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January 2010

 

Sunday 31st January

A brief visit to Swanton Morley this morning, really just to see the Black-throated Diver again in daylight. It was still there, and still showing remarkably well. A Cetti's Warbler was heard singing and a few Siskins flew over.

In the afternoon I decided to have another go for the Shelduck hybrid that continues to be seen at Morston. Once again I had no joy but the afternoon was saved by a Jack Snipe that flushed from the saltmarsh. The only other bird of note was a Spotted Redshank.

Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10 Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10
Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10 Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10
Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10 Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10
Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10 Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10
Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10 Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10
Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10 Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31-Jan-10

Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 31st January

 

Saturday 30th January

Dave persuaded me that heading down to Chedgrave Marshes to see the Rough-legged Buzzard would be a good idea this morning. Well, I think it was, we saw the bird well - and very nice it was too. Also there were Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Bearded Tits and Chinese Water Deer.

Once we'd had our fill of the Buzzard I recalled that there's been a Black-throated Diver not all that far away in Lowestoft all winter and as that's a bird I don't see all that often we decided to head down there. Although a bit on the distant side we got good enough views as a young Peregrine watched over us from the tower opposite.

We then decided to head up to the Broads, via at least 49 Mediterranean Gulls in Yarmouth. The part of my Coolpix camera that houses the adaptor with which I attach it to my telescope has been loose for a while but when I went to photograph the gulls I discovered that it had now come off altogether, making use of the camera for digiscoping now very difficult. At least I still had the DSLR to attempt some flight photos, although the gulls were so full of bread and chips that they could barely get off the ground.

Martham Broad was jam-packed with wildfowl, mostly Wigeon and Teal but also 5 Goldeneye and 2 redhead Smew. A Bittern flew across and landed at the edge of the reeds before quickly disappearing into the reeds.

A small dung heap at Waxham was heaving with birds, mainly gulls but also at least half a dozen Redshank, a few Turnstone and a Knot. We didn't try very hard as the weather had deteriorated at this point, but we didn't see the Pale-bellied Brent Geese that have been in the area.

We decided to head home via Wroxham Broad, which had plenty of birds but none remarkable. On the way home we received news of another Black-throated Diver that Peter Gluth had found at Swanton Morley. Ironic as we'd seen one already today but this was our local patch where I'd never seen any species of diver before, so we hurried over. Although light was fading by this time we enjoyed great views as it fed actively right in close to where we were standing.

Rough-legged Buzzard, Chedgrave Marshes, 30-Jan-10 Rough-legged Buzzard, Chedgrave Marshes, 30-Jan-10
Rough-legged Buzzard, Chedgrave Marshes, 30-Jan-10 Rough-legged Buzzard, Chedgrave Marshes, 30-Jan-10

Rough-legged Buzzard, Chedgrave Marshes, 30th January

 

Peregrine, Lowestoft, 30-Jan-10 Peregrine, Lowestoft, 30-Jan-10

Peregrine, Lowestoft, 30th January

 

Smew, Martham Broad, 30-Jan-10 Smew, Martham Broad, 30-Jan-10

Smews, Martham Broad, 30th January

 

Black-throated Diver, Lowestoft, 30-Jan-10 Black-throated Diver, Swanton Morley, 30-Jan-10

Black-throated Divers, Lake Lothing, Lowestoft (left) and Swanton Morley (right), 30th January

 

Starling, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Black-headed Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10

Starling (left) and Black-headed Gull (right), Great Yarmouth, 30th January

 

Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10
Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10  

Mediterranean Gulls, Great Yarmouth, 30th January

 

Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10 Mediterranean Gull, Great Yarmouth, 30-Jan-10

Med Gulls and wind turbines - magnificent signs of a modern era. Half a century ago Med Gulls were only just starting to be identified in Norfolk on an annual basis and the regular flocks we're now used to would have been as fantastical as the notion of giant windmills in the sea contributing to the energy we need to power our computers

 

Tuesday 26th January

On the way home from work I saw a Woodcock fly over the road at Barmer.

 

Sunday 24th January

Too busy for birding this weekend (what a sad state of affairs that is!) but as I put the bin out this evening a party of 4 Gadwall flew over with both males and females calling - the first time I've seen this species from my house.

 

Friday 22nd January

Wells is about the limit as to how far I can get in my lunch break, and I don't get long there if I go. Poor visibility and rain put paid to some alternative ways of spending my lunch that I'd planned so instead I decided to go and see the pair of Scaup on the boating lake at Wells.

As I drove past the first time I thought I saw a very obvious and pure-looking Black Brant beside the beach road, but didn't stop to check it carefully. On the return leg I did stop and the most impressive bird was the one shown to the right below. Not entirely certain that it's not within range for a pure bird (they can vary appearance according to light) but I suspect it's another hybrid Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose. I'm pretty sure that the bird in the left photo, in a different flock, was a hybrid as although it doesn't look vastly different in the photos it was an altogether much less impressive-looking bird.

Black Brant hybrid, Wells, 22-Jan-10 Black Brant hybrid, Wells, 22-Jan-10

presumed Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrids, Wells, 22nd January

 

Redwing, Wells, 22-Jan-10 Redwing, Wells, 22-Jan-10

Redwing, Wells, 22nd January

 

Mistle Thrush, Wells, 22-Jan-10 Mistle Thrush, Wells, 22-Jan-10

Mistle Thrush, Wells, 22nd January

 

Thursday 21st January

The lunch-time goose chase produced two adult Eurasian White-fronted Geese and the largest flock of Linnets I've seen for a long time.

White-fronted Geese, Brancaster, 21-Jan-10  

White-fronted Geese, south of Brancaster, 21st January

 

Sunday 17th January

Whitlingham Broad is continuing to perform so again, being in Norwich anyway, I popped in there for an hour or so this afternoon. I was particularly hoping to photograph the Red-necked Grebe, a species I've never managed to get decent shots of before. Initially it was difficult to see, let alone photograph, as it charged around at the very back of the lake. After I'd lost it for a while we figured it must have headed off round the corner and wandered up, finding it right in close and in good light. Still lively and having an uncanny ability to position itself behind close reeds no matter where I stood, it wasn't the easiest target but I'm fairly happy with the results. Also there was Ruddy Duck, 3 Smew and the Great Northern Diver.

Red-necked Grebe, Whitlingham, 17-Jan-10 Red-necked Grebe, Whitlingham, 17-Jan-10
Red-necked Grebe, Whitlingham, 17-Jan-10 Red-necked Grebe, Whitlingham, 17-Jan-10

Red-necked Grebe, Whitlingham Broad, 17th January

 

Ruddy Duck, Whitlingham, 17-Jan-10 Ruddy Duck, Whitlingham, 17-Jan-10
Ruddy Duck, Whitlingham, 17-Jan-10 Ruddy Duck, Whitlingham, 17-Jan-10

Ruddy Duck, Whitlingham Broad, 17th January

 

Smew, Whitlingham, 17-Feb-10 Smew, Whitlingham, 17-Feb-10
Smew, Whitlingham, 17-Feb-10 Smew, Whitlingham, 17-Feb-10

Smew, Whitlingham Broad, 17th January

 

Thursday 14th January

On Sunday at Swanton Morley I heard a Bullfinch that sounded rather nasal and vaguely, but I thought not sufficiently, like I imagine the eastern "Trumpeter" Bullfinches sound like. As I never managed to hear any of these when a few turned up a few years back, I wasn't sure exactly what they sounded like and, after forgetting about it for a few days, I finally remembered to check some online recordings tonight. It wasn't entirely unlike this one from Poland (click here to listen).

Today's lunchtime efforts were pretty much useless with poor visibility preventing views of more than half the flock of Pink-feet, but I did see a Water Rail at Brancaster Staithe - not a species I often see during my lunch breaks.

 

Tuesday 12th January

With Pink-footed Geese not where I was expecting them to be I spent my lunch break at Wolferton - at least 2 male Golden Pheasants were showing well.

Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 12-Jan-10 Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 12-Jan-10
Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 12-Jan-10 Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 12-Jan-10
Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 12-Jan-10 Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 12-Jan-10

Golden Pheasants (var. obscurus), Wolferton Triangle, 12th January

 

Monday 11th January

I wish I could find rare birds in the flesh as easily as I find them on the internet! Last weekend someone posted a photo on Flickr of a bird in their Scottish garden asking if it was a Lesser Whitethroat. It was, but appears to be a Central Asian Lesser Whitethroat (form halimodendri). Today someone else posted a photo of a thrush they'd seen in their garden in Yorkshire. It had been identified by someone else as a female Redwing when I came across it - but it was quite clearly a Black-throated Thrush!

My lunchtime outing produced nothing better than a Barn Owl or two, and what is presumably that Buzzard that keeps getting reported as a Rough-legged Buzzard - although with a white band across its rump and/or uppertail-coverts and no white on the tail I could understand it being mistaken for a Hen Harrier more easily.

 

Sunday 10th January

A wander round Swanton Morley in the snow was more exhausting than productive (I didn't realise how tiring trudging through snow could be - last time it was deeper and was ok but today it felt like going up Blakeney Point!). With all of the lakes almost entirely frozen nearly all the wildfowl had cleared out (or died) - a few Coots, Moorhens and Mallards, 2 Gadwall, 4 Tufted Ducks and single Little Grebe, Greylag Goose and Mute Swan was all that was left. A Snipe was flushed from the river but the only highlight was another Woodcock, flushed from the Billingford end.

Grey Heron, Swanton Morley, 10-Jan-10  

Grey Heron, Swanton Morley, 10th January

 

Saturday 9th January

Yesterday there was a cold-weather movement of wildfowl with 400 Wigeon past Overstrand and 1000 at sites on the east coast so I decided to go to Sheringham first. The usually 25-30 minute journey took rather longer than normal and 10 mph very nearly proved too fast to avoid joining the residents of one house in Guist for breakfast, but too slow to get up the hill to come out of Guist. But despite a few slides here and there I eventually arrived unscathed 75 minutes later. You can't beat driving in the snow - I just love it!

There wasn't a great deal happening there - wildfowl were moving but in tiny numbers. Unusually the biggest count was Tufted Duck, but that was only 13! I'd missed a Pale-bellied Brent Goose but saw Long-tailed Duck, Scaup, Pochard, Eider, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Wigeon and Shelduck.

I'd hoped to see and photograph the first-winter Pale-bellied Brent Goose at Cley - I've seen loads of adults previously but very few first-winters. I arrived just in time to see the flock flying off! Then on to Morston where I hoped that Josh's Shelduck hybrid would remain. No luck there though but nearby a flock of Brents beside the A149 contained 5 Pale-bellied Brent Geese (all adults). Next stop was Titchwell where I hoped to photograph one of the Woodcocks that have been showing well recently. On the way there a Woodcock flew over the road at Stiffkey, but no chances of photographing that one.

At first no luck at all with the Woodcocks at Titchwell (just a Water Rail) but as I returned from the centre to the car park 3 different birds were on view, though none wanted their pictures taken. I then walked around the perimeter of the car park finding more birds rather easily - a total of at least 8 Woodcocks all in all. But I'd still not got any pics so returned to the first birds where I finally managed these:

Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10 Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10
Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10 Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10
Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10 Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10
Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10 Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10
Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10 Woodcock, Titchwell, 9-Jan-10

Woodcock, Titchwell, 9th January

 

Mallard, Salthouse, 9-Jan-10 Mallard, Salthouse, 9-Jan-10

Mallards, Salthouse, 9th January

 

Reed Bunting, Morston, 9-Jan-10 Black-tailed Godwit and Bar-tailed Godwit, Morston, 9-Jan-10

Reed Bunting (left) and Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits (right), Morston, 9th January - anyone want a lesson in Godwit ID?

 

Thursday 7th January

Saw the Snow Goose again at lunch time - it's never been so well camouflaged before!

 

Tuesday 5th January

Worked from home today and discovered that my garden isn't utterly devoid of birds after all, though nearly so. Not that I was looking out of the window at all, you understand... only in my break!

Dunnock, Bawdeswell, 5-Jan-10 Blue Tit, Bawdeswell, 5-Jan-10
Greenfinch, Bawdeswell, 5-Jan-10 Chaffinch, Bawdeswell, 5-Jan-10

Dunnock, Blue Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch, Bawdeswell, 5th January

 

Sunday 3rd January

As I was in Norwich anyway I decided to pop in to Whitlingham Broad to see the Smew and Ruddy Duck, and hopefully that elusive hybrid goose. Within seconds of my arrival a passing car splashed me with muddy slush from top to toe, somehow managing to cover bins, telescope and both cameras. The Smew had apparently just disappeared behind the island and after waiting much longer than I'd intended to stay the only birds of interest I'd seen were 2 Goosanders. Eventually I gave up and walked away but as I looked back I picked up the Smew on its own in a tiny strip of unfrozen water right at the back. I briefly saw the Great Northern Diver again but didn't give it any longer for the Ruddy Duck as I was keen to press on up to Morston to see Josh's hybrid Shelduck.

En route to Morston the pager brought me news of a possible Pacific Diver at Titchwell so, this being a potential first for Norfolk, I rapidly changed plan and rushed up there instead. Upon arrival the bird had gone missing as the observers took their eyes off it to look at a book. Eventually though it was relocated, rather distant and feeding actively, only breaking the surface for a second between each long dive. On these views we weren't getting any sort of feeling of what it was but eventually it stopped diving so frequently and I managed the fantastic high-quality images shown below. It then started swimming towards the shore but now the breeze had picked up so, from our low vantage point, it kept disappearing in the waves. But it remained above water for the most part and this is where we got the best views. It lacked a chin strap, but that's ok - many Pacific Divers do. It definitely lacked the white flank panel shown by Black-throated Divers - this could be clearly seen as it rolled over to preen, on several occasions. It had the beginnings of a vent strap, but I wasn't able to determine whether or not it had a complete vent strap. It was looking good... but the head shape was completely unexpected for Pacific Diver - it was more like Great Northern Diver! There were a number of reasons why it wasn't a Great Northern Diver, but the head shape recalled one so much that we kept on having to re-convince ourselves that it wasn't!

Not only did it have a bumpier head than Pacific Divers should have, but I was also unconvinced by the size of the bill - Pacific Divers are small-billed birds and I wasn't sure this was sufficiently so. In fact in the end, and after checking through a load of photos, the bill size is the single biggest concern for me. If it was just the head shape I could perhaps rest easy that it was a Pacific Diver with an odd head shape, but with the bill as well, I'm not sure. But what was it if it wasn't a Pacific Diver? Short answer is, I don't know - maybe it was a Pacific Diver. I wonder what would happen if a Black-throated (or Pacific) Diver got too friendly with a Great Northern Diver though... maybe I did see a hybrid this afternoon after all! (or maybe not). So far as I know (which isn't far) nobody got any photographs better than mine (i.e. nobody else got any photos), so we may never know - but I understand that the finder is planning to submit the record as a definite Pacific Diver, so then it will be up to the BBRC to decide!

Smew, Whitlingham, 3-Jan-10 Goosander, Whitlingham, 3-Jan-10

Smew (left) and Goosanders (right), Whitlingham Broad, 3rd January

 

Diver sp., Titchwell, 3-Jan-10 Diver sp., Titchwell, 3-Jan-10

Diver sp., Titchwell, 3rd January - I told you the photos were good! (it's not a Little Grebe, honest!)

 

Friday 1st January

I hadn't meant to stay up and see the new year in but ended up doing so and was then kept awake by plumbing issues until about 3 am, so I didn't start the new year's birding quite as early as I'd hoped.

First stop was, like last year, Whitlingham Broad where Black-necked Grebe and Great Northern Diver have been recently and I stood a chance of getting photos of at least the diver. Both birds were on show immediately and the diver even came close for a short while.

Buckenham Marshes was my next destination, partly as I'd still only ever seen the Taiga Bean Geese at too long a range and I'd heard that they've been perhaps a little easier lately than in some years, and partly to see the hybrid goose that's been there for years but which I've not managed to connect with up to now. I arrived in snow showers and spent some time searching through the Wigeon around the car park before concentrating on the geese. The main flock were visible from the car park but much closer from the footpath further east. From here I did indeed get the best views I've ever had of Taiga Bean Geese, although they still weren't exactly close. I counted 89 but that wasn't a careful count so there might have been more. Also with them (but keeping slightly separate) were a few White-fronted Geese, soon to be joined by more bringing their number to at least 130, plus a couple of Pink-feet.

A flock of 35 feral Barnacle Geese was seen too and among them was the hybrid Snow x Barnacle Goose as hoped. Also seen were 6 Bearded Tits, Stonechats and Buzzard.

At Buckenham I bumped into Andy Musgrove who'd just come from Whitlingham too - on hearing about my interest in hybrid wildfowl he mentioned that he'd seen there a hybrid goose which sounded like one I'd seen photos of a while back but not managed to find for myself. So I returned to Whitlingham to look for this, to no avail. I had planned to go home via Wroxham Broad but the Ring-necked Duck had only been seen briefly in the morning and it was getting late so I decided against it - a mistake as a little while not only did the Ring-necked Duck show well but the Ferruginous Duck joined it too.

Great Northern Diver, Whitlingham Broad, 1-Jan-10 Great Northern Diver, Whitlingham Broad, 1-Jan-10
Great Northern Diver, Whitlingham Broad, 1-Jan-10 Great Northern Diver, Whitlingham Broad, 1-Jan-10
Great Northern Diver, Whitlingham Broad, 1-Jan-10 Great Northern Diver, Whitlingham Broad, 1-Jan-10

Great Northern Diver, Whitlingham Broad, 1st January

 

Black-necked Grebe, Whitlingham Broad, 1-Jan-10 Black-necked Grebe, Whitlingham Broad, 1-Jan-10

Black-necked Grebe, Whitlingham Broad (Norfolk, UK), 1st January 2010

 

Snow Goose x Barnacle Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10 Snow Goose x Barnacle Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10

Presumed Snow Goose x Barnacle Goose hybrid, Buckenham, 1st January

 

Taiga Bean Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-09 Taiga Bean Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-09
Taiga Bean Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-09 Taiga Bean Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-09
Taiga Bean Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-09 Taiga Bean Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-09
Taiga Bean Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-09
Taiga Bean Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-09

Taiga Bean Geese, Buckenham, 1st January

 

Lapwing, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10 Lapwing, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10

Lapwings, Buckenham, 1st January

 

Wigeon, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10 Wigeon, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10
Wigeon, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10 Wigeon, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10
Wigeon, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10 Wigeon, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10

Wigeons, Buckenham, 1st January

 

Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10 Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10
Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10 Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10
Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10 Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10

White-fronted Geese, Buckenham, 1st January

 

Pheasant, Strumpshaw Fen, 1-Jan-10 Pheasant, Strumpshaw Fen, 1-Jan-10

Pheasants, Strumpshaw, 1st January

 

Teal, Buckenham, 1-Jan-10  

Teal, Buckenham, 1st January

 

 

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