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February 2007

Previous months: January 2007

 

Tuesday 27th February

Popped along to Wolferton at lunch and for a change one of the Golden Pheasants was actually showing. Didn't last long - as soon as a car came along it was gone - but long enough for me to get a few shots:

Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 27-Feb-07
Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 27-Feb-07 Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 27-Feb-07

male Golden Pheasant (var. 'obscurus'), Wolferton, 27th February 2007

Had a quick look for the Black-eared Kite from between there and Snettisham but only a Barn Owl roosting in the open. Saw two separate Buzzards on the way back to work.

 

Monday 26th February

Another attempt at photographing the Black Brant at Wells in my lunchbreak was a bit more successful than last time. Interestingly, it appears to be a different bird from the one I saw last week, at least the flank pattern is different - I'm not sure how reliable that is or if the feathers can lie differently and create a slightly different pattern?

Black Brant, Wells, 26-Feb-07 Black Brant, Wells, 26-Feb-07
Black Brant, Wells, 26-Feb-07 Black Brant, Wells, 26-Feb-07

adult Black Brant (with Dark-bellied Brent Geese), Wells, 26th February 2007

 

Sunday 25th February

The day started with a new species for the house - a pair of Red-legged Partridges in the field behind (at last!). No photos of those, but here's what wakes me up every morning:

Song Thrush, Bawdeswell, 25-Feb-07  

Song Thrush, Bawdeswell, 25th February 2007

A stroll round Swanton Morley this afternoon didn't turn much up, although an intriguing hybrid goose was there. A hybrid I've not seen before and I'm not quite sure of its parentage at the moment. A number of features indicate Swan Goose (probably domestic) but the other parent must have been something much smaller as it was distinctly smaller than the Greylags. Something small and short-necked...

hybrid goose, Swanton Morley, 25-Feb-07 hybrid goose, Swanton Morley, 25-Feb-07
hybrid goose, Swanton Morley, 25-Feb-07  

hybrid goose, Swanton Morley , 25th February 2007

At dusk I decided to pop over to Bintree Woods, a location within my 5 km circle that I've never been to. I went as much to see what was there and how to access it for future reference than to see anything today, but thinking it looked a promising place to see some crepuscular species I paused there until it got dark. First up were 2 Roe Deer and a Fox but before long I heard the distinctive but weird call of a Woodcock and finally got a brief view of it. Then a hooting Tawny Owl appeared in the tree just above me in full view. I hear them often but rarely see them - wonderful to watch and listen to, even though it was completely silhouetted.

 

Saturday 24th February

I've been a bit poorly the last couple of days so I didn't want to attempt too much but a wander round Sparham Pools once the rain stopped seemed like a good idea. A singing Chiffchaff was a surprise - these summer visitors normally arrive in March and although a handful do overwinter, you don't often hear wintering birds in full song. With the mild weather we're having it's tempting to think this was an early arrival rather than a vocal wintering bird. A pair of Oystercatchers was also an early sign of spring - I normally start seeing these inland in about the second week of March. A Brambling among a small Chaffinch flock by the barn north of the pools was a more typical winter sighting, but my first local one this year. Other new birds for the 5 km year list were flyover Grey Wagtail and Great Black-backed Gull. The number of Goosanders present seemed to go up every time I looked, reaching 7 by the time I left.

Common Toad, Sparham Pools, 24-Feb-07 hole, Sparham Pools, 24-Feb-07

Common Toad with a muddy nose, Sparham Pools, 24th February 2007

Guess what disappeared into this hole... (no, not the toad!). That's a blade of grass in the foreground, for a perspective on size.

* Update (25-Feb-07) - guesses so far for what disappeared into the hole (photo above right) include Kingfisher, Crab and Vole. I'm sure you can do better...

 

Thursday 22nd February

Drove through Holkham Park at lunchtime - not nearly as much on the lake as there was last time I drove through but an adult Mediterranean Gull was among the hordes of gulls.

 

Tuesday 20th February

Went back to Wells to see if I could improve on the Black Brant photos but the flock wasn't there. On the way back to work paused to see the 2 Waxwings at Holkham and the 7 Whooper Swans remaining at Stanhoe.

Grey Plover, Wells, 20-Feb-07 Whooper Swans, Stanhoe, 20-Feb-07

Grey Plover, Wells, 20th February 2007

Whooper Swans, Stanhoe, 20th February 2007

 

Monday 19th February

Went to Wells at lunchtime to see if the Black Brants were still at the Pitch & Putt golf-course. There was a large flock of Brent Geese there and at any one time 95% of them were in view. So it was just my luck that the Black Brant was among the birds that were out of view for most of the time. However, I did see it, and even got some bad photos (so bad I'll spare you them but I might go back for more).

* Update (24-Feb-07): Whilst sorting out my photos of what I thought was a single Black Brant I'd photographed on this day, I noticed that the flank pattern was slightly different on some of the photos than on others. On the day I had half-expected a second bird as two had been reported there recently but, although it kept going in and out of view I never saw more than one at once so assumed I was seeing the same bird each time. Actually the second bird I photographed appears to be a hybrid (I saw several hybrids here in December) - the upperparts aren't quite so dark and the white neck collar, whilst more extensive than on Dark-bellied Brent Goose, it doesn't extend quite so far round the back of the neck. Here are some photos after all:

Black Brant, Wells, 19-Feb-07 Black Brant, Wells, 19-Feb-07

adult Black Brant, Wells, 19th February 2007. although poor quality photos, all the main ID features can be seen - upperparts much darker than accompanying Dark-bellied Brent Geese, belly also darker so whiter flank patch stands out prominently. Also extensive white neck collar.

 

Black Brant, Wells, 19-Feb-07 Black Brant hybrid, Wells, 19-Feb-07

adult Black Brant (left) and presumed adult hybrid Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose (right), Wells, 19th February 2007. The right hand bird still stood out from the Dark-bellied Brent Geese as having darker upperparts, whiter flanks and more extensive neck collar, but the upperparts are not as black as on the left hand bird, the flanks aren't so white and the neck collar doesn't come so close to joining at the rear. Light can play tricks on the relative darkness of the bird, and it's just about possible this is second pure Black Brant, but I think it's more likely a hybrid.

 

Sunday 18th February

Swanton Morley failed to produce anything very exciting, but the usual stuff included 2 Kingfishers, 2 Marsh Tits, Barn Owl etc. Also popped in to Foxley Wood where there was just some of the expected woodland species.

Great Crested Grebe, Swanton Morley, 18-Feb-07 Blackbird, Swanton Morley, 18-Feb-07

Great Crested Grebe (left) and Blackbird (right), Swanton Morley, 18th February 2007

 

Saturday 17th February

Handel's "Messiah" was order of the day today with a rehearsal in Norwich at 9.00 am and the concert in the evening (I was playing 'cello - badly). Not much time for birding therefore, but I did see my first Bawdeswell Red-legged Partridges on my way out.

 

Thursday 15th February

Are you bored with photos of Redshanks yet?

Redshank, Brancaster Staithe, 15-Feb-07 Black-tailed Godwit, Brancaster Staithe, 15-Feb-07

Redshank (left) and Black-tailed Godwit (right), Brancaster Staithe, 15th February 2007

 

Wednesday 14th February

A short lunch took just took me to between Stanhoe and North Creake where the wild swan flock has increased to 6 Bewick's and 8 Whoopers. A Buzzard was overhead again and nearby a Barnacle Goose was with the Pink-feet.

Bewick's Swans, Stanhoe, 14-Feb-07 Bewick's Swan, Stanhoe, 14-Feb-07

first-winter Bewick's Swans (with an adult Whooper Swan), Stanhoe, 14th February 2007

 

Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th February

Spent two lunches at the Queen's bird table at Sandringham. Heaps of bird grub keeping the tits and things busy but the funny thing is I've never seen the Queen top it up. Today a Nuthatch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker appeared just as I was leaving and had put the camera away. Typical. Still never got a decent Nuthatch photo.

Blue & Coal Tit, Sandringham, 12-Feb-07 Kestrel, Sandringham, 13-Feb-07

Coal Tit (left) and Blue Tit (right), Sandringham, 12th February 2007

 

Kestrel, Sandringham, 13th February 2007 - wondered why the tits all went quiet!

 

Great Tit, Sandringham, 12-Feb-07 Great Tit, Sandringham, 12-Feb-07

Great Tits, Sandringham, 12th February 2007

 

Coal Tit, Sandringham, 13-Feb-07 Blue Tit, Sandringham, 13-Feb-07

Coal Tit (left) and Blue Tit (right), Sandringham, 13th February 2007

 

Robin, Sandringham, 12-Feb-07 Robin, Sandringham, 13-Feb-07

Robins, Sandringham, 12th & 13th February 2007

 

Chaffinch, Sandringham, 13-Feb-07 Blackbird, Sandringham, 13-Feb-07

Chaffinch (left) and Blackbird (right), Sandringham, 13th February 2007

 

Great Tit, Sandringham, 13-Feb-07 Great Tit, Sandringham, 13-Feb-07

Great Tit, Sandringham, 13th February 2007

 

Grey Squirrel, Sandringham, 12-Feb-07  

Grey Squirrel , Sandringham, 12th February 2007

 

Sunday 11th February

A wander Sparham Pools was very wet but otherwise uneventful - drake Goosander the best bird. Then in the afternoon the rain finally stopped and the sun even came out so fuelled by a scrumptious roast lamb I tottered off to Swanton Morley. As I wandered round Holkham Lake I muttered to myself that it was about time I saw a Goldeneye here and then the next bird I saw was a female Goldeneye. Other additions to the 5 km circle year list included a feral Barnacle Goose and 3 Shoveler. Much more surprising was a first-winter Shag - presumably a pretty rare bird here in the valley and certainly one I didn't expect to see today.

Shag, Swanton Morley, 11-Feb-07 Shag, Swanton Morley, 11-Feb-07

first-winter Shag, Swanton Morley, 11th February 2007

 

Barnacle Goose, Swanton Morley, 11-Feb-07 Great Crested Grebe, Swanton Morley, 11-Feb-07

Barnacle Goose, Swanton Morley, 11th February 2007

Great Crested, Swanton Morley, 11th February 2007

 

Saturday 10th February

Rain stopped play. Boring day spent doing boring things like having a haircut and shopping for curtains (oh yeah, great heh!). And photographing boring Starlings in the rain. Actually if they were rare we'd think they were amazingly beautiful birds. Give it another 10 years and they probably will be rare - they're definitely heading that way.

Starling, Bawdeswell, 10-Feb-07  

Starling, Bawdeswell , 10th February 2007

 

Friday 9th February

Popped into Abbey Farm at Flitcham during my lunch break where there was a lot more water than last time I went. Not a lot more birds though and all I managed to photograph were some Moorhens and Coots competing for the silliest feet award:

Moorhen, Flitcham, 9-Feb-07 Moorhen, Flitcham, 9-Feb-07
Coot, Flitcham, 9-Feb-07  

Moorhens (top) and Coot (bottom), Flitcham, 9th February 2007

 

Sunday 4th February

Just because I didn't go yesterday it doesn't mean I didn't care...

Very fortunately I arrived at Farnham GP (North Yorkshire) at dawn which allowed me to get good views of the Pacific Diver. Unfortunately before I'd managed any half-decent photos it flew. As it flew past and then circled overhead it gave us lots of views even though most of the sky was out of view from our position - we probably got better views of the ventral strap than anyone visiting on previous days. Disappointing not to get good photos, but not as disappointing for me as it was for those who arrived just after it flew off (and paid the £10 parking fee before anyone told the guys on the gate that it had gone).

Pacific Diver, Farnham, 4-Feb-07 Pacific Diver, Farnham, 4-Feb-07
Pacific Diver, Farnham, 4-Feb-07 Pacific Diver, Farnham, 4-Feb-07

Pacific Diver, Farnham GP (North Yorkshire), 4th February 2007

For anyone not in the know, this Pacific Diver is (sorry, was) either the first or second record for the Western Palearctic (depending on the outcome of a previous claim from Scotland). The third has followed hot on this one's heels, identified this week-end in Wales*.

* Update (10-Feb-07): the ID of the Welsh one appears to be a bit doubtful. Also an older record from Italy has surfaced but that also seems a bit doubtful. Seems that Black-throated Divers vary more than most of us realised. Fortunately the Yorkshire one shows the full suite of characters and the ID is probably safe.

* Update (24-Feb-07): opinion on the Welsh bird seems to be turning with it now being regarded by many as a good Pacific Diver. Amazingly there's now a third bird present in Cornwall!

I wasn't too bothered about seeing the American Robin also in Yorkshire as I'd seen the Cornwall one a few years ago and loads in North America, but as it was just 40 minutes down the road it seemed silly not to pay it a visit.

American Robin, Bingley, 4-Feb-07 American Robin, Bingley, 4-Feb-07
American Robin, Bingley, 4-Feb-07 American Robin, Bingley, 4-Feb-07

American Robin, Bingley (West Yorkshire), 4th February 2007

 

Saturday 3rd February

You wouldn't know it from reading this so far, but Sheringham Bird Observatory is really my patch and for the first time this year I trundled along to take a look this morning. I soon remembered why I hardly go down in the winter - pretty dire. Still, a first-winter Little Gull was bouncing around Main Field with the Black-headed Gulls off the roost and a couple of Woodcocks were flushed. Six Stonechats were presumably all wintering (?), in which case I think that's the most that's ever wintered here.

Stonechat, Sheringham, 3-Feb-07 Stonechat, Sheringham, 3-Feb-07
Moon, Sheringham, 3-Feb-07 Stonechat, Sheringham, 3-Feb-07

pair of Stonechats (and the Moon), Sheringham, 3rd February 2007

After this I popped into Salthouse where 20 Snow Buntings were showing well by the Beach Carpark.

Snow Bunting, Salthouse, 3-Feb-07 Lapwing, Salthouse, 3-Feb-07

Snow Bunting (left) and Lapwing (right), Salthouse, 3rd February 2007

 

Black-headed Gull, Salthouse, 3-Feb-07 Black-headed Gull, Salthouse, 3-Feb-07

Black-headed (left) and Common (right) Gulls, Salthouse, 3rd February 2007

A Ruddy Shelduck x Cape Shelduck hybrid had been reported at Cley recently (yesterday?) and as I'm a bit weird I enjoy seeing odd hybrids like this - especially as I found the (parent?) Cape Shelduck when it first turned up among a flock of Ruddy Shelducks at Bittering last February. Sadly though I dipped - should have gone for the Pacific Diver instead. A Little Stint at Cley was my first ever winter record of this species I think and there were lots of nice ducks and things.

Little Stint, Cley, 3-Feb-07 Little Stint, Cley, 3-Feb-07

Little Stint (with a Dunlin, far left), Cley, 3rd February 2007

 

Wigeon, Cley, 3-Feb-07 Wigeon, Cley, 3-Feb-07
Wigeon, Cley, 3-Feb-07 Wigeon, Cley, 3-Feb-07
Wigeon, Cley, 3-Feb-07 Wigeon, Cley, 3-Feb-07

Wigeons, Cley, 3rd February 2007

 

Teal, Cley, 3-Feb-07 Teal, Cley, 3-Feb-07

Teal, Cley, 3rd February 2007

 

Avocets, Cley, 3-Feb-07 Lapwings, Cley, 3-Feb-07

Avocets, Cley, 3rd February 2007

Lapwings, Cley, 3rd February 2007

Next I tottered along to In Focus at Titchwell where I spent lots of money on a new toy...

Zeiss 85T, 3-Feb-07  

my new toy, 3rd February 2007

 

... and then I tried it out on the ol' 'legs:

Lesser Yellowlegs, Thornham, 3-Feb-07 Lesser Yellowlegs, Thornham, 3-Feb-07

Lesser Yellowlegs, Thornham, 3rd February 2007

I think it worked OK. Went to Guist to look for some finches that Andy had tipped me off about. Didn't see them but a Barn Owl put on a nice show:

Barn Owl, Guist, 3-Feb-07 Barn Owl, Guist, 3-Feb-07

Barn Owl, Guist, 3rd February 2007

 

Friday 2nd February

The 6 wild swans (1 Bewick's and 5 Whooper Swans) are still knocking around the Stanhoe area. They're not with Pink-feet any more but there was 1 Pink-foot with them.

Whooper Swan, Stanhoe, 2-Feb-07 Bewick's and Whooper Swans, Stanhoe, 2-Feb-07

Whooper Swan, Stanhoe, 2nd February 2007

Bewick's (front) and Whooper (back) Swans, Stanhoe, 2nd February 2007

 

Thursday 1st February

Another lunchtime foray to Burnham Thorpe as the sun was shining and the Waxwings were still there. I parked next to the tree where they were yesterday anticipating great photos. But the warm conditions meant that it (there was only one today, while I was there at least) wasn't interested in berries as it could sit atop another tree and catch flies. And the best tree to sit on for fly-catching wasn't the same tree so the angle and distance were far from ideal. I could have moved I suppose, but I was hoping it would come to me...

Waxwing, Burnham Thorpe, 1-Feb-07
Waxwing, Burnham Thorpe, 1st February 2007

Not a great photo, but great to watch (and listen to) as it flew around catching flies.

 

Previous months: January 2007

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Should anyone care about my 5 km circle year-list, I've now seen (or heard) 84 species within 5 km of my home at Bawdeswell (birds marked with an asterisk * are new this month):