Tag Archives: Temminck’s Stint

20th May 2017 – Late Spring Birding, Day 2

Day 2 of a three day long weekend of tours today. The weather forecast for today was much better – sunshine & showers. We saw some nice sunshine and managed to dodge the showers later in the afternoon. All in all, not a bad day to be out.

As we drove east from our meeting point in Wells, we took a detour inland. A male Marsh Harrier was quartering the field next to the road as we pulled into a convenient layby next to some farm buildings. A quick scan of the roofs and we located a Little Owl in one of its usual spots. It was rather distant today, unfortunately, and there was quite a bit of shimmer already rising from the concrete between us and it. Still, we got an OK view of it through the scope and it was a nice way to start the day.

Continuing on our way east, away from the coast, we turned into a quiet lane and found somewhere to park. A Grey Heron circled over as we set off up the lane. There were lots of warblers singing in the hedgerows here. A Willow Warbler was in full voice high in the bare branches of a tree. A Common Whitethroat sang its scratchy song from the hedge and a Sedge Warbler was rattling away in the damp field beyond. There were several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs too.

6O0A1460Grey Heron – circled over the lane this morning

As we approached a block of poplars, we could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling and looked round to see it drop out of the trees and down into a clump of sallows in the field. A Green Woodpecker was laughing from the poplars here too. Another Marsh Harrier quartered over the back of the meadow.

Walking on beside the wood, we heard the beautiful sound of a Nightingale singing. It was still some way ahead of us and just singing little snippets at first. As we walked towards the song, a bird flew out of the hedge ahead of us and across the road, flashing an orange-red tail in the morning sunshine. It was a Nightingale, but not the one we could still hear singing in the same place it had been. Nightingales can be rather elusive and we thought that might be the only sight we had of one today, and not everyone had seen it.

We continued towards where the song was coming from and found a convenient gap in the hedge. As we looked over, we could just see a shape perched in the sun – the Nightingale – but it saw us too and dropped straight back into cover. It was in a thicket of brambles and cut branches and for several frustrating minutes we could just see it moving around in the undergrowth as it sang. Then it came out into full view again and perched where we could all see it on a fallen tree trunk.

6O0A1483Nightingale – singing and enjoying the morning sunshine

The Nightingale kept hopping down into the thicket but then returned to the fallen tree trunk or a bare branch nearby. We had a great look at it as it perched in the sunshine singing. Eventually, it dropped back into the thicket and we decided to make our way back to the car. As we got back, we could hear another Nightingale singing in the copse next to where we had parked. We stood and listened to that on too, for a few minutes, before tearing ourselves away.

Our next destination was up on the Heath. As soon as we got out of the car, we could hear a Yellowhammer singing. We looked round and quickly located a bright yellow-headed male perched in the top of a yellow-flowered gorse bush. We had a really good look at it through the scope, before it dropped down to the ground beyond.

IMG_4381Yellowhammer – a smart yellow-headed male, singing by the car park

The Heath was alive with warbler singing too this morning, probably making up for time after the cold and damp weather yesterday. A Blackcap was singing in the trees in the car park. As we walked up the path, we could hear the sweet descending song of a Willow Warbler. A Common Whitethroat was scratching away on top of some brambles. A Chiffchaff was chiffing and chaffing in the birches.

There is no shortage of Linnets on the Heath and everywhere we went we encountered little groups of them, perched in the gorse or up in the trees. Several already had young. Linnet used to be a common farmland bird but sadly they are now much scarcer. Thankfully they still do well in certain places here, particularly on the heaths and the coastal dunes.

6O0A1499Linnet – still a common bird up on the Heath

There was no sound from the Dartford Warblers at the first place we tried, so we made our way round to the other side of the Heath to try our luck there. On our way, a Woodlark flew across and landed on the side of the path ahead of us. We got it in the scope and watched it walking along, picking at the vegetation along the side. It was collecting food for its hungry brood of youngsters somewhere – we could see it already had a caterpillar in its bill.

It was busy on the Heath this morning and a large and noisy group appeared at the other end of the path. The Woodlark ran into the vegetation bordering the path and then flew up and over onto some rough ground beyond. As we walked on towards where it had landed, we could just see it standing on a clod of earth, before it took off. A second Woodlark took off too, it had obviously been collecting food nearby, and the two of them disappeared off over the Heath, calling, just as the large group walked up the path.

6O0A1510Woodlark – collecting food for its young

There were thankfully no crowds of people in the place where we hoped to find the Dartford Warblers today. Unfortunately, at first, there were no Dartford Warblers either! We had to content ourselves with watching a family group of Stonechats – a pair with at least two streaky juveniles. The male Stonechat then appeared on the gorse in front of us and started singing and song-flighting.

Just as we thought our luck might be out, a Dartford Warbler appeared, thought it was too quick as it darted into the gorse nearby. It wasn’t going to give itself up easily, and after a minute or so, we all got a brief view of it as it flew across the path in front of us and disappeared back down into the gorse. We stood staring into the bushes where it had gone but it didn’t come back out.

We really wanted a better view of a Dartford Warbler, and eventually another one appeared on the other side of the path. We tried to follow this one for a while, but again, all we got at first were very frustrating glimpses as it hopped up onto the top of the gorse, saw us, and darted straight back into cover. After we saw it disappear over the bushes a short distance away, we heard it singing. Hurrying along to the corner, we could finally see it, a male Dartford Warbler, picking around in the yellow flowers in the top of a gorse bush. It fed here for a minute or so, before zooming off back past us with something in its bill.

6O0A1518Dartford Warbler – played hard to get, but finally gave itself up for us

There has been an Iberian Chiffchaff at Walsey Hills, near Cley, for the last five days and it was reported to be singing again this morning, so we thought we would just have enough time for a quick visit there before lunch. Iberian Chiffchaff is very similar in appearance to our Common Chiffchaff, but has a very different song (not just a Spanish accent!!), so it was most important to hear it.

However, when we got there nothing had been heard from it for over half an hour. We stayed a few minutes, listening to several Common Chiffchaffs singing away, as well as a Blackcap. It seemed like it had gone quiet, so we reasoned we would be better going for lunch first and having another go afterwards.

6O0A1520Common Chiffchaff – singing away at Walsey Hills, instead of the Iberian Chiffchaff

We ate our lunch at the picnic tables in front of the visitor centre at Cley, a nice place to sit in the sunshine. Then after lunch, we drove back and parked by the East Bank, before walking along to Walsey Hills again. A Tawny Owl hooted from North Foreland wood as we walked in along the path. It turned out it had been the right decision to go for lunch, as the Iberian Chiffchaff had still not been heard again. We had a quick walk through the trees and up round the hill at the back, but we couldn’t hear anything either.

It felt like we were out of luck with this one, so rather than waste too long here, we decided to do something else instead. We walked back past the small crowd waiting patiently by the willows at the back of the trees and up the path towards the road. We were almost out of the trees when we heard the Iberian Chiffchaff singing right by the path.

Unfortunately, it was in a thick clump where we couldn’t see it. The Iberian Chiffchaff sang six or so times in succession – a combination of ‘chiff, chiff, chiff’, ‘hweet, hweet, hweet’ and ‘ti-tu, ti-tu’ and various mixtures thereof, very different from the rather monotonous ‘chiffing’ and ‘chaffing’ of our Common Chiffchaff, then it went silent again, just before everyone the crowd from further back could make it over to where we had found it. We gave it a few minutes, then decided to leave them to it.

A brief light shower passed over, so we collected our coats on the way back past the car, and headed out along the East Bank. A Lapwing was feeding in the wet grass below the bank and several more were displaying further over, the males tumbling and rolling in the sky as they sang their distinctive song. There were several Redshanks down in the wet grass too, and one or two of those were singing and song flighting too. A lone female Ruff was hiding in the grass and a single Ringed Plover was preening on the mud at the back of the Serpentine.

6O0A1540Lapwing – feeding in the wet grass below the East Bank

Most of the ducks which had spent the winter here have now departed, but we did manage to find a single drake Wigeon asleep at the back of the Serpentine. A few pairs of Gadwall and Shoveler will presumably be breeding here now. There were also lots of Greylag Geese out on the grazing marshes.

On the other side of the path, a pair of Marsh Harriers circled up over the reedbed. We could hear Reed Warblers and a Sedge Warbler singing from the reeds and got great views of a pair of Reed Warblers as they worked their way along the base of the reeds on the far side of the ditch. A Reed Bunting was singing from one of the bushes in the reeds, although it sounded like it had been rather short-changed in the song department, more like just a brief jumble of discordant notes!

6O0A1555Reed Warbler – a pair were feeding in the base of the reeds by the ditch

There were not many waders on Arnold’s Marsh today, apart from Avocets and more Redshank. A pair of Grey Plover over the back were still in winter plumage, in contrast to all the black-bellied birds we had seen yesterday. A pair of Little Terns dropped in to preen on one of the islands and a couple of Sandwich Terns circled overhead calling.

We were on our way to the beach but had just stopped to look at a Meadow Pipit by the path when we heard a Greenshank calling and looked over to see it land in the shallows. We got it in the scope and had a good look at it, but it didn’t stay long and quickly flew off again calling.

When we got to the beach, the sea looked very quiet. A couple of Little Terns flew past just offshore, possibly the ones we had just seen on Arnold’s Marsh. A party of nine Brent Geese flew past, surely heading the wrong way? They should be heading off to Russia for the breeding season. We were just having a quick scan over the water when we spotted a large bird circling some way offshore. An Osprey!

6O0A1566Osprey – a nice surprise find, heading west offshore this afternoon

It took a while for everyone to get onto it, but the Osprey gradually worked its way a little closer inshore as it drifted past us. At one point, a Sandwich Tern flew up to it and started mobbing it, hastening it on its way. We watched as it headed off west towards Blakeney Point. An unexpected bonus – Ospreys are not common birds here, just passing through in small numbers.

There had been two Temminck’s Stints reported again earlier today on the reserve, but they seemed to have disappeared and everyone we had spoken to said they had not seen them this afternoon, where they had been on Simmond’s Scrape. We had thought it would be worth looking for them on the Serpentine, but they were not there either. As we were walking back towards the car, the news came through that they were on Simmond’s Scrape again so we headed straight round there.

As we walked into the hide, one of the Temminck’s Stints was picking its way around the edge of one of the islands, creeping about. We had a great look at it through the scope, although it was a little distant for photographs. Our smallest regularly occurring wader species, the Temminck’s Stint was completely dwarfed by a Shelduck which walked past it.

A summer plumage male Ruff appeared – a striking bird with jet black throat, breast and down onto the belly, but with bright rufous-ginger head and neck. It flew over and landed on the same island as the Temminck’s Stint, proceeding to chase it out of its way. The Temminck’s Stint looked tiny, even next to the Ruff.

After a while, the Temminck’s Stint took off and flew across the scrape, landing down in the far corner out of view behind the bank. We thought that would be it until someone in the hide pointed to a bird on one of the closer islands a few seconds later. Yes, it was a Temminck’s Stint, but this was a different one, the second bird. It was much closer to us and we got a great look at this one, much less well marked with black-based summer feathers than the first Temminck’s Stint we had been watching.

IMG_4486Temminck’s Stint – the second one, less well-marked, greyer, than the first

At this point it started to rain, so we stayed in the dry in the hide and had a scan of the scrapes. There were lots of Shelduck and Avocet on here today, but not much else of note. We could hear a Cuckoo calling in the distance. A Little Egret walked out of the ditch in front of the hide, ran across to the edge of the scrape, but then changed its mind and flew across to the far side of the ditch. A pair of Pied Wagtails were feeding on the edge of the water, and perching on the posts in front of the hide.

6O0A1602Little Egret – in front of Dauke’s Hide this afternoon

The shower didn’t last long, but once it cleared it was time to head back to the car and home.


13th May 2016 – Not So Unlucky

The first of two Spring Migration Tours in North Norfolk today. It was a Friday and that was meant to be unlucky, but we didn’t do too badly! It was cloudy, and a lot cooler than of late, but that didn’t hold us back.

As we were heading west today, we stopped quickly at Holkham on the way. We could see several large white shapes flying around, landing in the trees, and a look through the scope confirmed they were Spoonbills. There were plenty of Little Egrets in the trees too.

A careful scan through all the Greylags and Egyptian Geese out on the grazing marshes revealed a single Pink-footed Goose too. It flew across, just to show it wasn’t injured, so this one must have another reason for staying here rather than heading back to Iceland for the breeding season with the rest of the Pink-footed Geese which spend the winter here.

We continued on our way west and turned off the coast road in Titchwell, up towards Choseley. There were several cars parked along the road, which confirmed that the Dotterel which have been here for a couple of weeks now were still present. They were hard to see at first, when they stopped moving, but gradually came closer and into a lighter patch of the field where they were more obvious.

IMG_4172Dotterel – at least 26 in the field today

The number of Dotterel here has been steadily growing. There were at least 26 today but they were very hard to count (as many as 28 were claimed by others). Still, we had a good look at them in the scope.

A Corn Bunting was singing from behind us while we were watching the Dotterel, so we turned our attention to that next. It was not in its usual spot on the top of the hedge, but was singing from a recently sown patch of ground, hidden behind some taller set aside in the foreground, probably down out of the wind. When it finally flew, we could see there were actually two Corn Buntings out there, and we did manage to see one on the ground, although it was hard to get an angle onto it in the scope without putting it up too high for everyone to see through!

There were a couple of Yellowhammers and Linnets too, in the same field. Nearby, two Grey Partridge were creeping through a low crop, and a Red-legged Partridge was close by. We could see plenty of Brown Hares dotted around the fields.

6O0A2520Brown Hare & Red-legged Partridge – admiring the scenery

It was down to Titchwell next and, after a short break for a hot drink, we walked out onto the reserve. As we made our way along the main path out to the reedbed, we could hear a Cuckoo singing from the bushes. There were several Reed Warblers singing from the reeds and a couple of Cetti’s Warblers shouted at each other from the brambles.

The dried up grazing meadow ‘pool’ was rather devoid of life – it was possibly a bit too windy and exposed out there today. There was more to see on the reedbed pool. A few Tufted Duck and a Common Pochard were diving out in the middle. A Little Grebe swam across and then a Great Crested Grebe flew in from the back and landed closer to us. A Bearded Tit zipped low across the water and dived back into the reeds. A Marsh Harrier circled over the reedbed at the back.

Most of the Brent Geese seem to have departed now, but a couple of smaller groups were still lingering out on the saltmarsh. A very smart Grey Plover, with black face and belly, was lurking on one of the pools.

The water level on the freshmarsh is still rather high – presumably to try to persuade the Avocets to nest within the new high security fence, rather than giving them too many other islands from which to choose. Possibly as a consequence, there are not too many other waders on here at the moment and those that are here can be rather difficult to see.

We did manage to find a Temminck’s Stint looking across from Island Hide, possibly the same bird which was last reported here a couple of days ago. However, it was on the island behind the fence and promptly tucked itself down and went to sleep. Not the best views! There were a few Turnstones trying to shelter from the wind here as well.

There were lots of Common Swifts zooming about low over the water, trying to find insects. These were probably migrants which had stopped off here on their way to try to feed. They were great to watch. There were a few House Martins and Swallows in with them, but later from Parrinder Hide there seemed to be a much larger number of the former.



6O0A2542Common Swifts – hawking for insects over the water

A Yellow Wagtail flew over, calling, and looked like it might land on one of the islands initially. However, it didn’t stop and carried on over the bank towards the sea. Round at Parrinder Hide, we had better views of a White Wagtail on one of the islands out in front. We could see its pale grey back, much paler than a Pied Wagtail, contrasting more with its black cap.

A noisy gang of Avocets flew round and landed out in the water. They seemed to be having an argument about something and bickered with each other for a while, before chasing round again.


6O0A2576Avocets – this noisy gang seemed to be arguing about something

There were several Little Ringed Plovers out on the freshmarsh. One was very close to the main path and we had a great look at it – we could see its golden eyering clearly. A single Ringed Plover was on one of the islands in front of Parrinder Hide too. At one point, we even had Ringed Plover and Little Ringed Plover side by side, which was a nice comparison. The former was noticeably bigger, with brighter orange legs and a stumpy black-tipped orange bill, as well as lacking the golden eyering.

6O0A2562Little Ringed Plover – there were several on the freshmarsh

Round at Parrinder Hide, the Temminck’s Stint, having obviously woken up, reappeared feeding on the edge of one of the smaller islands, where we could get a much better look at it. There were also several Common Sandpipers round the muddy margins, at least four, and three Dunlin in smart summer plumage, sporting black belly patches.

There are always several pairs of Common Tern on the freshmarsh, but a pair of Little Terns were on here as well today. Through the scope we could see their black-tipped yellow bills and white foreheads.

IMG_4179Little Tern – a pair were loafing on one of the islands on the freshmarsh

There are still a few ducks here. Several pairs of Shoveler and Gadwall will probably stay for the summer, but the couple of pairs of Teal that were still here today will still more likely head north.

6O0A2587Shoveler – there were several pairs on the freshmarsh

We braved the bracing wind and made our way out towards the sea. The tide was in and the Volunteer Marsh was flooded. There was not much on the Tidal Pools either. Out on the beach there were some large flocks of gulls, mostly Herring Gulls, resting on the sand. Along the shoreline, we could see lots and lots of Sanderling running in and out of the waves, many now in rather dark summer plumage. A single Kittiwake flew past out to sea. Then we decided to get out of the wind and make our way back.

After lunch, we made our way back along the coast to Holkham again. We figured we could get a bit of shelter from the wind in the lee of the pines, so walked west from Lady Anne’s Drive. It was still rather cool here and not so much was singing today. Still, we did hear a couple of Common Whitethroat, one or two Sedge Warblers, several Blackcap and a few Chiffchaff. We managed to see a Goldcrest singing from a holm oak and a few tits – Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits and Coal Tits.

6O0A2594Marsh Harrier – there were several at Holkham

We stopped to watch a couple of Marsh Harriers circling up from the reeds. When one drifted over the grazing marshes, a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits flew round noisily. As they started to settle back on one of the pools, we could hear a Greenshank calling. When we got the scope on the godwits, we could see two Greenshank out on the mud too. A nearby Pink-footed Goose this side was obviously injured – with what appeared to be a broken wing.

We had a look out from Joe Jordan Hide. There were lots of Cormorants in the trees and a few Little Egrets came and went, but there was no sign of any Spoonbills down on the pool today. We did eventually see a couple of Spoonbills perched up in one of the trees, but they were doing what Spoonbills love to do best – sleeping!

There were more Marsh Harriers coming and going and a Common Buzzards circled in front of the trees. A Kestrel was having a dust bath. A pair of Grey Partridge were feeding on the grass below.

IMG_4185Grey Partridge – a pair were in front of Joe Jordan Hide

On our way back, we stopped in at Washington Hide. It appeared to be rush hour for the Spoonbills now! In the space of just a few minutes we had four different birds flying past, in both directions, including an immature bird with dark tips to its primaries. Even at a distance they are instantly recognisable, with their necks held outstretched as they fly, unlike the similarly white Little Egrets, which tuck their necks in.

We had done very well today, despite the cold wind, and it was now time for us to head for home. Thankfully we had all also survived Friday 13th unscathed!

27th April 2016 – Five Days of Spring, Part 1

Day 1 of a five day Spring Migration tour today. A few migrants are continuing to get through, despite the rather unseasonably cold weather at the moment, so we set off east along the coast to try to catch up with some of them.

We made a brief stop at Cley on the way. A Wryneck has been in various gardens here for five days now, and was reported briefly first thing again today. By the time we arrived, it had not been seen again for a couple of hours. We had a quick look in the garden where it was seen yesterday, but as there was no sign of it there we decided not to hang around as we had other places we wanted to visit.

Our first destination proper was Kelling. The walk down the lane was rather quiet and fewer warblers than normal were singing in the cold wind. We did hear a Goldcrest singing and it was kind enough to come out and show itself. Further down, by the Water Meadow, there were several Common Whitethroat singing and one perched up nicely so we could see it, after performing a quick song flight. There was a nice ‘dopping’ of Shelduck in one of the fields – they are often to be found flying around here looking for burrows in which to nest.

6O0A1232Shelduck – this ‘dopping’ was in a field by the Water Meadow

There has been a Ring Ouzel or two in the area here for about a week now. They seem to be lingering, presumably waiting for conditions to improve for their onward journey to Scandinavia. A quick scan along their favoured hedge revealed a single Ring Ouzel hopping about on the short grass. A bit like a Blackbird, through the scope, we could see the distinctive white crescent on the breast. A few Wheatear could be seen distantly in the same field.

Ring OuzelRing Ouzel – a photo from a couple of days ago here

A scan of the Water Meadow produced the usual selection of wildfowl – the pair of Egyptian Geese with four goslings, a few Shoveler swimming round with their heads down and three Teal hiding in the vegetation round the edge. This despite the best efforts of the male Egyptian Goose, which seems intent on chasing away all the ducks, as they obviously pose a grave threat to his offspring!

As we stood looking at the Water Meadow, we heard a Yellow Wagtail call and turned to see it flying low over the grass. It circled once, then flew up and made to carry on west, but once it felt the strength of the wind it turned back and dropped down onto the grass. We just had time to get it in the scope – a smart male, with bright yellow head and underparts – before it was off again.

A tern appeared briefly overhead – it seemed to come from inland and continued straight on towards the sea. It was an Arctic Tern, with very buoyant flight and long tail. They have been on the move this week and several groups have been seen inland at various lakes and gravel pits. A nice surprise here on the coast.

There were a few waders on the pool – a pair of Avocets and a couple of Redshank. Another birder, walking ahead of us, flushed a Common Sandpiper from the far corner which thankfully landed back on the edge with the Avocets. We got it in the scope and watched it bobbing its way along the side of the pool.

We stopped to have a closer look at a couple of Skylarks out on the short grass. There are always lots of Meadow Pipits here, one of which entertained us with its parachute display flight. Several Linnets were in the bushes, a Reed Bunting called from the reeds and a smart male Stonechat perched on a fence post.

We were almost down to the beach when a shout from a local birder halfway up the hillside alerted us to a Cuckoo. We raced up and there was no sign of it at first where it had landed, but then it flew out of the bushes pursued by a couple of Meadow Pipits and circled round before disappearing over the brow. We continued on to the top of the ridge but couldn’t find it again. However, we did find three Wheatears in the top of the sheep field, including a smart bandit-masked male. They were very close from this side and we got superb views through the scope.

IMG_3237Wheatear – showing well in the sheep field

It was a bit exposed and windy up on the ridge here, so after a good look at the Wheatears we walked back down and started to make our way back up the lane. Rounding the corner by the Water Meadow, we flushed a Ring Ouzel from the top of the brambles. A quick scan from round on the other side confirmed there were actually two of them still here today, with the Ring Ouzel we had seen earlier still present further along, where we had left it.

While we had been at Kelling, news had come through of a pair of Garganey freshly arrived at Felbrigg Park. As it is only a short drive from here, we decided to go there to try to see them.We could hear a Nuthatch in the trees as we walked down towards the lake, a Jay flew across, a female Kestrel perched high in a tree in a sheltered spot scanning the grass below and a pair of Mistle Thrushes were feeding out in the meadow.

It didn’t take long to find the Garganey, in the flooded meadow just before we got to the lake. They were feeding in amongst the vegetation at first, but as we stood and watched they came out into the open. We could see the striking white stripe on the head of the male.

IMG_3250Garganey – this pair were in Felbrigg Park today

After watching the Garganey for a bit, we set off for a walk round the lake. There were lots of Sand Martins hawking for insects over the meadows and the water, plus a couple of Swallows. Apart from a few Tufted Duck and Teal, plus the usual Mallards, there weren’t many ducks on here today. Down by the meadows on the far side, we heard the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker and turned to see it perched down on the grass, catching the sun.

IMG_3268Green Woodpecker – out on the grass beyond the lake

There were a few tits in the trees as we walked back through the woods on the other side of the lake. A pair of Marsh Tits were the highlight here – we could hear them calling as they worked their way through the trees towards us. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called from deeper in the wood. A couple of Chiffchaffs were singing.

On the walk back past the flooded meadow, the Garganey were still present, hiding in the vegetation again. A couple of Common Snipe dropped in and disappeared straight into cover, but eventually one just showed itself. Then it was back to the car for a late lunch. While we were eating, a pair of Nuthatches were calling from the trees just above us.

6O0A1273Nuthatch – a pair were in the trees above us at lunchtime

After lunch, we dropped back down to Cley. The Wryneck had been seen again at one point during the morning, but had now disappeared again. However, a Temminck’s Stint had put in an appearance out on the reserve, so we decided to go to look for that instead. We had been advised to go to Bishop Hide first. On the walk there, we saw a Spoonbill flying off west across the reserve.We could hear Sedge Warblers singing, but they were mostly keeping tucked down out of the wind today. Eventually we found one singing from the safety of a bramble bush beside the path.

6O0A1288Sedge Warbler – mostly singing from deep in the bushes today

There were a few raptors up now in the sunshine. A Common Buzzard was circling over the fields just the other side of the road and a Marsh Harrier was over the reeds. When we got a bit closer to the latter, we could see it was a male Marsh Harrier carrying nest material. It dropped into the reeds and flushed a female, which circled for a while before flying back to the nest and ousting the male.

6O0A1292Marsh Harrier – a female circled over the reeds

When we got in to Bishop Hide, we quickly found the Temminck’s Stint – but it was right over the other side in front of Teal Hide. We had a quick look at it through the scope anyway, in the heat haze, but it was not a great view. There were several other species of wader on here too – plenty of Avocets and a good number of Black-tailed Godwits.

6O0A1303Avocet – feeding in front of Bishop Hide

There were also a few Ruff. As waders go, Ruff are one of the most confusing at the best of times. But with the males in various stages of moult into summer plumage, the colours of which are hugely variable, no two look alike at the moment!

6O0A1309Ruff – several today, but no two looking alike!

We decided to make our way round to Teal Hide for a better look at the Temminck’s Stint. On the way, we could hear Bearded Tits calling from the reedbed. Thankfully when we got round there, the Temminck’s Stint was still where we had last seen it, on the island in front of Teal Hide. We had much better views of it from here, creeping round on the mud, before something spooked it and it flew off further away.

IMG_3287Temminck’s Stint – much better views from Teal Hide

We had seen most of the birds on here from the other side, but a few more Ruff added to the variety in this species we had observed today. A single Greenshank was feeding in the corner of the scrape, looking very elegant next to the larger, dumpier godwits. A Grey Heron was stalking along the edge of the reeds at the back, neck outstretched, looking for something to catch. A Water Rail squealed from the reedbed. A Brown Hare ran along the bank in front of the hide until it saw everyone inside, then turned and sprinted off in the other direction.

We had a look in Dauke’s Hide, but the water level on here has risen in the past few ayds and there was very little on the scrape here today, apart from the ubiquitous Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits. A pair of Shoveler dropped into the channel in front of the hide and the female swum straight in to the near bank without any fear while the male lurked further over calling nervously. We could see their enormous shovel-like bills.

6O0A1319Shoveler – sporting a huge shovel-like bill

On the way back, we just had time for a quick last look in the gardens as we walked past, but there was still no sign of the Wryneck in any of its favourite spots. Then we headed for home.

15th May 2015 – North by Northwest

Day 1 of a long weekend of tours today and we headed up to the North-West Norfolk coast. It was cloudy in the morning, sunny later on but dry and warm all day with a light northerly wind.

P1000865Goldfinch – coming down to feed on dandelion heads by the road at Choseley

The Dotterel have been in the fields at Choseley for about three weeks now, though exact numbers have varied from day to day. That was our first post of call today and they were in their usual field. They were distant at first, but we walked along the track towards the drying barns and while we were doing so, they started to run closer. There were other birds in the hedgerows as well – a couple of Goldfinch came down to feed on the dandelion clocks by the road, a bright male Yellowhammer sang from the top of a hawthorn and a Lesser Whitethroat rattled from the hedge nearby. There were lots of Brown Hares in the field too.

IMG_4718Dotterel – three of the 22+ at Choseley today

The Dotterel were hard to count. When they stop and crouch they do a very good impression of stones in the field! They were also split into two groups. The group that came towards us included 19 birds and at least 3 more were over the other side of the field, making a minimum of 22 in total. A very good size trip indeed. We spent some time watching them running around, the females with their bright orange and dark chestnut bellies, white breast stripe and bright white superciliums, and the duller-looking males. Smart birds.

We drove round to the drying barns afterwards, stopping on the way to admire various things. Our first Wheatear of the day, a female, was perched on top of a rock on the bare earth beside the road. There is no shortage of Red-legged Partridges here, but a single male Grey Partridge was feeding quietly close to one of the hedges. We had even better views of two pairs of Grey Partridge later on, opposite the drying barns. But on our way there, we stopped to look at a Corn Bunting singing from the wires, and to listen to its song, like jangling keys.

P1000870Corn Bunting – singing from the wires by the road

From there, we drove over to Holme and walked out past the golf course to the paddocks. There were lots of Whitethroats singing from the bushes, and several Blackcaps as well. We could hear a Turtle Dove purring from the trees nearby, but we couldn’t see it. However, we did see one more distantly, performing a song flight the other side of the houses along the access road. We decided to go for a walk and try again on our way back. There were a few butterflies on the wing, despite the cloud and light breeze, with several Wall and a single Green Hairstreak the most notable.

P1000874Wall – there were several of these butterflies in the dunes today

As we walked towards the dunes, we stopped to scan the grazing marshes across the road. Down in the grass were a couple of cracking male Greenland Wheatears, sporting a wash of burnt orange across the throat and upper breast.A female Wheatear was feeding on the short grass in the dunes further along. There were lots of Swifts up in the sky above, making their way slowly west. A pair of Marsh Harriers circled up, pursued by all and sundry – Jackdaws, Lapwings and Avocets. There were Curlews on the beach, Redshanks on the saltmarsh, and we flushed a Common Sandpiper from the edge of one of the puddles. We got half way through the dunes before it was time to head back.

Back at the paddocks, a bubbling call from the bushes alerted us to the presence of a female Cuckoo. We stopped for a second and eventually she flew out past us and away towards the houses, giving us great flight views as she went. At the far end, we could hear the Turtle Dove purring again, from the trees, but we still couldn’t see it at first. However, waiting patiently for a short while and it flew out and landed in the tops of the trees, where we could get it in the scope for all to see. As we walked back to the car, we could hear the Turtle Dove purring all the way.

P1000878Turtle Dove – purring in the paddocks at Holme

After lunch, we drove back to Titchwell. On the walk out to the reserve, we stopped to listen to a Grasshopper Warbler reeling from the Thornham grazing marsh. There were several Reed Warblers singing, appropriately enough, from the reeds, but the Sedge Warblers were a little more reticent today. We heard snatches of song and saw them moving around from bush to bush. The Cetti’s Warblers were as noisy, and as secretive, as ever.

We picked up our first House Martins of the day over the reedbed. There were lots of them, flying back and forth, feeding, as well as several Swallows. As we watched them, they started to trickle off west over the bank. There were loads of Swifts here too.

Scanning the Freshmarsh from Island Hide, we could see a good selection of waders. A little throng of smaller waders on one of the closer islands caught the eye first, with a mixture of mostly Dunlin and Ringed Plover, about 15 of each. Many of the Dunlin were in summer plumage, with rusty-toned upperparts and sporting smart black belly patches. The Ringed Plover were a bit smaller and darker than our regular breeding birds – these were Tundra Ringed Plover (subspecies tundrae), stopping off on their way to breeding grounds further north. Behind them were a couple of beautiful summer plumage Turnstones, with rusty-orange backs and white faces, while a little huddle of around 20 had gathered on one of the islands further back.

Equally smart, was a stunning summer plumage Grey Plover nearby, sporting a very fetching black belly, breast and face. There are not so many Black-tailed Godwit here at the moment, but a single rusty-coloured summer plumaged bird certainly drew our attention. Not far away, a small group of Bar-tailed Godwits were mostly asleep. The majority were still in grey-brown winter plumage, but a couple of them were equally rusty-coloured, if not more so. No trip to Titchwell would be complete without a stop to admire the Avocets.

P1000889Avocet – showing well from Island Hide, as usual

There were several Common Terns around the freshmarsh, plus plenty of gulls. Herring Gulls of varous ages were mostly asleep, along with a few young Common Gulls. However, amongst them, a couple of gulls instantly stood out. They were clearly much smaller, and they were swimming round in circles, picking at insects on the water’s surface, Little Gulls. Scanning across and another couple were over to towards the reeds. These were immature birds, 1st summers, most of them sporting a patchy black hood to a greater or lesser degree, but with black markings in the wings which showed as an inverted ‘w’ pattern when they flew.

IMG_4726Little Gull – 2 of the 4 on the freshmarsh today

From round at the Parrinder Hide, we finally located the prize birds of the freshmarsh today – two Temminck’s Stints. They were feeding very furtively on one of the muddy islands, close to or amongst the emerging vegetation, and when they felt threatened they crouched down. They were so well camouflaged, with their brown colours, they were very hard to see against the mud. Nearby, we admired the golden eye-rings on a couple of Little Ringed Plover.

The number of ducks continues to decline,  but there was a single drake Wigeon on the freshmarsh today, although the Teal seem to have disappeared. The Mallard already have lots of ducklings and there were still several Shoveler and plenty of Gadwall. Brent Goose numbers also appear to be dropping now, with only a very small number coming in to the freshmarsh to bathe today.

P1000899Gadwall – the connoisseur’s duck

The tide was high this afternoon, which was why several of the waders had gathered on the freshmarsh. There was very little on the Volunteer Marsh, except a single Little Egret.

P1000900Little Egret – by the path on the Volunteer Marsh

Four Little Terns had dropped in to the freshmarsh to bathe while we were in Parrinder Hide, and when they landed beside a couple of Common Terns, gave us a good size comparison so we could see just how small they are. However, a couple of Little Terns were on the mud on the tidal pools close to the path and we got even better, close-up views through the scope. We also watched one of them fishing nearby, hovering and dropping down to splash into the water. The beach was fairly quiet today, with the tide in, but we did see a couple of Sandwich Terns offshore.

IMG_4739Little Tern – great scope views on the tidal pools today

P1000903Little Tern – 1 was fishing right by the path

As we walked back from the beach, past the freshmarsh, a Hobby flashed by and zoomed out across the saltmarsh. We had also seen a Peregrine earlier, when we were watching the Temminck’s Stints on the way out, and as we passed Island Hide, we picked it up again, circling high over the edge of the reedbed.

We just had enough time for a quick look at Patsy’s Reedbed. Willow Warblers were singing from the sallows on the walk out there. This has been the most reliable place in recent weeks to catch up with the Red-crested Pochard and we were not to be disappointed today. Three drakes were feeding directly in front of the screen and another pair were right over the back of the pool. Then it was time to call it a day and head back.

IMG_4757Red-crested Pochard – one of five on Patsy’s Reedbed

4th August 2014 – Spoonbills, waders & the Heath

A Private Tour today, we were aiming to have a relaxed day of general birding in the Cley area. We started on the Heath. The Bell Heather is in bloom at the moment, covering the landscape with a swathe of purple and alive with honey bees. This is interspersed with patches of the bright yellow flowers of the low-growing Western Gorse. All of which provides a stunning backdrop.

We heard the Turtle Dove before we saw it – the delicate purring carries a surprising distance. We eventually picked it up sitting in a dead branch in the top of a birch tree. Through the scope we could see the distinctive rusty-fringed wing feathers and black-barred neck-side patch. When another pair of Turtle Doves flew over, it launched itself into a display flight, a clatter of wingbeats up into the air, before gliding slowly back down to perch in another dead tree. We heard the purring repeatedly through the morning, but the bird itself was often hard to see. Turtle Doves are now so sparsely distributed, it is always a joy to see and hear them.

P1080421-002Turtle Dove – the Heath is one of the best places to see them these days

The Dartford Warblers are feeding young again at the moment, their third brood of a very successful breeding season. It took us a while to find them, but we stumbled across the male bringing food back repeatedly to a small patch of gorse. He was hard to see at first, feeding low in the purple heather, but our patience was rewarded when he eventually perched up on top giving us great views. We also saw a stub-tailed young juvenile, which he led away from the path into the cover of some thick gorse.

There were also lots of Yellowhammers, several Skylarks and Linnets; a Green Woodpecker laughed loudly, before bounding across the heather to the pines. Bullfinches called from the trees but wouldn’t come out. There are plenty of butterflies out at the moment – on the Heath we saw lots of Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, Graylings and a Small Copper.

P1080439Grayling – so well camouflaged, they can be hard to see on the ground

Our next stop was Stiffkey Fen. On the walk out, we stopped to watch a family of Buzzards circling up over the wood. The hedges were alive with mixed post-breeding flocks of tits, warblers and finches. Out on the Fen itself, the Spoonbill flock totalled 14, the high tide having pushed them out of the harbour to roost.

P1080450Spoonbill – 9 of the 14 at the Fen this morning

There was also a very good selection of waders – several each of Green and Common Sandpipers, lots of Black-tailed Godwit and a Ruff, 20 Greenshank and plenty of Redshank, loads of Dunlin, a Knot still mostly in its orange-red summer plumage, Snipe, Little Ringed Plover, Avocet and Oystercatcher. There was a glorious view out across the harbour to Blakeney Point – as we were admiring it, a juvenile Peregrine flew over, pursued by a large mob of angry terns!

P1080449Blakeney Point – a stunning view out from Stiffkey Fen this morning

We headed to Cley for lunch – we sat out side and while we were eating, we admired the view across the reserve. Another large flock of Spoonbills flew in and landed out on North Scrape, a Sparrowhawk flew across the scrapes and spooked all the birds, a family of Avocets circled round in front of us – not bad for a lunch break!

Next, we walked out to the East Bank. The Bearded Tits were proving elusive, but the Marsh Harriers put on a good display, both a tatty male and a pristine chocolate-brown juvenile. At Arnold’s Marsh, the large creche of noisy terns gave us the chance to look closely at both Sandwich and Common Terns. More waders included a large flock of Curlew and a single Sanderling, still mostly in summer plumage and looking much more colourful than the silvery grey birds we are used to seeing in winter. On the walk back, a family party of Bearded Tits finally let us glimpse them through the reeds and gave fleeting flight views.

The light was perfect by this time to head out to the hides. The scrapes were teeming with waders, lots of godwits and sandpipers as we had seen earlier at Stiffkey.There were lots more Ruff, in various plumages – moulting males and the much smaller females (Reeves), plus a scaly-backed juvenile, looking completely different again. However, there were also some new ones for the day. A black-bellied Golden Plover lurked among the Lapwings. A close look through the Dunlin revealed a bird which was slightly bigger and with a distinctive downcurved bill – a Curlew Sandpiper – this one moulting out of its bright red-orange summer plumage. And finally a tiny shape creeping around the mud on the edge of the grass revealed itself to be a Temminck’s Stint, eventually coming out into the open so we could get a good look at it.

P1080424Curlew Sandpiper – an adult moulting out of summer plumage

A great way to end the day – almost. On the walk back to the car park, the distinctive ‘ping’ of a Bearded Tit revealed a bird which perched up briefly before flying away across the reeds. Perfect!

P1080445Common Darter – still plenty of dragonflies around

P1080458Goldfinch – lots of plain-faced juveniles among the red & black-faced adults

20th May 2014 – Firecrests in North Norfolk

Half day private tour today, I had been asked about the possibility of seeing Firecrests. There was not enough time to get down to the Brecks, where they are often easier to see, but they do breed in North Norfolk, mostly along the Holt-Cromer ridge. However, they are very localised and can sometimes be hard to find, particularly if they are not singing. Always nice to have a challenge, we thought we would give it a go.

We started off with a female Yellow Wagtail which dropped into the paddocks – good to see one away from the coast, and on the ground rather than flying over. Several Garden Warblers were singing, and gave us a chance to compare with nearby Blackcaps – one of the trickier pairs of songs to tell apart. As we walked through the woods on the ridge, we heard Goldcrests singing, which we spent a few minutes listening to, to give us a reference to compare with. We stopped at a couple of likely clumps of fir trees, then a short snatch of song ahead alerted us to the presence of a Firecrest. It was only half singing, and just occasionally, but as we followed it for a while, we realised that it was gathering food. A second bird appeared, also carrying food, and we watched them both going back and forth into the firs – we had found a nesting pair. The male had not been especially vocal until a Goldcrest approached the nest site from the other side, singing. At that point, the male Firecrest burst into full song and sang repeatedly for several minutes. A real treat to watch.

With the main challenge complete, we dropped back down to Cley to see some waders. There was lots of activity, with 3 Temminck’s Stints, a Little Stint, 35 Tundra Ringed Plovers together with a Little Ringed Plover to compare with, 2 lovely red Knot, Greenshank, and a particularly handsome breeding-plumaged male Ruff shepherding 4 Reeves, not to mention all the commoner waders.

Quite a morning!

16th May 2014 – Birds & Butterflies

A glorious sunny day today – it felt like summer. We started at Stiffkey Fen with a nice Small Copper on the path. A Greenshank was trying to hide among the large flock of Icelandic Black-tailed Godwits and two Little Ringed Plovers lurked on one of the islands. Several Reed and Sedge Warblers perched up in the reedy edge of the channel, giving us a good opportunity to compare songs and birds. Out in the harbour, Little, Common and Sandwich Terns put on a good show and a cracking adult Mediterranean Gull circled overhead calling. Still plenty of Brent Geese were lingering on the saltmarsh, with a smattering of winter waders out on the mud.

On the heath, a large number of Green Hairstreaks were fluttering about in the heather. The song of a male Dartford Warbler led us to a pair chasing through the gorse – we followed them for a while and suddenly the male performed a song flight right in front of us, fluttering across the path and landing on the top of a stem perched out in the sun. A single Woodlark was located quietly feeding, before a male burst into song behind us – at first perched in a tree, he flew up over the heath, his slightly mournful song a contrast to all the Skylarks we had heard during the morning.

Back to Cley, and the Temminck’s Stint was still present, along with Greenshank, several Common Sandpipers, Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers, more Black-tailed Godwits and a couple of Dunlin. A White Wagtail was on one of the scrapes and a single Wheatear was by the beach.

A great day to be out.