Tag Archives: Marsh Tit

22nd July 2018 – Scorching Summer Tour, Day 3

Day 3 of a three day long weekend of Summer Tours today, our last day. We were heading down to the Brecks today. The weather has been getting progressively hotter, and today was the warmest of the days we were out. It was bright and sunny in the morning and, although it did cloud over a little in the afternoon, it was still hot and humid.

The Peregrine was back on the church tower again this morning, so once we had picked everyone up we took a short detour round to see it. It had just finished devouring its breakfast and was digesting, perched high on one of the stones protruding from the tower, dozing in the morning sunshine. We got the scope on it and had a fantastic, full-frame view.

IMG_5794

Peregrine – back on the church tower again this morning

It was such a treat to get so close views of a Peregrine, we eventually had to tear ourselves away to head off on the journey down to the Brecks.

Once we got into the north Brecks, we took a detour off the road to look for Stone Curlews. At the end of the breeding season they start to gather in larger flocks in favoured fields, and we hoped to find some today. We stopped to scan the field where they have been recently, but we couldn’t find any there this morning. Then we heard Stone Curlews calling and realised they were in the field the other side of the road.

There is a thick hedge the other side of the road and it is impossible to see into the field, so we walked up to try to find a gap from where we could view. Some of the Stone Curlews must have been close to the hedge, because they took off and flew round, over our heads and across the road to the field we had been scanning. Two swung round and dropped down in view, but the rest, at least another ten, flew out to the middle of the field. The ground slopes away here and they dropped in out of view.

Turning our attention to the two Stone Curlews which had dropped down where we could see them, we trained the scope on them and had a great look at them. We could see their staring yellow iris and short black-tipped yellow bill, very unlike a curlew. They are not members of the curlew family at all, just named for their curlew-like calls, but actually members of the thick-knee family.

IMG_5822

Stone Curlew – two landed in view in the field

One of the Stone Curlews sat down in the stony field and promptly all but disappeared – they are very well camouflaged! While we were watching them, we heard Tree Sparrows calling and looked across to see two land in a large bush out in the middle of the field. Through the scope, we could see the black spots in the middle of their white cheeks.

Our main destination for the day was to be Lakenheath Fen. Unfortunately, we had to take a big diversion to get there today. We hit a big traffic jam at Weeting, where the traffic had backed up trying to get into this weekend’s Weeting Steam Rally. The tailback was right through the village and almost back to the main road! The organisers really need to do something about their chaotic parking arrangements next year – they clearly could not cope with the number of cars arriving. The diversion did at least yield a Mistle Thrush on some wires by the road as we passed.

We eventually arrived at Lakenheath to find they had their own ‘bioblitz’ event on today. While we were arranging access permits, we had a quick look at the various creatures they had already gathered. Unfortunately they had not kept many of the most interesting moths from the moth traps, but we did have a look at the Poplar Hawkmoth and Garden Tiger moths which had been put onto one of the screens round the back of the visitor centre.

One of the group had wandered back towards the car park, and saw the first Bittern of the day. It was a distinctive female with an injured leg which hangs down in flight, known as ‘Gammyleg’. It had disappeared off upstream along the river towards Brandon Fen, away from the reserve.

We needed to limit the amount of walking for the group today, so we were granted a disabled permit and drove out to the disabled parking area by New Fen viewpoint. We walked up to the viewpoint and looked out over the reedbed. Apart from a few Coot, a Moorhen and a couple of Mallard, there was not much to see here today. It was already hot, and activity levels seemed to have dropped.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed Skimmer – basking on the path

The number of dragonflies and damselflies here is starting to tail off now, but walking out along the bank on the south side of New Fen we still saw a good variety. There were lots of Brown Hawkers hawking over the reeds and an Emperor Dragonfly patrolled up and down the path, past us. One or two Black-tailed Skimmers were basking on the path and flew off ahead of us. A couple of rather worn Four-spotted Chasers perched on the reeds, but the Ruddy Darters were looking much smarter. Damselflies included Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Red-eyed Damselfly.

There were a few butterflies too – Red Admiral, Peacock, Comma and Large White. A Brimstone was feeding on some burdock flowers.

Brimstone

Brimstone – feeding on burdock

One or two Common Whitethroats darted out of the vegetation ahead of us and we saw a couple of Reed Warblers which disappeared into the reeds as we approached. The warden and one of his assistants were out in a boat, collecting things for the ‘bioblitz’, and flushed some Grey Herons from the reeds. When they had all taken to the air, sixteen birds were flying round together in a big flock! Three Little Egrets flew past, upstream along the river and a Green Sandpiper disappeared off that way too.

We hadn’t gone too far before we spotted the first Bittern for the rest of the group. It was rather distant, over the far side of New Fen. It flew across over the reeds and dropped down out of sight. A little further on, we turned to see another Bittern coming round the far corner of the wood back behind us, away in the distance. We watched as it headed steadily towards us.

When it got closer, we could see that it had a dangling leg – it was ‘Gammyleg’, the female Bittern one of the group had seen earlier. It flew in right past us and dropped down into the reeds a short distance ahead of us, giving us great flight views as it did so. It is feeding young at the moment, so had obviously been off along the river collecting food.

Bittern

Bittern – the bird known as ‘Gammyleg’ flying in over the reeds

We walked up to where the Bittern had seemed to go down and scanned the reeds, as much as we could see into them, but there was no sign of it. We hadn’t gone much further along here before we looked back to see ‘Gammyleg’ heading off again, back round the far corner of the wood, presumably back to where it had been feeding earlier.

There had been a family of Bitterns seen from Mere Hide in recent weeks, but they have not been seen for a few days. That much was immediately apparent also from the fact that we had no trouble getting into the hide. When the Bitterns were showing, it was impossible to get in, as the place was packed out with photographers taking up occupation of the place from dawn to dusk! We had a quick sit down and scan, before moving on.

The family of Great Crested Grebes is still on one of the pools by the path out to Joist Fen. The four juveniles are now pretty much fully grown – too big to ride on mum or dad’s back now. They still have stripy faces, which distinguishes them from the adults.

Great Crested Grebes

Great Crested Grebes – an adult and one of the now fully grown juveniles

A little further on and a Red Kite appeared from beyond West Wood, flying in low over the river before circling up over the trees. As we got out to Joist Fen, we started to see more Marsh Harriers and there were several juveniles out from the viewpoint, indulging in a bit of flying practice over the reeds.

The Hobbys can be harder to find here at this time of year, but we did manage to locate one from the viewpoint. It was very distant though, circling up right at the back of Joist Fen. There wasn’t much else happening out here today though, so after a short rest we set off back. On the way, a Common Buzzard was circling over the corner of West Wood now.

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard – circling up over West Wood

We could hear a Kingfisher calling from the poplars, but we couldn’t see it. It was getting quiet hot now, so we made our way back to the car and headed back to the visitor centre for lunch.

After lunch, we walked up to the Washland viewpoint. The water on here is evaporating fast now, which at least has the advantage of making it attractive to waders. There were quite a few Black-tailed Godwits feeding in the shallow water and a large flock of Lapwing on the mud at the edge. In with the latter, were three Curlew and an Oystercatcher too. A single Common Redshank was wading out in the middle. A few Common Terns were hawking around over the remaining water.

The temperature and timing, in the middle of the afternoon, was not really conducive for looking for passerines, but we headed off to Lynford Arboretum to try our luck. We could hear Siskin calling as we got out of the car and saw one flying off from the top of the larches as we walked down through the arboretum. A Nuthatch was calling from somewhere in the distance, but otherwise it was very quiet in the trees.

We walked down to the bridge and someone had put some seed out on one of the pillars. Several Chaffinches were busy feeding here, but nothing else. A Goldfinch came down to drink in the paddock just beyond. We decided to have a look round the lake.

The Little Grebes here have obviously had a successful breeding season – first we found a very advanced juvenile on its own, then an adult feeding a very well-grown juvenile under the over-hanging trees (we could hear its begging calls first), and finally we came across another pair with three very small juveniles.

Little Grebes

Little Grebes – this pair have three still very small juveniles

There was not much sign of any passerine activity down around the lake either, so we headed on round to the weir to see if we could find one of the Grey Wagtails. The water has largely stopped flowing out of the lake now, beyond a trickle, but as we walked in through the trees a Grey Wagtail flew off from the near bank and landed on an upturned wooden box out in the middle. We watched it bobbing its tail, before it flew back and started to feed along the far edge.

Looking back to the weir, we noticed some ripples in the water at the bottom and looked across to see a small mammal. It appeared to be bathing at first but when we looked more closely, we realised it was feeding, diving under the water. It was a Water Shrew – something we see very rarely. It surfaced with something in its mouth and hopped out onto the rocks, disappearing off to the bank. A few seconds later, it reappeared and ran down into the water again.

We stood and watched the Water Shrew feeding for several minutes – it was fascinating to observe one for an extended period, as normally all you see of them is one disappearing off in the water. We could see its long pointed nose, black fur contrasting with paler silver belly and quite a long tail. Eventually the Water Shrew disappeared into the rocks again and we decided to walk back.

When we got back to the bridge, activity seemed to have picked up a bit. The Chaffinches were still feeding on the seed on the pillar, but as we walked up we heard a Marsh Tit calling immediately behind them. It was flicking around in the trees just beyond, low down, hanging on the branches and picking at the underside of the leaves. A Treecreeper called and appeared from around the back on the trunk of the tree right beside us.

Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit – looking for insects on the underside of the leaves

Walking back up through the middle of the arboretum, we came across a large tit flock. A Nuthatch was with them, in a tall birch tree. Unusually, it was feeding by hovering and trying to pick insects off the leaves – not something you see often. There were also Long-tailed Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits.

The afternoon was getting on now and it was time to be heading back. On the way, we called in briefly at a clearing in the forest. There have been Tree Pipits breeding here, but there was no sign of them this afternoon. A male Yellowhammer appeared briefly in the top of a young oak tree, with food in its bill. Presumably it still has young in the nest nearby.

We had a quick walk to the edge of the clearing. Several birds flew out of the dense bracken and dropped back in further along. A mixed tit flock were feeding in here, possibly finding more food here in the cool, dark conditions, and with them were a couple of Blackcap and one or two Common Whitethroat.

Unfortunately, we were out of time and we had to head for home now. It had been an exciting three days with a great variety of birds and other wildlife, some of the best Norfolk has to offer in summer.

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21st February 2016 – Back to the Brecks

Day 3 of another three day long weekend of tours today and we headed for the Brecks to wrap up the weekend. It had been forecast earlier in the week to be wet and windy again today, but although it was certainly the latter by the afternoon, it stayed totally dry today. Once again, the rain missed us completely.

We started with a quick walk round the arboretum at Lynford. As we set out from the car park, we could hear Nuthatch calling and Goldcrests singing. Both Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush were also in full song. A few Siskins zipped in and out of the trees. Just about the first birds we saw were a couple of Marsh Tits.

We walked up to the gate to have a look under the trees. The feeders were empty again and it didn’t look like they had been filled again since last weekend. There were still a few birds around. A Nuthatch was in and out repeatedly to the home-made ‘downpipe’ feeder. This seemed to be the last one with any food left in it. A Coal Tit had a novel approach and actually climbed into the feeder through one of the large holes, which had been opened up by the teeth of the local squirrels, presumably getting down into the bottom to get access to the few remaining seeds in there.

IMG_8233Nuthatch – only the ‘downpipe’ feeder appeared to have any food left

Once again, there was no sign of any Hawfinches here. They have only been seen here very occasionally this winter and it is not entirely clear why. It may be down to greater availability of food elsewhere in the forest after a mild winter, but it could also be that increased ringing activity and repeated attempts to catch the Hawfinches in order to colour ring them has only succeeded in disturbing them here. We could see all the ringing paraphernalia through the trees at the back, net posts and hides covered in camouflage netting, in the area the Hawfinches used to favour.

We had a quick walk round the rest of the arboretum,  but it was rather cold and quiet deeper in the trees. There was also lots of noise and disturbance, with loads of cars and people arriving to join one of the regular working parties here today. With a bit of brightness in the sky, we wanted to make sure we were in good time for the Goshawks today, so we didn’t linger here.

We made our way deeper into the Forest and walked out along one of the rides. It was typically quiet down through the dark stands of dense pines which make up the commercial forestry. As we got to the clearing, there was more life. We could hear birds singing – Woodlarks. They have a sadder, more melancholic song than the Skylark, which rings out across the forest clearings at this time of year.

We could see two Woodlarks perched up on a fence further along, so after a quick look through the scope we made our way over for a better look. Unfortunately, a cyclist came along the track before we could get there and the Woodlarks were off. Another two came up from the edge of the path and they dropped down into the grass the other side of the fence.

We walked over to the fence anyway and started to scan the trees beyond. A Common Buzzard flew low over the trees and landed in the tops. Then a Goshawk appeared from the trees nearby and started displaying above them, with exaggerated wingbeats. The next thing we knew, the female was up too and displaying as well. We could see the size difference between them, the male noticeably smaller when seen in the same view.

GoshawkGoshawk – a photo of one of the birds taken recently

The pair of Goshawks flew round for a while, both looking even more powerful than usual with the extra deep and slow flapping of display flight. As it passed over the trees, the male Goshawk suddenly noticed the Buzzard sitting in the top of a pine below him. He turned and dropped down vertically straight at it, pulling up at the last minute, then climbed up again above it. When he had regained some height, the Goshawk folded its wings and stooped down vertically again, this time almost knocking the Buzzard off its perch.

We watched the male Goshawk then fly off, low along the line of trees. He had stopped displaying now, but we could still appreciate the power in his wingbeats as he flew past. Needless to say, when we looked back the Buzzard had gone. Goshawks are known to kill Buzzards at times, so it had obviously decided to make itself scarce!

We turned our attention back to the Woodlarks. We had seen a pair drop back down on our side of the fence and a male was singing from the ground a bit further along from us. We got it in the scope quickly, getting a good look at the way the two supercilia, the pale stripes above the eye, meet in a shallow ‘v’ on the back of the neck. Then it circled up and flew back out across the clearing singing. It dropped down to the ground a good distance away on its own. A little while later, when it circled up again, we could hear the female Woodlark calling quietly, still near to where it had been perched earlier. We soon located her on the ground and had a good look at her through the scope before she flew off across the clearing towards him.

WoodlarkWoodlark – a photo of one of the pair taken recently

We had hoped for some more action from the Goshawks, but while we were standing there the wind had strengthened considerably and once the Woodlarks had flown off it all went a little quiet. The female Goshawk did circle up again briefly above the trees, but never gained much height and dropped down again out of view fairly quickly. The group was keen to keep moving, so we decided to walk back.

Despite the blustery wind, it was a decidedly mild day. A large queen Bumblebee flew across the clearing while we were standing there and a Common Toad crawled across the ride on our way back. Clearly spring is just around the corner, although we are still forecast at least one more cold snap yet.

P1170662Common Toad – on its way somewhere across the ride

We had hoped to catch up with the Great Grey Shrike today, but it has become decidedly erratic in its appearances in recent weeks. With a short time to spare before lunch, we thought it worth a shot and had a quick walk round the edge of one of its favoured clearings. It was a bit windy out there and perhaps unsurprisingly there was no sign of it. A pair of Stonechats were keeping low down in the bushes in the most sheltered corner.

We had lunch round at Santon Downham. While we were eating, a flock of Redpolls flew over the car park and landed in the trees beyond. We got them in the scope and confirmed they were all Lesser Redpolls. They were very mobile, and kept circling round and landing in the the tops of different trees.

IMG_8247Lesser Redpolls – a flock of nine landed in the treetops at lunchtime

After lunch, we had a quick walk down along the side of the river. A couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew out of the trees by the bridge and a Green Woodpecker called from deep in the woods further along. A Treecreeper was feeding low down on the trees beside the path, flying ahead of us as we walked along. A Little Grebe was diving along the far edge. Otherwise, it was rather quiet along here this afternoon.

A dog came running down the opposite bank and leapt down to the water’s edge to bark at a family of Mute Swans on the river. The swans were decidedly unimpressed and the two adults swam in front of the juveniles and hissed at he dog, which seemed to change its mind about jumping into the water after them. A minute or so later, its owner appeared calling it and the dog ran off again.

P1170667Mute Swans – the adults saw off a dog which came after them

We didn’t go very far, but decided to head round to Lynford again to try our luck there instead. As we walked down along the path, the feeders were pretty deserted. Down at the bridge, someone had put lots of food on the posts as usual and a variety of tits were coming down to feed. As well as the Blue Tits and Great Tits, there were several Marsh Tits and Coal Tits darting in and out. A Nuthatch was calling but would not come out with us standing there, and we could hear Siskins in the alders nearby.

We carried on to the paddocks in the hope of catching up with a Hawfinch, but it was rather exposed out in the trees with the wind whistling through now and all was disappointingly quiet. We stood and scanned for a while, in the hope that a Hawfinch might be feeding on the ground below and fly up into the trees, but it was clearly not to be. However, while we were waiting we heard one call. A quick look over to our right and we saw that a Hawfinch was flying in across the back of the paddocks from the direction of the arboretum. We watched it fly across in front of the pines and then it turned and flew up towards them. We thought it was going to land in the pines, but unfortunately it dropped down vertically and disappeared into the trees.

We walked round that way in the hope that we might be able to find it perched somewhere, or that it might have another fly round. But the tops of the pines were being whipped back and forth by the gusty wind now and it had obviously decided to seek shelter lower down. We waited a few minutes in the hope that another Hawfinch might fly in, but there was just the one today. We decided to call it a day.

5th February 2016 – Hawks & Hawfinches

Day 1 of another long weekend of tours today and it was off down to the Brecks for the day.

We made a short stop at Lynford first thing. The Hawfinches are not feeding in the Arboretum with any regularity at the moment – there is probably too much food still available for them elsewhere in the forest. However, there are lots of birds starting to sing now and it is always good there early in the morning. As we walked across the road, we could hear a Mistle Thrush singing first, then just a little further along a Song Thrush as well. Coal Tits and Goldcrests were singing from the fir trees.

IMG_6431Nuthatch – kept coming back to the fat balls

We stopped by the gate to look at the feeders. A Nuthatch was hanging onto the cage feeder and jabbing furiously at the fat balls in side. It kept coming and going all the time we were there. There were lots of Coal Tits feeding on the piles of seed down on the ground – up to six in view at any one time. The Marsh Tit was harder to see, as it just dropped down briefly, grabbed a seed and made for the cover of the trees.

IMG_6424Coal Tit – at least six were down on the ground this morning

There were lots of birds coming and going as always here. A flock of Long-tailed Tits flew in to attack the fat balls, and there were lots of Blue Tits and Great Tits too. A few Chaffinches were down in the leaf litter, but predictably there was no sign of any Hawfinches today. We walked on round the Arboretum, but it was a bit cold and quiet deeper in the trees. Several Siskins were zooming around through the treetops, calling. A Goldcrest was singing in the firs, but was very reluctant to come out.

The most pressing target for the morning was Goshawk, so we decided to move on. We drove deeper into the forest and walked down a ride through the pines. When we got to a clearing, we stopped to scan the tops of the trees. Goshawks can spend their whole time deep in the forest without ever emerging. However, at this time of year they are displaying and this is the most reliable time to see them, when the females and males circle higher above the trees to advertise their territory. The best days to look for them are bright and clear, but today was just the opposite – cold and cloudy – not the best weather for hunting for Goshawks. At least it wasn’t raining! We positioned ourselves where we had a good all round vista and waited.

We could hear a mournful song drifting across the clearing and two small birds flew towards us, Woodlarks. One of them landed on a fence post and we got a great look at it through the scope. We could see its clearly marked pale supercilia over the eye and when it turned that they joined in a shallow ‘v’ at the back; its rufous cheek patch; the black and white feathers on the edge of the wing. It sat preening and singing on and off for a while, while the female fed in the grass out in the clearing, before dropping down to join her. Another pair of Woodlarks were circling over the other side.

IMG_6445Woodlark – perched on a fence post, preening & singing

There were several Skylarks about as well. We could hear them singing and see them fluttering higher into the air. While the Woodlark’s song sounds quite sad, the Skylarks are much more cheerful. As well as getting to compare the song, a Skylark conveniently landed on the path ahead of us, allowing us to note the differences from the Woodlark we had just seen.

Three birds flew towards us over the tops of the pines, calling, a distinctive ‘glip, glip, glip’. They were Crossbills, one of the traditional specialities of the pine forest. Unfortunately they carried on going, overhead and away. Crossbills are an irruptive species, moving around in response to the availability of fir cones and stopping to feed and then breed wherever they find food. They have been in short supply in Thetford Forest in the last couple of years, after the last great invasion in 2013-14, so it was good to see some even if they didn’t stop.

Suddenly, two birds circled up above the trees at the back of the clearing. They were clearly big, alternating grey above and whiter below as they turned. They were two male Goshawks. Conveniently, a roaming male had wandered into a pair’s territory and had provoked them up out of the trees, the resident male setting off after the interloper and trying to see it off. As the two males circled higher, another bird appeared hugging the tops of the trees. Even bigger still, this was the female. She never came up very high above the treetops, content to leave the male to defend the territory, but circled for a short while, before appearing to drop back into the trees.

The two male Goshawks circled together for some time, the interloper appearing to drift off, the resident male peeling off away, before the interloper turned and came back. They came close to each other, one doing a bit of a dive, the other jinking away at the last minute. They did this a few times, even with talons out, almost grappling at one point. Finally, the interloper appeared to get the message and circled away over the trees, and the resident pair melted back into the forest.

Untitled_4Goshawk – a recent photo of one of the birds

The skies appeared to brighten up a bit to the south, so we waited a while to see if that might bring them up again. A Common Buzzard circled up distantly. But the Goshawks remained in the trees. We decided to move on.

We had hoped to find the Great Grey Shrike which had been spending the winter here (again – it was in the same area last year). It was not seen yesterday in its recently favoured area , around Grime’s Graves, but we thought it was worth a look in case it had come back again today. We drew a blank. We drove round to Santon Downham and stopped for lunch at St Helen’s, but both were quiet – there was no sign of the shrike.

The last possibility was a clearing in the forest which it spent a lot of time in last year. We walked out there to take a look, but there was no sign here either. A Woodlark was singing and a Stonechat perched up on the top of a row of tree stumps briefly. It was increasingly cold and windy, and starting to drizzle, so it seemed unlikely the shrike would be showing itself, even if it was there. We beat a retreat to the car.

With the afternoon getting on, we decided to head back round to Lynford Arboretum to see if we could catch up with the Hawfinches. The drizzle stopped on the way there and it even brightened up a fraction again. There was still no sign of any Hawfinches from the gate – there were a lot more Chaffinches down in the leaves and lots of Woodpigeons. So we continued on down towards the paddocks.

Down by the bridge, a couple had just arrived with carrier bags and were spreading all manner of food around on the posts and tree trunks – seeds, cheese, bread, old crisps. There is often seed spread here and the birds seemed to be anticipating the bounty, they were in the trees and dropping down already. We stopped briefly to admire a Marsh Tit amongst all the other tits.

We had just got over the bridge when we saw a friendly face waving frantically at us from down beside the paddocks. We hurried along to be told that a Hawfinch had just flown in and landed in the trees briefly, before flying across again and dropping down to the ground below out of view. We set up our scopes and waited. A Jay perched in the trees provided a brief distraction.

IMG_6451Jay – perched in the paddocks, while we were waiting for the Hawfinch

There were a few finches zooming back and forth in front of the trees behind and one larger one caught our eye. It landed in the top of a pine tree and a quick look through the scope confirmed that it was a Hawfinch. It was a little distant, but we had enough time to get a good look at it before it dropped down into the pines out of view.

We had not seen the other Hawfinch come up from the ground, so we scanned back over the trees in the middle of the paddock where it had dropped down. Then one of the group gathered on the path shouted that they could see it – in a completely different tree, over to the right, in the exact place where it had first landed earlier. It had sneaked back across there, presumably while we were watching the other Hawfinch in the treetops behind!

IMG_6460Hawfinch – finally perched nicely in the paddocks for us

This was a much better view. We could see the huge bill, with the base outlined in black, extending back in a small mask to the eye and down into a little bib below. When it turned, we could see the grey shawl across the back of the neck. Then it flew further across the paddocks and dropped down again out of view. Great stuff!

With Hawfinch in the bag, we decided to go back to the bridge again to have a closer look at the birds coming down to the food. A Nuthatch was on one of the trees as we approached, probably poking around in the cheese which had been rubbed on the bark. A Treecreeper was working its way up one of the trees by the lake too.

The Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits and Great Tits were all busy feeding, but the stars of the show were the Marsh Tits. A large block of cheese had been pressed down into the rotten top of one of the wooden posts and they kept flying in to pick at it before zooming out again. With the scopes focused on the post, we got a great look at them. At one point, a Blue Tit attempted to have a go for the cheese as well, and one of the Marsh Tits turned round angrily and stared it down.

IMG_6475Marsh Tit – feeding on some cheese pressed into the post

We walked back to the car park, and continued on to have a quick look at the gravel pits beyond. They were rather quiet today, apart from a few Gadwall and a tight group of Tufted Ducks right over towards the back. Then it was time to call it a day and head for home.

 

 

24th September 2015 – Inland Birding

Day 2 of a 5 day Autumn Tour today. With few new migrants appearing on the coast yesterday, we decided to head inland to try for something different. After heavy rain overnight, it had pretty much cleared through by the morning, though was still cloudy and a bit damp at first. It brightened up nicely during the day, but was still cool in the blustery west wind.

We drove down to the Wensum Valley first. There had been an Osprey here for some days previously, stopping off on its way south to Africa, and we thought it might be a nice way to start the day today. It has been roaming up and down the river, visiting various fishing lakes. Unfortunately there was no sign of it at its favourite site, or any of its usual haunts. A Common Buzzard sat in the tree overlooking the lakes. Behind us, a Kestrel perched in the top of a hawthorn eyeing us curiously.

IMG_1118Kestrel – not the Osprey we had hoped to see this morning

Still, there were lots of other birds to see here. A Kingfisher zipped back and forth across the lake in front of us. A Grey Wagtail flew over – its very sharp call and, once we then saw it, its bounding flight and very long tail gave it away. A short while later, two Grey Wagtails flew back the other way, right over our heads. There were Siskin here as well – part of the huge influx we have seen in recent weeks. A party of twelve flew in calling and landed in the ash tree right in front of us, dropping down to an alder by the lakes, before flying off again.

Three Stock Doves perched up on the wires. We got them in the scope and had a good look at them, noting the differences from Woodpigeon – the smaller size, lack of a white neck patch and the glossy green there instead, the black spots in the wings. A flock of Golden Plover circled up distantly above the fields beyond. A few lingering Swallows and House Martins flew over.

There was no shortage of Egyptian Geese here. When we arrived, two were in the Osprey’s favourite dead tree, and they stayed there pretty much throughout. Another very noisy party of eight flew in along the river. It was lovely down by the lakes this morning, but it gradually became clear that there had been no sign of the Osprey all morning. We decided to head on inland.

P1090699Egyptian Geese – flashing their white wing panels as they flew over

From there, we made our way down into the Brecks. The region is well known for the Stone Curlews which breed here and early autumn is a good time to look for large post-breeding flocks which gather in favoured fields at this time of year. We tried one of the best sites for them but unfortunately there was lots of disturbance today, people working in the fields and lots of tractors driving back and forth. We drove around the area to see if we could find them at any other sites, but there was no sign. We did see lots of other farmland birds – big flocks of corvids around the pig fields, coveys of both Grey Partridge and Red-legged Partridge, both flushed by tractors in the fields, flocks of finches and lots of Pied Wagtails.

With the morning getting on, we decided to head further into the Brecks to Lynford Arboretum to try to add some woodland birds to the list. We walked round the top part of the arboretum before lunch. There were lots of birds, but they were hard to see at times in the tops of the trees. It was rather windy and they were keeping to cover today. Coal Tits outnumbered the rest, with little groups feeding in the fir trees, plus Blue and Great Tits. We also saw several Treecreepers, Goldcrests and a couple of Nuthatches.

After lunch, we walked further into the arboretum, down to the lake. There was a Marsh Tit calling as we reached the bridge, but it disappeared into the trees as we walked up. We tried the woodland walk to see if we could find it again, but as we got back to the bridge it was there again, calling. It was particularly windy by the lake and all the birds were proving hard to see. We walked back up through the arboretum again, seeing much the same as we had earlier. We had to get ourselves back up to the coast to finish, but with the report of a Barred Warbler at Kelling and “showing well”, we decided to head that way earlier than planned to try to see it.

The walk along the lane was fairly quiet today – obviously lots of people had been up and down there already. A few Chaffinches were in the hedges. There were still several butterflies out in the sunshine – Speckled Woods and Red Admirals. We had seen a single Southern Hawker among the trees in the car park at Lynford Arboretum over lunch, but most of the dragonflies out today were Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers. While we were walking down the lane at Kelling a single Migrant Hawker landed on the brambles & nettles along the path, giving us a great opportunity to admire it up close.

P1090718Migrant Hawker – enjoying the sun along the lane at Kelling

Out on the water meadow, we could see the regular pair of Egyptian Geese and a smattering of duck – several Teal and three Shoveler, the latter with their heads down constantly in the water, feeding. A lone Curlew was probing in the grass on the edge. A Little Egret was fishing along the north side and a single Grey Heron sat preening in the sunshine in the reeds along the drainage channel on the Quags.

IMG_1130Stonechat – one of the males down at the water meadow

The Barred Warbler had been seen along the hedge between the path and the water meadow, but there had been no further sign of it for a couple of hours by the time we got there. With all the disturbance up and down the lane, it had presumably hidden itself in cover. A party of Stonechat were feeding around the Quags – at least four, two males and two females.  They were very active, flying back and forth between vantage points, dropping down to the ground after prey or flycatching up into the air. It was hard to keep up with them. There were also lots of Linnet and Goldfinch around the Quags.

P1090734Stonechat – a female perched on the dead thistle head along the lane

It was lovely down by the water meadow in the afternoon sunshine, so we stood for a while just in case the main target might show itself again. Lines of gulls were making their way west overhead, presumably heading off to roost, and a few Black-headed Gulls dropped in to bathe. Finally we were out of time and had to make our way back. A Great Spotted Woodpecker perched in the top of one of the fir trees back by the main road, calling, as we left.