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September 2009


Wednesday 30th September

Had today off work and spent the morning at Sheringham where there was a very heavy passage of wildfowl and waders (mainly wildfowl but a variety of waders too including good numbers of Snipe). My counts were much lower than Rob's as he spent the whole morning watching the sea from the Leas whereas I was wandering around looking in vain for grounded passerines, but I managed 60 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 280 Wigeon, 480 Teal and 390 Common Scoter, along with 4 Scaup.

Hardly any seabirds were evident apart from Gannets and 3 Great Skuas, but a single shearwater west is now baffling me. Rob and others at the Leas saw a single shearwater flying west through the flags (flapping lots) with 5 Gannets at around the same time as I saw a single shearwater flying west through the flags (flapping lots) with 4 Gannets - so surely the same bird, right? Well, I saw a bird with brown upperparts and pale underparts including an extensively pale centre of the body, a pot-bellied bird with an especially heavy rear end that seemed to me to be an altogether straightforward Balearic Shearwater. Rob saw an all-dark-bodied bird that for him and at least one of the others with him was a perfectly straightforward Sooty Shearwater (with none of the others present disagreeing). Either I'm going completely bonkers, or Rob and the other people with him are going bonkers, or there were two shearwaters flying through with Gannets at the same time and we all only saw one of them. Totally bizarre - I'm so sure the bird I saw was classic Balearic and yet I'm equally sure Rob wouldn't stuff it up, especially when it showed as well as it did. If it hadn't showed well I could believe one of us had got it wrong but I gave it a good enough grilling that I was satisfied I could do an acceptable description if I had to and Rob (who's a far better birder than me) and the others must have had much better views than me (I was well back from the cliff top at the time). Weird.

Anyway, much less contentious was a new moth for me this evening - a Canary-shouldered Thorn just outside the front door.

Canary-shouldered Thorn, Bawdeswell, 30-Sep-09 Canary-shouldered Thorn, Bawdeswell, 30-Sep-09

Canary-shouldered Thorn, Bawdeswell 30th September


Monday 28th September

Common Marbled Carpet, Bawdeswell, 28-Sep-09  

Common Marbled Carpet, Bawdeswell 28th September


Sunday 27th September

I took advantage of the rubbish (for birds) weather this weekend to catch up on some chores so no birding and no birds. For a moth that I'd never seen before Wednesday at least 3 Pink-barred Sallows this weekend can't be bad. Also tonight, Blastobasis lacticolella and 2 Bricks (update Oct: ...and my first Parsnip Moth - thanks to Rob for suggesting the ID without seeing the photo).

Brick, Bawdeswell, 27-Sep-09 Brick, Bawdeswell, 27-Sep-09

Bricks, Bawdeswell, 27th September


Parsnip Moth, Bawdeswell, 27-Sep-09  

Parsnip Moth, Bawdeswell, 27th September


Friday 25th September

A Spotted Crake provided a satisfying diversion on the way home from work...

Spotted Crake, Cley, 25-Sep-09 Spotted Crake, Cley, 25-Sep-09
Spotted Crake, Cley, 25-Sep-09 Spotted Crake, Cley, 25-Sep-09
Spotted Crake, Cley, 25-Sep-09 Spotted Crake, Cley, 25-Sep-09

Spotted Crake, Cley, 25th September


Wednesday 23rd September

More moths tonight - first a Straw Dot and then a stunning Pink-barred Sallow, a new species for me and I thnk my first Xanthia Sallow of any species. Any new moth is good but when they're as colourful as this so much the better!

Pink-barred Sallow, Bawdeswell, 23-Sep-09 Pink-barred Sallow, Bawdeswell, 23-Sep-09

Pink-barred Sallow, Bawdeswell, 23rd September


Tuesday 22nd September

There haven't been any moths in for a while but tonight a Blood-vein arrived, along with this Shield Bug.

Hawthorn Shield Bug, Bawdeswell, 22-Sep-09  

Hawthorn Shield Bug, Bawdeswell, 22nd September


Sunday 20th September

Finally got out around tea time and went straight to Holkham where I walked along the pines towards Wells. In one small patch just over half way to the Dell there was Yellow-browed Warbler, at least 2 Redstarts, 2 Pied Flycatchers, Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps and tonnes of Chiffchaffs.

Redstart, Wells, 20-Sep-09 Redstart, Wells, 20-Sep-09

Redstarts, Wells, 20th September


Saturday 19th September

I enjoyed yesterday morning's Osprey so much I decided to go back for seconds today.

With no positive news on yesterday's Glossy Ibis I now decided to stay in the east, as that would be more convenient if the Ibis was relocated. Still needing Wryneck and Barred Warbler for the year I decided that a good place to find these might be Winterton. I arrived in the south dunes to find lots of local birders already gathered as a Red-breasted Flycatcher had been found. This was a nice bird to see of course, but being my second this week it wasn't what I really wanted, so I continued hunting for migrants. A few common migrants were present, including Redstart, a couple of Whinchats and a northern-looking Willow Warbler, but with news of a Wryneck at the opposite end of the county I worked all the harder to find my own in order to save the long cross-county trip. No luck, here or at Horsey, before my search was interrupted by news that the Glossy Ibis had been rediscovered at the Roman Camp at Caistor St Edmunds. In fact not 1 but 3 Glossy Ibises were there, providing ridiculously close views as they fed in the river. A Wheatear was a surprise at this inland site.

After having my fill of these I then decided to head over to Snettisham for the Wryneck, but this chose not to show - another Whinchat was the best on offer until 2 nice juvenile Little Stints dropped in.

Glossy Ibis, Caistor St Edmund, 19-Sep-09 Glossy Ibis, Caistor St Edmund, 19-Sep-09
Glossy Ibis, Caistor St Edmund, 19-Sep-09 Glossy Ibis, Caistor St Edmund, 19-Sep-09
Glossy Ibis, Caistor St Edmund, 19-Sep-09 Glossy Ibis, Caistor St Edmund, 19-Sep-09
Glossy Ibis, Caistor St Edmund, 19-Sep-09 Glossy Ibis, Caistor St Edmund, 19-Sep-09

Glossy Ibises, Caistor St Edmunds, 19th September


Osprey, East Norfolk, 19-Sep-09 Osprey, East Norfolk, 19-Sep-09
Osprey, East Norfolk, 19-Sep-09 Osprey, East Norfolk, 19-Sep-09

Osprey, East Norfolk, 19th September


Whinchat, Winterton, 19-Sep-09 Whinchat, Winterton, 19-Sep-09

Whinchats, Winterton (Norfolk, UK), 19th September 2009


Wheatear, Horsey, 19-Sep-09 Pied Wagtail, Waxham, 19-Sep-09

Wheatear, Horsey (left) and Pied Wagtail, Waxham (right), 19th September


Little Stint, Snettisham, 19-Sep-09 Water Rail, Snettisham, 19-Sep-09

Little Stint (left) and Water Rail (right), Snettisham, 19th September


Friday 18th September

With more people telling me about the Osprey in East Norfolk I decided to head out and try again this morning before work. To my great relief, having invested an inordinate amount of time looking for these blighters this autumn, it was on view immediately. I enjoyed great views before it flew even closer, but then had to leave for work. A big thanks to those who contacted me about this bird.

Osprey, East Norfolk, 18-Sep-09 Osprey, East Norfolk, 18-Sep-09

Osprey, East Norfolk, 18th September


Wednesday 16th September

Had the day off today and started at Sheringham. The sea was generally much quieter than it's been lately but there were a few interesting species that kept us entertained. A Mediterranean Gull flew past in the half-light, a Shag was still present and a Red-necked Grebe landed on the sea. Later a Puffin flew past and then after failing to get on the first one a second (or the same returning) Storm Petrel was called. This time I got on it and enjoyed reasonably good views. Not much later a Leach's Petrel passed by a bit further out and then two separate Balearic Shearwaters moved east.

A hunt round the obs for passerines drew an almost total blank - just 2 Wheatears. Several locals had looked for the Greenish Warbler with no success, so presumably it really is gone now. A Red-breasted Flycatcher was reported from Wells so I headed over there to find that it had gone missing with no sightings for over an hour. Nevertheless, 5-6 Pied Flycatchers showed well and then at 2.15 pm while standing among birches in the NW corner of the Dell a pager message informed me that the Red-breasted Flycatcher was showing well at 2.14 pm in birch scrub in the NW corner of the Dell! After some brief confusion I noticed a couple quietly sitting below the path just a few feet away and it quickly became apparent that they were watching the bird. For the next hour or two I enjoyed watching the Red-breasted Flycatcher as it seemed to do a circuit around a Holm Oak tree among the birches. Eventually I became aware of a Firecrest calling behind me so spent a few minutes trying to see this. It remained very elusive and only provided a brief flight view, though it called almost constantly.

Then I headed back to Sheringham where a distant Pomarine Skua flew east and a very distant bird shearing west looked suspiciously like a Cory's Shearwater but couldn't be clinched. Stuart arrived and immediately picked up a superb fully-tailed adult Long-tailed Skua flying west - nice one Stu! Eventually it all went quiet and everyone else left apart from Penny who was desperate to see her first Leach's Petrel. At 6.40 pm I picked up a Petrel coming in from the west. Like the morning's bird it wasn't shearing like they often do, but the long wings and relatively dull rump pointed to this being another Leach's Petrel. I got a couple of brief views of it but quickly lost sight and for all our efforts to relocate it Penny never managed to get on it.

Pied Flycatcher, Wells, 16-Sep-09 Pied Flycatcher, Wells, 16-Sep-09

Pied Flycatcher, Wells, 16th September


Red-breasted Flycatcher, Wells, 16-Sep-09 Red-breasted Flycatcher, Wells, 16-Sep-09

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Wells, 16th September


Kittiwake, Sheringham, 16-Sep-09 Comma, Wells, 16-Sep-09

Kittiwake, Sheringham (left) and Comma, Wells (right), 16th September


Monday 14th September

A brief seawatch at Sheringham before work produced 2 Long-tailed Skuas, a Shag, my first Red-breasted Merganser and Little Gull of the autumn, 44 Manx Shearwaters and still huge numbers of Gannets moving through (about 950 in less than 2 hours).


Sunday 13th September

Started off seawatching at Sheringham where there were a few of the usual kind of thing but, apart from a Puffin, nothing of particular note. At 8.30 I had to chose between staying but then having to leave mid afternoon even if something good was found or another afternoon fall was in progress, or going home and then having the whole afternoon free. I chose the latter, rather nervously as activity on the sea seemed to be stepping up a notch or two. Needless to say I had missed a Leach's Petrel within five minutes and a Sabine's Gull in not much longer, followed by more of both as the morning progressed.

In the afternoon I headed up to Wells first, to see an Icterine Warbler that had been reported again. There was no sign and folk who'd been there for hours hadn't seen it so, with Leach's Petrels and Sabine's Gulls still being reported on the sea I gave up and headed back to Sheringham. Here I'd heard that Friday's rare had once more been heard calling so as the nets were now down I wandered in and found the Greenish Warbler almost immediately.

When I arrived at Sheringham I'd had a quick scan of the sea from the railway and seen an incredible flock of 105 Manx Shearwaters flying east (count courtesy of someone else who saw them pass the Leas). That would be a good count spread out throughout the whole day and far exceeds any flock I've ever heard of being recorded in Norfolk - I'm not even sure I've seen flocks in double figures before, let alone triple figures. Instead of going back to the car and driving to the Leas where I wasn't confident of being able to get a seat, I strolled down to the Pillboxes and watched from there for a couple of hours. Record-smashing numbers of seabirds were pouring through, mainly Gannets (500 per hour), Kittiwakes and Manx Shearwaters. Very exciting stuff, but from this relatively exposed viewpoint and with no other pairs of eyes looking with me, I was conscious that I was probably missing things. This was confirmed when I couldn't pick up Leach's Petrel and Balearic Shearwater even after getting the message that they were heading my way so I headed back to the Leas for the last half hour or so. Upon arrival at the Leas I immediately picked up a Leach's Petrel, followed by a few Sooty Shearwaters.

On the way home despite not being quite dark I saw 2 Tawny Owls, one flying across the road and further on, one sat in the road.

Herring Gull, Sheringham, 13-Sep-09 Arctic Skua, Sheringham, 13-Sep-09

apparent argentatus Herring Gull (left) and Arctic Skua (right), Sheringham, 13th September


Wheatear, Sheringham, 13-Sep-09  

Wheatear, Sheringham, 13th September


Saturday 12th September

Given that I was working in Wales yesterday it was no surpise to hear of all manner of rare and scarce birds turning up in the county, including on my Sheringham patch. Equally unsurprising was that it all cleared out overnight. I started at Sheringham but didn't look for the goodies there as entering the wood would have disturbed the ringers' nets and prevented them from catching anything (one reason news was suppressed) - my best chance of a result was to wait for them to catch it. They didn't catch it though, or see it, or hear it - presumably it had cleared out like the booty that was on the Point yesterday.

The sea was disappointing too, unremarkable numbers of wildfowl moving and very few seabirds - a Shag was the best thing and that's been knocking around for a few days. Grounded passerine migrants around the patch were very thin on the ground - a Whinchat and a Garden Warbler were about the lot.

So on to Warham Greens where an Icterine Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher had allegedly lasted the night. My arrival there coincided with news of Martin trapping a Barred Warbler - if I'd left Sheringham half an hour later I'd have timed it perfectly to see that. At Warham the Icky hadn't been seen for ages and various claims of Red-breasted Flycatchers had a distinctly doubtful feel. Anyway, I learnt that with enough imagination some people can make Greenfinches and Chaffinches look like Red-breasted and Pied Flycatchers and enjoyed meeting a local birder who was having as bad a day as me. One of the Pied Flycatchers reported probably was real but all I saw was a few Lesser Whitethroats and a Hobby.

Next I should have gone to Wells where another Icterine Warbler apparently remained, but with reported sightings few and far between I decided that paying £4 to fight through swarms of children and dogs and probably not see the Icky was a less attractive option than heading over to the east of the county where kind people had told me an Osprey was regularly being seen early mornings and some evenings (thanks). Before I'd got very far an Osprey flew over where I'd just been - perhaps it was the same bird moving off as it wasn't where it should have been - all I could find was another Hobby.

Great Skua, Sheringham, 12-Sep-09 Great Skua, Sheringham, 12-Sep-09

Great Skua, Sheringham, 12th September


Hobby, east Norfolk, 12-Sep-09  

Hobby, East Norfolk, 12th September



Monday 7th September

I found out yesterday that the couple I met as I left Cockshoot Broad on Saturday saw the Osprey return 10 minutes after I'd gone! So tonight I headed back over there after work - no prizes for guessing what I didn't see.

Tonight's moths included an Angle Shades and my second ever Ringed China-mark.

Ringed China-mark, Bawdeswell, 7-Sep-09  

Ringed China-mark, Bawdeswell, 7th September


Saturday 5th September

Nipped up to Sheringham for a quick seawatch first thing - plenty moving and enjoyable, but still lacking in terms of scarcities. Eventually, just as I was about to give up, a nice juvenile Long-tailed Skua flew west close in with an Arctic Skua for comparison (my 250th species in Norfolk this year). Common stuff included 25 Manx Shearwaters, 60 Arctic Skuas, 18 Great Skuas, Shag and perhaps the most surprising bird of the morning, a Hobby west low through the wave troughs. There may also have been a single Balearic Shearwater that we missed but the other Long-tailed Skua claimed was considered by me and several more competent seawatchers to be just an Arctic Skua. As for all the reports from Cley, they were presumably nonsense from Ortolan-twitchers. Don't believe what you read on the pager - as usual, seabird watching off Norfolk isn't half as exciting as the pager reports suggest unless you're a delusionary optimist with a vivid imagination!

Before heading home I popped in to have a quick look at the Ortolan again, this time without the rain, and then failed yet again to see an Osprey at Cockshoot Broad where they have been showing well for most of the week.

Ortolan Bunting, Cley, 5-Sep-09 Ortolan Bunting, Cley, 5-Sep-09

Ortolan Bunting, Cley, 5th September


Kingfisher, Cockshoot Broad, 5-Sep-09 Moorhen, Cockshoot Broad, 5-Sep-09

Kingfisher (left) and Moorhen (right), Cockshoot Broad, 5th September


Migrant Hawker, Cockshoot Broad, 5-Sep-09 Migrant Hawker, Cockshoot Broad, 5-Sep-09

Migrant Hawker, Cockshoot Broad, 5th September


Marsh Sow-thistle, Cockshoot Broad, 5-Sep-09  

Marsh Sow-thistle, Cockshoot Broad, 5th September - I wasn't familiar with this species until Mike Otley pointed it out to me at Rockland Broad last week. Not a very widespread species by all accounts.


Friday 4th September

Arrived at Sheringham early to catch a couple of hours seawatching before work - not a lot happening really - 8 Manx Shearwaters and 20 Arctic Skuas were about all on offer.

After work I headed over to Cley where an Ortolan had appeared, having so far avoided being eaten by the French. It showed well in the rain along the East Bank path, flushing easily but always returning to the path quickly. This French delicacy has declined enormously in recent years - I saw 5 in Norfolk in the 90s but this was my first for over 10 years.

Then on to Sheringham for some more seawatching. The sea had livened up when I arrived and there was certainly a lot more happening than in the morning, though no unusual species. Over 40 Manx Shearwaters were seen and 8 Great Skuas.

Ortolan Bunting, Cley, 4-Sep-09 Ortolan Bunting, Cley, 4-Sep-09

Ortolan Bunting, Cley, 4th September


Thursday 3rd September

Annoyingly, the Osprey I spent so much time looking for last weekend spent most of Tuesday when I was at work showing well at Rockland Broad, and there have been up to two showing well at Cockshoot Broad all week too. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Now have my photos and report from June's trip to the Pyrenees ready - click here or on one of the thumbnails below.

Burnished Brass, Bawdeswell, 3-Sep-09  

Burnished Brass, Bawdeswell, 3rd September


Egyptian Vulture, Lumbier, 18-Jun-09 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Belchite Steppes, 16-Jun-09 Red-backed Shrike, Sallent de Gallego, 22-Jun-09 Amanda's Blue, Ochagavia, 20-Jun-09

Click here for my Pyrenees report


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