Tag Archives: Greenland Wheatear

12th May 2018 – Norfolk in May, Day 2

Day 2 of a three day long weekend of tours today, back in Norfolk. It was a lovely bright, sunny and pleasantly warm morning, but it clouded over early afternoon and then started to spit with rain on and off later on. Nothing to stop us getting out and about though!

Driving down to pick everyone up for the day, we spotted a Peregrine out of the corner of an eye, flying up to land on a church tower. We couldn’t stop, but when we had collected the rest of the group, we headed back and thankfully it was still there. It stared down at us at first, as we got out of the car and we stared back up at it. It quickly settled down and seemed completely unconcerned by our presence below.

Peregrine

Peregrine – great views perched and then preening on the church tower this morning

We watched the Peregrine for some time. It perched looking round at first, then started to preen. When it had finished, it began to doze, closing one eye but still looking round with the other. Several Common Swifts were screaming round over the rooftops as we stood there, always a great sight and sound, although they rather played second fiddle to the Peregrine.

Eventually we managed to tear ourselves away and headed over to Burnham Overy Dunes for the morning. As we walked down across the path over the grazing marshes we could hear Common Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat singing in the hedges. The former perched up nicely and we saw the latter flitting around in the foliage.

Several Sedge Warblers were singing from the bushes all the way out and there are lots of Reed Warblers in too now. We could hear them singing from the reeds along the edge of the ditches by the path and eventually got good views of one or two at the far end.

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler – one or two showed themselves on the walk out this morning

There were Lapwings, Avocets, Oystercatchers and Redshanks all out on the grazing marshes by the path. A Lapwing put on a nice tumbling display for us and some of the others appeared to be on nests.

There was no shortage of Greylags here and a pair of Egyptian Geese out on the grass too. We added a few ducks to the day’s list, with Shoveler and Gadwall around the small pools. In the channel at the far end of the path, we stopped to admire a smart Little Grebe on the edge of the reeds. A couple of Common Pochard were on the water further back.

Up on the seawall, the tide was out and there were lots of waders down on the mud. There was a large group of Black-tailed Godwits, with one or two in full summer plumage, deep orange on head and neck. A small group of Knot were with them and they too were mostly in bright rusty breeding plumage. Further over, we could see several Grey Plover looking very smart in breeding plumage too, with black faces and bellies.

A lone Wigeon was out on the reedbed pool, a nice addition to the weekend’s list, as the vast majority have already headed off back to Russia for the breeding season. Further along, out on the saltmarsh, we could see a sizeable gaggle of Brent Geese still. Some of these are always later to head back to the Arctic, although the majority will have departed by the end of this month.

A small group of waders whirled round over the grazing marsh and landed out on an island in one of the smalls. Through the scope, we could see there was a nice mixture of Ringed Plovers and Dunlin, and several of the latter were in breeding plumage, sporting contrasting black belly patches.

Out into the dunes, we turned east. We walked out to one of the favourite places for Wheatears, and quickly found one, a female, down on the short grass. Two more were Wheatears high in the dunes above – what looked like a male and another female. We walked round for better look, trying to get the sun behind us, but could only see the two females now. Big and deep orange underneath, they appeared to be Greenland Wheatears, of the subpecies leucorhoa.

Wheatear

Wheatear – a female, presumably of the Greenland race

Heading back to the boardwalk, we continued on out towards Gun Hill. A trickle of hirundines were moving west now, mostly Swallows, but with a few House Martins and a single Sand Martin as well. A sharp call alerted us to a Yellow Wagtail which flew over our heads and continued on west too.

There is no shortage of Meadow Pipits and Linnets out here in the dunes, good to see as both species have declined so markedly in farmland. A male Kestrel perched high in one of the taller dunes. We also found several male Stonechats singing, 2 or 3 on our walk west.

Heading out onto the beach, we stopped to admire a Ringed Plover tucked down in the stones, on its nest out in the middle of the fenced off area. Another Ringed Plover ran in over the stones and we watched as they changed over sitting duty.

We could hear Little Terns but there were none at the top of the beach in the fenced off area. They were all out towards the shore – we could see them flying round, diving into the surf out at the mouth of the channel. One was asleep closer to us, on the sand just across the channel, which we got in the scope and three more flew round over our heads calling, one carrying a fish. There were a couple of Common Terns too, further round, plunge diving in the harbour channel.

Ringed Plover

Ringed Plover – we saw several on the beach and around the dunes today

As we walked along beach towards the point, we found more waders. A couple of very smart Turnstones in breeding plumage were feeding in and out of the seaweed covered rocks below us. Two Common Sandpipers flew up from the edge of the water and across the channel calling. There were several more Ringed Plovers too and round in the harbour we found three Bar-tailed Godwits with another Grey Plover out on the mud. A Greenshank flew up calling from the saltmarsh briefly but dropped straight back down into one of the muddy creeks, out of view.

Back at the boardwalk, we made our way back along the seawall. At the reedbed, a Bittern boomed three times in quick succession before going quiet again. A Red Kite was hanging lazily in the air over the fields as we got back to the car.

We had our lunch at Holkham and afterwards, we headed back east. We had been to Cley yesterday and were not intending to go back today, but news of a Temminck’s Stint was too good to resist.

The Temminck’s Stint had been mobile earlier, but then seemed to have settled down on Watling Water. However, when we arrived at Iron Road, we were told it had flown off about half an hour earlier. It had apparently appeared to drop down again towards the pools along the track. We had a good look there, but there was no sign of it, although there were two Ringed Plovers and a Little Ringed Plover.

Other waders were clearly on the move today, as another small mixed flock of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers dropped in briefly before continuing west. Another Wheatear was on the bank on the far side of the pool and a Hobby flew over, heading off east. It had started to drizzle now, on and off, we so headed round to Babcock Hide on the off chance that the Temminck’s Stint was back.

When we got into the hide, we were delighted to find that the Temminck’s Stint was indeed back out on the mud, having apparently flown back in earlier. We got it in the scope and had great views of it creeping around on the mud around the edge of the pool. It was clearly very small, and we could see its yellow legs and the distinctive scattering of black-centred feathers in its upperparts.

Temminck's Stint

Temminck’s Stint – a well-marked individual on Watling Water

The two Little Ringed Plovers we had seen yesterday were still on the scrape too – and as we had seen with the Common Sandpiper they kept trying to chase the Temminck’s Stint off. Eventually it found a spot where they seemed to lose interest, and stopped to bathe. The Common Sandpiper was still on here too, but had evaded the attention of the plovers as they seemed to focus more on chasing off the stint today!

The rain had now eased off again, and there was still time for a walk out on the East Bank before the end of the day. It didn’t take us long to spot the Spoonbill, a large white shape in the distance, so we headed up along the bank for a closer look. On the way, a scan of Pope’s Pool produced another Common Sandpiper and a Little Ringed Plover, as well as another lone drake Wigeon, our second of the day. A Marsh Harrier was perched up in one of the bushes out in the reedbed, drying out after the rain.

We had good views of the Spoonbill from here. It was busy feeding in the north end of the Serpentine, head down, sweeping its bill quickly left to right through the water. Occasionally it would flick its head up when it caught something.

Spoonbill

Spoonbill – feeding out on the Serpentine

Arnold’s Marsh appears to be drying out rapidly at the moment, and there was not much water left. Still, we found a few waders – a couple of Bar-tailed Godwits, a Curlew, a Grey Plover and a Ringed Plover. A Wheatear on one of the posts out in front of the shingle ridge was a male Greenland Wheatear, deep orange breasted and with brown tones in its grey back. At the far end of Arnold’s, a Hobby was perched preening on a post.

It was time to head back now. A Marsh Harrier dropped down towards the grazing marsh below the bank, mobbed by Avocets, and then flew off, carrying what appeared to be a small mammal rather than one of the young Greylags we had seen there on our walk out. A Hobby flew past and off over the reedbed, possibly the one we had seen on the post earlier, now dried out. Several more Marsh Harriers were up circling over the reeds as we headed for home.

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23rd Apr 2018 – Five Days of Spring, Day 3

Day 3 of five days of Spring Migration tours today. The weather had turned after the mini heatwave of the last few days and it was cloudy and much cooler today, with a rather fresh and blustery WSW wind. Normal service has resumed!

We made our way over to the Wash coast to start the day, up to Snettisham Coastal Park. It was noticeably colder than of late when we got out of the car and it called for an extra layer of clothing to be donned all round! Given the wind too, it was rather quieter than normal as we walked in to the park. The bushes here are normally alive with warblers singing at this time of the year. At first, all we could hear were a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap.

The open grassy area north of the car park was fairly deserted, but there were loads of dogs here today, so it was rather disturbed. A flock of Linnets whirled round and dropped down up on the seawall. The tide was still coming in as we got up onto the seawall. There were hundreds of Oystercatcher out on the mud, along with a handful of Curlew and a few Brent Geese, but we couldn’t see anything else out there today.

As we made our way slowly north in and out of the bushes, there were gradually more warblers singing. First one or two Lesser Whitethroats, though keeping well tucked down. Then a couple of Sedge Warblers out in the reeds. A Common Whitethroat was subsinging quietly in the bushes and a second was singing but around the bases of some small hawthorns. It was quite a bit further up before we heard our first Willow Warbler.

There were a few birds moving again today, but not as many as yesterday. A couple of small flocks of Linnets looked to be on the move. Two Yellow Wagtails flew overhead silently. There was a steady trickle of Swallows heading south too, with smaller numbers of House Martin and Sand Martin as well.

As we approached the cross-bank at the north end of the Coastal Park, we could just hear a Grasshopper Warbler reeling from somewhere in the bushes, although it was getting drowned out by the wind and a Sedge Warbler which was much closer to us. There were already two people looking for it, but as we walked up towards them it went quiet. We waited a while but it did not start reeling again.

Whitethroat

Common Whitethroat – the only one to be singing from the top of the bushes

We decided to walk up onto the inner seawall and scan the grazing marshes, and see if it started up again while we were away. We could hear another Common Whitethroat singing from the bushes and a Lesser Whitethroat just behind. As we got up onto the seawall, the Common Whitethroat flew up into the very top of the bush to sing – what they should be doing at this time of year.

Looking out across the grazing marshes just to the north, we found a Whimbrel feeding out in the short grass. We had a good look at it through the scope – we could see its stripy head pattern.

Whimbrel

Whimbrel – feeding out in the short grass on the grazing marshes

There was still no hint of the Grasshopper Warbler starting to reel again, so we decided to walk back along the inner seawall to an area where there have been two Grasshopper Warblers with abutting territories recently. It was windy and hard to hear much on the seawall but sure enough, as we approached the area, we could hear both of the two Grasshopper Warblers singing intermittently.

We walked on to where there is a path down and made our way slowly in amongst the bushes, heading for one of the two reeling birds. We knew we were getting close, but as we slowly rounded a bramble patch, the Grasshopper Warbler saw us and flew off, appearing to land in another bush a bit further back. We made our way back round to where we had a clear view of it and thankfully after only a minute or so it started reeling again and we spotted it in the brambles.

Grasshopper Warbler

Grasshopper Warbler – reeling in the brambles

Everybody got a good look at it through the scope, before the Grasshopper Warbler eventually dropped down into the brambles. A Cuckoo was singing away in the distance, off to the south. The Grasshopper Warbler reeled again briefly and we had another quick look, but the trail had gone cold and it then went quiet. We had enjoyed a great look at it, so we left it in peace.

We walked back listening for the Cuckoo, but it too had gone quiet again now. We cut back across to the inner seawall and several Sedge Warblers were singing in the bushes in the reeds, where we could get a look at them. Another Grasshopper Warbler started reeling from somewhere deep in the vegetation, out of view.

Sedge Warbler

Sedge Warbler – several eventually showed well

Up on the seawall, we made our way a short distance back to the north to scan the pools out on Ken Hill Marshes. There were several geese and ducks out around the water, including a single drake Wigeon, a lingering individual. As we turned to head back south again, a Reed Warbler was singing from the reeds down below the bank. A Common Swift flew past, heading south, our first of the year.

Back in the clear grassy area north of the car park, the Wheatears had reappeared. There were now at least three of them hopping around on the short grass, two females and a smart Greenland Wheatear male.

Wheatear

Wheatear – reappeared in the clear area N of the car park

When we got back to the car, there was still a bit of time before lunch, so we decided to swing round via Dersingham Bog and have a quick look there. As we walked down through the trees, we could hear various tits calling and a Coal Tit singing. A Treecreeper appeared behind us, climbing up the trunk of a large sycamore. Down at the bottom, a Willow Warbler was singing in the birches.

As we walked out onto the open heath at the bottom, we spotted a Stonechat, typically perched right on the top of the tallest heather, in full view. We could hear another Grasshopper Warbler reeling here too, but that typically was skulking down in some low brambles out on the edge of the heather. Having had such good views of one earlier, we didn’t waste any time trying to see it.

Stonechat

Stonechat – this male typically perched up nicely

From somewhere up over the ridge, we could hear a Woodlark singing. It was probably in song flight, as it seemed to be moving, but appeared to be out of our view over the brow.

As we turned to walk back the other way, we heard the distinctive deep guttural ‘kronk’ of a Raven. These are still very scare birds here in Norfolk, but one has been reported in this area in recent weeks. It called again and seemed to be coming towards us, from over the trees on the top of the ridge, but although we stood and scanned for a minute it didn’t appear. We kept our eyes on the top of the ridge as we walked on and eventually saw a large black corvid briefly appear along the tree line some distance away to the north.

Further along, we could hear a Woodlark, possibly the same as we had heard earlier ot even a second bird. It did appear over the ridge briefly, hovering up in the sky, before dropping back down towards the ground and out of view. When we got up onto the ridge, it had disappeared. We did see a Green Woodpecker perched on a dead branch on the edge of the trees.

Making our way back through the trees, a Siskin was singing high in the top of the pines. We came across a couple of Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits in the trees too, and another Treecreeper. As we got back to the car, we heard a Nuthatch piping down in the wood. We made our way back to the car for lunch and afterwards headed inland.

We parked by a grassy field with a seed cover strip through the middle. The grass was peppered with a fantastic display of bright yellow flowers, thousands of Cowslip, all in bloom. Skylarks were singing overhead. We could see a few Yellowhammers in the hedge in the corner, dropping down into the cover strip. As we walked along the path on the edge of the field, they all flew up from down in the vegetation, at least 15 of them. A couple of browner birds were with them – Corn Buntings. The hedges are now quickly coming into leaf so the birds were hard to see in the bushes, but eventually we found one perched in the hedge where we could see it in the scope.

Our destination for the rest of the afternoon would be Holme dunes. We parked by the golf course and walked in past paddocks. the bushes here were rather exposed to the wind and quiet, apart from a rattling Lesser Whitethroat deep in cover and a couple of Greenfinches. A little further along the footpath, we heard yet another Grasshopper Warbler reeling from the bushes down by the access road, amazingly our sixth of the day!

Walking into the dunes, lots of Linnets came up from the short grass and a Common Whitethroat sang from the bushes. As we walked further in, we could see a couple of people looking over a bank with binoculars and rounding the corner of the dune blocking our view we could see why. Two Ring Ouzels, a male and a female, were feeding on the bare earth and short grass on the edge of the bushes. It was nice to see some on the ground, after getting mostly flight views the other day, so we had a good look at them through the scope.

Ring Ouzel 1

Ring Ouzel – first we saw a male and female together

We got a good look at the pure white gorget on the blacker male Ring Ouzel, and through the scope we also saw the fine white chevrons on its underparts. The browner female had an off-white gorget peppered with darker marks.

When the Ring Ouzels hopped up over the bank, we walked back a few metres the way we had just come and could see them feeding out in the open on a sandy area in the dunes. A movement just beyond, at the base of the bushes, caught our eye and there was a smart male Redstart perched low above the grass. We got it in the scope but just at that moment the couple we had seen earlier walked round the back of the bushes, and the Redstart flew off before everyone got a chance to look at it. The Ring Ouzels went off too across the dunes, chacking.

There was no sign of the Redstart now, so we walked to the south edge of the dunes and scanned the grazing marshes. We could hear a Bittern booming out in the reeds in the distance. A group of at least 30 Pink-footed Geese were standing out in the grass with the local Greylags. Most of the Pink-footed Geese which spent the winter have long since left, so these ones should be heading off to Iceland for the breeding season soon too.

Scanning the muddy pools towards the front, we spotted a Common Snipe in the grass. When we got it in the scope, a Little Ringed Plover appeared just behind. There were several Ruff out here too, feeding around the muddy edges. A flock of around 25 Golden Plover flew up from the grass away over the grazing marshes south of The Firs. They circled round for several minutes, before dropping down again out of view, the first we have seen in the last few days.

Heading back into the dunes, we hoped the Redstart might have reappeared, but there was still no sign of it as we walked quietly round the bushes. There were a few hirundines moving, a trickle of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins. We could see a Wheatear and a male Stonechat flicking around between the isolated bushes further back.

We found the Ring Ouzels again but they had gone back to being very flighty again, we could still see a male and a female together. Eventually two birds flew back in to the same place where we had first seen them and once again they settled down and allowed us to get a good look at them. However, there were now two females together and no sign of the male. Still we had a great view of them feeding down in the short grass.

Ring Ouzel 2

Ring Ouzel – one of the two females which showed very well

It was clear the Redstart had gone to ground and we were unfortunately running out of time, so we started to make our way back. The Grasshopper Warbler was still reeling down by the access road but was now perched up in full view in the top of the brambles, despite the wind. We had a great look at it through the scope before it dropped back down into cover.

As we got back to the car, a Sparrowhawk zipped over the car park. It was time to call it a day and head for home. Despite the wind and generally cooler conditions, we had seen or heard 96 species just today, which wasn’t at all bad!

9th May 2016 – Walk Before Work

With a later than normal start today, and such great weather, I seized the opportunity to go for a quick walk in the Dunes first thing this morning. It was beautiful light early on, great for photography.

A couple of Cuckoos flew out of the hedge as I passed and disappeared off across the grazing marshes. I didn’t have too long, so made my way quickly to the seawall. The tide just coming in but the channels in the mud out in the harbour were still only filled with shallow water. A Spoonbill was feeding in one of the channels. It was perfectly lit in the morning sun, so I stopped to take a quick photo.

6O0A2303Spoonbill – feeding in one of the channels in the harbour

It started to preen for a few seconds, then suddenly took off. It was obviously on its was back to the colony and had just stopped off for a quick last feed.

6O0A2309Spoonbill – taking off

It was still rather distant at that stage, but it quickly became clear that it was flying straight towards me. It eventually flew past only a short distance back along the seawall and headed off over the grazing marshes, providing a stunning photo opportunity!

6O0A2316

6O0A2318

6O0A2321Spoonbill – flew past on its way back

Spoonbills are a regular sight here along the coast and we usually see them on the tours at this time of the year, but they are typically unpredictable in exactly where they choose to stop and feed, so it is always a real pleasure to have such a  close-up encounter as this. A great start to the morning!

I did not have long in the dunes and there did not appear to be many new arrivals. A Black Redstart was a nice surprise though. Another Cuckoo was singing on the edge of the pines.

6O0A2347Black Redstart – a nice surprise in the dunes

There was no sign of yesterday’s singing male oenanthe Wheatear, but there were several Greenland Wheatears still, including a smart male. The deep, rich burnt orangey colours on the underparts were in stark contrast to the white/cream of yesterday’s male. It is always fascinating to look at the variation in appearance of Wheatears.

6O0A2335Wheatear – a richly coloured male Greenland Wheatear

6O0A2357Wheatear – a very obliging female

A brief distraction on the way back was provided by a little group of Brent Geese on the saltmarsh close to the seawall. In with them was the regular Black Brant hybrid – the bold pale flank patch and more complete white collar were both very obvious in the morning sunshine. It is a big gander and still appears to be paired to one of the Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

6O0A2384Black Brant hybrid – still on the saltmarsh

Then it was time to head back in time to start work. What lovely way to start the day!

8th May 2016 – Migrants in the Dunes

Day 3 of a long weekend of tours today. It was yet another scorcher, with temperatures inland reaching almost 25C, but a little cooler on the coast in a welcome light easterly breeze.

Our first stop was at Holkham. As soon as we stopped the car we could see Spoonbills in the trees. We got out and set up the scope to look at them. They were mostly standing around in the branches, preening, or flying round in front of the trees. There were lots of Little Egrets and Cormorants there too, and a Grey Heron. A few Marsh Harrier were flying round over the grazing marshes, one pursued by an irate Lapwing and an angry  Oystercatcher, taking turns to dive bomb it. We didn’t stay too long here today though, as we wanted to get out into the dunes, before it got too hot.

The hedges on the way out were a little quieter than of late. Some of the warblers seem to have tempered their singing already. We did have a Chiffchaff and several Common Whitethroat. Further out, along the banks of the reedy ditches, the Sedge Warblers at least were still going full out. A Reed Warbler was clambering around in the brambles at first, before flying across to the reeds and starting to sing.

6O0A2179Sedge Warbler – still plenty singing on the walk out

There were plenty of other birds too. A Song Thrush was still in full voice, but we couldn’t see it. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were singing. A Goldfinch perched in the brambles by the path looking resplendent in the morning sun.

6O0A2224Goldfinch – one of our most beautiful birds

Out on the grazing marshes, we could see lots of Greylag Geese and Egyptian Geese, and a few Gadwall and a pair of Shoveler. There were Lapwings, Oystercatchers and Redshank out in the grass or around the pools. A lone Curlew flew past.

From up on the seawall, we could see that the tide was still well in. A couple of Common Terns and three or four Little Terns were fishing in the harbour channel. The Alexanders along the sides of the seawall was alive with St Mark’s Flies and as we walked along, a Willow Warbler which had been feeding in there flew off along the path in front of us, presumably a migrant on its way further north.

Out at the boardwalk, we turned east into the dunes. We hadn’t gone much further when a Ring Ouzel and a Wheatear flushed from a dune slack ahead of us. The Ring Ouzel disappeared behind the bushes, but the female Wheatear stayed out in full view. We moved round the dunes and eventually got ourselves in a position where we could watch the Ring Ouzel feeding on the short grass. It was a rather dull female too, with a poorly marked pale gorget, but an interesting bird to see nonetheless. Then someone appeared over the dune behind and it flew off.

6O0A2197Ring Ouzel – a rather poorly marked female

A little further on and we dropped down into a large open area in the dunes. There were more Wheatears here and we stopped to get a better look at them. Again, they seemed to be mostly females at first.

IMG_4090Wheatear – there were quite a few females in the dunes today

While we were trying to get a better view of one of the female Wheatears, we heard an unusual song from the dunes behind us. We turned to see a strikingly pale male Wheatear singing. There are two subspecies of Wheatear which we get here. The paler birds of the nominate race, the more southerly breeders, tend to pass through here much earlier. By this time of year, we mostly see Greenland Wheatears (of the subspecies leucorhoa), the males of which have more richly coloured underparts.

IMG_4099Wheatear – this strikingly pale male was singing in the dunes

It seemed that this pale male was a rather late nominate Wheatear. He was singing to one of the females in particular and seemed to be trying to entice her into a nearby rabbit hole at one point! Even better, a very richly coloured male Greenland Wheatear then appeared nearby as well. It had a very deep orangey breast, slightly paler on the belly but still well coloured, and darker, dirtier upperparts. It was a real treat to see the two subspecies of Wheatear nearby like this.

We carried on through the dunes and eventually found the Whinchat which we had been told about on a bramble bush by the fence. There were quite a few walkers in the dunes today and it was flushed before we could get to it. But thankfully it then perched up nicely on a bush in the comparative safety of the other side of the fence. A male Stonechat appeared in the bushes too briefly on our way over there.

IMG_4104Whinchat – a female on the less disturbed side of the fence

We stood for a while up in the dunes just before the west end of the pines. It is a lovely view from here on a sunny day like today, and that would normally be reason enough to stand here, but we could also hear a Cuckoo calling. At first it remained hidden in the bushes, but eventually it hopped up briefly into the tops before flying off towards the pines.

A quick walk round the bushes at the end of the pines didn’t produce anything of note today, although we did hear both Siskin and Redpoll flying out from the trees over the dunes, presumably migrants still on their way. A Mistle Thrush flew up from the grass and landed in the top of a pine.

We were aiming to get back in good time for lunch, but there were a few distractions on the way. First we stopped to get a better look at the Ring Ouzel, which was out on the grass again. Then, from out on the seawall, we stood for a while and watched a couple of pairs of Lapwing displaying over the grazing marshes. They are such stunning birds, particularly when displaying on those big rounded wings, that we couldn’t just walk past.

6O0A2202Lapwings – displaying over the grazing marsh

A little further along, we could see several Brent Geese out on the saltmarsh, now that the tide had gone out. Almost immediately, we picked out one which was half a shade darker in the body and with a much more obvious white flank patch and white collar. This was the regular Black Brant hybrid which spends the winter here. Nearby, the colour-ringed Dark-bellied Brent Goose was also still present. Many have already gone and there seemed to be fewer again today, but presumably all the Brent Geese should soon be departing, on their way to Russia for the breeding season.

IMG_4126Black Brant hybrid – still lingering out on the saltmarsh

One of the group picked up a Whimbrel, out on the saltmarsh. We just got it in the scope before it dropped down into a muddy channel out of view. Another Whimbrel was feeding out on the mud a little further along. A smart male Linnet was singing from the Suaeda bushes just below the seawall and drew some admiring glances.. and camera lenses! Then back at the reedbed we could hear the Bittern booming again now.

6O0A2214Linnet – a smart male on the edge of the saltmarsh

We eventually got back in time for a lateish lunch round at Holkham. With participants keen to make a swift getaway at the end of the day, we didn’t have a lot of time left once we had finished eating. It was decided to have a quick look at Stiffkey Fen, rather than go back to one of the reserves we had already visited.

A male Marsh Harrier was circling distantly over the fields and a female appeared briefly over the reeds. A couple of Common Buzzards circled up too, over the woods beyond. As we walked down through the trees, we could hear Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing.

The Fen itself looked rather quiet today. A careful scan of the margins from up on the seawall did pick up at least two Common Sandpipers. A pair of Shelduck were shepherding their brood of ten shelducklings around the edge of the water. A Whimbrel appeared briefly in the harbour for a bathe, but flew off as some people walked by from the other direction.

We stopped to listen to the warblers singing from the reedy channel below the seawall. A Sedge Warbler definitely won the noisy stakes, and was also more showy, perching up in the nettles at the top of the bank. We eventually got a Reed Warbler in the scope and got a great view of that too.

We walked round to the harbour and had a quick scan, but the tide was at its lowest now. There were still lots of Brent Geese out on the mud, and lots of gulls of various shapes and sizes. We could see a few waders in the distance, and a handful of terns too, but there was a bit too much haze in the heat of the afternoon. Time was getting on, so we started to make our way back.

6O0A2243Speckled Wood – several were seen on the way to/from the Fen

There were a few butterflies out in the sunshine. We saw several Speckled Woods on the walk to and from the Fen. A couple of Orange Tips were flying round on the bank of the seawall. Out towards the harbour a Wall, being chased round by a Small Tortoiseshell, was the first we have seen this year. We had also seen Small Copper and a few Holly Blues at Burnham Overy this morning, plus a couple of dayflying moths there – our first Cinnabar of the year, and a couple of Yellow Belles.

We were almost back to the car when we noticed the male Marsh Harrier again, circling up beyond the trees. He is a particularly smart bird, quite pale underneath and with lovely silvery grey wings with black tips. This time he drifted towards us, giving us a fantastic look, before flying right over our heads and away across the field beyond. It was a great way to end the three days, so we packed up and headed for home.

6O0A2263Marsh Harrier – came right over our heads just as we were leaving

30th May 2015 – Sunny in the Middle

Day 2 of a long weekend of tours today. What a difference a day makes! It was sunny with patchy cloud all day, although a blustery west wind in the morning took the edge of the temperature.

We started with a drive through farmland inland. We hadn’t gone far when a Little Owl hopped up onto the roof of a barn next to the road. Unfortunately, by the time we reversed back, it had disappeared. A likely looking roadside field produced a Stone Curlew distantly amongst the flowers in the margin. Great to see these birds doing so well in North Norfolk now.

IMG_5071Stone Curlew – in amongst the flowers

As we explored inland, there were lots of Skylarks singing overhead. Little groups of Linnet appeared from the weedy margins. A nice male Grey Partridge called nearby before walking quietly into the hedge and we got a good look at another pair, particularly the male’s orange face and blackish belly patch. We had a scan for raptors as well this morning, but there were only a few Common Buzzards circling up in the cool windy conditions.

P1010403Grey Partridge – calling from a field by the road this morning

We meandered round to Burnham Overy and eventually found ourselves at the start of the track out to the dunes. There were a couple of Common Whitethroats singing from the hedges either side. Down at the bottom, they were replaced by several Lesser Whitethroats. We could hear one calling and see it flicking along the hedge. There were at least two singing, and a an adult feeding unseen young nearby. On the way out to the seawall, we also saw – and heard – a number of Sedge Warblers singing from the edges of the ditches.

P1010415Sedge Warbler – singing by the side of the track out to the seawall

By a gap in the hedge, we stopped to scan the grazing marshes. A Common Buzzard was circling up nearby and as we looked at it we could see a Marsh Harrier nearby. At the same time, a Red Kite appeared above the wood beyond. Three species of large raptor in view at the same time – not bad.

There were also several butterflies along the track this morning. There seem to be a lot of Wall butterflies out at the moment. But the highlight was a lovely Green Hairstreak which landed in the vegetation beside the path. We stopped to admire its sparkling metallic green underwing.

P1010408Green Hairstreak – with its metallic green underwing

From up on the seawall, the first bird we saw was a Fulmar flying towards us over the path, a bit of a surprise. This is not the most likely bird to see here, away from their more normal habitat over the sea, although they do occasionally wander a little way inland, often at this time of year. It circled out over the grazing marsh. A pair of Mediterranean Gulls was more predictable these days. They flew in over the reedbed and away west, flashing their translucent white wingtips as they came overhead. They were with a single Black-headed Gull which gave a great flight comparison for us between the two species.

Scanning the reedbed pool, there were several large white birds but at first there only seemed to be Mute Swans. Then, as if by magic, a Spoonbill appeared (it had probably been tucked into one of the corners out of view, close in along the reed edge. It proceeded to work its way along the back edge of the pool, sweeping its bill from side to side. We got a great look at it in the scope.

IMG_5092Spoonbill – the first of many today, feeding on the reedbed pool

We really didn’t know which way to look here, there was so much to see. There were lots of Swifts swooping low in the wind, over the grazing marshes and reedbed and along the banks of the seawall, zooming past us at high speed. A pair of Little Terns landed on the mud out on the saltmarsh – one of them seemed to spend much of the morning feeding over the channels in the grazing marsh, returning occasionally to its mate. Bearded Tits called from the reedbed and a single bird flew up and away from us before dropping back into the reeds out of the wind. We could also hear Reed Buntings and Reed Warblers singing.

Then came one of the many highlights of the morning. A Hobby appeared flying towards us. It hung in the air for a second, just before it got to the seawall, then turned and powered away along the near edge of the reeds. It had obviously seen something and soon we could see what it was after. Out over the grazing marsh the Hobby engaged in an aerial duel with a House Martin, the latter just twisting and turning out of the Hobby’s reach, relying on its superior manoeuvrability to get it out of trouble. The Hobby pursued it for some time, swooping at it repeatedly before it finally gave up.

P1010418Hobby – just about to chase off after a House Martin

Eventually we managed to tear ourselves away and walked on towards the dunes. Someone we passed on the way reported having seen a shrike earlier in the morning, on the edge of the dunes to the east. It seemed worth looking for, so we set off towards the pines. There were several more butterflies in the more sheltered parts of the dunes – Brown Argus, Common Blue and Small Copper. And ever more Southern Marsh Orchids coming into flower now.

We couldn’t find the shrike, but we did find a very nice little group of Greenland Wheatears in the dunes. At first we came across a female. When she disappeared behind a dune, a male emerged from the other side. As we walked round into the dunes the way they had gone, we found yet more males, at least three together. Smart birds – we got a male in the scope and admired its characteristic orange-toned throat and upper breast.

IMG_5099Greenland Wheatear – one of several smart males in the dunes again today

By this stage, it was getting on towards lunchtime, so we had to head back. On the way, we found yet more Wheatears. There were now two Spoonbills together on the reedbed pool. And, as we walked back across the grazing marsh, a third Spoonbill flew across just in front of us – unfortunately, we did not have cameras at the ready. It landed out by one of the small pools in the grass and started to feed.

After lunch by the harbour at Burnham Overy, we drove back to Wells. The beach car park was extremely busy – probably not a great surprise on a sunny Saturday of half term – but we managed to find a space. The gull colony was equally busy. Several of the pairs of Black-headed Gull have chicks now, but the Mediterranean Gulls seem to be a bit behind. We could just see several sitting birds amongst the marram grass, flashing the black heads and brighter red bills. A pair of Common Gulls have chosen to nest right at the top of the beach, below the other gulls, and we admired them through the scope.

IMG_5130Little Terns – on the beach

The Common Terns were not as active in the middle of the day, but we could see several birds sitting on the stones. Looking carefully through them, we picked out a single Arctic Tern. It was great to see the two species close together – we could see the Arctic Tern’s shorter, darker blood-red bill lacking a black tip, and its longer tail streamers. There were also lots of Little Terns on the beach below, much more active than the others, they would periodically get up and fly round, fishing in the channels.

IMG_5115Arctic Tern – great to see alongside Common Terns today

A quick look out in Wells Harbour produced a better selection of waders than of late. As well as the regular horde of Oystercatchers, there was a nice flock of smaller waders on the stony islands – although they were quickly moved off by the rising tide. They were mostly Ringed Plovers, at least 20 of them. A look through the scope also revealed about five Turnstone, several black-bellied Dunlin in summer plumage and a couple of white-bellied Sanderling, a greyer bird still mostly in winter plumage and a chestnut-coloured bird in summer garb.

We wanted to do one more thing before we finished, so we headed round to Lady Anne’s Drive and walked west on the inland side of the pines. The wind had dropped a little and with the shelter of the pines it was warm this afternoon. Consequently, the activity of the warblers and tits was down on recent weeks. By Meals House, we finally heard a Cetti’s Warbler and while looking to see if we could see it, we found a nice pair of Blackcap gathering food.

We could hear a couple of groups of Long-tailed Tits and a few Goldcrests, though they were hard to see in the trees today. But we did find a family of Treecreepers. We could hear quiet calls from the trees and found one of the adults first, climbing up a pine. When it flew across the path, we realised there were several hiding in the bushes and we could see several short-tailed juveniles practising climbing up tree trunks in between pestering the adults for food.

IMG_5145Spoonbill – adult and juveniles on the nursery pool

From the Joe Jordan hide, we could immediately see several Spoonbills down on the pool below the trees. As we had seen earlier in the week, there were both adults and several smaller, whiter, shorter-billed juveniles – ‘Teaspoonbills‘. Already taking after the adults, they seemed to spend quite a bit of time sleeping!  However, it was great to watch them when they woke up – already trying to feed in the shallow water and then chasing after their parents, bouncing up and down and begging, when they got hungry.

IMG_5150Spoonbill – a short-billed juvenile or ‘Teaspoonbill’

There were lots of other birds to see here as well this afternoon, as usual. Marsh Harriers out over the grass, Avocets and ducks on the pools, and a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits whirling round. The usual pair of Grey Partridge were feeding on the short grass below the hide.

P1010448Grey Partridge – the usual pair at the Joe Jordan hide

Unfortunately, once again we had to drag ourselves away. We walked back to the car, stopping briefly to admire a Little Egret feeding in the reeds by Salts Hole on the way. What a great day it had been.

P1010455Little Egret – feeding in the reeds by Salts Hole

24th May 2015 – West of Wells

Day 2 of a two day weekend tour today. We were forecast some rain this afternoon, but thankfully it wasn’t as bad as forecast and we pretty much got a full day’s birding in. Once again we met up in Wells, but this time we were heading west.

First of all, we headed out to the local gull colony. There were lots of Black-headed Gulls, noisy as ever. On the edge of the melee were a few Common Gulls, not so common in the summer in this part of the world. They were looking particularly smart, with pure white rounded head, offsetting the dark eye, and a bright yellow bill. In the middle of the colony, we could pick out a few Mediterranean Gulls. Unlike the Black-headed Gulls, which actually have a chocolate brown hood, the Mediterranean Gulls have a jet black hood which extends further down the nape – like they have pulled down their balaclavas properly! Their darker black heads really stood out amongst the tussocks of grass where the gulls were nesting. We could also hear their distinctive calls as they flew round overhead and see their distinctive white wing tips in flight.

IMG_4927Common Terns – on the stones on the edge of the gull colony

It was not just the gulls we had come for, but the terns as well. As soon as we arrived, we could see several Common Terns fishing in the channel and standing on the stones on the edge of the gulls. We got them in the scope, and could see their black-tipped orange/red bills. Further over, we could see another tern on the shingle, but this one had a shorter, darker blood-red bill – an Arctic Tern. A second Arctic Tern was fishing, hovering out over the water beyond. We could see its longer tail and pale wing tips with a very neat narrow black line on the trailing edge of the outer wing underside. With several Common Terns in the air as well, we got a good chance to study the differences.

P1010256Common Tern – feeding over the channel in front of the colony

There were other terns as well. Down on the beach below several Little Terns had gathered. They would also periodically fly round fishing in front of us. A Sandwich Tern also patrolled up the channel, and with Sandwich and Little Terns together at one point, we could really see the size difference. This is a great place to watch terns, with four species in view at the same time! Great stuff.

Holkham was out next port of call. Walking west behind the pines, there were lots of warblers singing – Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, Cetti’s, Sedge and Reed Warblers – a good opportunity to try to recognise the different songs. There were the usual groups of tits, particularly Long-tailed Tits calling from the trees, and a Coal Tit came out of the pines and performed nicely for the crowd. Some quiet contact calls alerted us to the presence of a Treecreeper and we got a lovely view of it working its way methodically up a pine. There were yet more Treecreepers, tits and Goldcrests singing from the trees unseen.

By Meals House came the surprise of the morning. We had just stopped to listen to some warblers singing when one of the group pointed down along a little grassy path and asked ‘what’s that?’. Creeping through the grass was a pipit, and as it turned we could see that it was a Tree Pipit. It walked towards us, then saw us and turned and crept stealthily into the longer grass out of view, pumping its tail quietly. Tree Pipits here are generally migrants and this bird had probably dropped in to feed here on its way north. A cracking performance, rather than the more usual view of migrants calling as they pass overhead.

P1010262Tree Pipit – creeping through the grass by Meals House today

We called in at the Joe Jordan hide, as usual. There was plenty of activity around the cormorant and heron colony, with a couple of Spoonbills coming in or going out towards the saltmarsh at Wells or Burnham Overy to feed. Even more Spoonbills were just flying out of the trees, circling round and landing back again out of view. From the path later we got one in the scope in the trees, but in typical Spoonbill fashion it was fast asleep!

There was quite a bit of Marsh Harrier activity as well. One smart grey-winged male came low in front of the hide, and continued west pursued by Lapwings and Jackdaws. The pair of Grey Partridge was still present, feeding on the grass below the hide. And we marvelled at the way the song of a couple of Sedge Warblers carried to us from a long way across the grazing marshes – two males on opposite sides of the hide clearly trying to out-sing each other.

With some Scandianvian migrants arriving elsewhere along the coast this morning, and encouraged by our own earlier Tree Pipit, we thought it was worth a look in the dunes. However, the bushes were rather quiet today. We flushed a family of Mistle Thrushes which flew up into the trees and watched a pair of Kestrels hanging in the air above the dunes. From up on the top of the dunes, we could see a raft of several hundred Common Scoter still distantly out on the sea.

There were little groups of Swallows still moving west today, on their way somewhere. Amongst them, we picked out a couple of House Martins and a single Sand Martin as well. The number of Wheatears in the dunes has tailed off now, but we eventually found a very smart male Greenland Wheatear in one of their favoured areas. We got it in the scope and admired its richly-coloured burnt orange throat and upper breast.

IMG_4948Greenland Wheatear – a male in the dunes still today

It was forecast to rain today and, on cue, we could see the clouds starting to build from the west. Rather than continue on through the dunes, we headed back to the pines. We stopped briefly on the way to admire the first Marsh Orchids emerging in the dune slacks. On the walk back to the car, the rain finally caught up with us. Thankfully, it was not heavy, mostly a little drizzle, and we were not too wet by the time we got back.

P1010273Marsh Orchid – the first few spikes are starting to appear in the dunes

We headed west to Titchwell and thankfully we drove underneath the weather front and out of the rain as we did so. After lunch, we walked out onto the reserve, stopping to listen to a Song Thrush singing from the trees by the visitor centre on our way. On the reedbed pool, we found our first pair of Red-crested Pochard for the day, as well as a few Common Pochard and Tufted Duck, and a single Great Crested Grebe. It was still overcast after the rain and in the cloudy conditions there were lots of Swifts hawking for insects low over the reedbed and whooshing past us on the bank.

While we were standing there, there was a loud ‘BANG!’ as a flare appeared from over towards the village – who knows why. All the birds on the freshmarsh took to the air, and we watched a flock of Black-tailed Godwits fly over us and off towards Thornham. Whether it was the fault of the flare, or the two Sparrowhawks that flew over the freshmarsh as we got into the Island Hide, or both, but there were fewer waders than recent days by the time we got to scan the mud. We found a single Ruff with a couple of Redshank, and a few Black-tailed Godwits left behind. At least the Avocets had not been put off.

P1010284Avocet – one of the Titchwell regulars, with its catch of the day

There were still five Little Gulls scattered around the freshmarsh, all 1st summer birds with a black ‘W’ pattern on the upperwings and sporting a varying amount of black hood, from almost full winter white head with black spot to about 3/4 complete black hood. From up on the main footpath, a small group of gulls had gathered to bathe and we got a great chance to see just how little the Little Gulls are as they stood next to the Black-headed Gulls, preening.

IMG_4965Little Gull – a 1st summer bird with a partly acquired black hood

As we arrived in the Parrinder Hide there was a bit of a commotion as one of the people already in there announced they thought they could see a Bittern on the edge of the reeds on the far side of the water. Unfortunately, there has been a rather convincing piece of brown rubbish, shaped not completely unlike a crouched Bittern, tucked into the reeds on that side for some time now. Excitement over, unfortunately.

We did manage to find a couple of Little Ringed Plovers lurking amongst the emergent vegetation on the island in front of the hide. Through the scope, we could see their golden yellow eye rings. Better still, a single Ringed Plover was nearby and at one point we had the two species side by side, which gave a great size comparison for us. A single female Pintail was the only other surprise, a rather late lingering bird as most of the Pintail which we enjoyed watching over the winter have long since departed.

IMG_4970Little Ringed Plover – check out the distinctive golden yellow eye-ring

The Volunteer Marsh and Tidal Pools were both very quiet today, so we headed straight to the beach. The tide was just going out and the rocks were only just starting to emerge from the waves. As the first piece appeared, two Oystercatchers flew in to occupy it and were soon joined by three Turnstone, one coming into its smart white-faced, rusty-backed summer plumage. There was precious little space left, but a small flock of Sanderling decided to try their luck as well. Unable to land at first, they eventually found some space as the sea receded a little further. At this time of the year, with their scaly dark-patterned summer plumage, they look rather different to the silvery Sanderlings we see running around on the shore over the winter. There were also still a few Grey Plovers on the beach in various states of summer plumage. The sea was typically quite quiet, apart from a few terns passing offshore from the colony at Scolt Head.

By this stage, time was getting on so we headed back to the car park and drove up to Choseley. Remarkably, there were still five Dotterel present. It has been an amazing year for this species here, with trips of Dotterel of one size or another in one of the fields at Choseley mostly since April 13th (with only a few days when none were picked up). It took us some time to find them today. The sun had come out by that stage and there was a fresh NW wind up on the ridge. The Dotterel had settled down to sleep in the furrows and with the young sugar beet plants growing then they were even harder to find than usual. For such colourful birds, they can really disappear when they sit down! Eventually one put its head up and we were onto them. We could see them shuffling round and catch a flash of bright white supercilium as they lifted their heads.

IMG_4985Dotterel – hiding amongst the emerging sugar beet plants

That seemed like a good way to finish, and with some of the group with long journeys ahead of them, we headed back to Wells. Once again, we had a very productive weekend with a good selection of birds to be seen.

8th May 2015 – Sunshine & Showers, Birds & Butterflies

Another Spring Tour today, and this time the plan was to investigate the coast around Holkham and Titchwell.

We headed over to Holkham to start. It was beautifully sunny in the morning, and warm at times out of the wind. As we got out of the car at Lady Anne’s Drive, a Whimbrel flew overhead, the first of several spring migrants we were to see today, and disappeared off east. We headed west, walking along the path on the inland side of the pines.

The warblers were in full voice. From the deciduous trees alongside the path, we heard and saw Blackcap, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. In the reeds we could hear several Reed and Sedge Warblers and the explosive song of Cetti’s Warbler. There was also the usual selection of tits and others along the edge of the pines – including Coal Tits, Treecreeper and Goldcrest.

Most of the wintering Pink-footed Geese left in February, but a small group have still been lingering on the grazing marshes. As we approached Meals House, we saw thirty of them fly in and land on the grass, where we could get them in the scope. A family group of Greylag Geese walked right past them, giving a great comparison between the two species.

P1000730Green Hairstreak – feeding on Green Alkanet flowers

There is a little patch of blue-flowered Green Alkanet by Meals House at the moment, which has been alive with butterflies. Today was no exception. There were a couple of shiny Green Hairstreaks, Holly Blues, a very smart Orange Tip and Green-veined White. We paused to admire them, and get some photos.

P1000735Holly Blue – a female, with black-bordered forewings

Our next stop was at the Joe Jordan Hide. There was no sign of our main target initially, so we contented ourselves with admiring the Marsh Harriers and Buzzards. A pair of Grey Partridge fed quietly in the grass down below the hide. A Cuckoo flew over from the dunes and circled the trees, before flying back and disappearing into a Hawthorn bush. We could hear it calling pretty much constantly all the time we were in the hide from then on.

Finally, a Spoonbill dropped out from the trees and down onto the pool in front. It disappeared into the rushes, before re-emerging and having a bathe. Then in stood on the front edge of the pool to preen. We got a good look at it through the scope. A second Spoonbill also flew down and initially seemed interested in trying to gather nest material, before losing interest and starting to feed instead.

IMG_4566Spoonbill – at least two were around the pool today

From there, we headed into the dunes. At first, they seemed a little quiet. We could hear the Cuckoo again in the bushes, but couldn’t see it at first. Then an agitated Meadow Pipit pointed it out to us, half hidden in the top of a sallow and we saw it fly across to a low bramble clump where it landed and we got it in the scope. The Meadow Pipit set off after it and quickly chased it off again.

Finally we found a couple of Wheatears, a male and a female, but they were rather flighty and quickly disappeared up and over the dunes. That at least was the start of something and a little further on we found a Ring Ouzel as well. We nearly walked past it – a glimpse of something brownish disappearing round behind a bush could just as easily have been one of the many rabbits, but when we followed it up, a female Ring Ouzel flew out calling.

Just beyond, we found yet more Wheatears and this time a more confiding male, which perched up for the scope and even for the cameras. Once again, the males today were large and sporting quite a bit of orangey colour on the throat and upper breast, indicating they were Greenland Wheatears on their long journey north and west.

P1000744Greenland Wheatear – there were several in the dunes today

A report of a Tree Pipit earlier at Gun Hill saw us continuing even further west. There was no sign of it when we got there, but we did stop to admire the Little Terns feeding just offshore in the channel. The dunes towards Gun Hill were heaving with Linnets, including some very smart males with rusty backs and increasingly pink throats. There were fewer Yellow Wagtails moving today than there had been in recent weeks, but as we walked back one flushed from the dunes and disappeared off west. Small numbers of Swallows were still moving west through the dunes.

We saw a couple of smart Small Copper butterflies as well in the dunes, our first of the year. And there were several Cinnabar Moths, their bright pinky-red underwings flashing a warning as they flew.

P1000751Small Copper – several in the dunes today

We were almost back to Lady Anne’s Drive when we heard the distinctive reeling of a Grasshopper Warbler from out in the bushes amongst the reeds. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see it from the path. Then it was time to get back for lunch.

In the afternoon, we headed west to Choseley. There have been a variable number of Dotterel in the same field there for around two weeks now. We couldn’t find them at first, when we arrived today. We scanned the field, but only produced a few Wheatears, Skylarks, Red-legged Partridges and Brown Hares. However, the Dotterel have a remarkable ability to simply disappear and when they sit down they merge with the stony ground. Eventually, one stood up and we were onto them, quickly finding the other six nearby as the whole trip started running around the field feeding. They were quite close to the hedge today and by positioning ourselves by a convenient gap we got some really good views. Stunning birds.

IMG_4587IMG_4579Dotterel – the trip of 7 showed really well at Choseley this afternoon

We swung round via the drying barns and, along the road side, we found a little group of Yellowhammer feeding in a weedy field. In amongst them was a larger, paler, browner bunting – a Corn Bunting. A smart pair of Stock Doves were feeding nearby, next to a Woodpigeon to allow a close comparison.

From Choseley, we dropped down to Titchwell. We were a little later than we would normally have been getting there, but we still wanted to have a quick look around the reserve. The weather was deteriorating and it had clouded over -the forecast had been for showers this afternoon, and we were possibly fortunate it had held off so long.

The first bird of note was a Red-crested Pochard in one of the channels in the reedbed. A Great Crested Grebe was on the reedbed pool, resplendent in its summer plumage. Lots of Sedge and Reed Warblers were singing from the reeds.

The first bird we saw as we entered Island Hide was a bit of a surprise. A drake Greater Scaup was swimming out on the water – rather like a large Tufted Duck, with a grey back and green-glossed head. We just got the scope on it when it took off and flew away towards the sea.

P1000782Shoveler – sporting its very large bill

There was a good selection of other ducks out on the freshmarsh too – Gadwall, Mallard and Shoveler. There are also still a few Teal present, though numbers continue to drop. Several Brent Geese flew in from the saltmarsh briefly to bathe.

IMG_4628Little Ringed Plover – showing off its golden-yellow eye ring

There weren’t so many waders as in recent weeks. A couple of Little Ringed Plover on the islands, with one in particular quite close giving us a great look at its golden-yellow eye ring. We found first one, then two Common Sandpipers working their way surreptitiously round the islands, bobbing nervously. Only 2-3 Black-tailed Godwit today, which dropped in, a single Dunlin moulting into summer plumage, and a Whimbrel flew over. And lots of Avocets as usual.

P1000768Avocet – no trip to Titchwell is complete without a photo!

By now it was starting to rain, but thankfully only lightly, still not as bad as had been forecast and it didn’t put us off. There were not so many waders on the Volunteer Marsh or the tidal pools either. However, on the latter, we found the Scaup again amongst a group of Pochard. This time we got a really good, long look at it through the scope.

IMG_4649Greater Scaup – this drake was the surprise at Titchwell today

We were running out of time now, but we managed a quick look on the beach. The tide was out and there were plenty more waders out here. The Grey Plovers caught the eye first, with a couple of them resplendent in their summer plumage with black bellies and faces. There were several Bar-tailed Godwits on the beach, mostly in winter attire but with one very rusty-coloured bird. The Turnstones were also living up to their proper name of Ruddy Turnstone, looking stunning with their rufous backs and white faces, with a single Ringed Plover hiding in amongst them. Several Sanderling were running along the shore.

Then it was unfortunately time to call it a day – but what a productive day it had been again.