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Monday, 29 April 2013

Patch Perfect !....a lifer rounds it off

All in, when the dots are joined together,a pretty good week.  I forced myself out for a quick hour after work a few times this week. The first reward was Monday, when there was a decent showing of Sand Martins over the local fishing pool.I managed my first Whitethroat of the year Wednesday
On Friday, I had a nice early Hobby over, low too.
A foray to Grimley on Saturday was a bit parky, but there were some good birds about, including Ringed Plover, Wheatear, Dunlin, White Wagtail and a very obliging Common Sandpiper.

Wheatear, Grimley

Common Sandpiper ,Grimley

The highlight though was catching another nice early record of 6 Swifts over the Camp Lane end around noon.

After lunch I returned to the patch. However the sky went very dark , and thunder could be heard as a belt of heavy rain approached. I decided to sit it out in the car, in case it put something decent down. I had a text from JK saying he was on his way for a spot of interloping. As the rain stoped I started working the paddocks again. As I did so, my phone went, JK was a 300yards down the Lane, with 5 Wheatears ! I scout marched over to bag the year patch tick, surprised but grateful to see them down on a seeded field that was sprouting.

Sunday was a thorough foot session, spending around 4 hours seeing what I could eek out. Again the wind was blowing, but there was some hope for an invert in the odd sheltered spot. Walking the set aside, I flushed a Small Tortoiseshell.
I then secured my first patch Blackcaps of the year, a pair to boot, and enjoyed seeing a few inverts in the shelter of the wood.

Bee Fly

The highlight however was still to come. On the walk out I had failed to hear any Reed Warbler singing from the small reed bed on my patch. I have had them there the last 2 years. However on the walk back I lingered, and eventually heard some song.  I was struggling to see the bugger, you have to view from a little way back as it is. Suddenly, I thought I was on him, and raising my bins, secured excellent views of a..... Reed Bunting !! A Patch Lifer !
I  managed a ropey record shot, I reckon there were a pair. Never ever seen any there before !

Reed Bunting

After about 20 minutes the Reed Warbler showed well enough to dispel any doubt as to its credentials. All in all, a very productive few days on the patch.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Wyre and Brimstone ! ( and a patch lifer )

Saturday had started well with a couple of Early Greys in the trap.

Early Grey

Perfect spring morning in the Wyre, hard to know where to look. Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Butterflies and Bumble Bee's all vying for attention.Here's a bit of Willow Warbler video..

Buff tailed Bumblebee, Wyre

The butterflies were as keen as me, out nice and early. I had only just clapped eyes on my first Comma of the year when a yellow flash diverted my attention, a Brimstone ! For the next 10 minutes I trailed it  at distance as he headed up and down the track, finally pushing on a few hundred yards. Eventually he settled and allowed me a chance to get a few snaps.

Brimstone , Wyre
Peacock, Wyre

I left him resting and moved on. A Male and Female Redstart was really nice to observe for a few minutes. No sign of Large Reds at the pool yet, but my first Tree Pipit of the year showed really well singing on treetop then gave a little display flight, dropping down in front of me

Tree Pipit

The Woodpeckers were drumming and calling with gusto, and 3 Blackcaps ( 2♂) were very lively down by the bridge at the Car Park end of Dowles.

First Blackcaps of the year t

On the patch on the way home, via Chaddersly wood, Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells were in good numbers. a heady total of four butterfly species in one day ! Red Tailed Bumble Bee was a new patch tick. This, Buff Tailed and Tree Bumblebee have now been recordedt here too this year.
Comma, Chaddersly

You wait all year to see 1, then 2 come along together !


On Sunday the wind was stronger and cooler, with cloud cover. Consequently my hopes for a good invert session were dashed. There was not much happening bird wise either, and my weekend seemed to be going out on a flat note, save for seeing the Swallow numbers building. That was until I rechecked the paddocks, and found my first ever patch Yellow Wagtail ! It hung around for 15 minutes before heading NW. Superb !
Yellow Wagtail..get in !

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Moth's and Swallows are back !

I ran the moth trap on Friday night for the Garden Moth Sc... and was delighted to find 3 critters present the next morning, all different, and 2 were new species for the garden. A fresh looking Hebrew Character was a welcome and hoped for year tick.
The next moth threw me initially as I did not realise it was a micro, but eventually I put a name to it, again a nice fresh example, Diurnea fagella.

Diurnea fagella

Next out was a slightly worn Double-striped Pug, thanks to Patrick C for confirming my suspicions, not easy when they are a bit tatty.
Double-striped Pug

I popped to Grimley Saturday, the weather was not quite what we had been lead to believe it was going to be. Still the Chiffchaff's were singing and a brighter bird with a more distinct supercillium and pink legs was almost certainly a Willow Warbler, but I prefer to here one singing before I tick it off the year list. A pair of Bullfinches was nice to see, not had one recently, and my first of the year  White Wagtail showed on the east side.
Around midday a few hirrundines arrived, initially high over the north end of the Camp Lane Pitts. Initially Sand Martins, then a A few Swallows, my first this year. Numbers built and they started feeding over the water, despite the cool weather and drizzle.
I moved to the south end, where House Martins were now present, another year first .Numbers of all 3 species were respectable and gave good views.

Saturday nights trapping yielded a single Clouded Drab, still, another year first and the 7th species to be trapped in the garden this year.

Clouded Drab

I spent most of Sunday trying in vain to find a Yellow Wagtail or Wheatear on my local patch. You would have thought the strong southerlies and rain would have delivered something. Between showers there were signs the inverts were picking up. My first patch butterfly tumbled past on the breeze, possibly a Peacock. A Tree Bumblebee dropped on some Coltsfoot, as did this Marmalade Hoverfly.
Marmalade Hoverfly

Sunday night yielded a single Common Quaker, but better was to come on my first real after work patch walk of the year. Two Queen Buff tailed Bumblebees was nice, but far better was the first Swallow of the year on the patch hanging around the kennels. This was just after I had the unexpected surprise of a pair of Bramblings.
As the weather chilled and the clouds darkened I headed for home, thinking I was done. However, one final welcome surprise, 3 House Martins reclaiming their residence near the pub.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Swept away by windy Norfolk

It was nice to get a call from fellow patch birder Jason K on Tuesday to say he had found a Ring Ouzel in Stone. I popped straight over to see a welcome local spring migrant. A very smart specimen.

As good a bird as it was, I didn't anticipate the migration floodgates opening in the short term so decided that I would take a mini break over in Norfolk, away from the spring of discontent.

Arriving in the Cley area on Wednesday morning, I started my quest to dig out a few different birds at Salthouse, where a Snow Bunting had been knocking around. The sky was blue, but the Easterlies were ripping down the beach at a ferocious pace, with plenty of Common Gulls zooming around on the wind, and over 20 Turnstones present. Oystercatchers and a Redshank were about, as well as a Little Egret. However there was no Snow Bunting. Oh well, I nipped round to the Eye Pool at Cley, hoping the long lingering Purple Sandpiper would be around. It wasn't. Now, at this point, after being up since 4am, I began to wander if this was a bad call.

I headed off to buy my permit and see what was on the board, the answer was not much. I decided, given the bitter winds that a session in the hides would be my next move. I was picking up good birds, Brent Geese, Red Legged Partridge and Egyptian Goose, but the spark had yet appear.
Settling the hide there were loads of Avocets around. Ringed Plovers was fourth year tick, and there were good numbers of Dunlin and Curlew. The highlight of the session was watching a female Marsh Harrier pass through very close, I was started to feel the buzz at last.

I decided to nip back to Salthouse and eat lunch there. some twitchers had just turned up, apparently a Glaucous Gull had been around, but I imagined it had passed like an express train heading west. I was informed however the the Snow Bunting had been feeding with the Turnstones until a dog had scattered the lot. So I hung around, and after the lunchtime drop in's went, I patrolled the area. I was close to knocking it on the head when I heard what I knew must be the call of the Snow Bunting, and sure enough it dropped in a few feet away. Game on ! It showed really well, moving across to the west side after a few  minutes, where I followed and photographed it.

As I was leaving, someone said the Purple Sandpiper was on 'The Pond' at Cley. I zipped back round and managed about 2 minutes viewing it before it went up and headed west. It was all now worthwhile, and I decided to head to RSPB Titchwell.

I hadn't even reached the visitor centre at Titchwell when I was treated to amazing views of a Woodcock, pecking around in the undergrowth. This was a real highlight, you just don't get to see these birds like this very often, and it was still around when I left. The plumage is just stunning

It was all about waders here. I hoovered up most of the usual stuff, with Spotted Redshank, and Ruff being the highlights among Knot,Black Tailed Godwit,Dunlin, Redshank,Ringed Plover ,Avocets and Curlew.There was no sign of the Bearded Tit's, no doubt staying deep down in the reeds out of the freezing wind.I saw one solitary Chiffchaff as I was leaving.

By the time I had filled my boots, it was close to 6pm, and I was pretty well done for the day. A hot bath, Pub meal and a couple of pints finished me off, I slept very well.

The following morning was even windier, and also dull. Tucking into my full English it actually snowed a little. I decided to try some beach watching, so after checking out, I popped down the road  to the promenade at Hunstanton. I started at the far End, near the Cliffs, venturing onto the beach to observe the Fulmars. Some looked to have paired up, peering down from their personal ledges.

The beach had a good selection of waders. Loads of Turnstones, Oystercatchers, and a few Curlew. Out on the sea, a Great Black Backed Gull and some Great Crested Grebes. I then picked up on a smaller grebe. It wasn't too far out, but with the swell and wind in my eyes I had to study it for 20 minutes or so before I was happy it was a Slavonian Grebe. I was really pleased with my decision to work this area , even more so, as I observed the grebe, I caught a Tern in my scope. Panning along the sea, it was being hassled by a couple of gulls, I was able to follow it for nearly a minute,  happy it was a Sandwich Tern.

The final highlight of the session was an adult Little Gull. What a productive morning ! By 12.30, the wind was picking up even more, and threatening to blow my scope over. I was happy to call it a wrap, before I had total brain freeze, and thawed myself during the drive back home.
A really enjoyable mini break, around 15 ticks, including a few lifers, as well as a spiritual lift from the raw beauty of the North Norfolk coast and the elements.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Will the real Sping please step forward !

What constitutes if spring is finally here, is to me a subjective thing. It cannot be defined by any particular creature or plant being seen, or by any temperature being reached, or a date being passed.

 I saw my first Chiffchaff's on the 29th.On the pool beyond Great Crested Grebes displayed. In the adjacent field there were lambs, and overhead Skylarks sang. The Rooks are in their nests.

 The Morning frosts, and biting easterlies remain, as does snow in many mildly elevated spots. A section of my local wood is filled with Redwings, and the finches are still flocking together.

A visit to the Wyre on the 28th  ,was like a visit in December. Hawfinch and Brambling. Snow lying where a sloughing Adder should. Not a Bee or Brimstone to be seen.

Brambling, Wyre, 28th March

At Grimley, Little Egret and Redshank advanced the year list, who knows when and if the Wheatears will be gracing the local Plough.

I chanced upon my first proper invert on the 30th, excited for a minute it was a Bee, until I got closer..I had to start off somewhere, and given the conditions, I will settle for a Drone Fly.

Drone Fly

If you walk enough, you always find something of interest, if you have a keenness for anything nature. Yesterday, on a birdless and ever greying afternoon I stumbled upon what appears to be raptor pellets. Poking around a found a couple of skull pieces too. In itself that was enough to tip the mood, I'm hopeful they could belong to a Tawny Owl. As I picked through I disturbed a Common Earwig. Much maligned, and under recorded creatures, and together with the numerous small spiders on the dead bracken, a sign further sign that the inverts are trying their best to add the missing pieces.
Pellets, at base of tree

Common Earwig

Let's hope for everyones sake, not least the local nature, that things pick up soon