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May 2009

 

Sunday 31st May

Got up at 3.15 in order to get over to Heigham Sound for dawn in the hope of seeing the Great White Egret. On the way a scan of Rushill Scrape revealed Little Gull, 30 Ringed Plovers and a winter-plumaged Knot. The latter was interesting in a topical sort of way with the identity of the Breydon Great Knot still being hotly contested. Although some very competent birders consider the "Great Knot" to have been just a Knot I'm still really struggling to see why. For me the Breydon bird looked exactly as I'd expect a Great Knot to look and certainly nothing like the bird I saw this morning, which looked exactly as Knots normally look.

My timing was good as my arrival at Heigham Sound coincided with Andy's arrival by boat. I'm grateful to Andy for allowing me up the tower with him, the first time I've been up here. From this vantage point there's a great view over the area so we stood a much better chance of picking up the Egret than I would have done from the ground. After a while Andy picked up the Great White Egret in flight and although the light played some strange tricks we eventually got a reasonably decent view of it the third time it flew.

We'd heard a Bittern booming before I picked up two in flight together. We followed them all the way across to beyond Swim Coots when they turned and headed back towards us, one of them going straight over our heads. Fantastic view, my only regret being that my photos were unaccountably blurred (perhaps I didn't allow for the slightly wobbly platform we were standing on?). Other birds from the tower included a couple of flocks of Black-tailed Godwits and the Cranes heard calling.

In the afternoon spent more time than I would have liked looking for a Black-tailed Pratincole near Ringstead but to no avail. This evening's moths included Bright-line Brown-eye, White Ermine, Spectacle and Common White Wave.

Bittern, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09 Bittern, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09
Bittern, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09 Bittern, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09
Bittern, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09 Bittern, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09

Bittern, Hickling, 31st May 2009

 

Great White Egret, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09 Great White Egret, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09

Great White Egret, Hickling, 31st May 2009

 

Barn Owl, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09 Barn Owl, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09

Barn Owls, Hickling, 31st May 2009

 

Mistle Thrush, Heigham Sound, 31-May-09 Common Pugs, Bawdeswell, 31-May-09

juvenile Mistle Thrush, Hickling (left) and Common Pugs (I think), Bawdeswell (right), 31st May 2009

 

Common Pugs, Bawdeswell, 31-May-09 Common White Wave and Bright-line Brown-eye, Bawdeswell, 31-May-09

White Ermine (left) and Common White Wave and Bright-line Brown-eye (right), Bawdeswell, 31st May 2009

 

Saturday 30th May

A lie-in seemed in order this morning but when news broke that yesterday's Short-toed Lark was in fact still present I set off for Blakeney Point for the third time in four days. There were no other birders looking for it and again I couldn't find it and this time I ended up going all the way up to the Plantation (where a Spotted Flycatcher was seen). A Black Swan flying past the pioint was a bizarre sighting for Blakeney Point but was presumably the bird from Cley.

I met James up here and talking to him it quickly became clear that the place I'd assumed the lark had been seen was not correct. It had actually been seen much closer to Cley than I'd appreciated and although I had looked here on the way up both days this wasn't where I'd concentrated my attention. I'd put a lot of effort in looking for the bird in the wrong place! At least I knew where to look now though and so after a long trudge back down I eventually arrived in the area where James had seen it. Josh was here too and after a little while he located a promising candidate for the lark in the flat area across the channel where the Avocets breed. I got some brief views on the deck and was fairly sure we'd got the Short-toed Lark but then it flew over the bank back on to the shingle ridge. It still looked good but we needed to be surer. Before long I picked it up again, this time on the shingle and in full view - there was no doubt this was the Short-toed Lark! It was quite flightly and we got a few brief views before it eventually headed back across the channel.

Finally an adult Mediterranean Gull flew south over the coast road near Stiffkey Fen as I was driving past.

Little Tern, Blakeney Point, 30-May-09 Little Tern, Blakeney Point, 30-May-09

Little Terns, Blakeney Point, 30th May 2009

 

Friday 29th May

Short-toed Lark is a bird I'm keen to add to my Norfolk year-list, especially as it's one of only two species that aren't guaranteed that Dave's seen but I haven't. Tonight James McCallum found one at the Marrams on Blakeney Point. Naturally I headed straight up there but news of Britain's fourth and Norfolk's first ever Great Knot in the opposite direction at Great Yarmouth soon forced an abrupt change of plan. On arrival at Breydon Water the Great Knot was on view, albeit very distant. It was a winter-plumaged bird, presumably a first-summer, but although it was too far for much plumage detail the distinctive jizz seemed good to me, although apparently some doubt over the ID has been raised.

Normally faced with such a "mega" bird as a Great Knot I would want to hang around and soak it up, but there was a Short-toed Lark at Blakeney Point and there was still enough daylight to get up there if I was quick. So up I went and hurried up to the place I thought was the Marrams. Nothing, and only one other birder who arrived at the same time as me. On to Halfway House in case it had moved up - nothing. On to the Hood - nothing. By now the sun had gone down but even so I checked the whole area carefully on the way back down until it was quite dark, but to no avail.

I've not shared many photos of moths recently as I'm still without my Coolpix which is by far my best camera for moths. But here are a couple from tonight - the Rustic Shoulder-knot is one of the better attempts with my DSLR which for some reason seems to struggle to take sharp photos of moths indoors. I couldn't reach the Lime-speck Pug with that camera so it's a phone job - rubbish photo but distinctive moth.

Rustic Shoulder-knot, Bawdeswell, 29-May-09 Rustic Shoulder-knot, Bawdeswell, 29-May-09

Rustic Shoulder-knot (left) and Lime-speck Pug (right), Bawdeswell, 29th May 2009

 

Wednesday 27th May

The day started with a Quail singing at a secret location in north Norfolk, seen jumping up on one occasion. Then at Sheringham Bird Observatory visible migration included the usual Swifts (255 west), House Martins (210 west) and Swallows (71) and less usually, a few small groups of Collared Doves, totalling 12 west. Also some Stock Doves on the move but generally rather quiet. A Reed Warbler was heard singing from gorse on the golf-course.

Cley was pretty dead, Common Sandpiper and 2 brief Whimbrels being the highlight, though I enjoyed the Bearded Tits too. Then with the winds forecasted to die down after the late morning rain I thought Blakeney Point would be worth a look. When we set off the rain hadn't stopped and the wind hadn't begun to die down but we were hopeful for a Short-toed Lark or something like that once the winds eased and the rain stopped. Unfortunately the forecast wasn't quite on the mark and by the time we'd got to Halfway House the wind had turned into a gale and it remained like that for the whole time. The rain didn't stop completely until we were well on the way back either, although it was never heavy.

Our return for the effort? Nothing. No migrant birds at all, although at least 75 Painted Lady butterflies were migrants. They were mostly at the Cley end and seemed to be grounded rather than moving through, though I'm sure they'd have been travelling further if the weather had been nicer. I seem to have somehow missed out on the really huge numbers that have been seen pretty much everywhere recently - stories of thousands per hour moving through even in people's inland gardens have been widespread recently but although I've seen good numbers, nothing like that.

Bearded Tit, Cley, 27-May-09 Bearded Tit, Cley, 27-May-09

Bearded Tits, Cley, 27th May 2009

 

Painted Lady, Sheringham, 27-May-09 Painted Lady, Sheringham, 27-May-09

Painted Ladies, Sheringham, 27th May 2009

 

Meadow Pipit, Sheringham, 27-May-09 Starling, Cley, 27-May-09

Meadow Pipit, Sheringham (left) and Starling, Cley (right), 27th May 2009

 

Marsh Harrier, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09 Marsh Harrier, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09
Marsh Harrier, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09 Marsh Harrier, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09
Marsh Harrier, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09 Marsh Harrier, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09

Marsh Harrier, Blakeney Point, 27th May 2009

 

Little Tern, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09 Little Tern, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09

Little Terns, Blakeney Point, 27th May 2009

 

Oystercatcher, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09 Oystercatcher, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09

Oystercatchers, Blakeney Point, 27th May 2009

 

Redshank, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09 Redshank, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09
Redshank, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09 Redshank, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09

Redshanks, Blakeney Point, 27th May 2009

 

Sea Kale, Blakeney Point, 27-May-09  

Sea Kale, Blakeney Point, 27th May 2009

 

Monday 25th May

Started off early at Burnham Overy hoping for one of the classic late spring scarce migrants like a Rosefinch. We had a good look round but the only grounded passage migrant we could find was a Reed Warbler at Gun Hill. Shortly afterwards we passed another birder in the dunes and it later transpired that no more than 5 minutes after we'd passed him, while he cannot have been more than a couple of hundred yards away from us, he found a Common Rosefinch where we'd been checking the Linnets a few moments earlier. Unfortunately it only hung around for a few minutes and although we were less than a few minutes away we didn't find out about it until the news was put out a few hours later.

The only other sightings of note here were 3 Little Gulls so we moved on to Gypsy Lane where I found my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year. Next stop was Warham Greens where the only migrant was another singing Reed Warbler but where we saw the 3 Cranes that had just been reported flying west over Kelling and Cley. Later they were seen over Foulsham and Pensthorpe - although they didn't land at the latter site it's been suggested that they probably originated from there. Finally Stiffkey flood and Stiffkey Fen produced zilch - the end of a thoroughly unsatisfactory bank holiday weekend.

Crane, Warham Greens, 25-May-09 Crane, Warham Greens, 25-May-09
Crane, Warham Greens, 25-May-09 Crane, Warham Greens, 25-May-09

Cranes, Warham Greens, 25th May 2009

 

Reed Warbler, Burnham Overy, 25-May-09 Reed Warbler, Burnham Overy, 25-May-09

Reed Warbler, Burnham Overy Dunes, 25th May 2009

 

Wall Brown, Burnham Overy, 25-May-09 Reed Warbler, Burnham Overy, 25-May-09

Wall Brown (left) and Reed Warbler (right), Burnham Overy Marsh, 25th May 2009

 

Sunday 24th May

Rustic Shoulder-knot, Bawdeswell, 24-May-09  

Rustic Shoulder-knot, Bawdeswell, 24th May 2009 - wasn't sure what this was when I first posted it but having since had another (or perhaps the same lingering) I think I've now identified it.

 

Saturday 23rd May

Started off early at Burnham Norton where few interesting birds were noted but an enjoyable walk nevertheless. Things like Bearded Tits and a brood of Pochards kept us amused but 2 Little Gulls were the most unusual species noted. Lots of Wall Browns here today. A search for late migrants at Thornham was equally fruitless.

While dragonflies entertained us at Titchwell (including a freshly-emerged Four-spotted Chaser and several Hairy Dragonflies) our pagers brought news of an adult Iceland Gull on the beach. We don't see Iceland Gulls in adult plumage very often so we headed down to the beach where the bird in question clearly wasn't an adult but did look interesting. Our initial impression was that it was not an Iceland Gull but a leucistic Herring Gull, but a group of competent birders who I respect a lot seemed quite happy that it was indeed an Iceland Gull. The fact that the primaries and primary coverts were the darkest part of the wings troubled me although at this point I hadn't appreciated quite how dark the tail band was. To my eyes (but not theirs) the bill was too long for Iceland and the structure unconvincing but after a while it flew off towards Brancaster.

In 2007 I went to Scillies and saw a bird reported by its finders as a possible Isabelline Wheatear. The bird didn't match my expectation for that species and I suggested that it was just a pale Northern Wheatear. This week I received news that the BBRC have now accepted the record as an Isabelline Wheatear after all. Not wanting to make a similar mistake by dismissing an odd Iceland Gull as just a pale Herring Gull, we followed it to Brancaster to obtain better views. Here we eventually got good views and satisfied ourselves that it was certainly not a glaucoides Iceland Gull and was indeed probably a Herring Gull. However, lack of experience with kumlieni of this age prevented a certain ID but we left with no real expectation that the photos would prove anything other than Herring Gull. Now looking at the photos on my computer I am immediately struck by the similarity between this bird and the bird reported as a Kumlien's Gull at Blackborough End during the past winter (click here for Ashley's photos). I'm also struck by some similarities between this bird and the second-winter Kumlien's Gull in plate 272 of "Gulls". Still can't equate the length of the bill with Kumlien's though so I'm still leaning towards Herring.

While we were at Brancaster we picked up 5 Spoonbills that had just been reported heading our way from Holme. They looked like they were going down but from our vantage point we couldn't tell for sure. Good numbers of Painted Lady butterflies were on the move with lots seen over the sea and beach. Finally on the way back to the car park the female Red-crested Pochard was seen along with its 7+ ducklings (also a pair of Ruddy Duck).

Finally on the way home a male Montagu's Harrier was seen in the usual area.

Little Gull, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09 Little Gull, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09
Little Gull, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09 Little Gull, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09
Little Gull, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09 Little Gull, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09
Little Gull, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09 Little Gull, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09

Little Gulls, Burnham Norton, 23rd May 2009

 

Bearded Tit, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09 Reed Warbler, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09

Bearded Tit (left) and Reed Warbler (right), Burnham Norton, 23rd May 2009

 

Sedge Warbler, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09 Sedge Warbler, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09

Sedge Warblers, Burnham Norton, 23rd May 2009

 

Barn Owl, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09 Barn Owl, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09

Barn Owl (left) and Goldfinch (right), Burnham Norton, 23rd May 2009

 

Pochards, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09

female Pochard with ducklings, Burnham Norton, 23rd May 2009

 

Wall Browns, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09 Cercopis vulnerata, Burnham Norton, 23-May-09

mating Wall Brown butterflies (left) and Froghopper Cercopis vulnerata (right), Burnham Norton, 23rd May 2009

 

Oak Eggar, Thornham, 23-May-09 Drinker, Thornham, 23-May-09

Oak Eggar caterpillar (left) and Drinker caterpillar (right), Thornham, 23rd May 2009 - thanks to Chris for the Oak Eggar ID suggestion

 

Four-spotted Chaser, Titchwell, 23-May-09 Four-spotted Chaser exuvia, Titchwell, 23-May-09

Four-spotted Chaser (left) and presumably its exuvia (right), Titchwell, 23rd May 2009

 

Blue-tailed Damselfly, Titchwell, 23-May-09 Blue-tailed Damselfly, Titchwell, 23-May-09

Blue-tailed Damselflies, Burnham Norton (left) and Titchwell (right), 23rd May 2009

 

Hoverfly, Titchwell, 23-May-09 albinistic Blackbird, Fakenham, 23-May-09

Hoverfly (Helophilus sp.?), Titchwell (left) and albinistic Blackbird, Fakenham (right), 23rd May 2009

 

Gull, Titchwell, 23-May-09 Gull, Titchwell, 23-May-09
Gull, Titchwell, 23-May-09 Gull, Titchwell, 23-May-09

probable leucistic Herring Gull, Brancaster/Titchwell (Norfolk, UK), 23rd May 2009 - for more photos click here.

 

Wednesday 20th May

I was off work today so started off at Sheringham where the highlight was a very late Hen Harrier. Initially seen only very briefly, although several times, it always looked like a Hen but given the unusual date we hoped it would turn out to be something better. Eventually it showed well and all the Hen-features we thought we could see turned out to be real. I think an adult female, but comments welcome on that.

Vis. mig. was lively with 440 Swifts, 200 House Martins and 130 Swallows (I'm sure those hirundine counts are missing a few...). Not a great deal else and the only grounded migrant was a single Wheatear.

Next stop was Kelling Quags and when we were on the way there news reached us of a Black-headed Wagtail there. Initially frustrated that had we been a few minutes earlier we might have self-found it, we ended up frustrated that had we been a few minutes earlier we might have just seen it - it had already flown off by the time we arrived.

Cley was quiet, although we eventually found the Temminck's Stint and at least 2 Spoonbills. Other migrants included Whimbrel and Wheatear but it was pretty quiet really in stark contrast to last time I was here a week ago. Finally on the way home we stopped off at Swanton Novers where I added Honey-Buzzard to the year list and Red Kite was among the seven species of raptor.

Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09 Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09
Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09 Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09
Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09 Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09
Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09 Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09
Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09 Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20-May-09

Hen Harrier, Sheringham, 20th May 2009

 

Spoonbill, Cley, 20-May-09 Spoonbill, Cley, 20-May-09
Spoonbill, Cley, 20-May-09 Spoonbill, Cley, 20-May-09

Spoonbills, Cley (Norfolk, UK), 20th May 2009

 

Bearded Tit, Cley, 20-May-09 Temminck's Stint, Cley, 20-May-09

Bearded Tit (left) and Temminck's Stint (right), Cley, 20th May 2009

 

Avocet, Cley, 20-May-09 Avocet, Cley, 20-May-09

Avocet chick, Cley, 20th May 2009

 

Black-tailed Godwit, Cley, 20-May-09 Black-tailed Godwits, Cley, 20-May-09
Black-tailed Godwits, Cley, 20-May-09  

Black-tailed Godwits, Cley, 20th May 2009

 

Mallard, Cley, 20-May-09 Mallard, Cley, 20-May-09
Mallard, Cley, 20-May-09

Mallards, Cley, 20th May 2009

 

Common Tern, Cley, 20-May-09 Common Tern, Cley, 20-May-09

Common Tern, Cley, 20th May 2009

 

Silver-ground Carpet, Sheringham, 20-May-09 Barn Owl, Sheringham, 20-May-09

Silver-ground Carpet (left) and Barn Owl (right), Sheringham, 20th May 2009

 

Garden Tiger caterpillar, Cley, 20-May-09  

Garden Tiger caterpillar ('woolly bear'), Cley, 20th May 2009

 

Tuesday19th May

Popped along to Blakeney to see the Woodchat Shrike after work this evening. Very nice views - shame about the lack of a suitable camera... here's the best I could do with my phone:

Woodchat Shrike, Blakeney, 19-May-09 Woodchat Shrike, Blakeney, 19-May-09

Woodchat Shrike, Blakeney, 19th May 2009

 

Saturday 16th May

Clearly after yesterday's disaster we had to start off at Great Ryburgh this morning, hoping that the Hoopoe hadn't left overnight. It hadn't and in the end we managed to get some great views of it. Much relief on my part, having spent so much time looking for these this year!

Next stop was Weybourne in the hope that the Wood Warbler was still present, but there was no sign. Sheringham Bird Observatory was devoid of any migrants apart from a few Wheatears but while we were there 6+ Grey-headed Wagtails were reported from West Runton. We headed over there and saw a several Grey-headed Wagtails, though with most not in view most of the time it was hard to know how many we were seeing. After a while a flock of 9 flava Wagtails flew out of the field and may well have all been Grey-headed as until then we certainly hadn't see anything that wasn't.

Kelling Quags had liitle to offer apart from my first Whinchat of the year and a pair of Turtle Doves. Priory Hills at Blakeney had even less, though it was mildly entertaining to see JF chasing Orange-tip butterflies around as they consistently avoided his camera. We had a good look over the marshes to see if we could relocate the Collared Pratincole, now gone from Salthouse and Cley where it had remained for most of the morning. There was no sign of it, so we were a little frustrated when we arrived at our next stop, Holkham, to get a message telling us it was now precisely where we'd been looking 15 minutes earlier!

At Holkham we fared no better with 4 Crossbills the only birds of note. More insect life today, despite the often poor conditions. On the butterfly front we found several Painted Ladies, loads of Orange-tips and 3 Wall Browns. Blakeney held a few Large Red and Azure Damselflies and of several dragonflies at Holkham the only which allowed identification was a Four-spotted Chaser.

Hoopoe, Great Ryburgh, 16-May-09 Hoopoe, Great Ryburgh, 16-May-09

Hoopoe, Great Ryburgh, 16th May 2009

 

Orange-tip, Sheringham, 16-May-09 Orange-tip, Sheringham, 16-May-09

Orange-tip, Sheringham, 16th May 2009

 

Wall Brown, Holkham, 16-May-09 Four-spotted Chaser, Holkham, 16-May-09

Wall Brown (left) and Four-spotted Chaser (right), Holkham, 16th May 2009

 

Drinker, Blakeney, 16-May-09 Eristalis intricarius, Blakeney, 16-May-09

Drinker caterpillar (left) and Eristalis intricarius (right), Blakeney, 16th May 2009 (thanks to Tony for the Drone-fly ID)

 

Hoverfly, Blakeney, 16-May-09 Hoverfly, Blakeney, 16-May-09

Hoverflies, Blakeney, 16th May 2009 (thanks James for identifying these as Helophilus sp., the bottom right perhaps being Helophilus pendulus)

 

Mallard, Holkham, 16-May-09 Mallard, Holkham, 16-May-09

female Mallard engaged in distraction display, Holkham, 16th May 2009

 

Azure Damselfly, Blakeney, 16-May-09 Large Red Damselfly, Blakeney, 16-May-09

Azure (left) and Large Red (right) Damselflies, Blakeney, 16th May 2009

 

Friday 15th May

Tonight I had an appointment in Norwich after work which proved to be extremely unfortunate timing. I considered postponing it when an Icterine Warbler was reported at Cley but this never re-appeared and although a Wood Warbler was discovered at Weybourne this didn't seem to justify a rather awkward re-arrangement. In the end I was delayed leaving work which meant I was already late for the appointment, so I couldn't do much with the news that a Black Kite was heading my way along the coast, but in the opposite direction to Norwich.

Speeding past Great Ryburgh I received a pager message which started, "Norfolk Hoop" then got jumbled. A phone call might have clarified things but reception was so poor I couldn't make out what was being said - eventually I got "Great Ryburgh"(!) but couldn't determine if the Hoopoe was just a brief sighting like they usually are or if it was hanging around, and I couldn't make out anything on exactly where it was supposed to be. By the time I'd got more details I was well on the way and it was too late to think about cancelling the appointment.

In the meantime Vitty had booked us a table at a new Chinese restaurant for after my appointment. Having missed an update message without realising it, I'd had no more news on the Hoopoe so we went ahead with the meal. As soon as our order was placed the pager brought me more ill-timed news, this time of a Collared Pratincole at Salthouse! During the meal I received updates on this but unbeknown to me I completely missed yet another update on the Hoopoe that was still showing at Great Ryburgh.

Once the meal had been paid for there was just enough light left to get up to Salthouse via the Hoopoe at Great Ryburgh. That's probably what I would have done as I've put a lot of time in for each of three previous Hoopoes this year in Norfolk, all with no success, so it's a bird I'm very keen to catch up with. But with missed messages I still didn't know exactly where it was or even that it had been seen again since the initial report. Instead I went straight to Salthouse, where the Collared Pratincole was lying in the grass almost completely hidden. A very useful bird for the year-list but a totally rubbish view! Once I'd seen this, having now been brought up to speed on the still-performing Hoopoe I decided there was just enough daylight left to get over to Great Ryburgh.

All this rushing around had impacted my fuel consumption and when I was about 12-13 miles away my controls were telling me I'd got 10 miles left before I ran out! If I stopped to fill up I'd have no chance of getting there before dark so I had to find the right balance conserving fuel with speed. I got there ok but the last observers had already left so it was up to me to re-find it on my own (until Penny and Simeon arrived in the near-dark!). Unfortunately though this was Hoopoe dip number 4 :-(

 

Thursday 14th May

After all the birds that turned up yesterday and lots of expectation of more to come today, I thought a trip to the coast before work would be in order. However an early start at Titchwell and Thornham Point was utterly useless with the best birds being a Kittiwake on the freshmarsh and a brief Hobby flying away. Moths in the evening included a very worn Waved Umber but here's a Red Twin-spot Carpet (thanks Rob) from the previous evening:

Red Twin-spot Carpet, 13-May-09  

Red Twin-spot Carpet, Bawdeswell, 13th May 2009 - thanks to Rob for clearing up this one's ID

 

Wednesday 13th May

With a pager full of messages about Black Terns I went to Titchwell at lunchtime and looked over the reserve from a rather distant vantage point on Choseley Road - 3 Black Terns were very quickly located bouncing around the marsh.

After work for the second day running I headed over to Cley where the place was heaving with birds. Black Terns were bouncing all over the place and at least one tight flock of 13 seemed to come in from the west. Not sure how many I saw but must have been over 25. There were clearly far more waders present than I've seen there in recent visits - mainly Dunlin and Knot but also a Kentish Plover and a Temminck's Stint. The Plover was my first in Norfolk for 15 years! Unfortunately the Hoopoe was not so obliging and Josh and I spent most of the evening searching for this, ending up at Glandford gravel pits where Josh seemed to be more interested in communing with the nearby pigs than looking for the Hoopoe! It was good to catch up with him anyway, even though we didn't see anything. A Nightingale was singing west of the Hangs.

Black Tern, Cley, 13-May-09 Black Tern, Cley, 13-May-09

Black Terns, Cley, 13th May 2009 - phone-scoped again!

 

Tuesday 12th May

News of a Citrine Wagtail at Cley was transmitted as I left work this evening so I headed straight over. It hadn't been seen since its discovery when we arrived and on hearing the detail of where it had been seen we headed straight over to Bishop's Hide from where we soon found it skulking at the edge of the reeds. Eventually it flew towards us and provided some great views. Also got to hear it call clearly which is always nice with these things. A first-summer bird but with such extensively yellow underparts surely this has to be a male?

Citrine Wagtail, Cley, 12-May-09 Citrine Wagtail, Cley, 12-May-09

Citrine Wagtail, Cley, 12th May 2009 - phone-scoped - oh for the return of my Coolpix!

 

Monday 11th May

Mid May can be an exciting time for the birder so I've booked a few odd days off work. Last week I had the opportunity to cancel today's leave but on Friday the weather forecast still looked promising so I kept it. Needless to say by yesterday it didn't look nearly as good, a thick band of cloud across northern France and the low countries blocking any migrants leaving from there, clear skies here reducing the chance of any migrants that did make it through being grounded and cold north-easterlies. The wind looked like it would pick up late morning so a sea watch might be in order but spring sea watches are never much good in Norfolk. Our expectations were low!

We started off at Burnham Norton but it immediately became apparent that the wind was already pretty brisk so we changed plan and headed over to Sheringham for a seawatch. Between 6.00 am and about 9.15 we watched the sea from here and for the first couple of hours it was surprisingly productive. Common seabirds were moving through in good numbers - moving east were 200 Gannets, 80 Kittiwakes and 200 Guillemots (plus smaller numbers of Razorbills, Fulmars and Common Scoters). Little Terns were unusually numerous with a guesstimate of 40 seen.

A few more interesting species were seen too. First up was a small auk with some Guillemots. Not just small and dark like the Razorbills, this one had dark underwings and a distinctive shifting flight action. The white face was also a give-away - this was a Puffin. Over the years I've seen a lot of Puffins off Norfolk (114 to be precise) but this was the first one I've seen in spring. Next a Great Northern Diver flew west (there were also a couple of Red-throated Divers later) and then I got distant views of an Arctic Skua moving east (again relatively rare in spring - 0.2% of the Arctic Skuas I've seen in Norfolk have been in spring). We also saw at least 5 Manx Shearwaters during the morning.

A good look round the obs failed to uncover any migrants and the rest of the day was as unproductive as we'd feared the whole day would be. But with low expectations today we were quite happy with our morning's haul (at least until we found out that the Yarmouth Bee-eaters had in fact stayed rather longer than the 10 minutes the pager had told us about).

Gannet, Sheringham, 11-May-09 Gannet, Sheringham, 11-May-09
Gannet, Sheringham, 11-May-09 Gannet, Sheringham, 11-May-09

Gannets, Sheringham (Norfolk, UK), 11th May 2009

 

Greylag Goose, Wroxham Broad, 11-May-09  

Greylag Goose gosling, Wroxham Broad, 11th May 2009

 

Saturday 9th May

Started off at Rushill Scrape, Hickling, where there was a variety of common waders but nothing to get excited about. Horsey to Waxham provided my first Tree Pipit of the year but apart from a few Wheatears and 6 Whimbrel there weren't many migrants around. Today I was due to be at Minsmere though, so now I headed off down south.

At Minsmere the Bitterns were booming a lot but rather quietly and often a bit grunt-like - I saw got a brief glimpse of one in flight and a few of the group also got some similar views. A couple of Hobbies were also seen but the wind was now picking up and even the Marsh Harriers didn't seem to be showing as well as usual. The scrapes held the usual waders and an Arctic Tern was picked out. Not sure how many Mediterranean Gulls were present - there seemed to be some from every hide (and over the car park). A Kittiwake only put in a brief appearance though, and not while the group were with me. On the way back to the visitor centre 2 Nightingales were singing - I believe some of the group managed to get reasonable views of one.

Then I headed up to the north coast hoping to connect with the Grey-headed Wagtail that had been reported at Salthouse and the Temminck's Stint at Stiffkey. The former had flown off from its original location at Salthouse when I arrived so instead I popped down to Weybourne where a Red-rumped Swallow had been reported. This changed to two Red-rumped Swallows, but at first I could find neither Swallows nor birders looking for them. Then I bumped into Richard who confirmed I was looking in the right area and almost immediately I picked up both Red-rumped Swallows flying around above me. Always great birds to see, even if this year they seem to be rather less rare than usual.

Driving back past Salthouse a group of birders were looking into a cattle field and I guessed they'd re-found the wagtail. They had indeed and after a few minutes I was watching a simply magnificent Grey-headed Wagtail among the Yellow Wagtails. Some observers have suggested that the small pale spot behind the eye means this isn't a pure Grey-headed but my understanding is that such markings are well within the range of variation of this distinctive form of Yellow Wagtail.

At Stiffkey Fen I met Ian leaving who told me that it was his second visit of the day and he hadn't seen the Stint. At first I couldn't find it either - just 2 Common Sandpipers, a Greenshank and an adult Mediterranean Gull. After giving it over an hour I decided to give it one final scan and immediately homed in on the Temminck's Stint.

A very pleasant evening after a long day, so I celebrated with fish and chips with Vitty whilst listening to a Nightjar on Salthouse Heath. Not a great performance from the Nightjar - just a couple of bouts of churring between 9.23 and c. 9.30. It might have given a better performance if it wasn't for the incessant chatter from certain other birders present!

Common Gull, Minsmere, 9-May-09 Common Gull, Minsmere, 9-May-09

Common Gull, Minsmere, 9th May 2009

 

Kittiwake, Minsmere, 9-May-09 Kittiwake, Minsmere, 9-May-09
Kittiwake, Minsmere, 9-May-09

Kittiwake (with Mediterranean Gull bottom right and Black-headed Gulls), Minsmere, 9th May 2009

 

Kittiwake, Minsmere, 9-May-09

Arctic Tern (right, with Common Terns), Minsmere, 9th May 2009 - in the absence of my digiscoping camera I tried out my Nokia's phone-scoping capabilities... verdict - a bit lame, but it'll do when I need that record shot.

 

Magpie, Minsmere, 9-May-09 Chiffchaff, Minsmere, 9-May-09

Magpie (left) and Chiffchaff (right), Minsmere, 9th May 2009

 

Mallard, Minsmere, 9-May-09 Mallard, Minsmere, 9-May-09

Mallard, Minsmere, 9th May 2009

 

Wednesday 6th May

Two Red Twin-spot Carpets in tonight.

 

Monday 4th May

En route to the Lakenheath area we stopped off at the only remaining Norfolk Breckland site I know of for Golden Pheasant. One calling male was located - interestingly it had a dark throat and face that's characteristic of the mutant form obscurus - something I've previously known only from the west Norfolk population (although perhaps a more critical look would have revealed similar birds earlier - a bird I photographed in Wayland Wood back in 2002, whilst nowhere near as dark as the Wolferton birds was noticeably darker than the birds released on Tresco).

At least 3 Stone-Curlew were at a Suffolk site but we spent most of the morning hoping one of the Golden Orioles that were singing at Lakenheath would cross the river so we could get them on our Norfolk year list, but alas they were staying put. Probably 4 Hobbies on the Norfolk side of the border and 2 (more?) in Suffolk, and a Whimbrel flew over, but not an awful lot else. During both visits to this site this week-end we'd mused that it would be a good place to find a Purple Heron, but we had no idea that there'd actually been one here all week-end and every heron we saw was clearly Grey. Moving on to Welney the Garganey and second-summer Mediterranean Gull were fairly quickly located, which was a good job as we had to leave abruptly when news eventually seeped out that the Purple Heron had flown over the very place we'd been looking for one an hour or two earlier. After a long, hungry and cold wait staring into a ditch where it had been seen to drop we eventually saw it very briefly - the first time it had shown for about 3 hours.

Stone-Curlew, Suffolk Brecks, 4-May-09 Stone-Curlew, Suffolk Brecks, 4-May-09

Stone-Curlews, Suffolk Brecks, 4th May 2009

 

Whooper Swan, Welney, 4-May-09 Whooper Swan, Welney, 4-May-09
Whooper Swan, Welney, 4-May-09 Whooper Swan, Welney, 4-May-09

Whooper Swans, Welney, 4th May 2009

 

Yellow Wagtail, Hockwold, 4-May-09 Yellow Wagtail, Hockwold, 4-May-09

Yellow Wagtail, Hockwold, 4th May 2009

 

Roe Deer, Hockwold, 4-May-09 Roe Deer, Hockwold, 4-May-09

Roe Deer, Hockwold, 4th May 2009

 

Sunday 3rd May

Popped up to West Runton this afternoon to see the Short-toed Lark. A very depressing three hours wasted with nothing better than 3 Wheatears seen and a moderate passage of Swallows. I don't understand what motivates people who haven't got to know their common birds to come and chase after rare birds, especially when by their own admission they haven't got a clue what they're looking for. Maybe it's just to annoy the rest of us with their "is that it?" questions every time a Skylark pops up and "have you got it" every time they notice someone looking for it. I felt like saying, "Yes, that's it, so now you can tick it and go away." I'm sure they would have believed me and ticked it even if it was one of the Linnets but they might not have gone away!

There were also some twitchers present who did, apparently, know what Short-toed Larks look like and a few of them claimed to see it briefly on the ground, fly up, sing and land back in the field where we were all looking. Their description of what they saw certainly seemed good for the species, though their mention of a rufous cap was strange as the bird seen and photographed in the morning was not an especially rufous-capped individual. More worryingly whenever they got us on to a bird on the ground that they thought was it they were clearly looking at Skylarks. I left doubtful that it had been seen at all this afternoon and suspect it flew off late morning.

 

Saturday 2nd May

Yesterday there were no less than three new birds available to me on the south coast and with two of them having stayed 2-3 days already and cloud forecast for overnight it seemed that there would be a good chance of me being able to connect with at least one or two of them this morning. We arrived at Dungeness in Kent before dawn and after a bit of searching we ended up getting reasonably good views of the first, a Crested Lark. For a bird that breeds as close as Calais you might have expected these to turn up over here more often but they're a major rarity in the UK. The last one turned up in Suffolk in 1996 - I arrived for that one two minutes after it was last seen!

After this we headed across to Dorset where two major rarities had been present in one small area yesterday afternoon. One, the Collared Flycatcher, was still here today and after a nail-biting wait it eventually performed nicely for us. An absolutely stunning bird that was well worth the drive - it even sang for us a few times.

On the way to Portland a bout of cramp enforced a brief stop, and just happened to coincide with our passing Radipole Lake where the stunning drake Hooded Merganser remains. When it arrived as an immature many people took it seriously as a potential vagrant but, whilst not disproving anything, the length of stay and ridiculously tame habits do not help its case for being anything other than an escapee!

On the way home we stopped at Hockwold where we heard the Bittern booming at Lakenheath and saw Crane and other niceties like Kingfisher and Cuckoos.

Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2-May-09 Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2-May-09
Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2-May-09 Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2-May-09
Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2-May-09 Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2-May-09
Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2-May-09 Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2-May-09

Collared Flycatcher, Southwell, 2nd May 2009 - all very heavily cropped photos taken with the DSLR as I'm currently waiting for the Coolpix to come out of camera-hospital.

 

Hooded Merganser, Radipole, 2-May-09 Hooded Merganser, Radipole, 2-May-09

Hooded Merganser, Radipole Lake, 2nd May 2009

 

Crane, Hockwold, 2-May-09 Crane, Hockwold, 2-May-09

Crane, Hockwold, 2nd May 2009

 

Pheasant, Hockwold, 2-May-09 Canada Goose, Hockwold, 2-May-09

Pheasant (left) and Canada Goose (right), Hockwold, 2nd May 2009 - I assume the pale face and eye-ring on the Canada Goose are merely aberrant features but this bird also showed a noticeably smaller and more rounded head than the accompanying Canada Geese. Clearly not a first-generation hybrid but I'm not completely sure there isn't something other than Canada Goose somewhere in its ancestry, but more probably just an odd Canada.

 

Friday 1st May

Finally saw one of the Montagu's Harriers at lunchtime, a nice male. A bit too far to attempt a photo but a good prolonged view nevertheless.

 

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