall. Brent Geese, Merlin, Redshank and Curlew were all seen while I was eating. Soon after I set off a flock of thirty or so Twite were seen as was a Peregrine. Leaving the sea wall for the dunes and then the beach I reached what I hoped was the right area. There was a lot of sand to scan for three small birds but I was fortunate and found them quite quickly managing to get some really good views of what was my second lifer of the day. A check of the waters edge added Sanderling, Dunlin and Barwit to the list.

From here I went back to Choseley to try again for the Buzzard. On arrival I asked some birders if it had been seen. The answer was the obvious yes five minutes ago! Having determined which direction it had gone I got back in the car have a drive round to see if I could catch up with it. Amazingly my luck was in again and I came across it sat in a field quite near to the road. Quickly parking i managed to get a good view of it and a couple of quick pictures before it flew. I was able to watch it in the air for a good few minutes before it drifted off out of sight. A real result.

To finish off the day I drove to Hunstanton, mainly for Fulmars on the cliffs but also to see the beached Sperm Whale. A very sad sight.

Then it was a drive  to my B&B in Wells. My evening meal was fish and chips which were eaten on the seafront, not the usual thing to be doing in January.Fish and chips

Purely by coincidence Pete and a couple of his friends John and Peter were also staying in Wells so I walked to the Bowling Green Inn to meet up with them.

Corsham and Box

My wife and I had planned to go out for a drive and longish dog walk today and we were struggling to decide where to go. The sighting yesterday of a Red-breasted Merganser at Corsham Lake made the decision. The possibility of a good county year-tick and a visit to a new site. So late this morning we headed out taking about forty minutes to get there. Surprisingly, not only had I not been to Corsham Lake I had not been to the town itself either. Some of it appeared quite ordinary but the original area around the high street and church was very nice.

In the park there were a lot of Goldfinches and Redwing in the trees near the church. At least two hundred Canada Geese were on the grass to the front of the house. One of was one of the CWP neck-tagged birds (JR).IMG_1645 (1024x682) Approaching the lake a Kingfisher was heard and then seen as it flew across the reeds. My first of the year. There were Goosander at this end of the water but no sign of the Merganser. In all I counted nineteen Goosander.

Other than Mallard and a few Grebes that was it for waterbirds but the four common species of gulls were seen. Around the parkland we had Nuthatch, Treecreeper, GS Woodpecker and Mistle Thrush amongst the commoner stuff. We then moved onto Box and after eating a sandwich in the car braved the muddy paths on a Dipper Hunt. The river was running high and fast and we had no joy to the west of the village although an overflying Raven was another year-tick. We then headed for the mill where we got lucky with great views of a Dipper over on the far side of the millpond.

Heading east along the river got us a Little Egret and an extremely muddy dog. Heading back a Kingfisher flew across the road by the mill giving a great finish to the trip. I ended up with five Wilts ticks and three year ticks so a great success. If all goes to plan my chemotherphy will be starting next week so I am treating myself to a three day visit to Norfolk with an early start tomorrow morning. This will be my first winter birding trip up there so I am looking forward to some good birding.

Savernake and Coate

Today started with a bit of early morning shopping in Marlborough and then an hour in Savernake. A lot warmer and a lot more birds than on my last visit. This time I walked through the arboretum and across to Thornhill, round the pond and back. As I got out of the car a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming and a Green Woodpecker yaffling. Having not yet caught up with Green in Wiltshire this year I spent a few minutes looking for it. Despite being able to track its movements from regular calls I wasn’t able to see it. Nuthatches were also vocal with at least six being seen. There were numerous Blackbirds around, not quite four and twenty but not far short. Coal and Marsh Tit were quickly found and at Thornhill I heard a Willow Tit. This time I was in luck and soon found two just along from the pond. Both Coal Tit and Nuthatch were seen collected moss, presumably they are already nestmaking. Goldcrest, Jay and Buzzard also went in the book along with the expected common species. Nineteen species seen in all. Later on in the morning I took the dog for a walk at Coate. The rowing club were out on the main lake so that was very quiet. Seven each of Goosander and Pochard and one hundred plus of Teal and Lapwing were counted and in the wet fields a single Snipe was flushed along with a Jack Snipe. Two more Great Spots and a few Redwing were the best non water related sightings. My second this week. Thirty-one species seen or heard here.

A Day of Reflections at Kew Gardens

Yesterday I was in London with my Mum and most of the day was spent at Kew Gardens. After the recent sunshine it was a little disappointing that the morning was overcast. However it improved after lunch with the skies clearing and the sun putting in an appearance. As always at Kew we had a great day. Birdwise it was all common stuff and as always in West London dominated by the shrieking of the Parakeets. At one point there is a fine view of the Thames where Gadwall, Teal, Cormorant and Heron were seen. In the gardens themselves the best birds were Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and at least eight Jays. The usual waterfowl on the lake provided entertainment as they tried to deal with the ice. The Canada Geese seemed to be having the most problems. As usual we went up on the treetop walkway, always a great experience. This time made more interesting by the views of the restoration of the Temperate House. Of interest if you are planning a visit soon as that the admission fee has been reduced to eight pounds  (online, nine on the gate) until the fifth of February. A real bargain. That’s all the words for now, just a load of pictures to show the day.


Wash an brush up;

The River;



The rest;

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-6 Not So Good For Birding

The plan this morning was for a wander in Savernake. I woke up to a clear calm morning which was good. What wasn’t so good was the temperature. The car was showing -6 when I arrived in Savernake. Because of this there weren’t as many birds around as I had expected. On my way along the Grand Avenue a couple of Pheasants were on the road and a Jay flew across. I walked in two different areas and themost common species seen was Blue Tit with a lot of small flocks around. Best of the rest was a single Goldcrest, three Song Thrushes, nine Redwings, five Nuthatches and two heard only Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Back in Chiseldon one Little Owl was sunning itself. Also seen was a Kestrel and a small flock of Redwings.

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On my way back from Swindon this morning I stopped off at Wroughton Reservoir. A good number of birds today with at least thirty-one Tufted Duck, twenty-three Gadwall and six Little Grebe. I say at least as they were continuously diving making them hard to count. Also a couple of Mute Swans, a few Coot and one Mallard. This afternoon as the weather was so nice I planned on another visit to Blakehill aiming to arrive at around three to give myself plenty of time to find one. I also fancied checking out lake seventy-four as there were a number of Great Black-backed Gulls there on Sunday. A few minutes looking gave no GBB’s but again there were impressive numbers of waterfowl. I then stopped off at Waterhay for a look at what I had in my mind was Lake eighty-three. I was hoping for a few Snipe on the margins. I hit lucky with Snipe a total of twenty seen. The water was almost devoid of birds but a quick scan with the binoculars (for some reason I had left my scope in the car) got a couple of Mute Swans, a Grebe and a Coot. Also a Cormorant tucked in by the reeds. Hang on though, was it a Cormorant? Best have another look. Of course it had gone when I looked again but then I saw it surfacing and another look although into the light and a distance away made me thing that it was a Diver. What to do? I could walk around the lake and risk flushing it or go back to the car for my scope. I chose the latter and a few minutes later I was back. It took a couple of minutes to relocate as it had moved a fair way along the lake. One look and I confirmed that it was a Great Northern Diver. Fantastic bird and for a change one that I had found myself. I sent off a few texts and also tweeted the news. I also phoned Kim Milson and during the conversation realised that this was lake eighty-TWO. Oops. So it was retext and retweet with the correct information. Spending a few minutes watching the bird it dived several times, each time surfacing with what I assume were Crayfish. It was now coming on three-thirty so I decided to head back to the car and get over to Blakehill. Just a few minutes drive and I was there. I could see some other birders already watching. A stop and scan during my brisk walk along the track found a hunting Barn Owl. A good start. Reaching the others (Robin and Ken) I was watching the Barn Owl when Robin found a Short-eared perched on a post. It then flew and we were treated to the sight of both Owls hunting, sometimes quite close to each other. Several Skylarks and a Snipe were put up by the Owls and a Stonechat was seen perched on the fence. An excellent finish to what had turned out to be an extremely good afternoon with three county and two Year-ticks. Finally I had forgotten to bring my camera out so no lousy record shots of a distant diver I am sorry to say.


Another Dreary Day

With the rain not appearing last night as forecast I had hoped that they were wrong about this morning as well. Opening the curtains at around eight I soon saw that they had been right, it looked miserable, low cloud and drizzle. Wonderful. Still I had planned on going out so out I was going to go. I had intended on another walk in Savernake but as it isn’t so good there in the wet chose to head for Froxfield and Chilton Foliat instead. It started well at Froxfield with a couple of Little Egrets on the stream and Red-legged Partridge and Lapwing on surrounding fields. Also here were two Red Kites and a Buzzard.Three Wiltshire year-ticks on the first stop. Walking across the wooden footbridge at Chilton Foliat and into the woods soon got me three Nuthatches and two Great Spotted Woodpeckers. The river was running high and fast but between here and the Widewater I managed a couple more Little Egrets, Little Grebe, Marsh Tit and Jay. Plenty of Mallard and Gadwall around but unusually no Tufties. After visits to the Garden Centre in Hungerford and Cobbs Farm Shop ( at both I resisted putting my hand in my pocket). I then headed for home via Marlborough . A sign outside TH Whites advertising a sale on outdoor clothing tempted me and I came out with a new Craghoppers jacket. I did resist the Deerhunter winter gloves though despite being seriously tempted. Forty pounds was too much to justify spending on them however good they are. As I was leaving the car park a sudden thought that a visit to the Sewage Works could be worthwhile saw me turning left instead of right. My hunch was right, plenty of wagtails included singles of Grey and White, a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Meadow Pipit got me some more Wilts ticks. Finally for the day I took the dog for a walk at Coate. Other than around the diving board and by the dam the main lake was quiet as the rowing club were out. Three Herring gulls were amongst the Black-headed and there were a good number of Great Crested Grebes. The Grey Herons were making plenty of noise around their nest in the trees across from the Dam. The other lake didn’t have much on it either with just a couple of Goosander along with a few other ducks. Rather than retracing my steps I did a circuit around past the floodwater. On here were at least eighty Teal and a few Snipe. In the horse fields I counted fifty-eight Pied Wagtails but I am sure there were a good many more than that to be found. So another good day with six county year-ticks. With seventy-nine now I am getting close to my January best of eighty-four. Hopefully a new high total will be set.