Lesser spotted woodpecker and other patch highlights


With the fine weather lifting the soul it has been great to spend some time out on the local patches around the village. Even in the centre of the village if you spend some time looking up you are likely to see a soaring buzzard as they freewheel on unseen thermals and they should be joined soon by the village house martins and then the screaming swifts of Summer. Yesterday I saw several Norfolk swallows so look out for them too.

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Broad wings and tail of the latest village incomer. Buzzard.

Photo Credit: toothandclaw1 Flickr via Compfight cc

The bank holiday began and ended with a little brush cutting at our local county wildlife site Beckhithe Meadow. The precious wet meadow habitat has been slowly going under a cover of brambles so requires some trimming. A pair of roe deer might disagree as they appear to be using the growth to hide amongst and the local rabbits and foxes seem to have found there way through the long stuff. The only owl action there from the weekend was from calling tawny owls with no sign of Barn or little.

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Tawny owl, probably overseeing by brush cutting handy work.

The owls were accompanied by scolding wrens and the late singing of song thrush. Bats are coming out at dusk across the village but only a couple of distant pipistrelles could be detected at Beckhithe. The day time birds included all the recent regulars linnet flocks and singing yellowhammer, nuthatchblackcaps and some particularly noisy goldcrest. Chiffchaffs also called but no willow warblers  yet.

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Aptly named goldcrest, Britain’s smallest but not quietest bird.

A quick follow up visit today also recorded the first whitethroats and lesser whitethroat calling in the area. I also managed a quick follow up to this months WEBS count which was largely uneventful as I picked the day when there was a great deal of tree cutting and burning which will benefit the wildlife post event but made the counts a bit quiet. Fortunately for me just in front of my vantage point and oblivious to the disturbance was a green sandpiper not recorded here for a decade. Even more fortunate today were two of them in the same spot.

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Hastily taken patch record shot of Green sandpiper and his companion the giant Egyptian Goose.

The last super patch sighting of the day in a secret location not too far from the village was not by me but confirmation of what I thought I heard the other day in the diminutive drumming of a lesser spotted woodpecker which has now been heard and seen which again has not happened for several years. It was thought that they had all gone perhaps as a result of predation by their bigger cousin the Great spotted woodpecker, but it seems not. After watching a greater the other day raid a nuthatch hole it wouldn’t surprise me to see them taking the smaller lesser spotted from the nest.

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Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Small rare and perfectly formed

 

 

 

Photo Credit: andreasezelius Flickr via Compfight cc

Giant in Spring


I have procrastinated on this latest post as I was hoping to announce the first of the spring migrants, primarily the new herald of Spring the chiffchaff. Whilst they have been heard along with whitethroat not to far away in Marlingford they have still to put in an appearance locally. As I ran out this evening I did have the unexpected pleasure of hearing another spring returnee with a calling Oystercatcher over New Road.

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Oystercatcher the noisy face of spring one to look out for over the village

Pairs of Oystercatchers have also livened up this months WEBS counts on both my sites and the counts have highlighted the transition of the seasons with the noisy piping of the pied pipers set against the quiet whistles of the few remaining winter wigeon also present on the WEBS counts. Fluctuating water levels have also resulted in lots of gulls on the counts with the usual culprits in the form of black headed, lesser black backed and herring gulls along with pleasingly high counts of the less common, common gull.

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The not so common Common Gull.

One of my WEBS counts also produced in quick succession red kite great white egret and three little egrets. Strange to think that a couple of decades ago this would probably have been three lifers for me just shows what some man made introduction and global warming can achieve….

Recently I have also done a little travelling with my 9 year old assistant and we realised the other day that neither of us had knowingly seen the worlds tallest tree so a quick google and trip saw us Head for far flung Wymondham to check out the majesty of the Giant Redwood.

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Towering Redwood at the junction of Silfield Road and Silfield Street

My companion was a little disappointed that we couldn’t drive through a tunnel dug out of the base of the tree but understood that this was no longer the done thing as its not entirely good for the tree. Following the tree our trip headed out to the far East and great Yarmouth. After the lure of  Mediterranean gulls and tumbling two pence pieces was satisfied we went out to Breydon water to take in the high tide spectacle and watched the thousands of gulls waders and wildfowl waiting patiently for the turn of the tide. If I had to pick a favourite it was probably the pintail quietly and elegantly feeding under screaming redshank making up for the lone one I had missed earlier in the winter locally.

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Ever elegant pintail

This post ends with a video from the BTO and partners as a reminder to those who might need it as to how to separate our impending spring warbler friends. I am also looking for sightings of any willow warblers locally as the last couple of years have been worryingly devoid of local records

Birding highlights Home and Very away


With August coming to and end and summer migrants hot footing it to the continent and beyond it was time for the editorial team to take to the air and head south if not for the winter then at least some extended Summer Sun. With the feeders locally topped up for the birds we headed off for Spain and Sunny Malaga. This was a non birding trip but having viewed my urban namesakes video I was hopeful of some pleasant treats.

If you have time to watch the video you will see it has plenty to offer and if you haven’t here is what we saw. The most obvious bird whether you are at the beach or walking the city streets is the monk parakeet which exists in the UK in only a tiny corner of dockland London and is persecuted as potentially dangerous due to its habit of building large communal stick nests. However down town Malaga doesn’t appear to have collapsed and the parakeets are an attractive alternative to pigeons bringing a smile to all with their comedy antics.

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Parakeets and pigeons

What appeared to me to be one of the best spots for a chance to photograph birds was the walk up the slopes high above the city to the ancient Gibralfaro Castle and after a long climb I was rewarded with a view of a bird I have missed seeing in the UK this summer flitting about the Moorish ornamental gardens a spotted flycatcher.

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Summer visitor. A spotted flycatcher

Next was another bird found in the UK but not one we will be seeing anytime soon in Hethersett as it is restricted in this country to small pockets of Scotland. A small fountain gave the opportunity for my 9 year old assistant to spot the bird taking on water in the sunshine of mid day and me to catch it on a quick photo.

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Distinctive member of the tit family , a crested tit.

Malaga had a few other UK birds on show in the form of collared doves  and house sparrows along with some subtly different locals such as spotless starlings and yellow legged gulls. Perhaps the most special having lost them recently in the UK where the common swifts. They would fly every evening over Malaga’s Ancient bullring and come to rest on the surrounding apartments occasionally calling as they settled to sleep in the fading sunset.

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Bullring, great for swifts but not so great for bulls…..

Having returned home it was time to check out the local changes and a quick walk around Wong farm produced what maybe its last summer swallow which was waiting for me to arrive on the telephone wires only to fly off south on my arrival and not return. A couple of house martins appeared soon after to harass a female kestrel which soared over the stable buildings. As I walked round the area disturbing the ever present wood pigeons I was also treated to a summer serenade by two singing blackcaps which may or may not leave with the other summer visitors. I also managed to photographically catch up with a new butterfly for the patch.

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Pretty but fast flying little butterfly a Small Copper.

My Webs visit on the same day hinted at the season to come as the migrants come and go with the first two wigeon arriving back from Northern Europe and a steady build up of coots on the mere. Two lesser black backed gulls also dropped in for a bath and they and numerous other gulls are now to be seen regularly in the fields around the village as they are ploughed and harrowed. The video for the post having arrived early leaves two final photos from my photographic hide which the birds and animals are starting to get used to and should provide some good photos in the future.

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A great tit which is a bird I was expecting

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A marsh tit a pleasant local surprise.

Spring and Fen magic.


This week saw undeniable signs of spring as both chiffchaff and blackcap started singing in the centre of the village, with many garden birds prospecting nest sites if they are not already nesting. The garden birds nemesis the sparrow hawk has also been in evidence as this normally hidden bird takes to the sky as part of its breeding display over the village.

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The appropriately named male blackcap announcing his return.

As the sun warmed up, people’s twitter accounts came alive with sightings of summer visitors returning to the uk and of bees butterflies and other winter sleepers waking and making themselves seen.  I was inspired to get out and make the most of the Easter break and see what arrivals had turned up on my WEBS sites. Gone were the winter ducks leaving some mallard and few tufted ducks for company. A pair of great crested grebes made the rest look average by putting on their spectacular dance routine.

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Difficult to improve on the springtime beauty of dancing grebes mirroring each others move.

Photo Credit: Walks Walker Flickr via Compfightcc

Once the grebes had danced out of sight and the spell was broken I had a scan about for any seasonal specials but could find none so headed back through the oak woods for home. I was serenaded by a singing Spring marsh tit whilst watching a squeaking treecreeper foraging on the trunks and boughs of the trees. I then went to a small area or reeds tentatively hoping for the first sedge warbler of the year but no sign of them so I stopped to watch a pair of nesting mute swans from a healthy distance. I was quietly minding my own business when I was interrupted by the unmistakable explosive song of a Cettis Warbler.

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Elegantly brown and usually heard but rarely seen Cettis warbler.

Photo Credit: frank_steeley Flickr via Compfightcc

The cettis warbler is another colonist and undeniable proof of a warming planet they first bred in the Uk in 1972 and has taken few decades to make it to my local patch so I look forward to his explosive song keeping me company on future trips. Today whilst thinking partly about how to get a photo of the Cetti’s and also how to entertain some young exploring assistants I opted for the Easter nature trail at the nearest RSPB reserve at Strumpshaw Fen. My young assistants were over the moon before we arrived at the reserve, with a field full of egyptian geese and brown hares and a couple of pheasants thrown in for good measure.

Photo Credit: saundersfay Flickr via Compfightcc

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Brown hare a crowd pleaser for a car full of young nature lovers

Once the appropriate nature trail kit had been acquired from the visitors center my young assistants were off scouting with barely a moment to stop and checkout the quartering marsh harriers and smart pochard in front of the hide although they were transfixed momentarily by a nesting moorhen. My assistants were very mud and log focussed turning up a variety of minibeasts and some surprised young amphibians.

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Very small newt on a small hand (smooth newt, the most common variety I believe)

Whilst my adventurers adventured and picnicked I was treated to the full medley of birdsong that I had picked upon my own patch including the ever elusive cetti’s warblers and we were also entertained by some brimstone butterflies and an early redadmiral. The Easter trail is on at Strumpshaw for only one more day and if  you are unable to make it there is, as with all RSPB reserves,  a packed year of events worth getting involved with whatever your age.

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Happy #Wildthings.

Video post this time is from my local barn-cam set up to hopefully capture the waited return of the village barn owls. Unfortunately the only hunting winged creatures were not the owls but some local bats now out from winter slumbers. I believe they are the common village pipistrelles but will let the bat experts put me right if not.

Willow tit


In a pre Easter wander I headed during a fine spring morning (Narrows it down quite a bit with all the April showers we have been having) towards the Church Farm and Hethersett Hall Loop with a view to catching perhaps some of the last winter birds and the first spring ones. Jackdaws and rooks were very vocal getting their nest building underway all around the village but were easily outdone in volume by a couple of drumming great spotted woodpeckers. The parkland around the Hall is easily one of the best spots to hear and see these birds locally.

 

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Spring Jackdaw out looking for nesting twigs.

The greater spotted woodpeckers were accompanied by a green woodpecker calling out on the parkland and high over Church farm two soaring buzzards wheeled on unseen early morning thermals. The Hall lake was my next spot to watch and wait and with the foliage still missing from most but the holly trees it is a good time to get views of the lake which can be hidden from the public in the summer. I was lucky enough to spot a small flock of diminutive teal in amongst the bigger local moorhens.

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Female teal somewhat duller than the drake but with the telltale green speculum feathers

The teal are probably likely to be heading off to the Baltic soon to breed as not many will stay local. Great tits and blue tits who will definitely stay local accompanied me on my return route. This weekend I have struggled to get much inthe way of birding highlights but have listened instead to those of others particularly Dan B who had been out wandering off the West Hethersett Loop round the parish pit and Market lane. Dan had heard the first singing chiffchaff picked up a trio of raptors in one camera shot with Kestrel Sparrowhawk and buzzard but trumped the lot with a calling Willow Tit.

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Not a willow but the very similar marsh tit and the closest I have got locally to its much rarer cousin.

The willow tit is red listed and has virtually dissapeared from all but a select few spots in the county so I will be very pleased if it turns up again and it will support tales of breeding pairs at nearby woods which I had assumed were only history but you never know what treasures you will uncover if you get out in the spring sunshine (if it ever returns)

Video post this week is from the BTO and partners and essential viewing for those looking to spot the local rarity.

 

 

 

Very Special Things


Last week I set out to do an early WEBS count at near by Marlingford and was not expecting much on a grey day but as I got to the water there was a now familiar form of a Great White Egret coming into land just out of my sight. This rarity has been a regular winter visitor and I was almost at the point of just taking it for granted, when another bird flew in from stage left and then they both flew off together. It’s a little too early to start planning what to call the chicks but nonetheless fantastic to see not one but two rarities together.

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Great white egrets en masse the shape of things to come. Global warming’s silver lining

Photo Credit: sherriestahl Flickr via Compfight cc

The egrets weren’t the only spectacle as a flock of 16 barnacle geese grazed by my vantage point and a pair of breeding oystercatchers bickered backwards and forwards past dancing teal. Then as I went to leave a woodcock flew up in front of me and zigzagged away between the trees. It was a great start to the week which saw a couple of sightings of red kite over the village with my own being in the dramatic morning light of a showery day with dark clouds and rainbow as a backdrop but picked out in all its glory by brilliant sunshine. Alas I was too slow for a photo so I will have my own vivid picture to remember, and you the reader will have to make do with one I prepared earlier.

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Captive yet captivating red kite

Having been fortunate enough to have seen some very special birds locally I was quite happy with my magical lot, when something special came to my attention on Friday afternoon. Far from her home in the arctic circle, or the set of a Harry Potter movie a female snowy owl had turned up to the Norfolk coast. It didn’t take much persuading before I and a couple of eight year old assistants were away to RSPB Titchwell on an owl hunt.

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Snowy owl record shot possibly the best one I saw all weekend albeit mine was of a Banham bird.

On arrival we headed straight past the hides and feeders stopping only for a quick snack before we joined the snake of telescope carrying people the two miles to Thornham point. My assistants were very excited by close up views of greylag geese and the flotsam and jetson on the tide line including every shell imaginable and a large number of starfish. After a quick briefing on the relative ease of finding shells and the similar ease with which an owl can fly away, we made haste and caught up with the target bird and its entourage of well behaved telescopes.

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Greylag goose ever the distraction.

Once the three of us had our fill of the surreal vision of a large white owl sitting on a beach with its backdrop of oystercatchers and cormorants we turned our attention to the tideline again and I had a quick scan of the sea. As we had headed on to the sand we had missed a small flock of scaup which appeared to have gone but they were replaced with a flock of long tailed duck instead so I was very happy as I added these to my life list along with the owl.

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Long tailed drake a thing of beauty.

Photo Credit: Derek Mickeloff Flickr via Compfight cc

My assistants whilst still very goose orientated stopped at the hides and helped pick out some splendid mediterranean gulls in their fine spring headwear amongst the more usual gulls. The waders included flocks of avocet, knot and black tailed godwit along with plenty of redshank and green and grey plovers.

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Tricky to beat the elegant beauty of the avocet.

Back at the visitors centre we managed another well earned snack and checked out the feeder stations which had the full spectrum of finches and tits but were extra special thanks to a trio of male siskins and a male brambling. It wasn’t quite over bird wise as we saw woodcock curlew and marsh harriers as we made our way out of the reserve . The brambing is still turning up in gardens in the village as recently as today so keep your feeders topped up and look out for them. If unsure as to what to look for check out the following video brought to us by the BTO and friends.

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.

From Hethersett to Horsey


January has seen not enough birding for me but over the last week I have attempted to catch up with some of the locals. There have been some fantastic sunsets and into one of these sailed my first Buzzard of the year calling right over the centre of the Village. The next day keen to get some more over  fliers on the year books I set out with my seven year old assistant to see what we could spot. Early success with the usual black-headed gulls jackdaws and rooks but more unexpectedly a couple of low flying grey herons.

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First Guest photo of the post Grey Heron with Pike for breakfast

Part of the reason I had set out was in the hope of catching a sighting of one of the rarer winter visitors seen by Dan B recently in the North of the village a brambling but this was not to be. There were plenty of chaffinch and goldfinch and a few greenfinch but nothing rarer however it is obviously a good time to top up the feeders and see what starts to turn up ready for next weekends Big Garden Birdwatch. May be worth catching up with the following video before the weekend.

The rest of our walk was still worthwhile after heading out on the West Hethersett loop we were soon rewarded with a hunting female kestrel and then the alarm call of a black-headed gull drew our attention to a soaring sparrowhawk who was soon attended to by a mass of starlings keen to keep an eye on their predatory friend. After all the big birds it was quite nice to get close views of one of the smaller and less showy village residents a wren feeding in the still frosty recesses of the village hedgerows.

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Second guest photo of the day a frosty Wren.

Having added a few locals to the year list my assistant chose seeing seals on the beach as her next thing to do. Short on village beach and seals we struck out for the coast to Horsey and whilst a little late in the year for young seals always worth a visit. Clearly the annual pilgrimage to horsey has got seriously popular whilst I was away and there were hundreds of people there even late in the day. The seals have a website available if you click (HERE) and if you want a quiet visit I would go midweek and perhaps earlier than everyone else. Our first avian encounter was a flock of long-tailed tits followed by local specialities of meadow pipit and stone chat.

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Third guest photo a long tailed tit doing a passable impression of his bearded cousin.

Whilst the stars of the show were always going to be the seals the walk there was as ever seriously picturesque so here are the standard highlights:

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Horsey Beach at sunset looking slightly man made but none the less attractive with a herring gull for added avian appeal.

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Last of this years youngsters fattening up nicely.

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Young mum showing the classic Grey seal facial profile.

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Sunset over Hickling

Shortly after I left Hickling, and after my favourite moment of the visit which was watching a barn owl hunting over the long grass in the deep red sunset behind the towering dunes I received an email from Peter D. He had spent an equally pleasant afternoon at neighbouring Hickling  in between bearded tits and marsh harriers was fortunate enough to watch a water rail out on the ice from one of the hides. The water rail is to me like buried treasure whilst you know they are there and may hear them, seeing them is rare enough to add them to the special occasion list and after a good spell of freezing weather whilst  requiring some bravery it is the best time to spot them.

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Water Rail  Credit: Mike Clark 100 Flickr via Compfight cc

I end the post with the promised video from the last one, taken using the trailcam and which I had half expected to include some of nearby Marlingfords Roe deer. The result requires no introduction as the black and white stripes are clear to see. The camera is back out again so check back to see what turns up next.

Years End


Last year I changed my birdwatching habits and switched from travelling around the county, visiting all the popular spots to a more relaxed and environmentally friendly patch based birdwatching concentrating on the area around Hethersett. at the end of 2015 I had seen 65 different species of birds. The challenge for 2016 was to improve on this figure. The first of January saw a ‘garden birding’ start to the yearly count. No point going mad when you have had so little sleep from the night before.

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1st of the year Blackheaded gull

The first days garden list was 1. Black-headed gull a regular winter flyover bird 2. blue tit 3. chaffinch. 4. Collared dove 5. Great tit 6 House sparrow 7.Jackdaw, 8.Robin 9. a flyover Rook, 10. starling and lastly 11. woodpigeon. After the short, half hearted first day I managed to catch up with a few more garden regulars over the next couple of days including 12. blackbird, 13.dunnock, 14.wren  and 15. Magpie.

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In at number 8 the robin, currently number one singer in most local gardens.

 

It wasn’t until January the 5th that I had a chance to stretch my legs around the village and I headed East to the Hethersett Hall. On route I picked up 16. herring gull and the ever present 17. carrion crow. In the woods around the hall followed 18. Jay and 19. singing song thrush. The slopes near the halls lakes revealed 20. mallard and 21. moorhen and 22. Egyptian Goose.  The lake itself was to hold my first recorded local 23. goosander and 24. gadwall making a great early start to the year with two locally rare ducks. The day also saw my first 25. longtailed tit and 26. goldcrest the villages smallest bird.

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Understated rare simplicity and in at 24. The gadwall.

A couple of days later on the outskirts of the West of the village saw a raptor fest. After the stroll initially located 27. pheasant and 28. goldfinch A calling 29.buzzard closely followed by 30. sparrowhawk and 31 kestrel. Last but not least was one of many 32. grey herons to be seen throughout the year. The next week saw the addition of an outstanding 33. green finch and another visit to the lake produced 34. little grebe, 35.green woodpecker and 36 mistle thrush.

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Standing tall at 32. Grey Heron

 

The 17th of January saw an unexpected pair in the garden with a 37. nuthatch and 38. tree creeper both entertaining in the space of a few minutes. A couple of days later and a singing 39. tawny owl made its present well known. The last bird of the month was one of a pair of male 40. bullfinches eating buds and brightening up a cold grey end to the month. February saw me picking up some stragglers in the form of 41. greylag goose. 42 common gull and 43 great spotted woodpecker . Last for the month  but a surprising rarity for the village with very few records was another success on the Hethersett Hall Lake  44. mute swan.

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Full steam ahead at 44. The Mute Swan

 

The beginning of March brought about a couple of birds I had missed earlier in the year in the form of 45. Canada goose, 46. coal tit and 47. pied wagtail. The next birds were a couple of winter specialities and not always guaranteed locally in the form of 48. fieldfare and at 49. and my first for a couple of years the delightfully acrobatic siskin which roamed the area in good sized flocks for several weeks.

 

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At 49. the winter special Siskin feasting on alder cones

March was a varied month starting with some firm favourites in the form of 50. stock dove and 51. my first lesser black-backed gull. Next was one of my favourites and by no means guaranteed although they seem to be increasing in number year on year 52. a red kite. At 53. was one of the areas barnacle geese on its stronghold at the great Melton Reservoir and march saw the last of the winter visitors with  54. redwing. April saw both the Norfolk BIrd Race and the return of the summer migrants with 55. chiffchaff, 56. blackcap and 57. lesser whitethroat all back and ready for a mixed breeding season. May saw another first for me locally although it was not to be the last in the form of an 58. oystercatcher which nests at Great Melton.

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Calling in the spring at number 58. the Oystercatcher

May also saw the return of other summer visitors with 59. swift, 60. house martin, and 61 Swallow. Other traditional summer highlights included singing 62 yellowhammer, fishing 63. common tern. By mid June there were still a couple more to see whilst out walking, whenever I got the chance, including a long awaited 64. whitethroat and 65. little owl. July saw my second ever 66. village barn owl despite hearing them constantly they rarely show themselves. Those who have been paying attention will also note I had beaten last years score and it was only July. August brought another outstanding bird at 67. a Cormorant.

 

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Looking back over the year No 67 the cormorant

And after August that was that with nothing else new to add. The early success of the year dooming the end along with a couple of notable exceptions including the worst year for willow warblers and no sign of my local bogey bird the kingfisher. Also missing but on last years list marsh tit and no sign yet for me of a few others from the birds of Hethersett parish list. In part my failing to add any others was also down to my inheriting new local WEBS sites patches at Marlingford and Algarsthorpe. New years resolutions will include maintaining the momentum of this year and adding to the Photographs page  and sorting out a videos page as my collection of trailcam videos grows.

I shall leave you with a slightly fuzzy but tranquil shot of early morning pheasants on a misty Winter solstice (I forgot to set date and time) accompanied by the sounds of local rooks and a wren and wish you a relaxing and bird filled new year.

Any further sightings this year will be unexpected enough to warrant their own post so watch this space.

Quiet time and some drive by shooting


November slipped quietly by with no noteable local additions to the patch list and whilst a few great birds arrived in the county competing demands have largely prevented me from taking them in. As my last post finished so this one will start with my Autumn  favourites as myself and a slightly ill 7 year old assistant went for some hit and run BBC (birding by car) in Costessey at Jerningham Road which is a perfect spot for hungry waxwings. There were plenty of photographers present and as we turned up  a flock of 40 or so birds gave their funny whistling calls and dropped into a nearby tree for a brief photo opportunity in the grey afternoon.

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Difficult to outshine a waxwing but I think the berries have it.

The birds were quickly spooked by an unseen menace so we headed off for a quick check of my WEBS site at Algarsthorpe. The approach to the site looked promising for birds with large flocks of finches and thrushes moving against the darkening skies. Whilst appearing as only shadows to the naked eye calls and size helped identify goldfinches redwing and fieldfares.

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A heavily processed photo confirms the larger fieldfare (left) and slighter redwing (right)

After seeing little else but carrion crows, jackdaws, rooks and woodpigeons I set up for the main count but added only two stock doves and an impressive eleven moorhens. I guess the meadows will have to flood a little before the big numbers and varieties of birds get interesting.

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Moorhen one of eleven

After a poor turnout at Algarsthorpe I had the time to drift over to nearby Great Melton and specifically Pockthorpe Road which runs towards Wymondham where a number of grey partridges have taken up residence. Given the natural scarcity of these birds this little covey have I assume sensibly taken a break from local shoot too hang out somewhere safer unfortunately they were not to be seen.

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Pockthorpe Road with its attendant Oaks still looking Autumnal but the leaves will soon be down.

Apart from attendant flocks of rooks there wasn’t much to see but a call drew my attention to a large raptor as one of the local red kites came into view. It stayed a little out of photographic range but flew and called from field to field for a few magical minutes allowing me another add another drive by record shot.

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The unmistakeable Red Kite with its distinctive profile

Hopefully with some brighter winter weather promised and a more concerted effort to make ‘wild time’ the next post will  host numerous fine captures and memories.