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October 2009


Saturday 31st October

I returned to Shotesham to see the Siberian Chiffchaff but in poorer weather it wasn't as vocal as it has been. Eventually I heard it calling and soon located it, but it only provided brief views and quickly stopped calling. After a long wait it started calling again but this time before we had a chance to see it the heavens opened. The rain didn't look like it was going to relent any time soon so with that I gave up. Contrary to the pager message it didn't sing!


Thursday 29th October

I had today off work but the weather didn't seem very promising for much turning up in Norfolk. So I took the opportunity to trundle down to Surrey to see the Brown Shrike which is now in its third week at Staines Moor. The Shrike showed well and eventually I tore myself away to return to Norfolk for Andy's Siberian Chiffchaff at Shotesham. This hadn't been seen yesterday otherwise I might have gone straight there instead of going to Surrey but in the fair weather this morning it was singing its little head off by all accounts. I arrived quite late in the day and it hadn't been seen for 3/4 hour but after a quick burst of song it was soon located. Unfortunately it remained elusive, making its continued presence known by a few calls now and then but never giving any sort of views.

Brown Shrike, Staines Moor, 29-Oct-09 Brown Shrike, Staines Moor, 29-Oct-09
Brown Shrike, Staines Moor, 29-Oct-09 Brown Shrike, Staines Moor, 29-Oct-09

Brown Shrike, Staines Moor, 29th October


Wednesday 28th October

I started at Sheringham where a few things were moving, but not in any great numbers (though later on Starlings picked up and thousands went through). A party of 8 Redpolls moved west and more unusually a group of at least 7 Crossbills headed SSW, I think having come in off the sea. The sea itself was pretty dead so I wandered off towards the golfcourse. A pair of House Sparrows were in the Rocket Trench briefly before flying off west - nowadays these are quite a scarce migrant here. Back at Spalla Gap, Kevin and I were pleased to hear and then see another scarce migrant moving west, this time a Richard's Pipit. The fields produced little of interest so I headed into the wood where the clear highlight was 2 Firecrests.

At Salthouse the feral Snow Goose remains with the Canada flock and also in the same flock were no less than 7 Greylag x Canada Goose hybrids. In the afternoon I tried Stiffkey where in 3 hours or so the best I could muster up was 1 Greenshank. This evening's moths included 2 Feathered Thorns again, at least one of which was new, and 3 Epirrita sp.

Firecrest, Sheringham, 28-Oct-09 Firecrest, Sheringham, 28-Oct-09

Firecrest, Sheringham, 28th October


Snow Goose, Salthouse, 28-Oct-09 Snow Goose, Salthouse, 28-Oct-09

presumed escaped Snow Goose (with Canada Geese), Salthouse, 28th October


Hybrid Goose, Salthouse, 28-Oct-09 Hybrid Goose, Salthouse, 28-Oct-09
Hybrid Goose, Salthouse, 28-Oct-09 Hybrid Goose, Salthouse, 28-Oct-09

Presumed Canada Goose x Greylag Goose hybrids, Salthouse, 28th October


Tuesday 27th October

I've always wanted to find an Eye-browed Thrush on my birthday but yet another year has passed without even so much as a Red-flanked Bluetail. Popped in to Wells/Holkham before work, partly to find one of the above and partly to see the Radde's Warbler that had been reported there briefly the day before. No sign of that either (though it or another was reported a bit later), but lots of stuff moving including Fieldfares and a few Brambling, etc.

Most Willow Beauties fly in summer - the latest I've seen one is the end of August. Apparently they can have a second generation but even this should be over in early October. In view of this I tried hard to find an alternative ID for tonight's lookalike and briefly decided it was a Pale Oak Beauty, a species I'm not familiar with. However I'm not sure that's much more likely at the end of October and after checking a couple of online sources I ended up reverting to my original ID, Willow Beauty, albeit apparently an unusual date.

Light Brown Apple Moth, Bawdeswell, 27-Oct-09 Pale Oak Beauty, Bawdeswell, 27-Oct-09

Light Brown Apple Moth (left) and Willow Beauty (right), Bawdeswell, 26th October


Monday 26th October

Another Pink-barred Sallow tonight - obviously a good year for them.

Pink-barred Sallow, Bawdeswell, 26-Oct-09 Epirrita sp., Bawdeswell, 26-Oct-09

Pink-barred Sallow (left) and Epirrita sp. (right), Bawdeswell, 26th October


Saturday 24th October

Against my better judgement I decided not to head north for the ECW. Instead I stayed at home where I found two good moths that must have come in last night: my first ever Feathered Thorn and my second ever Juniper Carpet.

Feathered Thorn, Bawdeswell, 24-Oct-09 Feathered Thorn, Bawdeswell, 24-Oct-09

Feathered Thorn, Bawdeswell, 24th October


Juniper Carpet, Bawdeswell, 24-Oct-09 Juniper Carpet, Bawdeswell, 24-Oct-09

Juniper Carpet, Bawdeswell, 24th October


Friday 23rd October

Managed to get away from work a little early this afternoon so headed up to Titchwell in the hope of seeing an interesting Yellow Wagtail that's been there lately. No sign of it, but Jack Snipe and 3 Yellow-legged Gulls were on offer. On the way back between Choseley and Docking an Eared Owl sp. flew across the road at dusk.

After yesterday's Chestnut I think this evening's is a Dark Chestnut - if I'm right then this is a new species for me. (update: thanks Rob for confirming)

Snipe, Titchwell, 23-Oct-09 Jack Snipe, Titchwell, 23-Oct-09

Snipe (left) and Jack Snipe (right), Titchwell, 23rd October


Parsnip Moth, Bawdeswell, 23-Oct-09 Dark Chestnut, Bawdeswell, 23-Oct-09

Parsnip Moth (left) and Dark Chestnut (right), Bawdeswell, 23rd October


Thursday 22nd October

Had to work in Exeter today and saw 3 Red Kites from the train somewhere east of Reading.

Chestnut, Bawdeswell, 22-Oct-09  

Chestnut, Bawdeswell, 22nd October


Wednesday 21st October

Just managed to get out to see the Snow Goose today, fortunately still in the same area despite the twitchers getting out of their cars. Wild geese are nervous and flighty birds at the best of times and whilst you might be able to get away with rolling up alongside them in your car and watching them from your car you are far less likely to get away with opening the car door, getting out, walking round the car, putting up your tripod and standing there chatting to the others doing the same. Chances are they'll fly off as soon as you get out of the car; if you're lucky (as people were today - lots of geese did fly off but not the Snow Goose) they'll just edge back further away. The rain helped people today - it's always easier not to flush things when it's chucking it down with rain. But why, when they could watch the geese safely and comfortably from inside their dry car do they get out, risk flushing everything and stand in the pouring rain to watch them? Maybe it's because they need to stand next to someone else who can find the Snow Goose for them, to save them the bother of looking for it themselves. After all, that big white thing in the middle of the field is pretty tough to pick out...

Snow Goose, N of Docking, 21-Oct-09 Snow Goose, N of Docking, 21-Oct-09

Snow Goose, NNE of Docking, 21st October


Tuesday 20th October

I had to cancel the rest of this week's holiday due to pressures of work and didn't even manage to get out in my lunch break. Hence no finding of the Snow Goose that was discovered close by this afternoon - but not to worry, I'm sure it will stick around. On the way home a Little Owl flew over the A1067 near Stibbard.

This evening moths included Brick, Red-line Quaker and at least 3 Epirrita sp.


Monday 19th October

Another day off started off at Sheringham where perhaps 350 Chaffinches moved west first thing. Also a couple of Grey Wagtails and at least 16 Redpolls (some looked like Lesser). The sea was completely dead and a very half-hearted look for grounded migrants failed to reveal anything.

Then we moved on to East Runton in the hope that yesterday's Pallas's might still be there. It hadn't been seen by the few observers present so it wasn't looking good but soon after we reached the spot where Ian had found it yesterday I picked up an interesting call as a bird arrived from the left. I wasn't certain about the ID from the call alone but eventually those of us assembled all got sufficient views of it to ID it as the Pallas's Warbler. Though the rump wasn't seen the structure was Pallas's, the central crown-stripe was very prominent and clear-cut and it was a bright individual - the front of the supercilia were bright yellow. It spent about 10 minutes here before heading on up the track towards and past the caravan site. Here it continued calling before eventually disappearing deep into the adjacent woodland. We expected it to complete a circuit and reappear at the original location in due course but sadly for those who came later, it failed to perform any more today. Also at East Runton 10 Siskins, at least 1 more Redpoll and another Grey Wagtail through.

With calmer weather and less disturbance than there has been we thought that if Friday's Catharus was still hanging in at Beeston Common, today might be a good day to re-find it. No sign of any Veeries but we did briefly hear a Yellow-browed Warbler. After Stu and his clan left I stayed on hoping to resolve the dozen Redpolls that were flying around and looking perhaps a little Mealy-ish, but I failed to get any views of them at rest so they remain as Redpoll sp. Also heard a Firecrest in the process and at least one of the Chiffchaffs looked a bit northern (abietinus I think).

Chiffchaff, Beeston Common, 19-Oct-09 Bullfinch, East Runton, 19-Oct-09

Chiffchaff, Beeston Common (left) and Bullfinch, East Runton (right), 19th October


Sunday 18th October

Hot-footed it up to East Runton this afternoon to see a Pallas's Warbler, but no sign by the time I got there.

Epirrita sp., Bawdeswell, 18-Oct-09 Epirrita sp., Bawdeswell, 18-Oct-09

Epirrita sp., Bawdeswell, 18th October


Epirrita sp., Bawdeswell, 18-Oct-09  

Green-brindled Crescent, Bawdeswell, 18th October


Saturday 17th October

It was still pretty breezy this morning so we had high hopes for a good seawatch. In fact it was relatively quiet, with 470 Gannets, 550 Auks, 210 Kittiwakes, 35 Little Gulls, 30 Great Skuas and 81 Common Scoter providing the greatest counts. A few more interesting species were seen too, including a Great Northern Diver, Purple Sandpiper, Shag, Scaup, Sooty and 2 Manx Shearwaters and a distant Eared Owl sp. (possibly Long-eared?) but we were hoping for more. As things started to drop off we thought that would be it, but as it turned out the best birds were still to come. First a Long-tailed Duck, a relatively scarce bird at Sheringham and rather early for here. Then I picked up a nice close Little Auk (earning myself a very nice cheese scone - I shall have to find Penny some more year-ticks). This was followed by another equally close Little Auk, and then a much more distant third bird. Then just as some of us were packing up to leave a close Skua was called, tentatively identified as Arctic. We stopped to have a quick look at that before we left and were surprised to find instead a beautiful fully-spooned Pomarine Skua passing just in front of us.

After this I had a thorough stomp through some nearby fields hoping to find a Red-throated Pipit. A few times I flushed one or more well-marked (at least well-wing-barred) pipit that seemed fractionally bulkier and broader-winged than the Meadows. Frustratingly it never called but eventually I managed a brief back-on view of it on the deck. A bright bird that lacked obvious pale tramlines, so not a Red-throated - however everything was consistent with Tree Pipit - a bird that's been decidedly scarce this year.

Titchwell was next stop and here I slowly made my way up to the brackish marsh where I caught up with the 2 Shore Larks, though they were distant and well-hidden for most of the time. On the way up I'd only seen Mediterranean Gull but the return produced the Grey Phalarope (same bird that I saw at Thornham on Thursday but not nearly so close), Jack Snipe, Little Stint, 7 Spotted Redshanks and a Hen Harrier.

Little Auk, Sheringham, 17-Oct-09 Little Auk, Sheringham, 17-Oct-09

Little Auk, Sheringham, 17th October


Pomarine Skua, Sheringham, 17-Oct-09 Pomarine Skua, Sheringham, 17-Oct-09

Pomarine Skua, Sheringham, 17th October


Little Stint, Titchwell, 17-Oct-09 Little Stint, Titchwell, 17-Oct-09

juvenile Little Stint (with Dunlins), Titchwell, 17th October


Kestrel, Titchwell, 17-Oct-09 Kestrel, Titchwell, 17-Oct-09

Kestrel, Titchwell, 17th October


Friday 16th October

Strong northerlies promised a good seawatch but I had just one hour before work and it didn't really get going until after I'd gone. Still, a few interesting birds in that hour, including a Puffin, a Red-necked Grebe and a fleeting glimpse of what must have been a Black Guillemot.

A quick seawatch from Hunstanton in my lunch break failed to produce anything better than a Red-breasted Merganser and lots of Gannets flying in and out of the Wash but the track to Heacham produced a Black Redstart.


Thursday 15th October

Had I known better I would have gone to Snettisham Country Park at lunch time and seen a Paddyfield Warbler in the hand. But I didn't know, so instead I went to Thornham where I was eventually directed to where a Grey Phalarope had been discovered. By the time I reached the spot the bird had flown off but as the observers explained where it had gone it chose that moment to fly straight back to us and feed in the mud just below where I was standing. While I was enjoying the Phalarope I heard and saw a Lapland Bunting flying around.

Moths in this evening included another Red-line Quaker, Green-brindled Crescent and another one of those impossible Epirrita things.

Grey Phalarope, Thornham, 15-Oct-09 Grey Phalarope, Thornham, 15-Oct-09
Grey Phalarope, Thornham, 15-Oct-09 Grey Phalarope, Thornham, 15-Oct-09

Grey Phalarope, Thornham, 15th October


Red-line Quaker, Bawdeswell, 15-Oct-09 Red-line Quaker, Bawdeswell, 15-Oct-09

Red-line Quaker (left) and Green-brindled Crescent (right), Bawdeswell, 15th October


Epirrita sp., Bawdeswell, 15-Oct-09  

Epirrita sp., Bawdeswell, 15th October


Wednesday 14th October

I have to pre-book holiday and when the day comes the weather's usually rubbish for birding but for a change today looked quite promising. Even more unusually the weather didn't just look promising but it actually delivered the goods! I joined Rob at the Pillboxes at Sheringham and it quickly became evident that we were in for a good morning. Huge numbers of birds were on the move, over land and over sea - it was impossible for the two of us to see everything as there was so much to look through with flocks of migrants pouring through one after the other. A count of 18,000 Starlings moving west was almost certainly way short of the real mark; 700 Lapwings west was the most I've seen for a long time. Gulls were migrating too, with an estimated 2400 Black-headed Gulls west. At least 100 Skylarks west, 340 Dark-bellied Brent Geese west as well as numerous flocks of Pink-footed Geese flying east over the Ridge (totalling about 1200) all kept us entertained even before we factor in the scarcer species.

And as for those scarcer species, the one that really knocked our socks off and left us both shaking for a good half hour afterwards was a phenomenal and completely unprecedented FLOCK of EIGHT Great White Egrets! The pager had informed us that they'd been seen flying ENE at Cley and we were more than a little incredulous, but looked hard for them anyway, just in case. After what seemed like ages Rob picked them up, over the sea and heading east - incredibly they really were Great White Egrets, not misidentified Little Egrets as I'm sure a lot of people had suspected when they read the report. Annoyingly my camera battery soon packed up so I didn't get as good shots as I'd have liked but what an amazing record! They got closer inshore as they went past and by the time they'd got to the other side of Sheringham Giles saw them inland over the railway. Later they were seen at Mundesley, again close inshore but they must have headed right out to see after that as from a little further round the coast they were miles out! As far as I'm aware there has never been a record of more than 3 together in Britain before.

A little later I picked up what I first thought was a skua harassing something miles out to sea. It quickly became clear that it was a falcon, and then identified as a Peregrine, but its behaviour seemed odd. It was flying up in the sky then swooping down at something, then up, then down, again and again, but at first I couldn't see what it was after. It was obviously something small but when I did manage to see it I couldn't figure out what I was looking at - it became more interesting than the Peregrine! It's flight was very fluttery and it made hardly any progress, landed on the sea briefly whenever the Peregrine swooped at it but though flying forwards all the time never really got anywhere. I'd just about made up my mind that it was a Petrel of some type when the Peregrine caught it! Yesterday Rob had seen a Peregrine catch a Meadow Pipit out to sea and fly in with it, plucking and eating it as it flew - and this is exactly what this one did (probably the same bird). I watched it flying towards me for ages and once it was close enough to see them I could make out feathers falling, and sometimes larger body parts, as the Peregrine hammered away at it. By the time it got to shore all I could make out of the prey was that it was a black bird, so no help there in determining which sort of Petrel it had been.

Next decent bird was a Barnacle Goose in amongst a flock of Brent Geese - presumably therefore a wild bird. Other bits and pieces included Goldeneye, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers, Gadwall, 2 Arctic Terns and at least 3 Little Gulls. Over land a Lapland Bunting was heard calling but we missed the Richard's Pipit that Giles saw. Grounded migrants were relatively few. A handful of thrushes (mainly Song Thrushes and Redwings) were around, a few Bramblings (and other finches) and Goldcrests were about the lot.

In the afternoon I had a wander down to Kelling Quags but only turned up more Redwings and Bramblings. I hoped for a Red-flanked Bluetail at Muckleborough Hill - no luck there, though while I was looking for it someone else had one at Minsmere! Then news from Horsey sent me rushing down to see a Pied Wheatear - a fine end to a great day.

Great White Egrets, Sheringham, 14-Oct-09 Great White Egrets, Sheringham, 14-Oct-09
Great White Egrets, Sheringham, 14-Oct-09

8 Great White Egrets, Sheringham, 14th October - the largest flock ever recorded in the UK!


Pied Wheatear, Horsey, 14-Oct-09 Pied Wheatear, Horsey, 14-Oct-09

Pied Wheatear, Horsey, 14th October


Skylark, Sheringham, 14-Oct-09 Guillemot, Horsey, 14-Oct-09

Skylark, Sheringham, 14th October

Guillemot, Horsey, 14th October


Tuesday 13th October

Tonight's moths included another Brick (been a few lately) and one of those pesky Epirrita things.


Monday 12th October

Another new moth, a Red-line Quaker - pleasing that I'm still getting new species this late in the year.

Red-line Quaker, Bawdeswell, 12-Oct-09 Red-line Quaker, Bawdeswell, 12-Oct-09

Red-line Quaker, Bawdeswell, 12th October


Sunday 11th October

A Mallow must have come in last night though I didn't find it until this morning - another new species of moth for me.

Two more good birds found at West Runton this morning so I headed up there after lunch. The Richard's Pipit was found easily enough, though only seen in flight. The Short-toed Lark was a little trickier but adequate flight views were obtained in the end. Also seen there, a Lapland Bunting and a Mediterranean Gull, but not the Rose-coloured Starling that reportedly flew over while I was there, nor the Buff-breasted Sandpiper that was allegedly found in the field I'd just walked through minutes after I left. Meanwhile a different Rose-coloured Starling had been found at Chosely so I headed over there for that, but sadly arrived too late.

Mallow, Bawdeswell, 11-Oct-09 Richard's Pipit, West Runton, 11-Oct-09

Mallow, Bawdeswell (left) and Richard's Pipit, West Runton (right), 11th October


Saturday 10th October

A reasonable start to Saturday at Sheringham with fair numbers of wildfowl and things moving through at Sheringham, though nothing especially unusual - 2 Arctic Terns being best. It was good enough though for me to be slightly annoyed to get news of a Barred Warbler at West Runton - needing it for the year meant I had to go, but a good half of me wanted to carry on enjoying the migration at Sheringham - I won't be year-listing again in a hurry! Anyway, go I did, and eventually got some brief views of the Barred Warbler. After this I returned to Sheringham where wildfowl and Starlings were still moving through. Not much grounded, apart from a single Wheatear and a Lapland Bunting. Best bird moving past was a Pale-bellied Brent Goose.

Ringed Plover, Sheringham, 10-Oct-09 Ringed Plover, Sheringham, 10-Oct-09
Ringed Plover, Sheringham, 10-Oct-09 Ringed Plover, Sheringham, 10-Oct-09

Ringed Plovers, Sheringham, 10th October


Wigeons & Pintails, Sheringham, 10-Oct-09

Wigeon & Pintail, Sheringham (Norfolk, UK), 10th October 2009


Friday 9th October

A Green-brindled Crescent was my first of the year - always one of the latest of the distinctive moths to appear. They're quite attractive moths really but I completely failed to capture its subtle beauty in this photo...

Green-brindled Crescent, Bawdeswell, 9-Oct-09 Helesus radiatus, Bawdeswell, 9-Oct-09

Green-brindled Crescent (left) and Helesus radiatus (a Caddis-fly) (right), Bawdeswell, 9th October


Wednesday 7th October

The same Barred Sallow remains and a Brick joined it for a while this evening.

Brick, Bawdeswell, 7-Oct-09 Barred Sallow, Bawdeswell, 7-Oct-09

Brick (left) and Barred Sallow (right), Bawdeswell, 7th October


Monday 5th October

Another Pink-barred Sallow along with my first ever Barred Sallow provided a splash of colour tonight while Blastobasis lacticolella and last night's Agonopterix arenella presented tougher ID challenges.

Barred Sallow, Bawdeswell, 5-Oct-09 Pink-barred Sallow, Bawdeswell, 5-Oct-09

Barred Sallow (left) and Pink-barred Sallow (right), Bawdeswell, 5th October


Agonopterix arenella, Bawdeswell, 4-Oct-09  

Agonopterix arenella, Bawdeswell, 4th October


Sunday 4th October

Most years in Norfolk there are a handful of chaseable Wrynecks in the county, mostly in late August-September and a few in late April to May. There's also a reasonable chance of finding your own if you're out a lot, so in a year that I'm year-listing I hadn't expected to find myself Wryneck-free into October. Now it was looking as though I'd missed out so I was pleased to receive a message this afternoon announcing the presence of one at Horsey, albeit a good couple of hours after the event. Tim and Andy relocated it and in the end we all got some pretty good views, though it proved difficult to photograph as it crept Locustella-like through the grass. Also got relatively brief views of a Short-eared Owl.

Wryneck, Horsey, 4-Oct-09 Wryneck, Horsey, 4-Oct-09
Wryneck, Horsey, 4-Oct-09 Wryneck, Horsey, 4-Oct-09
Wryneck, Horsey, 4-Oct-09 Wryneck, Horsey, 4-Oct-09

Wryneck, Horsey, 4th October


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