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December 2009

 

Thursday 31st December

2009 ended without so much as a wimper - a pair of Bullfinches outside my window yesterday is the highlight of the last few days.

I finished the year with 271 species in Norfolk - click here to read a summary of the year's listing efforts. Next year I'll try and do some proper birding again!

 

Sunday 27th December

Went back to Wroxham Broad this afternoon in the hope that yesterday's ducks would still be there and I'd be able to get photos. The Ring-necked Duck was back this afternoon but distant and elusive, and remaining asleep or out of sight until it was practically dark, so no photos again. The Scoter wasn't seen today.

 

Saturday 26th December

After a very late start I arrived at Barton Broad late morning where the Ferruginous Duck was showing well. Lots of wildfowl here including quite a few Goldeneye (I counted 22 but I'm sure there were more) and a White-fronted Goose among the Greylags.

At Horsey I stopped to chat to Mick and Dawn and whilst there saw 2 Cranes one side of the road and 6 Cranes in flight the other side. Next stop was Martham Broad which was mainly frozen over and the only wildfowl on it were 6 Goldeneye. I did get some nice flight views of Bitterns though - on 3 occasions. I decided to continue along the path until I reached the river and there I disturbed a Water Pipit, the first time I've seen this species in this area. Some Bearded Tits were calling on the way back and I got two further views of Cranes (3 and 5).

Between Catfield and Ludham a herd of 180 Bewick's Swans contained a handful of Whoopers too.

By this time it was nearly dark and I considered abandoning my planned stop at Wroxham Broad. Fortunately I stuck to plan though and on arrival a large flock of Aythya ducks were just off the car park. I was hoping to relocate the Ring-necked Duck, although that hadn't been reported for nearly a month, but instead I Immediately picked up a sleeping drake Velvet Scoter among them! I was chuffed with this as it's a species I've never seen inland before (unless you count Snettisham pits as inland) and it must be a rare bird in the Broads. Despite being quite close it was way too dark for photos but I attempted a record shot anyway before continuing to scan through the flock. I only got part way through and had just picked up the female Ring-necked Duck when a boat drove right through the middle of the flock scattering them in all directions. Most went down on the far side but with the light almost gone I couldn't pick out either of the interesting birds again. A large roost of gulls was present too, but there wasn't enough light left to do them justice so I headed home. Lots of moths flying in the headlights on the way home - must be getting warm again!

Ferruginous Duck, Barton Broad, 26-Dec-09 Ferruginous Duck, Barton Broad, 26-Dec-09
Ferruginous Duck, Barton Broad, 26-Dec-09 Ferruginous Duck, Barton Broad, 26-Dec-09

Ferruginous Duck, Barton Broad, 26th December

 

Kingfisher, Barton Broad, 26-Dec-09 Kingfisher, Barton Broad, 26-Dec-09

Kingfisher, Barton Broad, 26th December

 

Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Barton Broad, 26-Dec-09 Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Barton Broad, 26-Dec-09

White-fronted Goose, Barton Broad, 26th December

 

Bittern, Martham Broad, 26-Dec-09 Bittern, Martham Broad, 26-Dec-09

Bittern, Martham Broad, 26th December

 

Fieldfare, Martham Broad, 26-Dec-09 Marsh Harrier, Martham Broad, 26-Dec-09

Fieldfare (left) and Marsh Harrier (right), Martham Broad, 26th December

 

Velvet Scoter, Wroxham Broad, 26-Dec-09  

Velvet Scoter, Wroxham Broad, 26th December - the wonders of Photoshop - the original was so dark you can't make out any birds in it

 

Friday 25th December - Christmas Day

The problem with having Christmas dinner at lunch time is that by the time you've finished it it's barely light enough to go for a walk and you've had too much wine to drive anywhere. So this year we decided not to start cooking the goose until after church and after a light lunch spent 2-3 hours going for a drive/walk in NW Norfolk. The hedges were crammed full of Fieldfares and Redwings and along the busier roads that were sufficiently ice-free for cars to be travelling at any speed quite a lot were lying dead beside the road - from reports elsewhere it sounds like thousands of thrushes have been killed on the roads in recent days as they find roadside hedges the only snow-free places to feed.

I was looking for Pink-feet in the hope that the Red-breasted Goose seen heading our way on 23rd would be among them but struggled at first to find any geese. Eventually I located a sizeable flock but although I managed to stop without flushing the birds right next to the road something else flushed the much larger numbers at the opposite side of the field so all I got were brief flight views. Our walk along the sea wall at Thornham was quicker than planned, partly because of the freezing cold wind and partly because I'd spent so much time looking for geese we had to hurry back to the one in our oven. On the way back I paused briefly to look at a small group of Pink-feet at Titchwell - the Snow Goose was still among them. The best goose was yet to come though and went well with the Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Golden Plover, Thornham, 25-Dec-09 Golden Plover, Thornham, 25-Dec-09
Golden Plover, Thornham, 25-Dec-09

Golden Plovers, Thornham, 25th December

 

Snow Goose, Titchwell, 25-Dec-09  

Snow Goose, Titchwell, 25th December

 

Tuesday 22nd December

Not everybody was enjoying the snow as much as I was - check out these poor guys' frozen tails:

Red-legged Partridge, W of Burnham Market, 22-Dec-09 Red-legged Partridge, W of Burnham Market, 22-Dec-09
Red-legged Partridge, W of Burnham Market, 22-Dec-09 Red-legged Partridge, W of Burnham Market, 22-Dec-09
Red-legged Partridge, W of Burnham Market, 22-Dec-09 Red-legged Partridge, W of Burnham Market, 22-Dec-09

Red-legged Partridges, west of Burnham Market, 22nd December

 

Sunday 20th December

Looked out this morning and saw 3 Egyptian Geese fly past the house - I heard this species a couple of times towards the end of last year but hadn't seen them from the house before. A male Bullfinch flew into next door's garden too, another species I'd heard a few times but don't remember seeing here before. All good stuff but with nearly seven inches of snow lying I needed to get out, so I slid down the hill to Swanton Morley.

Mostly usual stuff like Kingfishers, Water Rails, Marsh Tit, Little Egret and a few Snipe but more unusually I flushed a Woodcock as I walked round Holkham Lake, only the second time I've seen this species here. Less typical of snowy weather was a Chiffchaff by the river.

There didn't seem to be much of an influx of wildfowl but there were a few duck lurking at the back of one lake and when I counted these carefully I was surprised to find 71 Gadwall, way exceeding my previous best count for this site.

Finally as I headed back to the car I saw a second Woodcock scurrying through the snow in exactly the same place as I'd flushed one the winter before last. Unfortunately it had already seen me and flew before I could get a good look at it.

Later a Barn Owl didn't seem to be enjoying the snow at Billingford.

Bullfinch, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-09 Bullfinch, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-09
Bullfinch, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-09 Bullfinch, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-09

Bullfinches, Swanton Morley, 20th December

 

snow, Swanton Morley, 20-Dec-09 snow, Bylaugh - Sparham Hole, 20-Dec-09

snow scenes at Swanton Morley (left) and between Bylaugh and Sparham Hole (right), 20th December

 

Friday 18th December

Adverse weather meant we were sent home early from work so I made the most of it by looking for Smew at Swanton Morley. None there, but a Goosander, Little Egret and a few Snipe.

Goosander, Swanton Morley, 18-Dec-09 Goosander, Swanton Morley, 18-Dec-09

Goosander, Swanton Morley, 18th December

 

Goldfinch, Swanton Morley, 18-Dec-09  

Goldfinch, Swanton Morley, 18th December

 

Thursday 17th December

I had the day off today so with a strong northerly wind in progress I headed up to Sheringham. The wind originated from the near Continent where I hoped the cold weather would be moving wildfowl on but there was little evidence of wildfowl passage at Sheringham. At this time of year I didn't expect a huge seabird passage and there wasn't one - about 100 Red-throated Divers, a few more Auks and a handful of Kittiwakes and Gannets plus 5 Little Gulls and 3 Bonxies. More unusually in December was a Sooty Shearwater. This flew east then turned and went back west, then about half an hour later what I guess was most likely the same bird flew back east again - there are very few midwinter records of Sooty Shearwater in Norfolk.

A Grey Wagtail flew past the shelter a couple of times and Josh found a Velvet Scoter on the sea which none of the rest of us could get on to for ages. Once we'd realised how duff his directions were;-) we started looking in the right place and then found it quite easily, at which point it promptly flew off.

 

Monday 14th December

Saw the Snow Goose again at lunchtime, this time from the Choseley Road at Titchwell. Also there among the Pink-feet were a couple of Canada Geese, but I don't think they were the Canada Geese I was hoping would turn up in Norfolk this winter - more likely they were from the local feral population.

Snow Goose, Titchwell, 14-Dec-09 Snow Goose, Titchwell, 14-Dec-09
Snow Goose, Titchwell, 14-Dec-09 Snow Goose, Titchwell, 14-Dec-09

Snow Goose, Titchwell, 14th December

 

Snow Goose, Titchwell, 14-Dec-09  

Canada Geese, Titchwell, 14th December

 

Sunday 6th December

Headed over to Welney this afternoon to see the American Wigeon that was found there yesterday afternoon. Instead of being with the Wigeon that were close to the hide it had chosen the far side of the flood and hidden itself among some vegetation, out of view for much of the time. Thanks to the guys who got there before me I knew where to look and eventually got a few less obscured views, albeit still always distant.

On the way back from the Reserve I stopped to check out the swan flocks that were feeding close to the road. I was surprised to find a Bar-headed Goose feeding among the Bewick's Swans and speculated that it might have arrived with them, having been picked up from somewhere where a self-sustaining feral population exists. However, all thoughts of this being a strong contender for a "category C vagrant" (and therefore countable!) were dashed when I later discovered it had been present since at least 4th October. Actually that still doesn't prove anything but it definitely doesn't help its case and with plenty of escaped birds all over the place I don't think it's a case I'll be pursuing on its behalf any more.

Still 6 Winter Moths tonight, most of them new.

Bar-headed Goose, Welney, 6-Dec-09 Bar-headed Goose, Welney, 6-Dec-09
Bar-headed Goose, Welney, 6-Dec-09 Bar-headed Goose, Welney, 6-Dec-09

Bar-headed Goose (with Bewick's and Whooper Swans), Welney, 6th December

 

Saturday 5th December

Whilst I've already seen a Ferruginous Duck in Norfolk this year, some strange and bitter people who didn't get to see it (and a few other people who did see it) seem to think that the bird I saw and counted was an escaped individual. So, when I heard that David Roche had found a female late yesterday at Snettisham, a different gender and a completely different place from any known escapes, I thought I'd better pop over and see it this morning. I arrived at dawn and couldn't find it initially but instead found a Snow Goose, presumably the one that's been in Norfolk for a few weeks, with the roosting Pink-feet. This flew off as vast flocks of Knots swirled around the Wash providing an amazing spectacle as always. Connor informed me that a Purple Sandpiper had been present recently (something I'd have probably known about already if I'd bothered reading my pager carefully) and after a while I found it from Shore Hide.

None of this was what we were there for though and we continued searching for the duck, starting to suspect that it must have departed. Then I caught a brief glimpse of a small darkish duck with glistening white undertail-coverts disappearing behind a bank. A long while later I caught a second glimpse of what looked like a Fudge-shaped head of a duck swimming close to, but behind, the same bank. Later still a group of Tufties appeared, several showing white on the undertail-coverts but one with unusually extensive white, making me wonder if that was all I'd seen after all. But we kept looking and in the end out popped a Ferruginous Duck in full view for a few seconds - not long, but enough for a positive ID. Theoretically it would have been visible from Rotary Hide, but there you'd have been looking directly into the Sun so we stayed where we were as it popped out occasionally for a few seconds. Eventually something must have disturbed the ducks there and it swam further out before taking flight with Wigeons. I didn't see where it went but after a short while we picked it up again on the water just in front of the hide. It was swimming towards the south end and getting into the Sun so we headed down to the bottom to look with the Sun behind us. Now it swam back towards Shore Hide so we returned, only for it to start swimming back south again.

On the way home I stopped off at a few feeding Pink-foot flocks but didn't find anything interesting among them. At Flitcham though, a shoot was taking place nearby and I saw the beaters put up a Woodcock. Amazingly the lucky bird managed to avoid the bullets, at least this time.

Back at home this evening no less than 7 Winter Moths and another Dark Chestnut.

Ferruginous Duck, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09 Ferruginous Duck, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09
Ferruginous Duck, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09 Ferruginous Duck, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09

Ferruginous Duck, Snettisham, 5th December

 

Goldfinch, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09 Goldfinch, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09
Goldfinch, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09 Goldfinch, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09

Goldfinches, Snettisham, 5th December

 

Purple Sandpiper, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09 Purple Sandpiper, Snettisham, 5-Dec-09

Purple Sandpiper, Snettisham, 5th December

 

Knots, Snettisham, 9-Dec-06

Knots, Snettisham, 5th December

 

Winter Moth, Bawdeswell, 5-Dec-09  

Winter Moth, Bawdeswell, 5th December

 

Friday 4th December

At 10 o'clock this evening I heard Pink-footed Geese fly over the house - the third time in as many years that I've recorded this species from home. Unlike the previous occasions this was possibly just a single and definitely not a big flock, I suspect it was 2-3 individuals this time.

 

Tuesday 1st December

Had the day off today and took a look round my local patch Swanton Morley, though I can hardly call it a patch this year as year-listing has kept me well away from it. Highlight was a flock of 22 (I think) Bewick's Swans flying over, my first for the local area. They were very high and I'm sure I wouldn't have seen them if they'd not been calling. Other than them, typical things like Green Sandpiper, Cetti's Warblers, Water Rail and a few flighty Redpolls that defied identification.

Mute Swan, Swanton Morley, 1-Dec-09 Mute Swan, Swanton Morley, 1-Dec-09

Mute Swan, Swanton Morley, 1st December

 

Gadwall, Swanton Morley, 1-Dec-09 Long-tailed Tit, Swanton Morley, 1-Dec-09

Gadwalls (left) and Long-tailed Tit (right), Swanton Morley, 1st December

 

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