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April 2012

 

Friday 20th April

Hebrew Character tonight. For the rest of this month and the first week of May I'm in Sicily...

 

Thursday 19th April

Dave called this evening to say he'd got 2 Avocets at Sparham Pools. That would be another new bird for the local area for me, so I headed straight down there. As I pulled into the car park Dave called again to say they'd just flown off - typical! I had a walk round anyway, not seeing much apart from a Cuckoo. Had a quick look for the Long-eared Owl again, but I didn't have time to give it long, and it probably wasn't dark enough, so I didn't see it. Did see a Barn Owl and another 2 Little Owls nearbly.

An Early Grey was the only moth tonight.

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Cuckoo, Sparham Pools (left) and Blackcap, Thornham (right), 19th April

 

Wednesday 18th April

My brother was down from Scotland for a business trip and stopped over here tonight. He wanted to do some birding this evening but with little time before darkness fell we went local, to Swanton Morley. There were more hirundines than I've seen this year - but that's not hard - and a few of the typically early warblers (but still only 1 Sedge Warbler) and I heard a distant Cuckoo briefly. Best bird was probably Kingfisher. As we walked round the lakes Stephen mentioned that he hadn't seen a Little Owl for a long while so I suggested we head back to the car as there was just enough light left to get to one or two nearby sites where they were quite reliable. This we did, and saw Little Owls at both locations. Stephen also saw a Tawny Owl in the headlights and later on another large owl flew along the road in front of us. I assumed this would be another Tawny Owl, but it landed in the tree in front and we got to have a decent look. Something didn't look right but it was a second or two before I twigged why. When I noticed it had big ear tufts the penny dropped - it was a Long-eared Owl! It moved on to another tree where we continued to watch it for a while before it headed off again into the darkness. A great end to an enjoyable evening's birding, and my first Long-eared Owl in the local area.

 

Tuesday 17th April

The last couple of nights have produced just 1 Early Grey (Sunday) and 1 Small Quaker (Monday). Tonight was warmer and cloudier - would it produce the rush of moths that we've been waiting for? No chance - just Early Thorn, Hebrew Character and Early Grey. Mind you, that measly showing was the best for a fortnight.

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Oystercatcher, south of Burnham Market 16th April

 

Saturday 14th April

Went to Strumpshaw today with the group I sometimes help out with. Think the girls had a good time with sufficient birds to keep them amused. Almost the first bird we saw was an escaped Harris's Hawk, complete with bells and jesses. This bird remained on view, on and off, for most of the time we were here, and was frequently the subject of harassment from the local Carrion Crows, and less often the Marsh Harriers (of which there were several on view practically the whole time, including some nest building). Still, getting pestered continuously from crows and harriers must be a good deal less unpleasant for a Harris's Hawk than being kept in a cage and paraded in front of screaming children while people set off camera flashes in its eyes. Can't blame it for making a dash for freedom, and no wonder the attempt to recapture it yesterday failed!

A Kingfisher sat out for a short while in front of Reception Hide and a Chinese Water Deer showed nicely in the meadow (another showed more briefly from Fen Hide). Numerous Cetti's Warblers gave us the run-around but some of us got brief views of one of them in the end - Blackcaps and Willow Warblers were similarly elusive but, being the middle of April I was surprised that we didn't see or hear a single Sedge Warbler. While we were in Tower Hide a Bittern boomed briefly but didn't show. Monica was very keen to see Bullfinches (she always is) but I'd not managed to find her any as we went round the reserve. As we arrived back at the railway and were just about to leave I found a pair beside the railway. They were a bit elusive and flushed by the trains, but I think everyone got to see at least one of them and Monica managed to see both of the pair, so a nice finale for her.

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Kingfisher, Strumpshaw Fen, 14th April

 

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escaped Harris's Hawk (with Carrion Crow and Marsh Harriers), Strumpshaw Fen, 14th April

 

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Marsh Harriers, Strumpshaw Fen, 14th April

 

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Moorhen (left) and Pochard (right), Strumpshaw Fen, 14th April

 

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Black-headed Gull (left) and Goldfinch (right), Strumpshaw Fen, 14th April

 

Friday 13th April

The Barnacle Goose x White-fronted Goose hybrid is again at Raynham Lake, along with Little Egret and 2 Buzzards, but no further sign today or earlier in the week of the Lesser White-front from last week. An Early Grey was the only moth braving the cold tonight.

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Early Grey, Bawdeswell, 13th April

 

Wednesday 11th April

Just a single moth tonight, and one which I thought might be quite interesting. The prominent and relatively straight antemedian line prompted thoughts of Northern Drab, but unfortunately Jon thinks it's probably only a Clouded Drab.

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Buzzard, Choseley (left) and probable Clouded Drab (right), Bawdeswell, 11th April

 

Monday 9th April

An Amblyptilia acanthadactyla tonight. I've had 14 in the last year after my first last March (4 already this year) - are they getting commoner or was I just overlooking them before?

 

Easter Sunday, 8th April

My wife and I decided to go for a walk this afternoon and I figured Buckenham would be a nice place to go (nothing to do with Justin tweeting about a Teal x Wigeon hybrid there the other day, honest). There wasn't much doing there, but it was a nice walk. Best bird was a Little Ringed Plover.

After this we popped in to Lowestoft on the way home (don't ask why!). Had a quick look at a couple of sites while we were there, the highlight being an interesting Goosander at Leathes Ham - a young drake in transitional plumage. Goosanders seem to moult out of juvenile plumage rather late compared to most ducks so for those of us who only see them in winter we only see this transition on the later spring birds. Also a Wood Duck there.

Very few moths at the moment - just 2 Double-striped Pugs tonight.

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Goosander, Lowestoft, 8th April

 

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Wood Duck, Lowestoft, 8th April

 

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Mallards, Lowestoft, 8th April

 

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Double-striped Pug, Bawdeswell, 8th April

 

Saturday 7th April

It seems that me and mega-rare gulls don't get on. I dipped the Glaucous-winged in south Wales, I dipped the Slaty-backed in London, I dipped the Audouin's in Lincolnshire and now I've dipped the Thayer's Gull in Lincolnshire. Will I ever see a rare seagull? Probably not! I went for a Thayer's Gull at Dungeness once and did see that, but it wasn't a Thayer's Gull. Not even a mis-ID is enough to guarantee me a view though - I dipped on the Great Black-headed Gull on the Humber a few years ago which, allegedly, wasn't one. I did see a Slender-billed Gull in Kent once but only on the way back from a trip to France where I'd seen Slender-billed Gulls - my brain obviously hadn't registered that I was back in the UK and let that one slip through.

Despite planning to bird west Norfolk until news came out confirming the Thayer's Gull's continued presence at Elsham I decided at the last minute to go straight there instead. After all the comments along the lines of, "it will be hard to pick out among all those gulls," I was immediately concerned by the rather small number of gulls present - someone estimated 400 and I'm not sure even that wasn't too high. The farmer wasn't spraying his slurry so perhaps the field wasn't so attractive as when the slurry was laying fresh. Anyway, the Thayer's Gull wasn't there, despite the best efforts of lots of people to turn every darker-than-average Herring Gull into it, or any gull that happened to be in primary moult (as the Thayer's had been). Most people were sensible enough to suggest their dark or moulting birds were nothing more than candidates for the Thayer's but one guy was so adamant that the distant gull flying over was the Thayer's on account of it missing a primary he even put the news out that it was still there. Hope not too many people made the trip on account of that piece of news! Still, one person went away happy he'd seen it - maybe he was the clever one?

The morning did produced a brief spell of relative excitement when a second-winter Iceland Gull flew over, a couple of minutes later, a Peregrine. By lunch time I was sufficiently bored looking at a slurry field on which a handful of Herring Gulls occasionally settled, to hotfoot it up to Barton-upon-Humber. Not an area I know well but I've seen Lesser Scaup here before and I knew there were a few pits that might be worth checking. I'd only be 10 minutes away if the Thayer's returned. The west end of Far Ings produced a lovely Short-eared Owl - a nice view, if brief. Next I checked the pits at the east of the town and here the highlight was another Short-eared Owl. This one showed even better - really well in fact, and for a prolonged time. Thoroughly enjoyed watching and photographing this - although it's a bird I didn't need to go to north Lincolnshire to see I don't think I've ever had such good views of one in Norfolk, at least not for so long. Cracking bird which actually made the trip worthwhile. There was also a drake Scaup on the pits here.

I returned to the Thayer's Gull site for a bit longer, but although the number of gulls had picked up a bit the boy still wasn't there. After a while I got the impression that no new birds were arriving and I decided to slope off again. This time my obsession with hybrids and my recollection that there had been a White-fronted Goose x Greylag Goose hybrid at Cleethorpes Boating Lake was my draw. Cleethorpes was less than half an hour away so if the gull did turn up again I'd be able to dash back. I didn't know if the goose was still present, and it didn't seem to be, but a Ross's x Barnacle Goose hybrid was and, more interesting for me, so too was a Mallard x Red-crested Pochard hybrid. Despite heaving with people and most of the birds present being plastic, this was actually quite a nice spot and being right on the coast I imagine it must attract some decent genuine migrants from time to time. Better than a slurry covered field near Elsham anyway.

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Iceland Gull, Elsham, 7th April

 

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Short-eared Owl, Far Ings, 7th April

 

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Short-eared Owl, Barton-upon-Humber, 7th April

 

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Mallard x Red-crested Pochard hybrid, Cleethorpes Boating Lake, 7th April

 

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Reed Bunting (left) and Ross's Goose x Barnacle Goose hybrid, Cleethorpes Boating Lake, 7th April

 

Good Friday, 6th April

Took a quiet walk round Foxley Wood this morning. Predictably the best birds were Nuthatches, Treecreeper and Marsh Tits, along with my first Willow Warbler of the year. Also lots of Bee Flies on the wing - everyone seems to be photographing these at the moment! Just one moth again tonight - a March Moth.

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Bee Flies, Foxley Wood, 6th April

 

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Chiffchaff (left) and Primrose (right), Foxley Wood, 6th April

 

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March Moth, Bawdeswell, 6th April

 

Wednesday 4th April

A cold northwesterly wind with rain in my lunch break weren't ideal conditions for finding rares, so I made do with some Black-tailed Godwits.

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Black-tailed Godwits, Brancaster Staithe, 4th April

 

Tuesday 3rd April

As the temperatures fall the mothing is getting worse - just an Early Thorn tonight.

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Early Thorn, Bawdeswell, 3rd April

 

Monday 2nd April

I nipped over to Raynham Lake in my lunch break where the goose flock contained a Lesser White-fronted Goose, apparently paired with a hybrid which I think was another Ross's Goose x Barnacle Goose hybrid. The latter is likely to be infertile (most cross-genus goose hybrids seem to be) so this pairing is unlikely to produce any weird trigen offspring. Also a pair of Barnacle Geese there.

Hardly any moths again - just singles of Common Quaker and Clouded Drab.

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Lesser White-fronted Goose (left) and Ross's Goose x Barnacle Goose hybrid (right), Raynham Lake, 2nd April

 

Sunday 1st April

Nothing of great excitement to report from a wander round Swanton Morley - best bird was my first Blackcap of the year. Not many moths tonight either: Double-striped Pug, 2 Clouded Drabs, Hebrew Character and Early Grey.

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Grey Wagtail, Bylaugh, 1st April

 

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Blackcap (left) and Sparrowhawk (right), Swanton Morley, 1st April

 

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Great Crested Grebes, Swanton Morley, 1st April

 

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Coots, Swanton Morley, 1st April

 

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Greylag Geese, Swanton Morley, 1st April

 

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Canada Goose (left) and Kingfisher (right), Swanton Morley, 1st April

 

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