November Daylight Highlights


With the days counting down fast to the longest night, actually getting some daylight and the daytime wildlife highlights is challenging for those like me with busy jobs. But getting out is worth its weight in gold to revive any flagging wellbeing. Last weekend saw an early rise to help set out the mist nets on Cedar Grange on the west of the village. This area is now perfect as a place to take in the sights and sounds of farmland birds worthy of yesteryear. Aside from an early singing robin there wasn’t much moving before the nets went up.

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Robin keen to get the early worm.

There was slight frost as the sun broke over the winter seed crop and lit up the Autumn oak trees and hedgerows and a lingering mist across the top of the millet stalks. slowly the small flocks of early linnets began to appear  from the surrounding trees and hedgerows followed by some fly over redwings and chuckling fieldfare. Very quickly the nets filled with other early risers, yellowhammers by the dozen , chaffinches, dunnocks, wrens and the special winter visitor the reed bunting.

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Male reed bunting starting to show his breeding colours

I also managed a similar expedition at nearby Great Melton which has another of the winter seed crops. Again the morning soon woke to the sounds of the early songsters with a robin singing its slightly mournful sub-song and he was quickly joined by singing flocks of linnets brought in by the seed crop. A quick scan of the treetops soon revealed plenty of other farmland birds also thriving including yellow hammer and reedbunting and also a strange white finch. On close examination this turned out to be a leuchistic linnet. Leuchism is similar to albinism but is not the same with birds showing feathers without pigment to a greater or lesser degree but not with other albino features such as pink eyes.

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Clearly bigger than a linnet, this is a leachistic red kite showing the added white feathers not present on a typical bird

Photo Credit: karen leah Flickr via Compfight cc

Whilst my white linnet stayed well out of camera range I shall have to make do with the photo above to show the effect and also to segway into my next stroll which took me even further afield to Marlingford where I carried out some wetland surveys. The wetland birds were a bit thin on the ground with a lonely little egret  and a calling kingfisher the highlights on a dimming afternoon until a pair of standard red kites spent half an hour calling and quartering above my head.

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Typical red kite and highlight of the shortest or darkest of days

Unfortunately there is no video treat for this post due to some annoying you tube glitch but check back next week as December sunny days have already filled up with some outstanding visits from winter guests and highlights.

Patch Gold


As October slips away I have made as many attempts as possible to get out and enjoy local birding highlights and have managed to do so alongside a local bird ringer. The opportunity to see even the common birds very close up even briefly is not to be missed and gives benefits outside of the scientific ones . The first foray took place near one my local  WEBS sites and soon produced a range of small wild wonders with snappy blue tits, grumpy wrens and gorgeous goldcrests.

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Only close up do you get to see the orange hues that splits the male from the female goldcrest

As well as the opportunity to see the birds close up there is also the chance to tell with some certainty if they are this years birds and get an idea of how good a breeding season it has been and it appeared to have been a good one. In amongst the youngsters were not just blue tits and great tits but also a summer special a blackcap made its way into the gentle embrace of the mist nets before being rung measured and set free.

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Keeping an eye on proceedings and out of the nets and adult great tit

Winter visitors were also captured and alongside noisy blackbirds and a songthrush were a number of redwings part of last weeks winter return and invasion, all feeding up on the berry laden bushes and hedgerows. Out of the nets I was also pleased to see a flock of 60 teal  and a marsh tit which has been eluding me for a couple of months.

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relocated Marsh tit

Closer to home with some ringing just off the west Hethersett loop at Cedar grange we got close and personal with record numbers of reed bunting and plenty of yellow hammer. The flocks of birds were being targetted by a sparrowhawk and an opportunistic buzzard but another raptor grabbed my attention being mobbed by starlings and a crow and a new record for the village as a short eared owl circled and then flew off south Esat.

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Here in all his glory the Hethersett  Short eared owl

It is fair to say my snatched record shot doesn’t do this far travelling  hunter justice so below is a more photgenic version of this rare village visitor.

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Photo Credit: fletchlewista2 Flickr via Compfight cc

This post’s video comes from my last working trailcam which has fortunately been supplemented by a couple of new Crenova cameras so the regular updates on the you tube site should start to pick up again with a range of new wildlife offerings. I had hoped to get some grey partridges this time out but got these red legged ones instead.

Autumn walks and winter visitors


There can now be no doubt that Summer has been blown out on the back of various Atlantic Hurricanes. The village’s housemartin colony left last week and with them the warmer weather. There are still plenty of local birds who dont seem to mind the blustery and wet conditions and the local jackdaws as pictured below seem to enjoy playing in the gusty conditions across the village. At night the tawny owls are now starting to twit and twoo as their breeding season gets under way.

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Ever present Village Jackdaw  

 

With the summer gone I have been out on some of the local walks looking to the skies for winter visitors. In the gardens the blackbird and jay populations appear to be increasing, possibly already being added to by continental birds. Over on the West Hethersett Loop the winter seed crop is already attracting flocks of linnets and some yellowhammers  but no winter thrushes yet that I have seen.

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Plenty of fruit and berries locally for the winter blackbirds.

On Thursday I had a chance to take a BTO birdringer out to look at some of the local areas with loads of birds on show including one of my WEBS sites. It was a grey overcast afternoon again but as soon as we arrived on site there were small flocks of singing linnets and constant calling of Bullfinch and green woodpecker so plenty of colour amongst the grey. In the hedgerows wrens scolded and goldcrests piped their high pitch calls.

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Autumn goldcrest feeding up before the cold weather sets in.

Whilst checking out the local river and lake for the winter visiting ducks and  geese we heard a familiar and yet unfamiliar call overhead. I hadn’t heard it for months since early last spring  and soon in view were the callers, a dozen redwings. They were followed by other small flocks and signal winter is well on its way but reassuringly it will be full of new friends and old from the colder parts of Eastern Europe and Russia

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Redwings starting to fly over in their tens and hundreds.

Photo Credit: Svenni and his Icelandic birds. Flickr via Compfight cc

This morning a return to watch some actual birdringing with my very excited 10 year old assistant. We saw a haul of 35 birds of ten species including plenty of this years blue tits and great tits along with a song thrush, a couple of blackbirds, some wrens and some of those goldcrests. Perhaps most special was a female bullfinch as they are often heard rarely seen and a young chiffchaff  who will be over wintering in the UK instead of flying south with its parents.

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Commonest on the day and very feisty Blue tit complete with new ankle bling.

This posts video offering is of a couple of nocturnal visitors to the local patch but with recent reports of big cats in the area who knows what will be on the next post.

Spring walks


I took several pleasant strolls out and about the village this week and may be joined by others soon as the walks section of the blog has made the big time getting to page 30 of the Wymondham magazine. Undoubtedly my favourite walk was out on the West Hethersett loop which still has the winter seed crop attracting flocks of scarce farmland birds. Over 100 linnets were singing and feeding and as I got closer I could pick out nearly 20 yellowhammers and plenty of chaffinches mixed in.

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Whats not to love about 20 yellowhammers on your doorstep?

Photo Credit: brianwaller703 Flickr via Compfight cc

The adjacent path runs along the hedgerows and the calls and song of greenfinch, dunnock, wren and robin were all evident. Some poorly controlled dogs also highlighted, in their trespassing, pheasants which shot out of the field. My end point was to be the local county wildlife site at Beckhithe Meadow and the hedgerows on route were home to foraging yellowhammer and reed buntings again staying local thanks to the seed crop.

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Male reed bunting being less than confiding

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Robin, rather more confiding

I took a couple of 9 year old assistants out with me on another nearby walk to deploy some camera traps on a possible otter or mink trail to see what we could capture. There were plenty of calling chiffchaffs as we headed down to the river and black headed gulls tracked us, suspicious of our motives. we got brief views of a buzzard as it called and flew off ahead of us and after we had walked through the oaks trees a few hundred meters we heard it call again but this time it didn’t sound right. It turned out the reason it didn’t sound right was because this time it was two red kites displaying and dancing low overhead causing some serious wow moments for myself and my companions. further on we checked out the local mallards and tufted ducks but some other local ducks have given mean excuse to bring out some favourite captures.

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Drake Mandarin currently appearing regularly at Thorpe Green

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Drake Gargany appeared this week at Whitlingham

On our way back home we travelled the A47 south of Norwich and saw not one but two badgers. Unfortunately both had been the victims of road accidents but I suppose this does highlight a good local population and they were joined in their roadside resting place by a polecat which whilst sad also suggests that they continue to do well in the area. Owing to some significant operator error this weeks video comes to you not of otters or mink but of a recent healthy if slightly damp badger. Check back soon to see if the first otter has been caught on camera.

Winter rarity


Short winter days are here but they come with benefits as the winter migrants make themselves known as soon as the winter sun comes up. Over the last weeks redwings and fieldfare can often be seen for those who remember to #lookup. The largest flock of fieldfare I have seen in the last fortnight was an impressive 65 birds and they were accompanied by a charm of 35 goldfinch adding to the spectacle.

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Fieldfare harbinger of winter snow

Photo Credit: Full Moon Images Flickr via Compfight cc

In a recently re-blogged post (available Here) we highlighted the bonus for winter birds of the local winter seed crops for birds planted by the great Melton Farms. I took a number of walks out through this area and the seed crops are now starting to weigh heavy with seed and attracting the farmland birds close to the village. The most obvious birds are perhaps the linnets which although they are small finches have been turning up in numbers with up to 80 birds at a time along with other birds accompanying them.

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Linnet generally a little brown job but the males have a pink chest and crown if they let you get close enough to see.

The linnets are often accompanied by the larger and more colourful yellow hammer but last week an even rarer associate was hanging around with them. I first noticed the linnets as they were mobbing a hunting Kestrel who was hunting field vole which are obviously benefiting from the seed bonanza. Then I noticed watching me from the nearby hedge a bird which I have not seen locally before.I quickly grabbed the camera for a record shot and pointed it out to my 9 year old companions who were bug hunting.

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Record shot of the latest rarity brought in by winter seed.

I have never seen a reed bunting locally although they are very occasionally seen in winter but this female like the linnets and hunting kestrel have all been brought into our lives by good farming practice and make a walk around the west hethersett loop especially on a sunny winters morning something to cherish.  During another similar walk near Great Melton I happened across one of the local goshawks not the wild one who has been terrorising the local wood pigeons but the local falconers bird getting ready for some winter hunting and I couldn’t resist taking a photo or two.

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A slightly warm male Goshawk panting and looking forward to some cooler hunting weather.

This posts video comes not from me but the BTO and partners and is useful for those partaking in a winter stroll and wanting to tell apart the farmland birds. In the meantime I will get out and recover the camera traps and see which of them may be starring next time.

 

 

Summers End


August presses towards September with its usual quiet birding as the post breeding birds moult and hide out of sight and generally lay quiet. The garden is often full of squeaky youngsters including great tits, coal tits, blue tits and long-tailed tits and are joined by the occasional young robin or blackbird. The skies seem strangely empty after the last screaming swift was seen over the village on the 11th August.

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Scruffy young robin typical visitor at this time of year

This is the best time to pick out swallows and house martins all around the village but only as stray birds head inexorably south to their wintering grounds in Africa. There is still a chance to see swallows and house martins locally with Wong farm and the Around the Wong walk being good for swallows filling the wires with waiting birds. This weekend a trip to the Bell PH at Marlingford produced fine ginger beer , house martins still visiting nests and soaring buzzards overhead so also a good spot to visit.

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Perfect spot for Lunch with house martins.

An August visit to my local WEBS site also produced a late surprise for summer in terms of another visitor who should soon be heading back to warmer climes. I had hoped for a migrant sandpiper or other wader but none were about so I set to scanning the lake for other birds. There were plenty of young black headed gulls some still slightly downy. A grey heron stalked the edge of the reeds no longer considered a threat by previously anxious Gull parents. A few cormorants had returned after the gulls had become less quarrelsome and sat drying themselves on the edge of the island. As I watched them a delicate white bird flew past and revealed itself as one of this years common tern nestlings now fully grown.  Presumably as all the others have flow including its siblings and parents it will be finding its way to the coasts of Africa on its own or with friend it meets along the way.

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Echos of July with Common tern feeding young bird.

Photo Credit: Michele Lamberti Flickr via Compfight cc

The first of this posts video offerings was taken of a night time visitor near the local badger sett. This little wood mouse is one of a number who have taken advantage of food left primarily for the birds.

The second video was taken in the same spot. It is my first of one of the regular night time callers around the woods, a tawny owl caught in the rain clearly hoping for a wood mouse to make itself known.

 

Summer hits and rare things


Since the last post I have been surveying birds as often as possible and checking the summer migrants are all in and counted. One of the last in, and a relief to see back from their African travels is the house martin colony at Admiralty Way in the village. Their chattering as they wheel about above the roof tops is a joy to watch.

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Caught on the wing (tricky hence this one is not my own) the housemartin

Photo Credit: allengillespie.photo Flickr via Compfight cc

Having seen these arial acrobats in it made sense to check out the survey route I had to do around Wong Farm (click HERE to see the local birding walk). I took a couple of nine year old assistants and we were soon watching dozens of swallows flying in and out of the farm buildings. A couple of birds swept inches past the faces of my assistants and drew simultaneous wows. Also around the farm were pied wagtail and linnet as well as a charm of twenty goldfinches making a clamor. In the horse paddocks a lone kestrel watched the most prolific bird of the morning.

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Must have counted hundreds of these wood pigeon over the last few weeks.

Out on the farm tracks the swallows were soon joined by parachuting skylarks with their constant uplifting song. Trying hard to beat them for vocals were regularly heard but seldom seen wrens and the occasional chaffinch and blue and great tits.

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Regular songster around the Wong Farmland the Yellowhammer

The walk also produced brown hares, muntjac and roe deer so no shortage of variety for my companions to wonder at and they took great delight in pointing out the red admiral and peacock butterflies and jumping when they flushed pheasant or red-legged partridges. On another early morning stroll whilst seeing all the same things again just west of the village near Market lane I met a man who had recently been working on fields near Thickthorn who had seen a red backed shrike unfortunately it hadn’t stuck around but just shows that an attractive rarity can turn up anytime .

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The one that got away Red-backed Shrike

Photo Credit: Stuart G Wright Photography Flickr via Compfight cc

I have also visited one of my WEBS sites and was really pleased to count 27 common terns including 7 sitting on eggs. I arrived at dusk and the birds were just settling down. There were plenty of new young including greylag, Egyptian and Canada goslings. The great crested grebes were also carrying around their little stripy youngsters. on the way to the water I spotted a number of orchids which I didn’t recognise. Thanks to the power of twitter this was soon remedied.

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Early Marsh Orchid taken at Nine in the evening with and old I phone so not quite doing this rarity justice

As the light had now gone I did a little bat detecting and was rewarded with the expected with common and soprano pipistrelles which picked midges off only a few inches from my face. I was pleased  to also get a noctule Britain’s largest bat on my walk and then reviewing my records I found I had recorded a rare barbastelle so all in all a good night for rarities even if none of them were avain.

No video this week just the visiting picture of a visiting rare bird seen not that far away last week and simply too beautiful not to show,

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Bee Eater perhaps appearing in  a village not far from you.

Photo Credit: Valentin Groza Flickr via Compfight cc