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March 2009

 

Tuesday 31st March

Had to use up a day's holiday before the end of March so went hunting for early migrants at Snettisham Coastal Park this morning. A Wheatear was my first of the year and 2 Swallows and a Marsh Harrier flew south but on the whole migrants were few and far between (well, it is still March). A Hen Harrier was seen a few times and there were Barn Owls everywhere (at least 6 seen, perhaps more). Most frustrating though was a small yellow-faced, stubby-billed finch that popped up briefly near some Linnets. Sadly it disappeared behind the bush far too quickly and despite spending the rest of the morning attempting to relocate it, this Serin (or Canary, etc.) was one that got away.

Moving on to the RSPB reserve very little else could be found, another Wheatear and at least 6 Mediterranean Gulls being about the lot. The same flock of Ross's, Barnacle and presumed hybrid Ross's x Barnacle Geese as before were still present. On to Pentney where a third Wheatear was seen as well as my first Little Ringed Plover of the year. Three Pink-footed Geese seemed like they might be an unusual record locally but apparently have been around for a while. One of the Wigeons was, I think, a hybrid. Some Wigeon x American Wigeon can look rather similar to this bird, though most show more pro-American features than this leading me to wonder if this one's a second-generation hybrid. Finally Blackborough End had plenty of gulls but nothing more interesting than a Herring Gull with yellow legs.

Wheatear, Pentney, 31-Mar-09 Wheatear, Pentney, 31-Mar-09

Wheatears, Pentney Lakes (left) and Snettisham (right), 31st March 2009

 

Barn Owl, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09 Barn Owl, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09

Barn Owls, Snettisham Coastal Park, 31st March 2009

 

Oystercatchers, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09 Oystercatchers, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09

Oystercatchers, Snettisham Coastal Park, 31st March 2009

 

Wigeon hybrid, Pentney, 31-Mar-09 Wigeon hybrid, Pentney, 31-Mar-09
Wigeon hybrid, Pentney, 31-Mar-09 Wigeon hybrid, Pentney, 31-Mar-09

Possible hybrid Wigeon x American Wigeon, Pentney, 31st March 2009 - it is perfectly within the normal range of variation for Eurasian Wigeon to show a small green area behind the eye but the extent of the green band on the following bird must surely be influence from another species. Some Eurasian x American Wigeon hybrids can certainly appear very similar to this bird but normally there are more clues to a hybrid origin than shown here (such as pink bleeding into the grey body, speckled lores/ear-coverts, etc.). This one is so similar to Eurasian Wigeon that I suspect it is not a first-generation hybrid... further thoughts on this bird would be welcome! Could it even be just a pure Eurasian Wigeon?

 

Black-tailed Godwit, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09 Black-tailed Godwit, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09

Black-tailed Godwit, Snettisham, 31st March 2009

 

Shelduck, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09 Shelduck, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09

Shelduck, Snettisham, 31st March 2009

 

Herring Gull, Blackborough End, 31-Mar-09 Herring Gull, Blackborough End, 31-Mar-09

Herring Gull, Blackborough End, 31st March 2009 - the hazards of life on a rubbish dump! This bird spent about 10 minutes flying around with this "parachute" dangling from its legs, bill open for the whole time and apparently struggling. For some reason it seemed reluctant to land but eventually when it did land the rubbish just fell off.

 

Gadwall, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09 Kestrel, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09

Gadwall (left) and Kestrel (right), Snettisham, 31st March 2009

 

Wigeon, Pentney, 31-Mar-09 Wigeon, Pentney, 31-Mar-09

Wigeon, Pentney Lakes, 31st March 2009

 

Lizard, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09 Double-striped Pug, Bawdeswell, 30-Mar-09

Common Lizard, Snettisham, 31st March 2009

 

Double-striped Pug, Bawdeswell, 30th March 2009

 

Peacock, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09 Peacock, Snettisham, 31-Mar-09

Peacock (left) and Small Tortoiseshell (right), Snettisham, 31st March 2009

 

Diurnea fagella, Bawdeswell, 31-Mar-09 Twenty-plume Moth, Bawdeswell, 31-Mar-09

Diurnea fagella (left) and Twenty-plume Moth (right), Bawdeswell, 31st March 2009 - thanks to Rob for the Diurnea ID!

 

Monday 30th March

A quick look between Heacham and Hunstanton at lunchtime was more productive than I expected, with a Swallow south and a surprise Ring Ouzel. March records aren't particularly unusual but nevertheless this was my earliest ever. Popped in to Bintree Mill on the way home: 1 Green Sandpiper.

Pied Wagtail, Heacham, 30-Mar-09 Pied Wagtail, Heacham, 30-Mar-09

Pied Wagtail, Heacham, 30th March 2009 - I was reasonably happy that this was a female Pied but if you want to persuade me it's a White then please go ahead!

 

Ring Ouzel, Heacham, 30-Mar-09 Early Grey, Bawdeswell, 30-Mar-09

Ring Ouzel, Heacham, 30th March 2009

Early Grey, Bawdeswell, 30th March 2009

 

Sunday 29th March

The afternoon was spent birding the local patches, Swanton Morley and Sparham Pools. Nothing much at either, the highlights at Swanton Morley being things like Grey Wagtails and Little Egrets and at Sparham Pools 3 Goosanders and Green Sandpiper.

Grey Wagtail, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09 Grey Wagtail, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09
Grey Wagtail, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09 Grey Wagtail, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09

Grey Wagtails, Swanton Morley, 29th March 2009

 

Green Sandpiper, Sparham Pools, 29-Mar-09 Oystercatcher, Sparham Pools, 29-Mar-09

Green Sandpiper (left) and Oystercatcher (right), Sparham Pools, 29th March 2009

 

Goosander, Sparham Pools, 29-Mar-09 Goosander, Sparham Pools, 29-Mar-09

Goosanders, Sparham Pools, 29th March 2009

 

Reed Bunting, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09 Reed Bunting, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09

Reed Bunting (left) and Chiffchaff (right), Swanton Morley, 29th March 2009

 

Mallard, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09 Mallard, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09

Mallard, Swanton Morley, 29th March 2009

 

Greylag Goose, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09 Greylag Goose, Swanton Morley, 29-Mar-09

Greylag Geese, Swanton Morley, 29th March 2009

 

Saturday 28th March

Strong northwesterlies and rain in late March was never going to be a good recipe for birding and today was no exception. Cley first thing provided the day's best birds, though only one really worth a mention - a cracking summery Water Pipit that spent a few seconds on North Scrape. A good(ish) look round Cley and Salthouse failed to produce anything more interesting than Spotted Redshanks and Kingfisher so as the wind increased in strength we wondered if watching the sea might be worth a go. A few minutes effort from Sheringham failed to produce a single bird so with news of a Kumlien's Gull at Blackborough again we decided to head down there. A few gulls were on view from road but were facing into the wind and had their backs to us; this plus the driving rain in our faces meant chances of picking up the Kumlien's were close to zero. Fortunately they all flew off, leaving no option but to find something better to do.

Looking for gulls at Kings Lynn was no more successful (though one of the Peregrines was seen again) so we headed down to Welney in the hope that there might still be some Garganey there, or the Dark-breasted Barn Owl might show. Neither showed, but 2 Ruddy Shelduck were present, a lone Barnacle Goose hybrid (possibly x Swan Goose), and, unexpectedly for the site, a Dark-bellied Brent Goose was there. On the way down we stopped briefly at Tottenhill where a flock of c.30 Sand Martins contained the day's only year-tick, a Swallow.

Pheasant, Ringstead, 28-Mar-09 Water Rail, Cley, 28-Mar-09

Pheasant (left) and Water Rail (right), Cley, 28th March 2009

 

Black-tailed Godwit, Cley, 28-Mar-09 Black-tailed Godwit, Cley, 28-Mar-09

Black-tailed Godwit, Cley, 28th March 2009

 

Hybrid Goose, Welney, 28-Mar-09 Hybrid Goose, Welney, 28-Mar-09

Possible Barnacle Goose x Swan Goose, Welney, 28th March 2009 - I think it's fairly safe to assume that this is a hybrid between a Barnacle Goose and one of the grey geese (Anser sp.). The all-dark bill doesn't rule out Greylag as the second parent but together with the long bill and straight bill/head profile, this seems to point instead to Swan Goose. The bird was alone so judging size accurately was impossible, however the impression was of a fairly small (and short-necked) goose. Other Barnacle x Swan Goose hybrids have been notes as being larger, and the identity of this bird is far from certain. Comments would be welcome.

 

Friday 27th March

A brief stop at Coxford on the way home produced nothing better than a Barnacle Goose and a Barn Owl . At the second stop I bumped into Dave who gripped me off with tales of a Harris' Hawk he'd seen earlier in the day... still never seen one! All I could find there were Little Egret, Marsh Harriers and Barn Owls, while nearby 8 Teal continue to fail to attract a passing Garganey. Back at home yet another Dotted Border - how come I'm seeing so many of these when a couple of other local moth-ers I speak to aren't finding any...?

Shoveler, Coxford, 27-Mar-09 Shoveler, Coxford, 27-Mar-09
Shoveler, Coxford, 27-Mar-09 Shoveler, Coxford, 27-Mar-09

Shovelers, Coxford, 27th March 2009 - presumably an adult and first-spring male

 

Barnacle Goose, Coxford, 27-Mar-09  

Barnacle Goose (with Greylag Goose), Coxford, 27th March 2009 - these two seemed to be paired, hope they're successful!

 

Tuesday 24th March

I don't have time to get right on to the reserve at Titchwell during my lunch break but when the target is big and white I can view it from a distance from Chosely Road. It was easy enough to pick out even from a distance but with heat haze playing its part it was much trickier being sure what it was. Eventually it started preening and I could then confidently say that I'd seen the Spoonbill and not just a large white plastic bag.

 

Sunday 22nd March

After passing 5 Barn Owls on the way, 2 male Golden Pheasants were heard calling in the Wolferton area this morning and one of them, a dark-throated 'obscurus' bird, was eventually seen well. After this we headed down to the Brecks, pausing first in Kings Lynn to look for the leucistic/albinistic Blackbird that's been around recently. I'd been given directions a while back but had forgotten the detail and would never have found the right spot if we hadn't bumped into another local birder who kindly led us straight to it. Not a true albino as the bare parts were normal-coloured but a striking bird nonetheless with entirely white plumage. Well worth the detour.

Near Blackborough a few gulls contained a probable Yellow-legged Gull briefly and once in the Brecks target birds of Stone-Curlew and Firecrest were quickly found (at last!). Finally Sparham Pools produced the second surprise spring migrant of the week-end, an early singing Blackcap. This is a week earlier than I've normally seen them; the only earlier one I've seen (on 15th March) was in gardens and was perhaps an over-wintering bird. Also at Sparham Pools were 6 Goosanders and a Red-eared Slider (in exactly the same place as in previous years, so contrary to what is often claimed these unwanted pet terrapins can survive a British winter, even a relatively cold one).

Blackbird, Kings Lynn, 22-Mar-09 Blackbird, Kings Lynn, 22-Mar-09

albinistic Blackbird, Kings Lynn, 22nd March 2009

 

Blackcap, Sparham Pools, 22-Mar-09 Chiffchaff, Sparham Pools, 22-Mar-09

Blackcap (left) and Chiffchaff (right), Sparham Pools, 22nd March 2009

 

Collared Dove, Kings Lynn, 22-Mar-09 Collared Dove, Kings Lynn, 22-Mar-09

Collared Dove, Kings Lynn, 22nd March 2009

 

Common Toad, Sparham Pools, 22-Mar-09 Red-eared Slider, Sparham Pools, 22-Mar-09

Common Toad (left) and Red-eared Slider (right), Sparham Pools, 22nd March 2009

 

Collared Dove, Kings Lynn, 22-Mar-09  

Great Crested Grebe, Sparham Pools, 22nd March 2009

 

Saturday 21st March

With a report of Great White Egret at Stiffkey yesterday evening we decided that would be as good a place as any to look for early migrants like White-spotted Bluethroats and Great Spotted Cuckoos. None of those, but a Common Sandpiper was a surprise, beating my previous earliest by nearly 3 weeks! A Snow Goose of unknown origin was also unexpected, and rarer if it's wild (which is unlikely). On the way back I found a real sore thumb of a Black Brant on the saltmarsh.

After this we tried a few sites along the coast seeing little of interest (5 Crossbills and a Mediterranean Gull at Wells probably the most noteworthy). Then news of a Hoopoe at Thornage sent us scurrying but despite careful searching of the area there was no sign. A look for Firecrests at a good site on the Cromer ridge failed to deliver so we finished off checking a couple of nearby sites for migrants. At Kelling the Red-throated Diver flew in while we were there - the bird flies well but appears to have a bare patch on its belly that it is constantly preening and appears not to like getting wet (quite difficult for a bird that normally spends its entire non-breeding life on the sea). Eventually it hauled itself up on dry land, something I've never seen a diver do away from their Scottish breeding lochs. Other than that, the best the afternoon could offer was 2 more Mediterranean Gulls (adult and first-winter) at West Runton.

Lepid-wise, my first Hebrew Character of the year was found in the morning and the during the day butterflies included Peacock, Comma and a few each of Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell.

Red-throated Diver, Kelling, 21-Mar-09 Red-throated Diver, Kelling, 21-Mar-09
Red-throated Diver, Kelling, 21-Mar-09 Red-throated Diver, Kelling, 21-Mar-09
Red-throated Diver, Kelling, 21-Mar-09 Red-throated Diver, Kelling, 21-Mar-09

Red-throated Diver, Kelling Quags, 21st March 2009 (sorry Josh!)

 

Snow Goose, Stiffkey Fen, 21-Mar-09 Snow Goose, Stiffkey Fen, 21-Mar-09

Snow Goose, Stiffkey Fen, 21st March 2009

 

Black Brant, Stiffkey, 21-Mar-09 Black Brant, Stiffkey, 21-Mar-09

Black Brant (with Dark-bellied Brent Geese), Stiffkey, 21st March 2009

 

Linnet, Thornham, 21-Mar-09 Chaffinch, Stiffkey, 21-Mar-09

Linnet, Thornham (left) and Chaffinch, Stiffkey (right), 21st March 2009

 

Long-tailed Tit, Wells, 21-Mar-09 Long-tailed Tit, Wells, 21-Mar-09

Long-tailed Tit, Wells, 21st March 2009

 

Mediterranean Gull, West Runton, 21-Mar-09 Mediterranean Gull, West Runton, 21-Mar-09

Mediterranean Gulls, West Runton, 21st March 2009

 

Barn Owl, Stiffkey, 21-Mar-09 Barn Owl, Thornham, 21-Mar-09

Barn Owls, Stiffkey (left) and Thornham (right), 21st March 2009

 

Barn Owl, West Runton, 21-Mar-09 Barn Owl, West Runton, 21-Mar-09

Barn Owl, West Runton, 21st March 2009

 

Magpie, Wells, 21-Mar-09 Rook, Kelling, 21-Mar-09

Magpie, Wells, 21st March 2009

 

Rook, Kelling, 21st March 2009

 

Hebrew Character, Bawdeswell, 21-Mar-09  

Hebrew Character, Bawdeswell, 21st March 2009

 

Friday 20th March

For a work day today was remarkably successful. Had a quick look round Sparham Pools before work, finding a nice selection of common birds including my first 4 singing Chiffchaffs of the year, Marsh Tit, Kingfisher, a pair of Grey Wagtails and 4 Treecreepers (3 singing). Much more unexpectedly though was a pair of Tundra Bean Geese, the first time I've seen this species in the Wensum Valley and the first time for a number of years that I've seen them without the company of Pink-footed Geese.

On the way to work I stopped off at Bintree Mills in the hope of finding Garganey among the Teal. No such luck but a Little Egret still there. After this I was still early so diverted via Great Snoring just in case there was still (or ever) a Snowy Owl in the vicinity. No owls let alone snowy ones, but finding a Red Kite at Houghton St Giles was a nice surprise.

After work I headed up to Titchwell where I finally connected with the pair of Red-crested Pochards that seem to be wandering round NW Norfolk. They were flighty and mobile but eventually settled within good digi-scoping distance. Clearly wild! Also at Titchwell Hen Harrier, 2 Spotted Redshanks, Water Rail and my first 2 Sand Martins of the year.

Tundra Bean Goose, Sparham Pools, 20-Mar-09 Tundra Bean Goose, Sparham Pools, 20-Mar-09
Tundra Bean Goose, Sparham Pools, 20-Mar-09 Tundra Bean Goose, Sparham Pools, 20-Mar-09
Tundra Bean Goose, Sparham Pools, 20-Mar-09 Tundra Bean Goose, Sparham Pools, 20-Mar-09

Tundra Bean Geese, Sparham Pools, 20th March 2009 - the extent of orange on one of these birds' bills may suggest Taiga Bean Goose, however the small size (they were seen with Greylags briefly) and short neck, rounded head and not especially long-looking bills all point to Tundra Bean Goose

 

Red-crested Pochard, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09 Red-crested Pochard, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09
Red-crested Pochard, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09 Red-crested Pochard, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09
Red-crested Pochard, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09 Red-crested Pochard, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09
Red-crested Pochard, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09 Red-crested Pochard, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09

Red-crested Pochards, Titchwell, 20th March 2009

 

Red Kite, Houghton St Giles, 20-Mar-09 Red Kite, Houghton St Giles, 20-Mar-09

Red Kite, Houghton St Giles, 20th March 2007

 

Spotted Redshank, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09 Hen Harrier, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09

Spotted Redshank (left) and Hen Harrier (right), Titchwell, 20th March 2009

 

Grey Wagtail, Sparham Pools, 20-Mar-09 Water Rail, Titchwell, 20-Mar-09

Grey Wagtail, Sparham Pools (left) and Water Rail, Titchwell (right), 20th March 2009

 

Thursday 19th March

Lunchtime at Flitcham produced a Green Sandpiper and 2 Little Owls. Unfortunately these were the most interesting owls of the day, as the reported Snowy Owl at Great Snoring failed to reveal itself (assuming it wasn't one of the 4 Barn Owls I saw while searching for it). Still, at least it got me out of work on time (ish).

Little Owls, Flitcham, 19-Mar-09 Clouded Drab, Bawdeswell, 19-Mar-09

Little Owls, Flitcham (left) and Clouded Drab, Bawdeswell (right), 2nd March 2009

 

Tuesday 17th March

News of two hybrid Ross's x Barnacle Geese at Snettisham was probably old news really but only reached my ears yesterday evening - given that most birders would look the other way when presented with any feral geese, especially hybrid ones, it can take a while for me to find out about these things. Nevertheless I find these odd-bods endlessly fascinating and was keen to get some photos. An early start was required to get right to the south end of the pits and back before work and eventually the two hybrids were located among the flock of 2 Ross's and 13 Barnacle Geese.

Unfortunately the hoped-for Red-crested Pochards eluded me again, presumably having returned to their pen again. Clearly they're escapes and shouldn't be counted on anyone's year-list (though of course if I do eventually connect with them then they'll suddenly become genuine vagrants from Europe, or at least wanderers from a category-C feral population somewhere). At least 2 Mediterranean Gulls were among the hordes of Avocets but not much else of interest seen.

Ross's Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09 Ross's Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09

Ross's Geese, Snettisham, 17th March 2009

 

Pink-footed Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09 Pink-footed Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09

Pink-footed Goose, Snettisham, 17th March 2009

 

Hybrid Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09 Hybrid Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09
Hybrid Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09 Hybrid Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09
Hybrid Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09 Hybrid Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09
Hybrid Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09 Hybrid Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09

Presumed Ross's Goose x Barnacle Goose hybrids (top 4 photos show 1 bird, lower 4 the other bird), Snettisham, 17th March 2009

 

Barnacle Goose, Snettisham, 17-Mar-09  

Barnacle Geese, Snettisham, 17th March 2009

 

Sunday 15th March

The drive home from the Lakes this afternoon produced 2 Red Kites over the A1(M) near Hopperton (North Yorkshire). This evening's moths included yet another Dotted Border, an Early Grey and an Engrailed.

Engrailed, Bawdeswell, 15-Mar-09 Early Grey, Bawdeswell, 15-Mar-09

Engrailed (left) and Early Grey (right), Bawdeswell, 15th March 2009

 

Saturday 14th March

Didn't have long this morning, just long enough to dip on Red-crested Pochards (what depths you have to stoop to when year-listing!). A Ruddy Duck was the best thing and the south-westerly breeze ensured my first vis mig of the spring (but only single figures of Pied & Grey Wagtails plus a handful of thrushes). Having promised to be at my parents in the Lake District by lunchtime I decided to ignore my hunch that there would be Firecrest in the pines I almost reached, so it was slightly annoying to hear that two had been found there a little bit later!

As usual, an afternoon drive round the Lakes produced rather more opportunities to enjoy scenery than birds. The best of the latter was a flock of 8 Goldeneyes on Coniston Water.

Coniston Water, 14-Mar-09 Coniston Water, 14-Mar-09

Coniston Water (left; looking a lot calmer than it was) and Langdale (right), 14th March 2009

 

Thursday 12th March

With rumours that the Roydon Great Grey Shrike might possibly show some features suggestive of Southern Grey Shrike I thought I'd better go and investigate during my lunch break. I can't profess to be well-versed in the full range of variation displayed by either Great Grey or Southern Grey Shrikes, but if I'm not mistaken this one's in the Great Grey camp, unfortunately. Still, a very nice bird and well worth seeing.

Great Grey Shrike, Roydon Common, 12-Mar-09 Great Grey Shrike, Roydon Common, 12-Mar-09
Great Grey Shrike, Roydon Common, 12-Mar-09 Great Grey Shrike, Roydon Common, 12-Mar-09

Great Grey Shrike, Roydon Common, 12th March 2009

 

Monday 9th March

Some moths have really bad names (like Willow Beauty for example, which doesn't live in willows and is one of the ugliest moths on the planet) but others have names that are bang on. I'd heard of this evening's moth but until tonight I'd never seen one and without looking it up I would have had no idea what it looked like. Even so, as soon as I saw this thing with its little moons I figured it had to be a Satellite. Apparently this species over-winters as adults; this one looks a bit worse for wear.

Satellite, Bawdeswell, 9-Mar-09  

Satellite, Bawdeswell, 9th March 2009

 

Sunday 8th March

I've known for a long time that there was a small feral population of Reeves's Pheasants in the Brecks, somewhere near Bodney, but until recently I didn't know exactly where. It's probably not yet a big enough population to be regarded as self-sustaining (and therefore "countable"), though I suspect they're managing to sustain themselves rather better than the much longer-established but now apparently dying out Golden Pheasants. Having now been tipped off about a site for these beauties we started the day here seeing one male. Later in the day we passed back through the area and saw no less than 4 males.

With one listing authority (Lee) now declaring the Wolferton Golden Pheasants too inbred and mutant to be countable I thought it might be worth trying to find some of the few remaining Breckland birds while we were in the area. No luck with these though - I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has any up to date information about where there might still be some hanging on in the Norfolk Brecks.

Whilst talking Pheasants I've noticed that there are loads of leucistic (Common) Pheasants around at the moment, which I've not seen many of in previous years. I've seen them at several sites in the Brecks, but also a few elsewhere, mirroring the situation with "melanistic" (var. tenebrosus) Pheasants that suddenly appeared in a similar manner a few years ago. Are these the latest fad for Pheasant breeders, or is there another explanation? The black tenebrosus birds remained common for a few years but seem to be decreasing now - have they now gone out of fashion with gamekeepers now that these leucistic birds are on the market?

On to more serious matters, we also found Tree Sparrow at Great Cressingham, Crossbills at 3 sites, Green Sandpiper at Langmere and Woodlark but all the sites we checked for Stone-Curlew and Firecrest drew a blank (again). Some folk at Lynford told us they'd seen the Ferruginous Duck there and I suspect went away ticking it even after we told them it was a colour-ringed escapee. However, the escape-conspiracy was irrelevant as it turned out that the bird they'd seen was a fairly obvious Tufted Duck. Lakenheath produced the 9 Lesser Redpolls but not the Mealy that was supposed to be with them. The real purpose of this visit though was to view the gulls at Hockwold Washes. This would have been easier if it hadn't been blowing a gale but we managed to string a few Yellow-legged Gulls before the rain made it impossible. Have a look at the photos and see if you can identify any of them (but please let me know what you think!).

My first butterfly of the year was a Red Admiral at Lynford Arboretum. A micro moth on the bedroom wall this morning appears to be Agonopterix heracliana, though if you know better please shout!

Reeves's Pheasant, Hilborough, 8-Mar-09 Reeves's Pheasant, Hilborough, 8-Mar-09

male Reeves's Pheasants, near Hilborough, 8th March 2009

 

Pheasant, Hilborough, 8-Feb-09 Pheasant, Hilborough, 8-Feb-09

leucistic male Pheasant, near Hilborough, 8th February 2009

 

Lesser Redpoll, Lakenheath, 8-Mar-09 Green Sandpiper, Langmere, 8-Mar-09

Lesser Redpoll, Lakenheath (left) and Green Sandpiper, Langmere (right), 8th March 2009

 

I'd be interested in other people's views on the following gulls - please contact me if you can help:

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09  

Gull 4, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - a straightforward adult Yellow-legged Gull, unless anyone knows otherwise

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09

Gull 3, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - we thought Yellow-legged initially, but later wondered if we'd adequately eliminated Herring Gull - what do you think?

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09
Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09

Gull 5, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - this bird seemed rather pale-mantled, but got noticeably darker further back. Herring? or Yellow-legged? (I'm not completely sure if birds 3 and 5 are the same bird or different birds)

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09  

Gull 8, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - a similar bird to 3 and 5 but with a bit more brown on the greater coverts: Herring or Yellow-legged?

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09

Gull 2, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - a tad dark-mantled but wing-detail is making me lean towards second-winter Herring Gull

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09  

Gull 1, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - this one flew off before I could get a better photo! Yellow-legged?

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09

Gull 7, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - pretty sure the flight photos below are the same bird - Yellow-legged?

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09

Gull 11, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - I'm pretty sure that this is the same as Gull 7 - Yellow-legged?

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09

Gull 6, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - what's this?

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09

Gull 9, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - Yellow-legged?

 

Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09 Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09
Gull, Hockwold Washes, 8-Feb-09  

Gull 12, Hockwold Washes, 8th March 2009 - a strikingly pale bird with very dark primaries. Just a Herring Gull?

 

Agonopterix heracliana, Bawdeswell, 7-Mar-09  

Agonopterix heracliana, Bawdeswell, 8th March 2009

 

Saturday 7th March

Highlight of a walk round Swanton Morley this morning was a pair of adult Mediterranean Gulls flying through, looking very smart in full breeding plumage. This is only the second time I've seen this species here, or anywhere else in the local area. Otherwise nothing very remarkable: 3 Shovelers, Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, etc.

At Sculthorpe Moor my friends wanted to see Barn Owl, Treecreeper and Water Rail, and we saw Barn Owl, Treecreepers (including good views of a nesting bird) and 2 Water Rails. Also lots of Brambling and Siskin there as usual, Marsh Tit, Little Egret and one of the recently-released Golden Pheasants.

Popped in to Bintree Mill on the way home where there were at least 17 Teal and a very Little Egret.

Treecreeper, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Treecreeper, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09
Treecreeper, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Treecreeper, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09
Treecreeper, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Treecreeper, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09

Treecreeper, Sculthorpe Moor, 7th March 2009

 

Water Rail, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Water Rail, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09
Water Rail, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Water Rail, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09
Water Rail, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Water Rail, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09
Water Rail, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09  

Water Rails, Sculthorpe Moor, 7th March 2009

 

Golden Pheasant, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Long-tailed Tit, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09

Golden Pheasant (left) and Long-tailed Tit (right), Sculthorpe Moor, 7th March 2009

 

Brambling, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Brambling, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09
Brambling, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09  

Bramblings, Sculthorpe Moor, 7th March 2009

 

Greenfinch, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Greenfinch, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09

Grreenfinches, Sculthorpe Moor, 7th March 2009

 

Chaffinch, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Chaffinch, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09

Chaffinches, Sculthorpe Moor, 7th March 2009

 

Pheasant, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09 Pheasant, Sculthorpe Moor, 7-Mar-09

Pheasant, Sculthorpe Moor, 7th March 2009

 

Friday 6th March

A brief stop at Wolferton at lunchtime immediately produced distant views of two Buzzards together. One was one of the Rough-legged Buzzards and I enjoyed the most prolonged views I've had of it so far. At very long range few plumage details were visible but it did provide a good opportunity to study the bird's distinctive structure and jizz. The other bird disappeared before I got a good look at it.

 

Thursday 5th March

Two cold Dotted Borders in tonight.

Dotted Border, Bawdeswell, 5-Mar-09  

Dotted Border, Bawdeswell, 5th March 2009

 

Monday 2nd March

Second moth of the year was this tatty thing last night - not terribly similar to other Chestnuts I've seen, but that's apparently what it is (thanks to Rob for the confirmation). Much smarter was a Clouded Drab this evening.

Chesnut, Bawdeswell, 1-Mar-09 Clouded Drab, Bawdeswell, 2-Mar-09

Chestnut, Bawdeswell, 1st March 2009

Clouded Drab, Bawdeswell, 2nd March 2009

 

Sunday 1st March

The last couple of years I've failed to find any Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers on my local patches and having tried and failed at a couple of other nearby sites this year (as well as a couple further afield) I resorted to what's probably the best site for this species in Norfolk at the moment, in the Brecks. After some time we eventually found two drumming birds, one of which showed itself reasonably well.

Also in the Brecks some Tree Sparrows were found at a site for wintering Stone-Curlews, though none of the latter were seen. The Great Grey Shrike was at Lakenheath where we were too late (and too early) to see the gull flock on Hockwold Wash. A site for Firecrest failed to produce - sounds like this is one of a number of places where they were easy to find in the first half of the winter but have become very difficult since the cold snap.

A Great White Egret was seen flying from across the border into Suffolk this morning. Chances of finding it in Norfolk were pretty slim but we gave it our best shot and came away with nought. Nearby at Aldeby a Weasel and a flock of c100 Reed Buntings were the highlights.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Santon Downham, 1-Mar-09 Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Santon Downham, 1-Mar-09

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Santon Downham, 1st March 2009

 

Grey Heron, Lakenheath, 1-Mar-09  

Grey Heron, Lakenheath, 1st March 2009

 

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