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February 2012

 

Wednesday 29th February

Four moths tonight - 2 macros and 2 micros: Pale Brindled Beauty, Dotted Border, Agonopterix heracliana and Amblyptilia acanthadactlya. I had an opportunity to check the hindwings of the Agonopterix and, although worn, they seemed to adequately rule out the scarcer A. ciliella.

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Agonopterix heracliana, Bawdeswell, 29th February

 

Tuesday 28th February

Some moths at last... 3 Pale Brindled Beauties, a Dotted Border and a Clouded Drab.

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Clouded Drab (left) and Dotted Border (right), Bawdeswell, 28th February

 

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Pale Brindled Beauties, Bawdeswell, 28th February

 

Monday 27th February

On the way back down we stopped in Cumbria. It's been over 10 years since I saw an adult drake Smew so we started off today at Talkin Tarn where the 'white nun' performed nicely! There were also 40 Goldeneye here.

After this we spent the rest of the morning birding the south side of the Solway. There were huge flocks of Barnacle Goose and Pink-footed Goose all the way from Rockcliffe to Skinburness. Some were out of view but we searched through many thousands in the hope of finding some more unusual species. In the end though all we found was a Tundra Bean Goose at Skinburness. Enjoyable though - I shall pay this area more attention when I'm visiting parents in winter time in future! After lunch with mum and dad we headed home - back to work tomorrow :-(

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Smew, Tiffin Tarn, 27th February

 

Sunday 26th February

Most of the birds we saw at Loch Eriboll were near the mouth of the loch. You can view across to an island called Eilean Hoan which is worth scoping for geese - last time I was up here there were hundreds of Barnacle Geese there and this time again, at least 170 Barnacle Geese. Most of 6 Great Northern Divers were in this area too, as were 4 Long-tailed Ducks. Further west the bay at Sangobeg contained 2 more Great Northern Divers and 16 Black Guillemots. Plenty of Rock Doves and Hooded Crows in this corner of Scotland too.

Arguably the best bird of the trip was at Durness - at least the only taxonomic form I saw that I'd never seen before. It was on a telegraph wire in the village, a Redwing! It was a dark bird with heavy blotchy streaking on its underparts and deep red flanks - surely an Icelandic Redwing (race coburni) - my first! These are, I think, regular in NW Scotland but further south they are relatively rarely recorded. That may have a lot to do with the challenge of identifying them though as although this one seemed distinctive a comparison of online photos taken in Iceland with birds wintering in southern England reveals a huge amount of overlap in most features. A huge flock of geese went down out of sight before we'd identified them but we did find 20 Greylag Geese and 80 Barnacle Geese at Balnakiel. There were also 4 Iceland Gulls here, a Great Northern Diver in the bay, Raven and 4 Snow Buntings flew over and nice flock of 16 Twite were by the farm buildings.

Many of the inland lochs in this part of Scotland seemed to be totally birdless but Loch Caladail was an exception. Good numbers of wildfowl here including Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated Diver and Slavonian Grebe were among these while the shoreline held 2 Greenland White-fronted Geese among 17 Eurasian White-fronted Geese. For the next few hours we were immersed in the most extraordinary scenery in the UK's best kept secret that is the far NW of Scotland. It didn't matter that there were no birds for miles on end, save for a pair of Whooper Swans at Lochan na Glamhaichd.

We left the main road at Loch Inchard as I knew from my previous visit that the harbour at Kinlochbervie might be good for white-winged gulls. A distant field on the shore of Loch Innis na Bà Buidhe held 4 Iceland Gulls, probably 2 second-winters and 2 older birds, possibly adults. Very nearby Kinlochbervie harbour held another 4 Iceland Gulls, all apparently second-winters. A Merlin chased a passerine through here before we headed back to the main road. Further south Langor Bridge provided a bird we'd been keeping an eye out for for most of the morning - a pair of Golden Eagles. These put on a good display and one was even visible on the deck for a bit, but a long way off. We then took the minor road to Tarbet and Fanagmore (where there was a Black Guillemot). There's a small loch here (Loch Gobhloch where on a previous visit I noticed a constant procession of gulls dropping in to bathe and rest a while before moving on - I'd found a suspected Kumlien's Gull here previously although in those days there wasn't enough information about them to be sure about the ID. Today gulls were dropping in here briefly in just the same way as I remembered from my 1998 visit - only this time there weren't any interesting ones among them. Back on the main road we saw a pair of Golden Eagles again - these were over 3 miles away from the previous birds but they have pretty big territories so it's possible they were the same pair.

Next noteworthy birds were at Badcall where a flock of about 60 Herring Gulls contained no less than 10 Iceland Gulls. Nearby there were another 5 Iceland Gulls at Loch Bad nam Mult. We continued heading south to Ullapool, pausing to watch 2 Whooper Swans at Loch Awe, 2 Ravens at Lochan an Ais and another distant Iceland Gull at Ardmair. Given our success with Iceland Gulls so far we expected Ullapool to be teaming with them, but that wasn't the case: eventually we counted just 4 Iceland Gulls here. Also Barnacle Goose among 37 Greylag Geese, and 2 Black Guillemots.

We figured we had just enough daylight to get to Gruinard Bay so headed down there. En route Little Loch Broom held a few bits and pieces including 2 Red-throated and 2 Great Northern Divers, and a Harbour Porpoise. At Gruinard Bay there were more Great Northern Divers - I saw at least a dozen but Andrew reckons there were a good deal more than that. Also Black Guillemot here and a Weasel crossed the road at Cuilleig.

All in all this weekend we saw 46 Iceland Gulls, the vast majority being birds that hadn't previously been reported. That's more in two days than I'd seen in the previous 40 years!

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Smoo (left) and Icelandic Redwing, Durness (right), 26th February

 

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Rock Dove, Balnakeil, 26th February

 

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Twite, Balnakeil, 26th February

 

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Iceland Gull, Balnakiel (left) and Strath Dionard (right), 26th February

 

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Iceland Gulls, Kinlochbervie, 26th February

 

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Iceland Gulls, Kinlochbervie, 26th February - the right hand bird clearly had darker centres to the primaries than the left hand bird, but is it enough to call it a Kumlien's Gull?

 

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Iceland Gulls, Kinlochbervie, 26th February - three birds in the left hand picture - the right hand two are the same birds as the previous two photos; the flying bird may be the same bird with dark primaries, but I'm not certain - what's with the pale wedge at the tips of P4-5?

 

Golden Eagles, Laxford Bridge, 26th February

 

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Tarbet, 26th February - with Handa Island back left

 

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Fanagmore, 26th February

 

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Black Guillemot, Fanagmore (left) and Buzzard, Scourie, 26th February

 

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Scourie, 26th February

 

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Ardvreck Castle and Loch Assynt, 26th February

 

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Kylesku (left) and somewhere between Ledmore and Ullapool (right), 26th February

 

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Iceland Gulls, Ullapool, 26th February - there were 2 adults here; the 4 flight shots are definitely all the same bird but I think the one on the water was a different bird; the flying bird had a little grey in the outer primaries suggesting Kumlien's, but the pattern didn't seem to be quite right... comments welcome!

 

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Iceland Gull, Ullapool, 26th February

 

Saturday 25th February

A look round Wick harbour and bay produced Great Northern Diver, Purple Sandpiper and some Rock Doves, but initially failed to reveal the expected white-winged gulls. Then I noticed 3-4 gulls over the other side of the bay in a small field on the headland, and 2 of them seemed to be Iceland. We headed round and got good views of 4 Iceland Gulls which we aged as adult and 3 second-winters. As we were about to leave two more flew over - one we assumed was one of the same birds, but the photos prove otherwise - could it even be a very subtle Kumlien's? The other was a younger looking bird, which I took in the field to be a new, juvenile Iceland Gull, but it has a lot of pale at the base of the bill for a juvenile Iceland - and the bill looks quite long in the photos - did we stuff up a small first-winter Glaucous Gull?

Between here and Thurso the fields held a number of goose flocks. The first at Winless contained about 100 Eurasian White-fronted Geese and a similar number of Greylags, and among them were 2 Greenland White-fronted Geese and 3 Tundra Bean Geese. Another flock at Tarroul was much larger and consisted mainly of Pink-feet but most of the flock remained out of view from the roads. Even larger numbers were in the Durran area but these had been disturbed by a farmer and dispersed widely. Of those we managed to view most were Greylags and Pink-feet but there were also at least 50 White-fronted Geese and 20 Tundra Bean Geese. Another field in this area contained 2 gulls - both Iceland Gulls, while another Iceland Gull was with Herring Gulls nearby. Loch Watten held Slavonian Grebe and another adult Iceland Gull paused here briefly.

We arrived at Dunnet Bay just after 12.00 and checked the gulls and waders on the beach, unaware that anything interesting had been seen here. An odd Black-headed Gull made me think of Bonaparte's briefly, being small and having a dark shawl, but the dark feathers on the nape were late retained juvenile feathers and this also explained the odd wing pattern; the bill was typical of Black-headed Gull and eliminated any thoughts of it being something rarer. Later we bumped into another birder who informed us that a Bonaparte's Gull had been seen there in the morning! I was a bit suspicious but found out later that it had been an adult, so not the same bird I'd seen. We also found out that it had been seen at 12.00 - we must have only just missed it! It's even possible it was there when we arrived as a beach buggy flushed all the birds from the beach before I'd finished checking them carefully, but I don't think so - I think I'd checked them enough to pick out an adult Bonaparte's Gull had there been one there. It was good here though - the bay was full of Long-tailed Ducks - bare minimum of 50 but probably a lot more; there were 2 Great Northern Divers there and 30 Purple Sandpipers on the beach.

St John's Loch has turned up Lesser Scaup before and I fancied finding my own so had been thinking of checking this loch carefully when we came up. Unfortunately someone else had the same idea a few days earlier and beat me to it, so not a self-found bird, but the Lesser Scaup was still there, along with half a dozen Greater Scaup. The loch also held a flock of Greylag Geese among which were 2 Tundra Bean Geese. Also a Brambling nearby at Ham.

Thurso and Scrabster Harbour have recently held the largest numbers of Iceland Gulls that I ever remember being reported from any mainland UK site, and among them a couple of Kumlien's Gulls. We saw one more Iceland Gull on the way to Thurso and looked forward to seeing lots more when we got there - but when we arrived we couldn't find a single white-winged gull! Scrabster Harbour wasn't much better either, with just 3 Iceland Gulls bringing the day's total to 14. All three looked like classic Icelands in the field, but photos of one of them appear a bit more promising - did we overlook another subtle Kumlien's? I don't know if birds like this really are Kumlien's or not, but I reckon it's as good as one that was recently photographed in Cleveland. The harbour was good for other things, including close views of both Red-throated and Great Northern Diver and a brief Black Guillemot.

After this we headed west along the top of Scotland, heading into some amazing scenery the likes of which are unmatched by anywhere I know of in the UK. Sandside Bay held 8 Long-tailed Ducks, Great Northern Diver, Black Guillemot and Purple Sandiper, and a few flocks of Greylag Geese were seen in various places. As we headed further west and dusk arrived Red Deer appeared in small groups beside the road - 35 in total. We reached Loch Eriboll by dark and checked in to a B&B in that area.

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Iceland Gull, Wick, 25th February - I think too immature for a third-winter but with a pale eye and grey scapulars it must be second-winter

 

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Iceland Gull(s), Wick, 25th February - two virtually identical birds were present (not sure if these photos show both of them or just one) - we aged these as second-winters on the basis of their extensively pale base to the mandible, but unlike the previous bird above they had dark eyes and were worn to the point of looking uniform whitish with hardly a trace of the feather marbling visible when at rest. Are we right, or can advanced worn juveniles look this pale-billed?

 

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Iceland Gull (left) and Herring Gull (right), Wick, 25th February - a nice adult Iceland!

 

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Iceland Gull, Wick, 25th February - this bird flew over at the end and I assumed it was one of the birds already seen that had just gone out of view, but the photos prove it was in fact a new bird; they also show a hint of dark in the outer primaries - is this a Kumlien's?

 

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white-winged gull sp., Wick, 25th February - this one flew over with the last one and was small, identified at the time as a juvenile Iceland. But the photos show a paler base to the bill than I thought I saw in the field and a longer-looking bill. Were we right, or is this a small Glaucous Gull? Not convinced... let me know what you think!

 

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Greenland White-fronted Geese, Winless, 25th February

 

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Tundra Bean Geese, Winless, 25th February

 

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Eurasian White-fronted Geese, Greylag Geese and a couple of Tundra Bean Geese, Winless, 25th February

 

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Iceland Gulls, Durran, 25th February - both birds seem to have darkish bills but I suspect this is more to do with mud than their actual colour; are these both second-winters? The darker marbled one has a pale eye (as does the other to a lesser degree)

 

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Lesser Scaup (left) and Tundra Bean Goose (right), St John's Loch, 25th February - the Lesser is at the back left; it's a Greater Scaup with its back to us front right!

 

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Purple Sandpipers, Dunnet Bay, 25th February

 

Long-tailed Ducks, Dunnet Bay, 25th February

 

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Iceland Gull, Scrabster Harbour, 25th February - is this a Kumlien's? It has a little dark in the outer primaries and on the tail... better than this one, if that's really a Kumlien's...

 

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Great Northern Diver, Scrabster Harbour, 25th February

 

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Red-throated Diver, Scrabster Harbour, 25th February

 

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Eider, Scrabster Harbour, 25th February - quite a bit of variation in the bills of the males - not sure what this has to say about their origins, if anything!

 

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Red Deer, Coldbackie (left) and west of Hope (right), 25th February

 

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Loch Madie (left) and Kyle of Tongue (right), 25th February

 

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Kyle of Tongue, 25th February

 

Friday 24th February

We headed north overnight reaching Aviemore at dawn, so we decided to have a quick drive round on the off-chance of stumbling across Capercaillie or Black Grouse beside the road. No such luck (just a Red Squirrel) and a short walk in Abernethy Forest didn't deliver much, nor did Loch Garten. Nearby 9 Whooper Swans were on a small pool near Boat of Garten. Andrew was keen to see Crested Tit so I suggested Carrbridge, a location where I'd seen them before. This was more successful and we got the best views we've ever had of Crested Tits.

At Inverness we found 3 Slavonian Grebes at Longman, along with various other wildfowl including Long-tailed Ducks. A Red Kite flew over the A9 at Black Isle before we spent some time in the Dornoch area in the hope of relocating the Greater Yellowlegs that had been seen there last weekend and a few weeks earlier. No joy but 5 Greenshanks at Loch Fleet. Various other stops along the way to Wick involved sea duck such as more Long-tailed Ducks (Embo, Golspie & Brora), lots of wild Greylag and Pink-footed Geese, Whooper Swans (7 at Loch Watenan), a Purple Sandpiper and several Hooded Crows and hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crows. Potentially interesting was a slightly pale-winged gull at Brora but this was at best a hybrid Herring x Glaucous Gull and probably just a Herring Gull with pale (bleached) primaries.

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Crested Tit, Carrbridge (left) and Hooded Crow with Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrid, near Tain (right), 24th February - the right hand bird is more Hoodie-like than many hybrids so is perhaps a backcross

 

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Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrids, near Tain, 24th February

 

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Red-breasted Merganser, Loch Fleet, 24th February

 

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rainbows, Embo (left) and Loch Fleet (right), 24th February

 

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Common Scoters, Embo, 24th February

 

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Goldeneye, Wick, 24th February

 

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probable Herring Gull (or perhaps Herring Gull x Glaucous Gull hybrid), Brora, 24th February

 

Thursday 23rd February

My brother and I were originally planning to spend a long weekend birding in soutern France or northern Spain but in the end neither of us had time to organise the trip so we decided to stick to the UK and head up to northern Scotland for some quality winter birding.

First I had an extra day which allowed me to nip down to Gwent where a Yellowthroat was found last week. Those who had seen it had raved about it - a mega rare American warbler and a stunner to look at! So at 3ish this morning I headed down to south Wales where I joined about 70 other folk - more than I thought would be there during the week. No-one had seen it when I arrived, nor during the first hour or so while I familiarised myself with the site and had a quick check of all the most likely spots where it had been seen previously. Then a dog-walker informed us that it had spent most of yesterday in brambles at the top end of one of the hedgerows - this seemed a sensible place to concentrate our efforts and I stood well back from the brambles and waited. Unfortunately 90% of today's twitchers have never bothered to learn field craft, and several of them decided to stand right next to the patch of brambles. Some of them were looking for the bird, but in the wrong place (they were looking high - Yellowthroats tend to keep low) while others of them were just gassing. It was pretty clear to me that the Yellowthroat wasn't going to show while they were there, but what attempts I made to suggest people stood further back were largely ignored - or if someone did take notice then someone else just took their place.

After a long and frustrating wait I clearly heard the Yellowthroat calling from the brambles right next to where people were standing. I was a fair way off and heard it well enough, but the people standing right next to it didn't even notice - I started to doubt myself! Then for the first time in ages people moved away from the brambles without being replaced by more people. Almost immediately I saw the Yellowthroat come out of the brambles inches away from where people had been standing, skirt round the edge and then drop in to feed on the ground exactly in the spot one of the others had been standing. It was on view on-and-off for a few seconds but as people realised I'd got it they rushed straight towards it and, unsurprisingly it went to ground again. Once I'd pulled the worst offenders back from right next to the brambles it popped up again, but not for long enough for me to get any photos. The crowd was still too close - and too noisy - and over the next hour or so it gave only the briefest of views.

Then, with virtually the whole crowd of twitchers waiting next to the clump it was in and supposedly looking for it, the Yellowthroat flew out of the brambles they were looking at, calling loudly. I was standing apart from the crowd, next to another clump of brambles, and I could hear it clearly. None of them noticed a thing! Incredibly it flew straight towards me and dived into the brambles literally a foot or two in front of me! It immediately went straight down and out of view. There was one other guy near me and he moved round to see if he could see it from the other side while I hastily moved back away from the clump to give it space. The main crowd continued watching the original patch (or just stood near it gassing) but one of them noticed us looking and decided to walk over. But instead of keeping a wide bearth he headed straight to the bramble patch meaning I had to call over to him to get him to keep back. The same thing happened with someone else and this alerted the whole crowd to the fact that it had moved and the whole lot started charging towards the brambles.

The next few hours were extremely frustrating. The majority of twitchers stayed on one side of the bushes but not far enough back, and not quietly enough. Some of them got the odd glimpse of the Yellowthroat, but it didn't provide prolonged views. I stood quietly round the other side, partially obscuring myself in the vegetation, and waited patiently. Every now and then a few people would decide to look this side, but they charged round and stood in the open, only a few feet away from the brambles, crashed around, yapped their heads off, and wondered why the Yellowthroat was so elusive. Eventually when I'd been left alone for long enough the Yellowthroat emerged my side. I should then have been treated to great views but no, the second anyone saw me lift my bins or camera they deduced it was showing from my side of the bush and they charged round immediately causing it to go straight back in and out of view.

This happened several times and I realised that there was no way with this bunch of numpties carrying on that I would ever get satisfactory views, and so I left. The twitching community has always had its fair share of idiots and people with no field craft or common sense, but in days gone by these were minority elements. I'm not saying there weren't any competent birders or twitchers who understood field craft in today's crowd, but as a crowd they displayed no competence and no craft. It was a very frustrating experience, and one I won't be in a hurry to repeat.

I'd hoped to see the Yellowthroat well early on, then see the nearby Lesser Scaup and perhaps Glossy Ibis before heading up north in good time, but the farce at the Yellowthroat delayed me severely. I still went on to see the Lesser Scaup and this really saved the day for me. It was a cracking bird and showed extremely well and for most of the time there were no other twitchers present. Best views I've ever had of Lesser Scaup and a much needed reminder of why I do, sometimes, enjoy twitching. If only all twitches could be like that! This site also held a Whooper Swan.

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Lesser Scaup, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, 23rd February

 

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Whooper Swan, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, 23rd February

 

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Lesser Black-backed Gull, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, 23rd February

 

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Gull sp. (left) and Herring Gull (right), Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, 23rd February (update 2014 - I had the left hand gull down as Lesser Black-backed but now I'm doubtful - have a look at the other images here and let me know what you think - Yellow-legged?)

 

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Common Yellowthroat, Rhiwderin, 23rd February

 

Tuesday 21st Februray

An Early Moth tonight, in what has so far been a rubbish month for moths.

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Early Moth, Bawdeswell, 21st February

 

Monday 20th February

Best bird during today's lunch break was a Merlin between Fring and Inmere.

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Merlin (left) and Grey Partridge (right), between Fring and Inmere, 20th February

 

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Grey Partridges, between Fring and Inmere, 20th February

 

Sunday 19th February

Popped in to Bylaugh STW on the way home this morning and found 2 Chiffchaffs there.

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Goldcrest, Bylaugh, 19th February

 

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Buzzard, Bylaugh, 19th February

 

Friday 17th February

Warmer conditions resulted in the first moth for a while - a Pale Brindled Beauty.

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Pale Brindled Beauty, Bawdeswell, 17th February

 

Tuesday 14th February

Another attempt to see the Black Brant/Black Brant hybrid at Wells in dull conditions failed, though there were a few Brents there.

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Oystercatcher (left) and Dark-bellied Brent Goose (right), Wells, 14th February

 

Sunday 12th February

Got a call from Dave to say that he'd been watching an Iceland Gull at Dereham Sewage Works, found earlier by Ian. Headed down there but it had flown off while he was talking to me and didn't reappear. Had to make do with 2-3 Little Egrets and a Grey Wagtail.

 

Saturday 11th February

Started off at Swanton Morley this morning in the hope that there would be enough ice-free water to hold a Smew of two. There was, but it didn't hold a Smew or two. The small patch of unfrozen water (it was -10 degrees) was crammed full of wildfowl, but not really much of interest except a good count of 25 Pochard. Eventually a Goosander flew in making the visit just about worthwhile. By now Dave had emerged from bed and I agreed to meet him at Sparham Pools - on the way there I discovered a pair of Goosander and 3 Teal in a ditch at Mill Street.

We didn't spend long at Sparham Pools - the main pool was virtually all frozen - but paused briefly at the Catch 22 lake at Easthaugh. Dave had found a first-winter White-fronted Goose here yesterday and it was still present today - a good bird for the valley though just outside of my local patch boundary. Not completely convinced it was a pure bird though - it seems to be really tiny.

We fancied seeing the adult Iceland Gull at Lowestoft - neither of us had seen an adult for a good many years. From the south side of the docks we quickly found Mediterranean Gull and Shag in the docks and in the distance we could see the Iceland Gull on a roof. We walked round, but by the time we got there it had moved on, so we continued to Ness Point where we enjoyed 6 Purple Sandpipers. On the way back we found the Iceland Gull and, eventually, we got good views of this stunner.

Large numbers of duck are released near Bungay for shooting and for some reason many of them find their way to Lowestoft where they favour Leathes Ham. Among them Andrew Easton has photographed all manner of interesting hybrids and I thought the opportunity to see if any of them were around today was too good to pass off. The presence of a Smew at the same site made it easier to persuade Dave this was a good plan. The Smew was quickly and easily located and afforded good views, as did all the wildfowl here. The Smew is considered to be a wild bird but lots of the duck present bore colour rings so it was pretty obvious most had been released. The first hybrid I picked out appeared to be Tufted Duck x Ferruginous Duck, although it differed from some examples of this hybrid in that it lacked obvious reddish tones on the crown. Next was a bird that could easily be overlooked as a female Wigeon but it had a pink, not blue, bill. It also had more markings on the breast and flank feathers and eventually it showed a Gadwall-like patch on the wings. I assume it was Wigeon x Gadwall therefore. A more distinctive hybrid closely resembled a Gadwall but had a distinct and clearly demarcated pale cheek and green plumage behind the eye. This bird also seems to be a Wigeon x Gadwall hybrid, though other examples of this hybrid don't have such an obvious pale cheek. At this site a constant procession of people turned up loaded with food for the rats. I assume they were intending to feed the ducks, but if the ducks ate any more they would have fallen through the ice, so it was down to the burgening local rat population to clean up.

Next we went to Lake Lothing where we failed to locate the Black-throated Diver but did see Peregrine, Black Redstart and Kingfisher. I'd been thinking of heading up to the Broads when we finished at Lowestoft but there wasn't time now, so instead we decided to check some of the gravel pits around Bungay on the way home. Nothing very exciting at Broome or Earsham Gravel Pits, but nice to familiarise ourselves with sites we'd not been to before. I knew from a past visit to Flixton Gravel Pits that this was a location that sometimes attracted ducks of rather dubious origin and wondered if this was the release site from where the birds at Leathes Ham come. The ice-free part of the lake was heaving with wildfowl, of a similar mix to the birds at Leathes Ham and here too many of them were wearing aviculturalist's rings. Lots of Pintail, Wigeon, Gadwall, Pochard and Tufted Duck and among them a leucistic drake Red-crested Pochard, a first-winter male Goldeneye (wild?) and another (drake) Wigeon x Gadwall hybrid. What must have been the best bird for the site walked straight past us and I probably wouldn't have seen it were it not for Dave tapping me on the shoulder and pointing it out - a Knot! An excellent inland record - better than my Grey Plover last weekend.

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mixed wildfowl, Swanton Morley, 11th February

 

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Goosanders, Mill Street, 11th February

 

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Iceland Gull, Lowestoft, 11th February

 

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Purple Sandpipers, Ness Point, Lowestoft, 11th February

 

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Grey Plover, Lowestoft, 11th February

 

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Mediterranean Gull (left) and Bar-tailed Godwit (right), Lowestoft, 11th February

 

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Tufted Duck x Ferruginous Duck hybrid, Leathes Ham, 11th February

 

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Wigeon x Gadwall hybrids, Leathes Ham, 11th February

 

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released leucistic Pintail, Leathes Ham, 11th February

 

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released leucistic Wigeon, Leathes Ham, 11th February

 

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Brown Rats, Leathes Ham, 11th February

 

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Cormorant, Lake Lothing, 11th February

 

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Redshank (left) and Herring Gull (right), Lake Lothing, 11th February

 

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Peregrine, Lowestoft (left) and Lapwing, Earsham (right), 11th February

 

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Knot (left) and leucistic Red-crested Pochard (right), Flixton GPs, 11th February

 

Friday 10th February

Nipped down to Raynham Lake in my lunch break where the Greylag Goose flock was in the snow and conveniently close to the road. Among them was a party of 8 White-fronted Geese, mostly immature . I saw 4 here in early December but they were all adults and I don't think there were 4 adults in today's group, so presumably completely different birds. Also the long-staying hybrid Barnacle Goose x White-fronted Goose still there.

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White-fronted Geese, Raynham Lake, 10th February

 

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presumed Barnacle Goose x White-fronted Goose hybrid, Raynham Lake, 10th February

 

Sunday 5th February

Popped in to Wroxham Broad at lunch time on the way home from Norwich. No sign of the Ring-necked Duck - in fact very few ducks at all. One surprise though in the form of a Grey Plover on the far shore. I've seen very few waders of any sort at this location (just the odd Oystercatcher and Common Sandpiper so far as I recall) so one that's relatively scarce inland was unexpected. Apparently there was a bit of cold weather movement today with a few odd waders turning up inland, including at least a couple of other Grey Plovers.

With a migraine coming on I resisted the temptation to brave the snow and head out to the east coast and instead popped home for lunch and drugs. Once these were consumed and I felt a bit better I headed out to Swanton Morley where the wildfowl was congregating on the only lake with a significant ice-free area. Among them were 12 Wigeon, 17 Gadwall and 16 Pochard - all relatively good counts for this site. A Kingfisher was glimpsed and 2 Snipe were flushed.

Grey Plover, Wroxham Broad, 5th February

 

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Marsh Tit (left) and Treecreeper (right), Swanton Morley, 5th February

 

Saturday 4th February

I needed to get some stuff done by Sunday morning and finally completed it at 1.00 am this morning, so that left me the day to do some birding (after a late start). I was very pleased to find the flock of White-fronts at Holkham were close to the road and affording great views, so I settled down for a good look through them. It was a good sized flock - I counted at least 490 White-fronted Geese, though some were out of view so I imagine the true figure was over 500 - the largest number I've ever seen here (or anywhere). Among them were 34 Barnacle Geese and the birds I most wanted to see here: 5 Greenland White-fronted Geese. In Norfolk these usually turn up among Pink-footed Geese so this exceptional flock (5 is the largest number ever seen in the county) provided a rare opportinity to study them together with their Eurasian relatives.

Next I went to Burnham Overy - one of my favourite places for birding. The field containing the Lapland Buntings had been ploughed but there were still some around - I saw a few flying over a few times - about 10 in total I think. Down on the marshes a Pale-bellied Brent Goose flew over and then I discovered a Tundra Bean Goose among the feral Greylags. With up to 3 Buzzards and 3 Marsh Harriers in the air at one time I kept looking for the Rough-legs, but none of them were even close (despite one being reported at the time).

Next I went looking for Pygmy Cormorants at Holkham Park (don't ask why). At the entrance to the park a flock of at least 15 Brambling distracted me, as did some of the 6 Nuthatches I saw around the park, and 2 Treecreepers. The lake was mostly frozen, but the ice-free areas around the islands were heaving with duck. Among these was a female Red-crested Pochard. Quite a dark bird with a little less clear-cut cheek patch than I'd have liked, but I think it was a pure bird - hybrids are normally more obviously wrong. Then at the east end of the lake I discovered the best bird of the day - an interesting hybrid duck, though one whose identity has left me scratching my head. Assuming it's a straightforward F1 hybrid (not a trigen with 3 species involved) then I can't come up with two species that would account for all the features I observed, but hopefully after a bit more research I will be able to come up with at least a likely ID.

Update: after contacting a few friends who are into hybrid wildfowl the most likely ID, at least if only two species are involved, is intersex Wood Duck x Pintail. Hybrids seem to be more prone to gender anomalies than pure birds, so that perhaps isn't as unlikely as it might sound!

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Greenland White-fronted Geese, Holkham, 4th February

 

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Eurasian White-fronted Geese, Holkham, 4th February

 

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Barnacle and White-fronted Geese, Holkham, 4th February

 

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Pheasant (left) and Buzzard (right), Holkham, 4th February

 

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Tundra Bean Goose, Buirnham Overy, 4th February

 

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Treecreeper, Holkham Park (left) and Dunlin, Buirnham Overy (right), 4th February

 

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unidentified hybrid duck, possibly intersex Wood Duck x Pintail, Holkham Park, 4th February

 

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Brambling (left) and Red-crested Pochard (right), Holkham Park, 4th February

 

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Coots, Holkham Park, 4th February

 

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Fallow Deer, Holkham Park, 4th February

 

Wednesday 1st February

Spent lunch at Sandringham today where 2 Nuthatches performed briefly at the feeders.

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Nuthatch, Sandringham, 1st February

 

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Blue Tits, Sandringham, 1st February

 

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Great Tit (left) and Coal Tit (right), Sandringham, 1st February

 

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