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.

November updates


November started with an early morning stroll on the West Hethersett loop with thoughts of checking out the visible migrating birds or ‘Vizmig’ as it is known. Early mornings from a good vantage point will reward the watcher with high flying migrating thrushes, larks and finches.  As I set out from The twin Church towers at Great Melton there was the usual calling of local jackdaws and crows and the only bird overhead was a solitary black-headed gull.

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Great Melton so religious one church was not enough.

The challenge with visible migration is identify small birds often flying high overhead but fortunately the first couple of birds were obligingly calling and could be identified by their flight calls as skylark and linnet. Both these birds can be found locally but both appeared to be making deliberate journeys high and to the south suggesting they were on route elsewhere. Next up was a local bird heard again and very elusive a bullfinch and one which appears to be very vocal recently perhaps getting some early pair bonding in.

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Male bullfinch often the view is little more than a flash of that white rump so enjoy this one.

Photo Credit: eerokiuru Flickr via Compfight cc

After a trip round the Great melton reservoir produced only moorhens and mallard I headed back along the field margins when I heard the ‘chacking’ of three thrushes who flew up and away showing their definitive white underwing patches to go with their definitive calls my first fieldfares of the year fresh in from Northern Europe.

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Berry guzzling Fieldfare.

Photo Credit: orthochrom Flickr via Compfight cc

Later in the day I happened on another unexpected but welcome surprise and a first for me in nearby Wymondham I saw a large bird sitting silhouetted by the sunset on top of the Abbey. I had my telescope handy so checked I had seen what I thought was a peregrine falcon and was rewarded with a male bird staring back down the scope at me. I anticipate the new nest box and camera will see plenty of peregrine action in the new year.

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Not a peregrine but a more appropriate Remembrance Sunday shot of the tower of Wymondham Abbey.

Video of the post this time of the regular favourite the Roe deer with this stag getting a little closer than some and in the daylight hours rather than as so often nocturnally.

Autumn Highlights to date.


With tropical hurricane Ophelia pushing up warm fine weather every spare moment has been spent pretending it’s summer whilst watching the distinctly autumnal fare over the last few days. One of my personal highlights was the first of the winter thrushes appearing over the village. Redwings with their ‘seep seep’ calls were the first ones flying low over the village centre late last week looking a bit tired after their trip over the North Sea from summer breeding in Northern Europe and Russia. This year they turned up on exactly the same as last year.

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Redwings now spreading out locally and throughout the county

Photo Credit: Daniel.Pettersson Flickr via Compfight cc

Having seen the Autumn migrants over the village it seemed like a good time to check out my local WEBS site at Marlingford and see what else had flown in. My count soon included the first of the seasons whistling ducks the wigeon and also a number of teal and a small flock of gadwall both also increased in numbers this month. Other birds in good numbers were the local fish catching cormorant population with 30 birds and left over from last month a pair of greater black-backed gulls.

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Iridescent Cormorant preparing for take off and doubtless some fishing.

I got to work on the slightly arduous task of counting the hundreds of geese and as ever at this time of year realised that the Canada geese and the greylags have not been entirely faithful to their own species. One of this years progeny was in company with mum who was a canada goose but I am not entirely clear on dad but would welcome opinions particularly where those spectacular yellow legs come from.

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Standard Canada goose left and centre

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Young hybrid (centre) with his mixed family?

As well as checking out migrants locally I was lured to the East coast to see what might have been blown in on the local hurricanes. First off was a trip to Caister and Hemsby which allowed me to catch up with most of the local gull species as well as some fishing gannets which are always impressive if a little distant in the ‘summer’ heat haze.

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Acrobatic Gannet proving you don’t have to be rare to be special.

Photo Credit: normanwest4tography Flickr via Compfight cc

Having taken in the beach and the nearby amusements to ensure the total eight year old accomplice experience I decided that my next port of call would wait until I was alone to check it out. Next on the seasonal East coast hotlist was the less obvious hotspot Great Yarmouth cemetery. The cemetery whilst not an obvious birdwatching mecca to many is to migrant birds attracting a surprising number of rarities. Whilst tiptoeing between the gravestones I had the good fortune to bump into local aficionado @wryneck and he quickly put me onto a flock of great tits, blue tits, long tailed-tits and goldcrests which were in company with a yellow browed warbler which although calling didn’t show itself. Other graveside highlights which were easier to photograph were as follows.

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Gravestone topping young herring gull which had it been named in the current Great Yarmouth, post herring fleet demise, might have been the fast-food gull.

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Red Admiral enjoying the weather and the late blooming ivy flowers along with a host of other insects

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Local monument in amongst the birds and notable for its damage inflicted on it by the Luftwaffe whilst carrying out one of their many wartime attacks on the port.

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More local history adjacent to the graveyard is this cafe not famous for its tea and scones bu for being the birthplace of Anna Sewell

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Close up in case it was required.

Having drifted away from the avian may I further present one of Strumpshaws finest from my journey home albeit that he may not make it past the shooting season…

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Cock Pheasant

 Lastly this post is thevideo highlight which marks the end of my Badger Sett survey.

Autumn highlights


Technically we are a couple of days into Autumn but with a lack of recent opportunities to get out in the natural world I took the most of a brief opportunity today to get some late summer sunshine and check out the wildlife on a short stroll down Kissing Alley. Initially it was all quiet with just the gentle buzz of insects making the most of the warm weather. The first obvious birds were a pair of kissing nuthatches but they were somewhat tricky to get a photo of as they chased each other around the huge oak trees.

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Fairly typical view of an elusive upside down nuthatch

The nuthatches and myself were soon surrounded by a host of long-tailed tits, great tits and blue tits. Again all the birds whilst calling loudly did their best to remain elusive whilst my camera clicked away, mostly at empty branches.

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Long tailed tit typically hiding behind foliage.

Somewhere out of sight in amongst this host of birds called a chiffchaff. I was rather hoping that my calling leaf warbler of the day might have been a yellow browed warbler. This Siberian migrator arrives at this time of year with an estimated 1000 reaching the UK and has been seen recently in Norwich and appears to be annually close to getting into the Birds of Hethersett list. You are more likely to hear them than see them and the call is available (here).

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Coming soon to the Birds of Hethersett Yellow browed Warbler

Photo Credit: Mark Walpole Flickr via Compfight cc

My walk finished with the sounds of scolding rooks and jackdaws chasing off the local buzzard to the background vocals of wren and pheasant. No sign yet of other Autumn visitors but the first wigeon and fieldfare have hit the coast line and last week an enigmatic flock of pink-footed geese were seen over Norwich at Hellesdon.

Video of the week is of visiting blackbirds taken last winter but show as several strange looking foreigners have been seen this week with white heads and as the birds in the video show some of our winter birds from abroad do come in a range of slightly unusual colours

 

Smart Ducks & Unexpected Waxwings


Autumn traditionally brings in a host of new ducks to the county but I have failed to pick up any new ones yet for my Hethersett patch list, so in the hope of welcoming some foreigners I set out for my WEBS site at nearby Marlingford. It was a pleasant afternoon filled with the sound of chatting Jackdaws and the trills and squeaks of roving long-tailed tits. The hedgerows were full of blackbirds and redwings all very jumpy and filling up on ripe berries.

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Female blackbird making the most of the Autumn feast.

Eventually a couple of fieldfares few out of some higher bushes to add to the thrush tally. There was an incessant contact call in the background which eventually revealed itself as a great spotted woodpecker high up on the sun bleached skeletal remains of a dead tree. On reaching the lake my target destination there were clearly more winter wildfowl and after a full scan I managed to pick up three smart drake pochards.

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Smart Drake Pochard

The pochard were surrounded by dark reptilian forms of cormorants and kept company by coots moorhens mallards and lapwings as well as a few grey herons which dwarfed the other birds hunched in the late afternoon mist. Other ducks out on the lake included growing numbers of winter wigeon and the diminutive teal. Biggest totals of ducks went to the tufted ducks with the best part of fifty birds settling in for the night.

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Another smart male this time Tufted Duck

Yesterday I chanced to be in nearby Bowthorpe when I noticed a couple of birders/photographers lurking around Chapel break road and given the time of year I thought Waxwings. I abandoned my car and was quickly rewarded with a flock of 15 high up in a tree. Waxwings are a bird that needs no airbrushing they only come in ‘perfect’ so it is always a pleasure to see them even if they stay high up in the trees. There are still plenty of their favourite berries about locally so keep your eyes peeled for some unexpected beauty.

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Even in a record shot at distance these birds shout special.

Whilst I couldn’t get close enough to do the birds justice here is another to leave you with as we look forward to these and other wild winter wonders to come.

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Waxwing Credit: charlie.syme Flickr via Compfight cc

First Video


The last week or so has seen some lasts and some firsts and some brief patch time. First of the lasts was a last boat trip on the broads for the year and a chance to catch some photographs of regular village visitors.Trips to the Hethersett Hall lake via the local paths tend only to give brief glimpses and the occasional call of one of my favourites the fluffball little grebe. Early sightings of a number of birds on the edge of the broad suggested some photo opportunities however the grebes had other ideas..

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Little grebe leaving stage right 

Whilst the little grebes and their larger cousins kept well out of the way we were treated to a brief hunting kingfisher a bird which I still wait to see locally. The kingfisher sat in a tree overlooking the broad but mostly out of sight and only showing its presence when it dropped into the shadowy water for a fish with a loud splash. Alongside the kingfisher was another village fisherman a Cormorant who was much more obliging and even manged a little avian yoga before flying off.

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Cormorant in a relatively standard hanging around pose

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And stretch 123 showing of its swimming muscles.

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Take off, a short while after the yoga was finished

A couple of days after broads trip myself and my seven year old assistant set out to explore our local county wildlife site for the latest Village Website. To check out the site details (Click Here).  It was a balmy afternoon as we enjoyed the overgrown Beckhithe Meadow but birds were a bit thin on the ground. A pheasant called from out of site and is a regular on the meadow which is too far from the usual shooting patches for it to be at risk and they can often be seen roosting in the local Oak trees along side little owls. A robin and wren put in some seasonal tunes but no winter visitors were seen. The warm weather did bring out a couple of butterflies and a dragonfly as a reminder of summer and possibly the effects global warming.

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Perhaps the last sighting of the year a peacock butterfly soaking up Autumn sunshine on the path to the parish pit.

As it is Autumn and still peak fungi time I made an extra effort to keep my eyes open at ground level incase anything interesting turned up and it paid off with a delicate little lilac fungus which was later identified (thanks to James Emmerson) as Lilac Fibrecap.

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Lilac Fibrecap complete with contrasting unidentified yellow fly. Unfortunately the lighting didn’t really do either justice. The fly was an unexpected visitor when the image was loaded on the computer and had been hiding out of focus in plain sight.

Back home it was time for a first a new camera trap to assist with checking out some of the local wildlife without all that hanging around. Having checked out all the alternatives online and in the local camera retailers I opted for Crenova 1080P and haven’t been disappointed with the sound, image and video quality along with good design ease of use and price. (other more popular and expensive cameras are available). I also managed a first video upload onto Youtube so you can enjoy a brief moment of non hibernating hedgehog action.

I hope that some basic errors (cutting back the overhanging weeds)and practice may bear better fruit in the future. I leave you with the only daytime shot I have taken of one of the local blackbirds which are still feasting on windfall fruit all over the village.

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Autumn Hues


October so far has been far too busy with far to little time spent taking in the natural world so this weekend signalled a time to turn this around. Early morning was fresh and crisp and the local jackdaws woke me with some sort of loud bonding vocal arrangement which was as good an alarm clock as you would want. They were an omen of the day which would see me return to a favourite spot for photographing them from last October in amongst the Pumpkins of Pensthorpe.

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Splendid Halloween Jackdaw 

Pensthorpe was in full on Halloween mode and was accompanied by a soundtrack of whistling Autumn Wigeon, bugling cranes and the calls of the blackheaded gulls which seem to get more raucous as the weather gets colder. My last visit a few short weeks ago had witnessed a host of butterflies and insects feasting on the late pollen of Ivy and flowers but today there was no sign of much with six legs.

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Temporarily quiet and showing off this seasons colours for black-headed gulls (mostly grey)

A trip round the hides showed off marsh tits alongside blue tits and great tits feasting in the shortening days and down by the lakes the winter wildfowl numbers are steadily increasing. Perhaps the most colourful spectacle of the day was not the birds though it was the Fungi. With the autumn being fungus and mushroom season there were plenty to see.

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Toxic but beautiful one of many Fly Agaric to grace the damp woodland.

Watch out locally for migrating birds with many still on the move the UEA turned up one of my favourites which I unfortunately missed yesterday in the shape of  great grey shrike. I had better make some more nature time and see if I can connect with another this Autumn.

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Photo Credit: Nicholls of the Yard Flickr via Compfight cc