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January 2011

 

Monday 31st January

Earlier this winter I was asked if I'd ever seen Waxwings feeding on Hawthorn berries: I've certainly seen them perched in Hawthorns but I couldn't recall ever seeing them feeding on the haws. Well at lunchtime today I did see one scoffing Haws - the bird on Choseley Road at Titchwell seemed quite happy with them.

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Waxwing, Titchwell, 31st January

 

Sunday 30th January

I'd intended to go looking for ducks in the Broads this afternoon but in the end didn't have enough time, so stayed local. Swanton Morley was pretty dire: nothing remotely unusual apart from a Goldeneye.

Not many years ago if you used an ISO value of 400 or more when taking photographs the results would so grainy as to be useless. Now cameras are much better and you can get away with much higher values. Even so I've always struggled a bit. In order to achieve a faster shutter speed I tend to under-expose slightly knowing that I can restore it a bit in photoshop, but when I do this at high ISOs the results are really dreadful. Recently I came across an article online which demonstrated that modern cameras - specifically my camera - is capable of taking reasonably good quality images at much higher ISOs than I have used - even at ISO 12,800 the images are good enough for a record shot! So what have I been doing wrong? Well it seems underexposing is a mistake when using high ISOs - there isn't enough detail in the data to be able to adjust it satisfactorily. So with rubbish light this afternoon I cranked up the ISO and kept the exposure about right, and while these won't win any awards I'm quite pleased with the results (I didn't go as far as 12,800 but some of these are 3200). I'm liking my camera more and more!

Before heading home I popped in to Bylaugh where a Chiffchaff fed among the Pied Wagtails (one day there will be an over-wintering Dusky Warbler there...) and Sparham Hole where both Little Owls obliged. Although I didn't find it until next day, another Early Moth arrived this evening.

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Treecreeper, Swanton Morley, 30th January

 

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Greylag Goose x Canada Goose hybrids, Swanton Morley, 30th January

 

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Pochard (left) and Egyptian Goose (right), Swanton Morley, 30th January

 

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Great Crested Grebes, Swanton Morley, 30th January

 

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Dunnock, Swanton Morley (left) and Chiffchaff, Bylaugh (right), 30th January

 

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Early Moth, Bawdeswell, 30th January

 

Tuesday 25th January

This Spring Usher was my first ever, but is it ushering in spring? Doesn't feel like it.

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Spring Usher, Bawdeswell, 25th January

 

Monday 24th January

A flock of perhaps 60 Pink-footed Geese flew over the A1067 at Bintree while I was on the way to work.

 

Sunday 23rd January

Any hope of going out birding this afternoon was dashed when the water pipe became detached from my car's engine. However, 5 Siskins flew over while I was waiting for the AA at Lenwade.

 

Saturday 22nd January

Heard a Brambling in the garden today.

 

Monday 17th January

Only a few Pink-feet left between Shernborne and Amner, and the only interesting bird I picked up from among them was a Greylag Goose. This was the tiniest Greylag I've ever seen, barely any bigger than the Pink-feet. Any thoughts as to its origins?

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Greylag Goose (with Pink-feet), between Shernborne and Amner (left) and Winter Moth, Bawdeswell (right), 17th January

 

Sunday 16th January

An interesting hybrid goose has been frequenting Whitlingham Lane for a number of years now - several people have told me about it but despite visiting the site on numerous occasions I've never managed to connect with it. Recently Justin sent me photos and yesterday he again mentioned that it was still regularly present so today, before leaving Norwich, I popped in to have a look. Conveniently it was not only there but stood at the water's edge where I could easily photograph it from the car. So, what is it? Well I'm not certain but Ross's (or Snow) x Lesser White-fronted Goose seems a strong contender. However, the black grinning patch and inextensive white on the forecrown aren't what I'd expect for that combination, so some doubt remains for me.

(Updated 31st Jan): Equally exciting this evening was a micro moth that I didn't recognise. As it clearly wasn't any of the species that the excellent Norfolk Moths site show as flying tonight I retained it in case a closer examination would be required. The concave-edged wing shape appeared to favour Acleris cristana, which would have been the first January record in Norfolk, but the small size of the tufts was more like Acleris hastiana - still a good record for January. Jon Clifton's expert advice favoured hastiana, but it was not a clear cut identification from visual examination alone. In the end though, Jon's detailed examination has confirmed that it was indeed a male Acleris hastiana.

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Hybrid goose, perhaps Ross's or Snow Goose x Lesser White-fronted Goose, Whitlingham CP, 16th January

 

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Acleris hastiana, Bawdeswell, 16th January - thanks Jon for the ID

 

Saturday 15th January

I got up at 4.30 am, drove to a smelly rubbish tip, joined 1200 twitchers, got back ache, cold and hungry, stayed there all day mostly straining through a fence and some trees at a lot of rubbish and a few seagulls. Didn't see Britain's first Slaty-backed Gull.

A brief Caspian Gull, a leucistic Herring Gull and a likely Glaucous x Herring Gull hybrid were all I could muster up from the tipfull of gulls, with 3 Yellow-legged Gulls on the adjacent Thames. Highlight of the day was a total of 91 Ring-necked Parakeets heading south over the Thames to roost. That's 90 more than I've seen in Norfolk in 20 years.

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Ring-neked Parakeets, Rainham Marsh, 15th January

 

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various gulls, Rainham Marsh, 15th January

 

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Yellow-legged Gull, Rainham Marsh, 15th January

 

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Yellow-legged or Caspian Gull, Rainham Marsh, 15th January - thought it was Yellow-legged at the time but not so sure now

 

Thursday 13th January

Worked from home today so no opportunity to go on a wild goose chase in my lunch break. Last night I saw numerous moths in the headlights despite rain, but being out for most of the evening I failed to attract any at home, with the exception of a Winter Moth on the outside of a window. Tonight I turned the light on in good time and it came up trumps with 4 different moths - and not one of them was a boring old Winter Moth!

First up was a distinctive individual that I didn't recognise at all but was quickly identified as my first ever Pale Brindled Beauty. Second was a Mottled Umber - a species I recorded for the first time last November, and this one was a much smarter individual. With that was a much duller affair, but another new species for me: Early Moth. The fourth I didn't find until the next day but it almost certainly arrived on the night of the 13th: a Chestnut.

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Mottled Umber (left) and Pale Brindled Beauty (right), Bawdeswell, 13th January

 

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Early Moth (left) and Chestnut (right), Bawdeswell, 13th January

 

Wednesday 12th January

Another attempt to get better photos of the Ross's hybrid between Amner and Sheringham failed in that respect but I was pleased instead to find that the other interesting hybrid was at the front of the nearest group of birds.

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presumed 'Small' Canada Goose x Barnacle Goose hybrid (with Barnacle Goose and Pink-footed Geese), between Amner and Shernborne, 12th January

 

Tuesday 11th January

There seemed to be as many geese today but I could only pick out 2 single Barnacle Geese and one of the leucistic Pink-feet before it was time to head back to work. A small corner of the field had not been in view from where I'd parked but when I drove past on the way back to work I realised it contained the Ross's Goose hybrid. Unfortunately there was no way of stopping within sight of it without flushing it, so I still await a decent photo of it.

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Pink-footed Geese with orange legs, between Amner and Shernborne, 11th January - the orange-legged juvenile in the left hand photo was with the orange-legged adult in the right hand photo

 

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Pink-footed Geese, between Amner and Shernborne, 11th January

 

Monday 10th January

Lunchtime saw me back at the Pink-foot flock between Shernborne and Amner. Lots and lots of geese there and I eventually picked out a total of 3 single Barnacle Geese plus the bird that was still accompanying the hybrid Cackling x Barnacle Goose. Also two different leucistic Pink-footed Geese there.

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presumed 'Small' Canada Goose x Barnacle Goose hybrid (with Barnacle Goose and Pink-footed Geese), between Amner and Shernborne, 10th January

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Geese, between Amner and Shernborne, 10th January

 

Sunday 9th January

A late start at Swanton Morley produced very few birds except for a five minute spell that saw Goosander, Little Egret and Curlew fly over. Curlew was a belated 'patch-tick', my first in this part of the Wensum Valley, though they're doubtlessly fairly regular here.

After this I stopped briefly at Guist Bridge where I stuffed up the best bird of the day. I heard a familiar call from the bridge that I couldn't immediately place. I couldn't have been concentrating very hard as, recognising it as familar, I didn't worry too much and continued walking away and back to my car. Fortunately it called again and I looked back to see a small bird flying away. It wasn't an ideal view by any means but its flight reminded me of Bearded Tit - of course! That was the call! Unfortunately I'd lost sight of it by the time the penny dropped.

Next I returned to the Pink-feet between Amner and Shernborne hoping that a less rushed view than I have during my lunch breaks might result in a better look at the hybrids (and anything else). Well, the birds were extremely skittish and when they were in view at all they were mostly distant. Carl Donner was there and had seen both hybrids and I had views of the Ross's hybrid for a little while before something spooked the flock from the other side of the field. After much more searching and the arrival of James McCallum, James picked up the Barnacle and presumed Barnacle x 'Cackling' hybrid. I wish they'd come up with a name for the small species of Canada Goose that wasn't already the name of one of the subspecies - both Cackling Goose and Lesser Canada Goose are ambiguous. Maybe Small Canada Goose would be better - that was coined by somebody once but never seemed to gain much favour.

On the way home I paused briefly at Bylaugh where I bumped into David Knight and his Wensum Valley bird race team (to whom I'm sorry for completely forgetting about the Bearded Tit when I reported what I'd seen). Finally the Little Owl was in what seems to be its usual tree at Sparham Hole.

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Grey Heron, Swanton Morley, 9th January

 

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Coots, Swanton Morley, 9th January

 

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Pied Wagtails, Bylaugh, 9th January

 

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presumed Ross's Goose hybrid, between Amner and Shernborne, 9th January

 

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Curlew, Swanton Morley, 9th January

 

Friday 7th January

Lunch time today saw me return to the Pink-foot flock near Amner but I was disappointed to find that the sugar beet was being collected and the majority of the field was bare. The geese had not gone far though, just to the adjacent fields, but it meant that a smaller proportion of the flock was visible and they were even further away. Eventually I located a Barnacle Goose, but there was nothing Cackling-like with it today. Then in the distance I glimpsed a bit of white - was it the Ross's Goose that's been seen regularly at Holkham? It was a tiny bird, whatever it was, remaining firmly hidden behind the Pink-feet for 95% of the time. Eventually I saw enough of it to be clear that it was another hybrid. Superficially similar to the probable Ross's x Pink-foot that spent several winters here this differed in a number of ways - firstly this bird was a good deal smaller, secondly the mantle was darker and thirdly there were differences in the extent and position of dark on the body and neck (the latter appeared to be completely white). I think the bill was duller too, but I need better views to be sure of that. Really the views obtained weren't nearly good enough to start speculating what the parents were - except that I think Ross's Goose was probably one of them - so I hope it sticks around and gives me a better look in due course.

Ross's Goose hybrid, between Amner and Shernborne, 7th January

 

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Barnacle Goose, between Amner and Shernborne, 7th January

 

Thursday 6th January

Yesterday I discovered a lot of Pink-feet between Amner and Shernborne but too late in my lunch break to look through them. I returned today and discovered a really huge flock, though not all the birds were visible from the road. At first I couldn't find anything among them but eventually I picked up pair of interesting birds right at the back. One was clearly a Barnacle Goose but the other was more interesting. Over the years I've seen 2-3 presumed wild Canada or Cackling Geese among the Norfolk Pink-feet, but I don't think there's been one for a few years and I've never found my own. Had my first view of the second bird accompanying the Barnacle Goose been a view of the head, I would have become very excited, before that crushing disappointment of realising everything wasn't quite right set in. Fortunately though, I was saved this disappointment because I couldn't see the head at first, just a vaguely Barnacle-like body, only duller and browner-looking. I suspected it was a hybrid and sure enough when it eventually raised its head there was a classic Canada head pattern. At least as small as the Barnacle (it looks smaller in the photos), I presume this was a hybrid Barnacle x Cackling Goose. Whether it was a wild bird or not, I don't know, but many of the records of presumed wild Canada and Cackling Geese in the UK have been among Scottish Barnacle Goose flocks and some have produced hybrids. We tend to assume that the odd Barnacle Goose among Pink-feet are mostly wild, and I like to think the hybrid was too. But feral Barnacle Geese are common enough and these sometimes hybridise with Canada Geese (though normally the large feral form and their hybrids are normally bigger than this one was) so it will I suppose have to be regarded as of unknown origin. Also visible from here was a leucistic Pink-footed Goose.

Again, photos dreadful thanks to poor range, poor light, poor photographer, etc.

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Barnacle Goose and hybrid Barnacle x Cackling Goose, between Amner and Shernborne, 6th January

 

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Pink-footed Geese, between Amner and Shernborne, 6th January - a small section of the flock

 

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leucistic Pink-footed Goose, between Amner and Shernborne, 6th January

 

Wednesday 5th January

A Winter Moth was outside the window this evening.

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captive Père David's Deer, Houghton Park, 5th January - thanks to Lee for confirming the ID

 

Tuesday 4th January

I've been back to Thornham a couple of times during my lunch breaks with the hope of getting better photos of the apparent Northern Harrier, but not seen it. Today I arrived to find a group of people clearly watching it from the top of the bank adjacent to the end car park and looking towards Holme. However it was muddy and my work attire wasn't really suitable for clambering up muddy banks in, so rather than join them I headed back to the other car park from which I knew I'd be able to see over towards Holme without getting out of my car. Another birder was there and just leaving, having not seen the harrier, so I was pleasantly surprised to pick it up in flight immediately. However it was heading out of view and back towards the end car park where I'd just come from so I rapidly returned there. Helped by seeing which direction others were looking I picked it up straight away over the saltmarsh north of the carpark before it landed on the edge of the dunes where it remained until I had to head back to work. At that distance there was no chance of getting better photos - I was amazed one came out as well (!) as it did as I could barely see the bird on the camera screen - but nice to see it again anyway. Also heard a Lapland Bunting calling.

 

Hen Harrier showing characteristics of the American form hudsonicus (Northern Harrier), Thornham, 4th January

 

Monday 3rd January

I finally managed to get some birding in on the last day of the break. Started off at Titchwell - my first visit since the work they've done with the main path and the impressive new hide. When I arrived I appeared to be the only birder on site and I picked out the Whooper Swan before enjoying10 Marsh Harriers in the air together. I accidentally flushed the Water Pipit from beside the path, but it didn't go far away. There wasn't a huge amount else on the freshmarsh but whilst looking I missed the Iceland Gull fly past. I could barely see the sea because it was covered by thousands of Common Scoters, but I couldn't pick out anything interesting among them.

On my way east I passed a Bar-headed Goose among Greylags opposite the windmill at Burnham Overy. At Burnham Overy Marsh the Brent flock contained a Pale-bellied Brent Goose and a Brent with very prominently pale flank patches. This was never a contender for a pure Black Brant so my initial assumption was that it was a hybrid Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose, but it really didn't show even a hint of any other Black Brant characters - the back and belly were no darker than normal for Dark-bellied - if anything paler and browner - and the neck patch was small. I considered whether it might be Pale-bellied x Dark-bellied hybrid, and on reviewing the photos I think that's probably what it was, but I'm not 100% convinced it wasn't just a pale Dark-bellied. Not visible on the photos, but I'm pretty sure the dark on the belly extended between the legs, so I don't think it can be a dark Pale-bellied. I suppose it could have been a Grey-bellied, but I doubt it! Shame my photos were rubbish! There were 2 Red-breasted Mergansers on the pool and while I was watching them a kind chap whose name I've forgotten pointed out 2 Rough-legged Buzzards. Both were perched up and very distant - a juvenile at the west end of Holkham Pines and an adult female (apparently) on Scolt Head. They were both very distant from where I was, but significantly further away from the line of folk content with watching them from the road.

Then I headed along to Cley, hoping to find parking at the East Bank or Walsey Hills. There was none so I drove on and turned round in Salthouse, passing a flock of Brent Geese along the way. It wasn't safe to stop for long there to give this flock a thorough search, but I was pleased to find a fine adult Black Brant sticking out like a sore thumb and snapped a few quick record shots before continuing back to Cley. Now parking was available so I wandered down East Bank to see the American Wigeon that had been found this morning. Also there was a Pale-bellied Brent Goose (quite a subtle one) and a party of feral geese containing 3 Barnacles, 1 Ross's and 1 hybrid. The latter appears to be the same bird I saw recently at Salthouse among Canada Geese and misidentified. As that flock had previously contained a Snow Goose I imagined Snow Goose might be a parent, but now I think it is most probably Ross's x Barnacle. It was about the same size as the accompanying adult Barnacle Geese (not the smaller juvenile Barnacle)

Finally before heading home I popped in to Wells. I decided not to pay and display as I didn't expect to stay long, just long enough to see the 2 Smew on the lake beside the car park. Good job I didn't, as if I had done I'd have missed them - one flew off and the other swam round the corner and out of sight seconds after I arrived. Also there were Goosander and Goldeneye.

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Water Pipit, Titchwell, 3rd January

 

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Spotted Redshank, Titchwell, 3rd January

 

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American Wigeon, Cley, 3rd January

 

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Black Brant, Salthouse, 3rd January

 

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possible hybrid Pale-bellied Brent Goose x Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Burnham Overy (left) and Pale-bellied Brent Goose, Cley (right), 3rd January

 

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Ross's Goose, Barnacle Geese and presumed hybrid Ross's Goose x Barnacle Goose, Cley, 3rd January

 

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Robin, Titchwell, 3rd January - would anyone like to suggest which race?

 

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Reed Buntings, Titchwell, 3rd January

 

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Pintails, Titchwell, 3rd January

 

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Barn Owl, Burnham, Overy, 3rd January

 

Saturday 1st January

A Happy New Year to all of my readers (both of you).

Although I'd already heard Redwings calling the first life form I clapped eyes on this year was a moth - and not a Winter Moth for a change. This was a Chestnut. It will have come in during the night - presumably before I went to bed so according to moth recorders' convention it will go down as yesterday's date and my last moth of 2010. It appeared very dark (more so than the photo suggests) and shiny, so I thought it was going to be a Dark Chestnut, but I think the rounded corners of the wing clinch it as a (normal) Chestnut.

My new year resolution is to do more birding in 2011. I haven't got off to a good start, but I'm determined not to repeat 2010's abject failure to spend time in the field.

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Chestnut, Bawdeswell, 1st January

 

 

Next month: February 2011

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Previous months:

2007: Jan ; Feb ; Mar ; Apr ; May ; Jun ; Jul ; Aug ; Sep ; Oct ; Nov ; Dec ;

 

2008: Jan ; Feb ; Mar ; Apr ; May ; Jun ; Jul ; Aug ; Sep ; Oct ; Nov ; Dec ;

 

2009: Jan ; Feb ; Mar ; Apr ; May ; Jun ; Jul ; Aug ; Sep ; Oct ; Nov ; Dec ;

 

2010: Jan ; Feb ; Mar ; Apr ; May ; Jun ; Jul ; Aug ; Sep ; Oct ; Nov ; Dec