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December 2008

 

Tuesday 30th December

Another brief afternoon visit to Swanton Morley produced at least 5 Water Rails (only one seen), 3 Goosanders, Wigeon, the Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid and a flock of 65 Golden Plovers over.

Nearly forgot... also saw a strange duck that eluded a positive ID. It was flying around with Mallards and at first I thought it was a female Shoveler on account of its clearly spatulate bill. However it the bill seemed a bit too small and the whole bird was much smaller than the Mallards - nearer Teal size although perhaps not quite so small. Hope I see it again and get better views.

Pochard x Tufted Duck, Swanton Morley, 30-Dec-08 Pochard x Tufted Duck, Swanton Morley, 30-Dec-08

male Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid, Swanton Morley, 30th December 2008

 

Monday 29th December

Although I'm on holiday this week I'm supposed to be completing my last diploma assignment so not much time for birding. Nevertheless boredom had thoroughly set in by mid afternoon so I had a quick look in at Swanton Morley. At least 4 Wigeon were present and the Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid remains.

 

 

Saturday 27th December

Went to Sparham Pools first but decided parking there might not be a good plan this morning when some suspicious-looking guy walked into the car park, saw me and walked out again but not without having a good look at the other car parked there first. There might be a perfectly innocent explanation, but I can't think of one. He (or his driver - he'd parked round the corner) drove off but I was concerned he might return so I went to Swanton Morley instead.

At Swanton Morley 1 Goosander was still present, along with the usual stuff like Kingfisher, Water Rails, etc. A party of 3 Barnacle Geese flew around and the Mallard x Egyptian Goose hybrid was seen again - only in flight. A Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid was less unusual although my first at Swanton Morley in two years of watching. A flock of 35 geese flew east followed by several larger flocks flying west (ish) - roughly 500 Pink-footed Geese - the largest number I've seen in the local area but I'm sure if I got out more I would see bigger flocks occasionally.

Goosander, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08 Goosander, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08

Goosander, Swanton Morley, 27th December 2008

 

Pochard x Tufted Duck, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08 Pochard x Tufted Duck, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08

male Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid (with Tufted Duck), Swanton Morley, 27th December 2008

 

Barnacle Goose, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08 Barnacle Goose, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08

Barnacle Geese, Swanton Morley, 27th December 2008

 

Goldcrest, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08 Goldcrest, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08

Goldcrest, Swanton Morley, 27th December 2008

 

Grey Heron, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08 Pochard x Tufted Duck, Swanton Morley, 27-Dec-08

Grey Heron (left) and hybrid Mallard x Egyptian Goose (right), Swanton Morley, 27th December 2008

 

Monday 22nd December

A frustrating start to the day when I glimpsed a small flock of what I think were Waxwings as I drove out of Bawdeswell. I was late for work so couldn't stop and track them down - hopefully they'll be around tomorrow. At lunchtime another annoying brief glimpse that eluded positive identification was, or would have been, my latest ever butterfly I think. Almost certainly a Small Tortoiseshell enjoying the winter sunshine.

Pink-footed Goose, S of Brancaster, 22-Dec-08 Pink-footed Goose, S of Brancaster, 22-Dec-08
Pink-footed Goose, S of Brancaster, 22-Dec-08 Pink-footed Goose, S of Brancaster, 22-Dec-08

Pink-footed Geese, south of Brancaster, 22nd December 2008

 

Saturday 20th December

At Swanton Morley this morning there were still 3-4 redhead Goosanders, the Wood Duck and 8 Snipe. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming - I've heard drumming in December before but only on nice mornings not miserable drizzly grey days like today. Other interesting-to-some behaviour involved a Mallard diving. A couple of times I've seen a flock of Mallards and Teal diving for food (bizarrely both times were at Helston Loe pool in Cornwall, in different years) and I think I've seen them submerge briefly to evade another attacking Mallard but I don't recall seeing one dive to evade me (presumably) and travel a significant distance under water.

Barn Owl, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-08 Bullfinch, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-08

Barn Owl (left) and Bullfinch (right), Swanton Morley, 20th December 2008

 

Goosander, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-08 Goosander, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-08

Goosanders, Swanton Morley, 20th December 2008

 

 

Thursday 18th December

Two Barnacle Geese among the Pink-feet at lunch today.

Barnacle Geese, S of Brancaster, 18-Dec-08 Barnacle Geese, S of Brancaster, 18-Dec-08

Barnacle Geese, south of Brancaster, 18th December 2008

 

Tuesday 9th December

Pink-footed Goose, Thornham, 9-Dec-08  

Pink-footed Goose, Thornham, 9th December 2008

 

Monday 8th December

Still at least 13 Greylags with the Pink-feet at Thornham, still no idea if they're local feral birds or proper wild ones.

Pink-footed Goose, Thornham, 8-Dec-08  

Pink-footed Goose, Thornham, 8th December 2008

 

Sunday 7th December

A nice sunny morning with at Swanton Morley with most of the smaller lakes largely frozen. Among the wildfowl on the unfrozen lakes were 36 Gadwall, 4 Goosanders and the Wood Duck. Six Snipe were the first I've seen there for a while and the finch flocks included a single Brambling and 3 Lesser Redpolls. At least 3 Water Rails were calling; one even showed itself for a few seconds.

Lesser Redpoll, Swanton Morley, 7-Dec-08 Lesser Redpoll, Swanton Morley, 7-Dec-08

Lesser Redpolls, Swanton Morley, 7th December 2008

 

Robin, Swanton Morley, 7-Dec-08 Robin, Swanton Morley, 7-Dec-08

Robin, Swanton Morley, 7th December 2008 - must be nearly Christmas

 

Gadwall, Swanton Morley, 7-Dec-08 Mistle Thrush, Swanton Morley, 7-Dec-08

Gadwall (left) and Mistle Thrush (right), Swanton Morley, 7th December 2008

 

Water Rail, Swanton Morley, 7-Dec-08 Water Rail, Swanton Morley, 7-Dec-08

Water Rail, Swanton Morley, 7th December 2007

 

 

Saturday 6th December

Went to Wells today where a first-winter Shag was present in the harbour briefly. Not much else although a good candidate for Black Brant was on the Pitch and Putt course. In some lights it looked perfect whilst in others it really wasn't convincing at all. At the time, and even now after looking at the photos, I'm not certain if this was a pure Black Brant or a hybrid. Not long afterwards someone else reported a Black Brant there, so they obviously felt it was ok.

While I was watching the Brant I thought I heard some Waxwings. Couldn't see them though and decided I was imagining it - however shortly afterwards some were seen moving west between Wells and Holkham so maybe I was right after all.

Lapwing, Wells, 6-Dec-08 Grey Plover, Wells, 6-Dec-08

Lapwing (left) and Grey Plover (right), Wells, 6th December 2008

 

Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Wells, 6-Dec-08 Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Wells, 6-Dec-08

adult Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Wells, 6th December 2008 - these must have had a poor breeding season as there are very few first-winters around this winter

 

Black Brant, Wells, 7-Dec-08 Black Brant, Wells, 7-Dec-08
Black Brant, Wells, 7-Dec-08 Black Brant, Wells, 7-Dec-08
Black Brant, Wells, 7-Dec-08 Black Brant, Wells, 7-Dec-08

adult Black Brant or hybrid, Wells, 7th December 2008. Black Brants can really stick out like a sore thumb when among Dark-bellied Brent Geese but in some lights they can be much trickier. I think this might just be one that didn't look obvious because of the light (bright sunshine) - at some angles it looked perfect but at others it looked distinctly unimpressive. Notice how pale the back and belly appear in the first two photos compared to the others. I'm really not sure if this is a hybrid or not - please let me know if you have an opinion.

 

Friday 5th December

Whilst driving along the Rinstead road from Burnham Market at lunchtime I was surprised to see an owl flying towards me. I was more surprised when I realised it was a Tawny Owl, a bird I haven't seen flying in broad daylight for about 20 years, except for a couple I've accidentally disturbed from roost that both disappeared immediately. Instead of diving into the cover of one of the many ivy-laden trees this bird kept landing in exposed positions, flying a bit more then landing again. I coudn't tell why it was behaving like this - there were some Jays being quite noisy close to it at one point but it wasn't obviously being mobbed by anything.

Tawny Owl, W of Burnham Market, 5-Dec-08 Tawny Owl, W of Burnham Market, 5-Dec-08
Tawny Owl, W of Burnham Market, 5-Dec-08  

Tawny Owl, west of Burnham Market, 5th December 2008

 

Thursday 4th December

The Pink-feet at Thornham still have a flock of Greylags mixed in - I counted at least 21 today. Also in the flock were two small, puny and extremely dark Pink-footed Geese which had varying amounts of red on their underparts. I've seen birds looking a bit like this in previous winters but don't know what causes it - please let me know if you can explain. Is it contamination, marker dye, blood, natural aberration or what?

Update: apparently this redness may be caused by contamination by red diesel.

Pink-footed Goose, Thornham, 4-Dec-08 Pink-footed Goose, Thornham, 4-Dec-08

small dark and red-plumaged Pink-footed Geese, Thornham, 4th December 2008

 

Tuesday 2nd December

A group of Greylag Geese were among the Pink-feet at Thornham today but unfortunately some walkers flushed the whole flock just as I arrived. Whether the Greylags were wild birds or just feral ones I've no idea of course, but small numbers of Greylags among the Pink-feet are often presumed to be wild.

Yesterday someone googled 'white billed and green footed duck' and found my page for White-billed Diver. Shame they didn't also find the page for Coot.

 

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