December 2012

 

Friday 28th December

A probable Richardson's Canada Goose was found among Barnacles in NW Cumbria yesterday so this morning my brother and I headed up there. We met the finder who advised us that after looking at photos they felt that it was in fact possibly a Taverner's, which would make it considerably more interesting from my point of view, having only seen one Taverner's before, and that badly. Four of us spent a fair bit of time grilling the Barnacle flock to no avail - nothing other than a few Pink-feet seemed to be among them. We continued to check other sites along the south Solway coast but found nothing but Barnacles (and not as many of them as last time we were up there) and Whooper Swans. Eventually we returned to Skinburness where we instantly clapped eyes on the small Canada. It was easy to see despite having its head almost permanently down and usually standing behind Barnacles - surely it can't have been there when we were looking earlier on! We quickly put the news out as we knew Craig and Keith were in the area and wanting to see it, but seconds later a Peregrine flew by and put up the entire flock. The flock split up with some of it going down much further away and the rest disappearing completely, at which point Craig and Keith returned, just a few minutes too late.

Sadly we didn't get the views, nor the photos, that we would have liked, and it's probably not safe to claim a positive subspecies ID. However although it was a small goose, it was not just fractionally larger than a Barnacle as I'd have expected a Richardson's to be, it was noticeably larger, as Taverner's might be. Moreover on the few brief occasions where it lifted its head up momentarily it showed a much thinner neck than I've seen on Richardson's, more in line with my expectations for Taverner's. It never showed its head for more than a fraction of a second and I didn't get a clear photo of it, so I can't say much about the bill size or shape or the extent of pale on the cheek, chin stripe, etc., but if I were a betting man I'd put money on it being a Taverner's Canada Goose. It didn't seem to have the squared head shape of Richardson's but given the brevity of views of its head I can't say that for certain.

Update January: good job I'm not a betting man - now seems likely that it was something even bigger. There have been no further reports of a Taverner's (or Richardson's) Canada Goose on the Solway but a Todd's Canada Goose has been seen regularly. Surely must be the same bird?

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possible Todd's Canada Goose, Skinburness, 28th December - (that's the Canada Goose's head to the right of the brown blob in the left hand photo; the brown blob is the Canada Goose in both photos)

 

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Barnacle Geese, Skinburness, 28th December

 

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Barnacle Geese, south Solway, 28th December

 

Thursday 27th December

A dull damp day in Cumbria didn't produce many exciting birds, but nor did I expect it to. Started off driving round Thirlmere which lacked any birds but 2 Red Deer were nice. Lake Windermere provided 3 Goosander at Windermere and 1 at Bowness on Windermere where a flock of 218 Pink-footed Geese flew over. The south coast produced more Goosanders and Goldeneye as well as a large raft (500+) of Eider near Rampside. The causeway to Roa Island held a flock of 57 Dark-bellied Brent Geese which surprised me as I thought you got more Pale-bellied this side of the country. As I mused about that a flock of 130+ Pale-bellied Brent Geese flew in and landed in the same area. Barrow reservoir and Hodbarrow both held Red-breasted Mergansers but not much else except about 20 Snipe at Hodbarrow.

Update Jan/Feb 2013: One of the Brent Geese had looked suspiciously like a Black Brant but it was a first-winter, a plumage I'm not familiar with for Black Brant. I mused over it for a while but wimped out of the ID. I posted the photos here in the hope that someone familiar with first-winters might pick up on it, but although I raised the possibility of it being a Black Brant I steered clear of identifying it as such. Big thanks to James McCallum for contacting me about it - fresh from finding his own first-winter Black Brant in Norfolk he believes this bird does indeed look very like a juvenile/first-winter Black Brant, although the possibility remains that it is a hybrid.

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Red Deer, Thirlmere, 27th December - over the last few years I've collided with 4 deer while driving the Norfolk roads - good job Red Deers are relatively scarce in Norfolk 'cos I wouldn't want to collide with one of these!

 

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Goosander, Bowness on Windermere, 27th December

 

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Black Brant or hybrid Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Roa Island causeway, 27th December - many thanks to James McCallum for contacting me about this

 

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Pale-bellied Brent Geese, Roa Island causeway, 27th December

 

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Curlew, Roa Island causeway (left) and Buzzard, Little Longdale (right), 27th December

 

Wednesday 26th December

Left Broadstairs for Cumbria today after some more Ring-necked Parakeets. En route stopped at Oare Marshes to see a hybrid Red-breasted Goose x Dark-bellied Brent Goose - quite a rare hybrid that first turned up in Kent a couple of winters ago. A Pale-bellied Brent Goose was in the same flock and we flushed a Hen Harrier. On the way I found a nice flock of at least 33 Waxwings beside the road near Faversham.

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presumed Red-breasted Goose x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrid (with Dark-bellied Brent Geese), Oare Marshes, 26th December

 

Tuesday 25th December

Unwrapped Christmas presents to the tune of Ring-necked Parakeets this morning - well, more like the cacophony of Ring-necked Parakeets (in Broadstairs).

 

Monday 24th December

Nothing to report today so it leaves me only to wish all my readers (yes, both of you) a very happy Christmas!

 

Sunday 23rd December

Popped up to the coast to see the Richardson's Canada Goose that's been hanging around with the feral Canada Geese recently. It showed well at Kelling before flying off to Salthouse where we also saw what was presumably the Ross's Goose drop in behind the church (from a very long way off). A Weasel ran along the edge of the field carrying what looked like a mouse or some other very small mammal in its mouth. As to whether the Canada Goose is wild or escaped, I don't suppose we'll ever know. We do know that wild geese sometimes settle in with feral geese (e.g. Spitzbergen-ringed Barnacle geese found among feral geese in Norfolk in summer, twice) and it's been a good year for American birds arriving in the UK. It would feel a lot more promising if it had turned up with Pink-feet though!

Another Winter Moth appeared at home tonight.

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Richardson's Canada Goose (with a normal Canada Goose), Kelling, 23rd December

 

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Egyptian Geese, Salthouse, 23rd December

 

Friday 21st December

Mottled Umber and Winter Moth were taking advantage of the milder weather this evening.

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Mottled Umber, Bawdeswell, 21st December

 

Tuesday 18th December

Had the day off today for Christmas shopping. Didn't do any Christmas shopping but went birding instead. Tried the Brecks, which perhaps wasn't the best plan as it was rubbish. Stopped off on the way at a new site I've never been to before: Swangey Lakes. A place that could easily turn up a Pied-billed Grebe or something, but today it was just 3 Little Egrets, Kingfishers, Treecreepers, Marsh Tits, flyover Redpolls, etc. An easy place to watch and just off the A11 so worth visiting again I reckon. Better than my local patch anyway. Spent quite a bit of time grilling a flock of Mipits nearby - no reason why Berkshire should hold the monopoly of inland American Buff-bellied Pipits this winter. Swangey couldn't match Slough though and nearby Snetterton wasn't much of an improvement. How do you pronounce Swangey by the way - is it like swanky with a hard 'g' or like mangy with a soft 'g'?

Thompson Water was remarkable for its lack of waterfowl. Mute Swans and gulls were, literally, the only birds on the water - not a single duck! Fowlmere was no better (worse in fact, but then again it hardly had any water in it either). Lynford delivered the obligatory Hawfinch and lots of Siskin but although the gravel pits weren't quite wildfowl-free, 21 Tufties and a Gadwall weren't exactly what I was hoping for.

Spent half of the afternoon checking through a bunting flock at South Pickenham, desperate to pull out something big out of the bag. Nothing big though (except a Red Kite). Even a non-yellow Yellowhammer never really looked the part for a Pine Bunting. So not the best day's birding I've ever had but it was better than being at work and much better than Christmas shopping.

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Meadow Pipits, near Swangey Lakes, 18th December

 

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Birch Polypore, Thompson Water, 18th December - at least I think so, and so do a couple of others who are better than me at fungi

 

Sunday 16th December

I couldn't conjure up anything better than Kingfisher and Barn Owl at Swanton Morley this afternoon, but even that was better than at the other sites I tried. Must be winter. Back at home 1-2 Winter Moths. So yes, must be winter.

 

Saturday 15th December

I suppose 4 moths is a good show for mid December: 3 Winter Moths and a Mottled Umber.

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Mottled Umber (left) and Winter Moth (right), Bawdeswell, 15th December

 

Friday 14th December

Lady Anne's Drive in my liunch break didn't produce much but the very contrasty Brent Goose (Black Brant hybrid?) was still there.

 

Sunday 9th December

Although I popped up to the coast with Vitty this afternoon it wasn't really a birding trip so nothing to report. Back at home 2 Winter Moths appeared along with a December Moth - my first December record of this species: despite its name I usually see them in November.

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Herring Gull, Salthouse (left) and December Moth, Bawdeswell (right), 9th December

 

Saturday 8th December

Another go at Swanton Morley was slightly more successful than the last few attempts, with a party of 7 Goosanders being the highlight. A group of 7 Shoveler was as unusual for this site. Bintree Mill still held 37 Wigeon but apparently much larger numbers of duck had been there a few minutes earlier prior to being fliushed by a passing tractor. A Grey Wagtail was heard here too.

A large flock of Pink-feet has at Barmer over the last day or two but I'd failed to find anything of note among them. I returned here today for another try but all the birds were flying around and none were in the field. The reason was pretty obvious - a load of men with guns in the field! The geese didn't look like they were going to settle any time soon so I went on to Snettisham. I enjoyed a few hours at Snettisham where Red-breasted Merganser and a few Goldeneye were on the pits. It's always a good place to see large numbers of common birds and today was no exception both for wildfowl and waders. Passerines included 3 Snow Buntings on the shingle island between Roost Hide and South Hide. The geese were back and settled at Barmer when I returned past here but in the fading light I didn't manage to pick out anything unusual among them.

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Goosanders, Swanton Morley, 8th December

 

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Goldeneyes, Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Red-breasted Merganser, Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Little Egret, Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Fieldfare, Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Goldfinches, Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Robin (left) and BlueTit (right), Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Pintail, Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Wigeon, Snettisham, 8th December - some interesting observations about the extent of green in the heads of Wigeon - see my blog post

 

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Lapwing, Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Greylag Geese, Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Little Grebe (left) and Coot (right), Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Snow Bunting (left) and Woodpigeon (right), Snettisham, 8th December

 

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Blackbird, Snettisham (left) and Barn Owl, Broomsthorpe (right), 8th December

 

Wednesday 5th December

Lots of Pink-feet along Lady Anne's Drive kept me entertained at lunch time today. Smaller numbers of Dark-bellied Brents included a contrasty bird which I suspect was a hybrid x Black Brant, although I'm not 100% sure it wasn't just a very contrasty Dark-bellied. It looked much more distinctive with a bare eye than it did through optics (and in photos), which is something I've noticed before with pure Black Brants. As I was about to leave everything got up, obviously spooked by an overhead raptor. I looked up to see a fantastic Red Kite very low just in front of me, and then when that moved off I turned back to see a second Red Kite.

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Red Kite, Holkham, 5th December

 

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Dark-bellied Brent Goose or hybrid with Black Brant, Holkham, 5th December - it looked more impressive in life than it does in the photo, and stood out strongly from the accompanying Brents, but even in the photos the centre of the belly looks dark, the flank patch bright and the neck collar relatively extensive - just not completely sure it's beyond range for a pure Dark-bellied

 

Sunday 2nd December

Finished in Norwich around 1 so decided to head out to the Broads for a couple of hours. Malthouse Broad was empty so I went on to Ranworth. Hundreds of Wigeon were in front of the centre but before checking through them I looked up the channel on the right where I immediately discovered the Ferruginous-type Ducks from last winter. Not sure if they've been around all summer or if they've just returned. One is clearly a hybrid, apparently Ferruginous Duck x Pochard, but the other remains a bit controversial. I remain unconvinced that it shows any features that strongly point away from it being a pure Ferruginous Duck, but I certainly can't rule out the possibility favoured by some that it's a second or subsequent generation hybrid (i.e. a Ferruginous Duck hybrid backcrossed with Ferruginous Duck). Either way, as with any Ferruginous Duck in Norfolk, its origins are in as much doubt as its purity so there isn't an awful lot of interest in it.

On the way back I stopped by the village hall to look for a slightly fiery-sounding crest that called briefly. It never appeared or called again but the wait was worthwhile as I heard that distinctive trilling again as 18 Waxwings flew in from behind me. They landed in a tree close by and stayed for just a couple of minutes before continuing on their way.

Salthouse Broad produced nowt so on to Wroxham Broad. There weren't many ducks present when I arrived but as I got out of my car a large flock dropped in - I counted 325 Tufted Ducks and 59 Pochard, and among them the Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid that I saw last winter. James A had recently been in touch to say he'd seen this hybrid and good numbers of diving duck here, so thanks to him for the heads-up!

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Waxwing, Ranworth (left) and Ferruginous Duck, Ranworth Broad (right), 2nd December

 

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Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid (left) and Ferruginous Duck (right), Ranworth Broad, 2nd December

 

Saturday 1st December

Had to be at home this afternoon so didn't go out with the monthly group I often help out with, but instead spent the morning at Holkham. Scanning through the geese along Lady Anne's Drive I heard an unmistakeable trill, looked up and saw 12 Waxwings flying south along the drive. Watched them head over the road and they seemed to go down behind the village. Had a quick look for them later but no sign. Had a quick look from the layby at Burnham Overy and saw 2 Barnacle Geese in the distance.

Next I had a stroll round Holkham Lake for American Coot and Pied-billed Grebe (always worth aiming high). The woodland just beyond the gates to the park has got to be one of the best places for common woodland birds - the likes of Nuthatch (always a firm favourite of mine), Treecreeper and Marsh Tit are invariably present here it seems. Got down to the lake and had to check my calendar - was it really December? I flushed some Blackbirds to the island where two warblers were in a wild rose, one a Blackcap and one which I didn't see well but I'm fairly sure it was a Chiffchaff. Now I know neither species are desperately unusual in winter nowadays but although several birders regularly see overwintering Blakccaps in their gardens (especially in Norwich) the last December Blackcap I saw in Norfolk was 21 years ago!

I just had time to zip along the coast and check a couple of sites from the car. I stopped at Blakeney Freshes hoping to find an American Wigeon and at first glimpse the first bird I saw looked a good candidate for a female, but alas a closer look quickly ruled that out. A Marsh Harrier disturbed a large flock of Brent Geese, Lapwings and Golden Plover from the harbour and I was surprised to see the (or another?) Sacred Ibis heading up the flock before landing out of view. I assume it's the same bird that's been around at Salthouse recently although I think I did read something recently that implied there might be one or two others knocking about, so perhaps not? From Salthouse duckpond I picked up 2 Bewick's Swans heading west, which dropped in on the pool opposite the Dun Cow.

I try and drive past Bintree Mill on the way home every now and then to see what the water levels are like. The seasonal pool has been dry since last spring but the recent rains have finally caused the river to burst its banks and at last there's a good sized pool there again. A count of 44 Wigeon is by far the most I've ever seen at this location. Will try and get up 5 minutes earlier so I can pass by this way on the way to work. Actually I'll need to get up 10 minutes earlier - 5 will just get me to work on time for a change. Not much chance of that.

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Wigeon, Salthouse, 1st December - why do so many Wigeon have white on their heads? This is at least the fourth Wigeon I've seen with leucism apparently limited to part of the head

 

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Shoveler (left) and Gadwall (right), Holkham Park, 1st December

 

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Blackcap (left) and Common White Saddle (right), Holkham Park, 1st December - I think it's the first time I've seen this fungus (at least the first time I've identified it)

 

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Fallow Deer (left) and horse-drawn carriage (right), Holkham Park, 1st December

 

Next month: January 2013

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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 ;

 

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2012: Jan ; Feb ; Mar ; Apr ; May ; Jun ; Jul ; Aug ; Sep ; Oct ; Nov