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February 2009

 

Saturday 28th February

Last night's meal at The Neptune was fantastic and we stayed in Old Hunstanton, having a late start this morning after a relaxed breakfast. Not a serious birding day but we trundled slowly along the coast stopping off at a few spots. Not much seen, Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Burnham Norton was the best, with a nice male Bearded Tit seen here too.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Burnham Norton, 28-Feb-09 Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Burnham Norton, 28-Feb-09

Pale-bellied Brent Goose (with Dark-bellied Brent Geese), Burnham Norton, 28th February 2009

 

Stonechat, Salthouse, 28-Feb-09 Stonechat, Salthouse, 28-Feb-09

Stonechat, Salthouse, 28th February 2009

 

Little Egret, Morston, 28-Feb-09 Little Egret, Morston, 28-Feb-09

Little Egret, Morston, 28th February 2009

 

Curlew, Thornham, 28-Feb-09 Red-breasted Merganser, Thornham, 28-Feb-09

Curlew (left) and Red-breasted Merganser (right), Thornham, 28th February 2009

 

Reed Bunting, Burnham Norton, 28-Feb-09 Jackdaw, Blakeney, 28-Feb-09

Reed Bunting, Burnham Norton (left) and Jackdaw, Blakeney (right), 28th February 2009

 

Friday 27th February

My first moth of the year appeared this morning, having presumably arrived in a previous evening: a Dotted Border. Vitty starts a new job on Monday and we decided to celebrate by trying out the new Michelin star restaurant at Old Hunstanton: The Neptune. In order not to not have to rush up after work I took the day off and spent the morning looking for the Rough-legged Buzzards from various viewpoints including Wolferton (distant but extensive view over the marshes from the gate along the road that crosses through the loop, but can't see south of Wolferton Woods), Castle Rising (good view over Babingley valley and Wolferton Woods but not much over the Wash-side marshes and North Wootton (distant views over marshes and Wolferton Woods).

Wolferton produced Hen Harrier and not much else so I moved round to Castle Rising from where I figured I'd get a good view of the area south of Wolferton Woods where Rough-leg was reported yesterday. As I got out of the car I heard a rather distant but distinctively long and steady drumming sound, probably a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but I'll have to do better than that to count it on the year list! Spent a long time here seeing nothing but Hen Harrier, Barn Owl and a single Buzzard but eventually things woke up and there were 7 Buzzards in the air together over Wolferton Woods. Nothing that looked remotely like a Rough-leg though and I couldn't help thinking that the habitat wasn't really ideal as Rough-legs prefer more open areas. So I moved round to North Wootton where, during my time here, a few folk were watching towards Wolferton Woods. I decided to head on to a vantage point that provided a better view of the marshes figuring that this would be a more likely spot for a Rough-leg, but only found another (or the same?) Hen Harrier again. Looking back towards Wolferton Woods I picked up a very pale Buzzard that seemed large and long-winged and, with two thirds of the upper tail pure white: it had to be one of the Rough-legged Buzzards. I returned to where the others were, finding only Sue remaining. She'd seen a pale bird that she'd thought was a pale "sandy" bird that she'd seen yesterday and not been convinced about; this one didn't look sandy to me - more grey - but whether it was the same bird or not I don't know. She also picked up another bird which she felt was the other Rough-legged Buzzard - I expect it was but my own poor views of this one didn't eliminate a pale-rumped Buzzard.

On leaving here I was torn between heading home (I was already later than planned) and having a final check from Castle Rising. I decided on the former but Peter (who'd joined us at North Wootton) chose better and as soon as he arrived at Castle Rising he had good views of the darker Rough-legged Buzzard. On receiving his news I headed back to join him but arrived too late. I did eventually pick it up, glimpsed three times as it flew between trees out towards the Wash, but would have much preferred to have the views that Peter enjoyed!

Dotted Border, Bawdeswell, 27-Feb-09  

Dotted Border, Bawdeswell, 27th February 2009

 

Thursday 26th February

Finally the Rough-legged Buzzard that I found at Sandringham on 9th (but wasn't completely certain about) has been pinned down - sort of. It was reported again in the same area the following week, and then the other side of Wolferton a few days later, followed by a further report of two birds there. Now these birds have both been seen by a few birders and it seems the ID is correct. They're not being easy to see though, and today I tried before work and during my lunch break without success. A Golden Pheasant, probably an immature male but perhaps a female, narrowly avoided being run over by me but 1-2 ringtail Hen Harriers were the best raptors I could find.

 

Sunday 22nd February

Wherever I went today was eerily quiet with next to nothing seen virtually everywhere. Hoe Rough held 3 Little Egrets, probably a good count for the location, while the best the Brecks could offer was leucistic Black-headed Gull, leucistic Pheasants and leucistic Canada Goose (and 3 Crossbills). A first-winter Shag at Kings Lynn docks was the only new bird for the year while Wolferton/Sandringham once again failed to turn up any Rough-legged Buzzards (though I enjoyed watching 4 Barn Owls simultaneously (4 of today's 7 Barn Owls).

Shag, Kings Lynn, 22-Feb-09 Shag, Kings Lynn, 22-Feb-09
Shag, Kings Lynn, 22-Feb-09 Shag, Kings Lynn, 22-Feb-09

first-winter Shag, Kings Lynn docks, 22nd February 2009

 

Crossbill, Lynford, 22-Feb-09 Crossbill, Lynford, 22-Feb-09

Crossbills, Lynford, 22nd February 2009

 

Little Egret, Hoe Rough, 22-Feb-09 Little Egret, Hoe Rough, 22-Feb-09

Little Egret, Hoe Rough, 22nd February 2009

 

Peregrine, Kings Lynn, 22-Feb-09 Peregrine, Kings Lynn, 22-Feb-09

Peregrine, Kings Lynn, 22nd February 2009

 

Barn Owl, Wolferton, 22-Feb-09 leucistic Black-headed Gull, Lynford, 22-Feb-09

Barn Owl, Wolferton (left) and leucistic Black-headed Gull, Lynford (right), 22nd February 2009

 

Pheasant, Great Cressingham, 22-Feb-09 Canada Goose, Lynford, 22-Feb-09

leucistic Pheasant, Great Cressingham (left) and leucistic Canada Goose, Lynford (right), 22nd February 2009

 

Saturday 21st February

Main target for today was Lesser Spotted Woodpecker with some less important additions to the year list planned as well. In that respect the day was a total failure as we failed to find any of the targets, but a couple of good birds saved the day. Starting at Sheringham Park proved a good move, not because of anything we saw there but because it meant we were only five minutes away from a Hooded Crow when it was found at Beeston Regis. This was especially fortunate as it only stuck around for about 3/4 hour and there's every possibility that there won't be another one in Norfolk this year. In the 70s they were a common winter visitor and passage migrant in Norfolk but by the time I moved here in the early 90s they were scarce enough that they were always a surprise when we found one, although I would bump into one or two most years without chasing them. Since then the decline has continued to the extent that they're now a very rare bird here (although hybrids are still seen occasionally).

Dave had said it felt like a good day for Red Kites quite early on, but I'd responded with something along the lines of it being a bit early as spring passage peaks in mid March to April. He was proved right though and a Red Kite was promptly reported over Great Ryburgh followed by two more reports from Attleborough. As much because of a nearby site for Lesser Spot as any expectation of seeing the kite we decided to head that way next and found nothing better than a Little Egret. Once we'd given up failed attempts to turn drumming Great Spots into Lesser Spots we popped up to NW Norfolk in the vain hope of seeing a Lapland Bunting or one or two of the scarce divers/grebes. No luck there either so we headed down to have another look for interesting buzzards in the Sandringham area. Along the way we passed through Shernborne where I was just about to make some comment about having once found a Red Kite there when I picked up a Red Kite! We enjoyed good views of this magnificent raptor for several minute before it eventually headed off northwards.

Later a White Stork was reported from Kimberley; normally I would dismiss any White Stork in February as being an escaped bird but the coincidence of its arrival with all these Red Kites (there was at least one more in addition to the ones I've mentioned) makes me wonder if the Stork may have been a genuine vagrant.

Hooded Crow, Beeston Regis, 21-Feb-09 Hooded Crow, Beeston Regis, 21-Feb-09

Hooded Crow, Beeston Regis, 21st February 2009

 

Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09 Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09
Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09 Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09
Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09 Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09
Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09 Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09
Red Kite, Shernborne, 21-Feb-09

first-winter Red Kite, Shernborne, 21st February 2009

 

Treecreeper, Sheringham Park, 21-Feb-09  

Treecreeper, Sheringham Park, 21st February 2009

 

Friday 20th February

Any thoughts on this Pheasant? Looks superficially similar to many female 'melanistic' Pheasants (var. tenebrosus) but I've not seen one with such conspicuous pale edges to the feathers (though it still looked dark overall). Also the blue skin round the eye is something I don't remember seeing on Pheasant before (tenebrosus or otherwise).

Pheasant, Amner-West Newton, 20-Feb-09  

Pheasant sp., between Amner & West Newton, 20th February 2009

 

Wednesday 18th February

Forgot to mention yesterday that a pair of Oystercatchers had returned to work already. They seem to be turning up inland earlier every year. Odd though that both yesterday and today the ones at my work didn't reveal themselves until about 6.30-7.00 pm when they started flying around the site calling in the dark. In recent years Oystercatchers have discovered that flat rooves make excellent places for nest scrapes - not so many predators up there!

 

Tuesday 17th February

If I had a pound for every Barn Owl I've seen recently I'd be a rich man... Here's one of the birds I saw in today's lunch hour:

Barn Owl, Wolferton, 17-Feb-09 Barn Owl, Wolferton, 17-Feb-09
Barn Owl, Wolferton, 17-Feb-09 Barn Owl, Wolferton, 17-Feb-09

Barn Owl, Wolferton, 17th February 2009

 

Sunday 15th February

Both Ferruginous and Ring-necked Ducks have been wintering in the county but spending most of their time on private and inaccessible broads. There haven't been any pageable reports of the Ring-neck for weeks but the Ferruginous was reported from Wroxham Broad recently so on the way back from Norwich at lunchtime I decided to take a diversion to Wroxham on the off-chance of it being around again. While in the area I planned to try another more sensitive site I haven't visited for years, which I hoped might give me a better chance of success. My arrival at Wroxham was timed well as three birders present had discovered not any interesting ducks but an Iceland Gull (and a Mediterranean Gull).

Another observer was already at the second site and contrary to my expectation he had found both rare ducks, although they were out of sight on my arrival. The first interesting bird to appear was a female Scaup, followed by the female Ring-necked Duck and finally the male Ferruginous Duck - a fantastic few minutes. Unfortunately the site is private, extremely awkward to access and in no way can cope with more than about two visitors at a time, so no possibility of releasing details to a wider audience - sorry!

After lunch I headed back out to the Sandringham area in the vain hope of seeing the Rough-legged Buzzard that continues to be reported in the area. Very few raptors on view today though and the rain didn't help.

Iceland Gull, Wroxham Broad, 15-Feb-09 Iceland Gull, Wroxham Broad, 15-Feb-09

Iceland Gull, Wroxham Broad, 15th February 2009

 

Barn Owl, Houghton, 15-Feb-09 Barn Owl, Houghton, 15-Feb-09
Barn Owl, Houghton, 15-Feb-09 Barn Owl, Houghton, 15-Feb-09

Barn Owl (found by Vitty!), Houghton, 15th February 2009

 

Saturday 14th February

At a well-known site for Goshawks at least 2 Woodlarks were singing overhead and Crossbills were heard calling. Eventually good flight views were obtained of a grey adult Goshawk before it settled near the top of a pine tree, the first time I've ever seen this species perched up. A little later a second Goshawk appeared, this time a brown immature, flying along a similar line and again landing near the top of a pine. Another raptor was my first of its type ever in the UK, although I've seen a lot in North America; I can't count this one though as it was (presumably) an escaped bird - a Red-tailed Hawk.

A second attempt for the Cattle Egret was more successful than yesterday morning - I could see it on top of a hay bale even before I'd stopped the car. After this Dave and I had a good look for raptors from the vantage points north of Flitcham. I'd seen the probable Rough-legged Buzzard heading in this direction on Monday and have spent several lunchtimes looking from here since but today, as during the week, no sign of the bird I'd seen on Monday. On the way we saw a first-winter male Hen Harrier at West Rudham and from near Flitcham at least 6 Buzzards and another Hen Harrier here. This evening's news suggests that I should have spent more time looking for the Rough-leg in the area it was flying away from rather than the area it was flying towards: this evening it was seen near the timber yard at Sandringham.

Kings Lynn produced Peregrine and Black Redstart for those of us who were sharp enough (sorry Dave!), but our time here was curtailed by news of our last good bird of the day - a Black-necked Grebe on a pool at Brancaster.

Cattle Egret, Matlaske, 14-Feb-09 Cattle Egret, Matlaske, 14-Feb-09
Cattle Egret, Matlaske, 14-Feb-09 Cattle Egret, Matlaske, 14-Feb-09

Cattle Egret, Matlaske, 14th February 2009

 

Black-necked Grebe, Brancaster, 14-Feb-09 Black-necked Grebe, Brancaster, 14-Feb-09

Black-necked Grebe, Brancaster, 14th February 2009

 

Hen Harrier, N of Flitcham, 14-Feb-09 Hen Harrier, N of Flitcham, 14-Feb-09

Hen Harrier, north of Flitcham, 14th February 2009

 

Pheasant, Great Hockham, 14-Feb-09 Pheasant, Great Hockham, 14-Feb-09

male Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Great Hockham, 14th February 2009

 

Goshawk, undisclosed location, 14-Feb-09 Peregrine, Kings Lynn, 14-Feb-09

Goshawk, undisclosed location (left) and Peregrine, Kings Lynn (right), 14th February 2009

 

Friday 13th February

A total of 5 Barn Owls today in various places before work (when I couldn't find the Holt Cattle Egret before having to leave for work), during my lunch break or after work. Also in my lunch break 5 Buzzards between Amner and Sandringham, but no sign of Monday's bird.

 

Monday 9th February

I headed out towards Sandringham at lunch time and just before I got there (on the Amner road) I picked up a large raptor coming towards me from the right. It was a long-winged bird and its jizz set the alarm bells ringing immediately but by the time I'd stopped it was passing behind me and I hardly managed to get any detail on it other than that it seemed a very pale bird probably with dark somewhere on the underbody. I rapidly turned the car around and drove back just in time to see it continuing SE with slow wing beats and long flat wings. Before it disappeared low over the line of trees the only additional plumage feature I could pick up was solid dark on the tail tip and white above this. On jizz it seemed quite different from Common Buzzard and nothing I saw in the plumage contradicted an ID of Rough-legged Buzzard. I drove round to the parallel minor road running between West Newton and Amner and checked from the vantage point between there and Flitcham but there was no further sign before I had to head back to work. I put the news out in the hope that others would relocate it.

For the record (and for the year list), if it's not seen again I won't count it. Yes, the jizz seemed distinctive, and that's really the reason I was sure enough to put the news out. But on plumage, I didn't get enough on the underparts to rule out pale Common Buzzard - I am not certain of the distribution of dark. On the upperparts I didn't see pale bases to the primaries on the upperwing and whilst the tail looked very good, my view of this was brief. On reflection I really don't think I had good enough views of this one to count it, though I'm pretty sure it was good. It's not a county rarity so I wouldn't need to submit a description, but if it was I doubt very much if it would be accepted - that's probably a sign that I shouldn't count it.

Still worth looking for though if you're in the area. If it carried on going in the direction it was heading it would end up in the Flitcham area; I know when there are birds at Massingham they sometimes get seen from Flitcham too, so perhaps that would be a good place to look. If it didn't get that far then the minor road running north from Flitcham school offers a couple of good vantage points. Talking of Massingham I was told recently that there is one wintering there, but with no reports on the pager I don't know how gen that is.

 

Sunday 8th February

I returned to Strumpshaw this morning more in hope than expectation but upon arrival I was very pleased to find everyone had the Penduline Tit lined up ready for me. Spent ten minutes enjoying it before it flew off, not to be seen again for the rest of the day as far as I know.

After such a good start we decided to head off to neighbouring Buckenham where a very elusive Green-winged Teal has been seen a couple of times over the last couple of weeks. Before leaving Strumpshaw we checked for Teals from Brick Hide just in case it had moved here, but there were no Teals on view. After having a really good look through the hundreds of Teal at Buckenham the pager informed us that it was now at Strumpshaw - in front of Brick Hide! After a long walk back to the car and a short drive back to Strumpshaw, the Green-winged Teal was still there with just a very small group of Teal.

Finally Whitlingham Broad was on the way back so we stopped off here to see the Smew. All in all an excellent morning.

Penduline Tit, Strumpshaw Fen, 8-Feb-09 Penduline Tit, Strumpshaw Fen, 8-Feb-09
Penduline Tit, Strumpshaw Fen, 8-Feb-09 Penduline Tit, Strumpshaw Fen, 8-Feb-09
Penduline Tit, Strumpshaw Fen, 8-Feb-09 Penduline Tit, Strumpshaw Fen, 8-Feb-09

Penduline Tit, Strumpshaw Fen, 8th February 2009

 

Green-winged Teal, Strumpshaw Fen, 8-Feb-09 Green-winged Teal, Strumpshaw Fen, 8-Feb-09

Green-winged Teal, Strumpshaw Fen, 8th February 2009

 

Smew, Whitlingham, 8-Feb-09 Smew, Whitlingham, 8-Feb-09

Smew, Whitlingham Broad, 8th February 2009

 

Wigeons, Buckenham, 8-Feb-09

Wigeon, Buckenham, 8th February 2009

 

Saturday 7th February

Started off at Sheringham Park I failed to find what I was looking for but enjoyed the common woodland birds nonetheless, especially the Nuthatches of which a bare minimum of six were seen. This species is usually fairly territorial and even in winter pairs don't normally tolerate each other particularly well so I was surprised to see 4-5 feeding happily together in a single tree with no sign of agression between them.

Then on to Cley where I struggled to find much for the group I was with, due to the pools being frozen initially. However we did see a few birds including nice views of a Peregrine flying around. Single Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent Goose were located together in one flock of Brents (though a bit distant for the group to get excited by them) and a heard-only Bearded Tit was my first of the year. Once the cold got too much for the group I headed down to Strumpshaw in the vain hope that the Penduline Tit would show itself again. On the way a Weasel ran into the road at Blofield - always a delight and so much less often seen than Stoats. While searching for the Penduline I located a flock of Lesser Redpolls by the river and a couple of us reckoned we could make out a couple of Mealy Redpolls among them, though frankly I'm still not clear where the border between Lesser and Mealy lies (assuming it exists!). This site also held my 5th and 6th Barn Owls of the day.

Nuthatch, Sheringham Park, 7-Feb-09 Nuthatch, Sheringham Park, 7-Feb-09

Nuthatch, Sheringham Park, 7th February 2009

 

Ruff, Cley, 7-Feb-09 Black-tailed Godwit, Cley, 7-Feb-09

Ruff (left) and Black-tailed Godwit (right), Cley, 7th February 2009

 

Marsh Harrier, Cley, 7-Feb-09 Marsh Harrier, Cley, 7-Feb-09
Marsh Harrier, Cley, 7-Feb-09 Marsh Harrier, Cley, 7-Feb-09
Marsh Harrier, Cley, 7-Feb-09 Marsh Harrier, Cley, 7-Feb-09

Marsh Harriers, Cley, 7th February 2009

 

Stock Dove, Sheringham Park, 7-Feb-09 Black Swan, Cley, 7-Feb-09

Stock Dove, Sheringham Park, 7th February 2009

 

Black Swan, Cley, 7th February 2009

 

Goldfinch, Strumpshaw, 7-Feb-09  

Goldfinch, Strumpshaw Fen, 7th February 2009

 

Wednesday 4th February

Nothing better than a Barn Owl at Thornham at lunch-time, although I enjoyed close views of a Snipe just as much.

Snipe, Thornham, 18-Sep-03 Snipe, Thornham, 18-Sep-03

Snipe, Thornham, 4th February 2009

 

Teal, Thornham, 4-Feb-09 Teal, Thornham, 4-Feb-09

Teal, Thornham, 4th February 2009

 

Tuesday 3rd February

Two, probably three, Tundra Bean Geese were among the Pink-feet at Choseley at lunchtime.

 

Sunday 1st February

Sparham Pools this morning was fairly uneventful, with 5 Bullfinches, 50 Siskins and Nuthatch in the car park and the usual bits and pieces like Kingfisher and Marsh Tit. No sign of any Goosanders but 36 Pochard and 21 Gadwall on the main lake.

After this I decided to head out to Nar Valley Fisheries, a site I've only been to once before and thought then that it had lots of potential. Well, it didn't live up to its potential today. A large finch flock contained mostly Linnets but also at least 30 Bramblings, while there were plenty of Siskins around here too. A Little Egret was seen briefly in flight, as was a Buzzard. Waders included Redshank, Snipe, Woodcock and a Green Sandpiper. The most interesting sighting was a group of 4 Roe Deer that ran towards me along the opposite river bank, between the river and a small lake. When they saw me approaching they stopped and kept changing their minds as to whether to carry on or run back and eventually decided to climb down the steep bank and into the lake. I've never seen deer swimming before but all four made it all the way across the lake, one of them diverting back to flush a flock of Goldeneye that I wouldn't have seen as they were hidden by the bank. Apparently swimming is not uncommon for deers at least when necessary to evade danger, but this was a first for me.

Finally a quick check for Rough-legged Buzzards at Massingham Heath, but nothing more exciting than a flock of 40 Yellowhammers.

Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09 Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09
Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09 Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09
Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09 Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09
Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09 Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09
Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09 Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1-Feb-09

Roe Deer, Nar Valley Fisheries, 1st February 2009

 

 

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