March 2013


Easter Sunday, 31st March

Happy Easter!

A Red Kite flew over the A1067 near Attlebridge as I drove to Norwich this morning. A good look round the patch later on produced my first (!!!) Chiffchaff of the year - a silent individual in the sort of habitat I'd expect to find a wintering bird. Utterly extraordinary how by the end of March if any breeding Chiffchaffs have arrived they've not started singing yet. They're normally in by the second week of March and by the middle of the month I'd expect to be hearing them in their dozens. For not a single bird to be singing in the whole of March is really bizarre. I can't help wondering what the long-term impact of this incessant cold NE wind will be. I can't think of another time in birding career that the arrival of a common breeding migrant species has been delayed by as long as this - even if the weather isn't particularly good they usually manage to push through. I just hope they're still to come, rather than arrived and died in the cold. And the long-range forecast still shows no let up.

A few other birds around the patch - the pair of escaped Ruddy Shelducks, 2 White Wagtails (probably the same birds as before) and a Little Owl at a new location.

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Ruddy Shelduck, private site, 31st March


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Snipe, Rawhall Gravel Pits, 31st March


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Kestrel (left) and Treecreeper (right), Bittering, 31st March


Saturday 30th March

Only had a short time on the patch this afternoon - just enough to see Green Sandpiper and White Wagtail (probably one of the same birds).

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Barn Owl, Rawhall GPs (left) and White Wagtail, private site (right), 30th March


Good Friday, 29th March

A quick look round the patch didn't produce much today - a Marsh Tit at Rawhall Wood was about the nearest it got to excitement.

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Pheasants, Rawhall GPs, 29th March


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cattle, Hell Pit, Bittering, 29th March


Wednesday 27th March

Got a call from Dave just before leaving work advising me he'd found a Knot at Rawhall. Another excellent bird for the valley - I've never seen one in the Wensum before. I was planning to pop in on the way home anyway, so I duly connected. Also 15 Snipe and a Green Sandpiper.

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Anchomenus dorsalis, Rawhall GPs, 27th March


Tuesday 26th March

For the second day running a Tenebrosus Pheasant was the highlight of an uneventful lunch break.

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Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Coxford, 26th March


Monday 25th March

Nothing of note in my lunch break but a fine specimen of a Tenebrosus Pheasant:

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Pheasant (var. tenebrosus), Ringstead, 25th March


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Redshank, Thornham, 25th March


Sunday 24th March

Not much on the patch this morning apart from 5 Barn Owls and a brief Pintail. The Curlew and the Red-crested Pochard remain.

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Barn Owl, Rawhall Wood, 24th March - making use of a Roadside Nature Reserve


Saturday 23rd March

If the identity of the recently-present female White Wagtail was in any doubt then there was no such doubt about the male White Wagtail that joined it this morning. The 2 Ruddy Shelducks (at least one an escaped bird) were still present at the same private site. At Rawhall one of the Curlews was still present but we couldn't pull anything else interesting out of the bitterly cold conditions. We even tried Swanton Morley again in case a Lesser Scaup was lurking there, but it was still rubbish with just 16 Tufties and a single Pochard.

A lovely snowy afternoon saw the wedding of two good friends - a white wedding in more than one sense! Congratulations Jennifer and Simon!

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escaped Ruddy Shelduck, private site, 23rd March


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White Wagtail, private site (left) and leucistic (or something like that) Woodpigeon, Swanton Morley (right), 23rd March


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Jennifer & Simon, 23rd March


Thursday 21st March

Nothing hugely exciting at the patch before work this morning (one of the Ruddy Shelducks) but this evening I discovered 2 Curlews at Rawhall. That triples the number of Curlews I've ever seen in the Wensum Valley this side of Fakenham and is the 15th species of wader that Dave and I have seen on the new patch in the last 15 days.

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Curlew, Rawhall Gravel Pits, 21st March


Wednesday 20th March

Popped in to Wolferton during my lunch break where I got Golden Pheasant. On the way back paused at the Sandingham feeders where Marsh Tit and Siskin were the highlights. Checked the patch again on the way home, finding only the Mallard-liking Red-crested Pochard.

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Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, 20th March


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Coal Tit (left) and Siskin (right), Sandringham, 20th March


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Robin, Sandringham, 20th March


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Grey Squirrel, Sandringham, 20th March


Tuesday 19th March

The escaped Ruddy Shelducks were present at the private site again this evening along with a Dunlin. A flock of pipits and wagtails included one that Dave had found yesterday and identified as White Wagtail. It didn't look particularly good in the failing light and I wasn't convinced but while I was watching it it suddenly flew off calling. I noted a slightly higher-pitched and purer callnote than I'm used to hearing from the local Pied Wagtails, and as the rest of the flock followed it off this provided me with immediate comparison confirming the difference. I was aware of supposed differences in call between Pied and White Wagtail but have never really got to grips with it before. I couldn't recall how others had described the differences but listening to some recordings on Xeno-canto it seems that what I noticed does indeed support Dave's ID.


Monday 18th March

A brief look at the patch before work didn't turn anything up but a return visit on the way home produced a Redshank at Rawhall which Dave had found during the day. The area also produced my 4th Barn Owl of the day and a calling pair of Little Owls.


Sunday 17th March

Spent a lot of today birding the valley. Among the highlights were Peregrine, the escaped Ruddy Shelduck, Green Sandpiper, 28 Snipe at one site and at least 12 at another (but no sign of the Jack Snipe Dave flushed earlier) and 3-4 Barn Owls.

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escaped Ruddy Shelduck, private site (left) and Sparrowhawk, Bittering (right), 17th March


Peregrine, Creaking Gate Lake, 17th March


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Winter Polypore, Creaking Gate Lake, 17th March - the penny is to give an idea on size - many thanks to James for the ID


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tiny fungus, possibly runty example of Winter Polypore, Creaking Gate Lake, 17th March - the larger piece was no more than about 5-6mm across - both this and the typical Winter Polypore above were on the same dead branch lying on the ground, birch I think


Saturday 16th March

Nothing at Rawhall this morning but a few birds at some other sites in the valley, including 2 Ruddy Shelducks and a Red-crested Pochard. Note that one of the Ruddy Shelducks has a blue leg tag so is presumably an escaped bird.

A Chestnut was the only moth tonight.

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Ruddy Shelducks, private site, 16th March - it was tempting to imagine that these two were behaving as a pair, but unless I'm mistaken they're both females. The one on the right has a blue leg tag, presumably therefore an escapee


Friday 15th March

No sign of the Ruddy Shelduck or much else at Rawhall this morning when I popped in before work, so I moved on to Bittering. Here a much better local bird was flying around - a Ringed Plover - my first in the valley area. Apart from that things like Marsh Tit and Treecreeper were the highlights. No sign of the plover when I returned after work.


Thursday 14th March

I tend not to take proper lunch breaks when working from home but today I did, and headed off to Rawhall. The Ruddy Shelduck was there again but not much else.

At home this evening 2 Dotted Borders and a probable Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana were the first moths for a week.

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Ruddy Shelduck, Rawhall GPs, 14th March


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Dotted Border, Bawdeswell, 14th March


Monday 11th March

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Carrion Crow, East Rudham, 11th March


Sunday 10th March

More birding the gravel pits in the Beetley and Bittering area produced a few bits and pieces like Grey Wagtail, Redpoll and a few Buzzards but sadly nothng to get excited about.


Saturday 9th March

A lie-in resulted in me seeing 1-2 Bramblings in the garden. I then had to head into town but once that was out of the way I spent the rest of the day birding the new patch. Rawhall delivered an extroadinary flock of 12 Dunlin - an amazing record for the Wensum Valley - in the 6 or so years I've been birding in the Wensum Valley I had seen a grand total of 1 Dunlin in the whole valley before. Dave and Kieran had seen 2 fly over a nearby gravel pit with a Grey Plover earlier in the day - Grey Plover is a real mega in the Wensum Valley! At Creaking Gate Lake a movement caught my eye and turned out to be a Woodcock scurrying along the ground beneath the trees. Marsh Tit was the next best bird here.


Thursday 7th March

Checked Rawhall and other nearby gravel pits this morning before work. Nothing doing. It had been earlier - Dave had got up earlier than me and scored with local-rare Bar-tailed Godwit and Peregrine. The early bird catches the worm.

Back at home Hebrew Character was the only moth.

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Roe Deer, Rawhall Gravel Pits, 7th March


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Hebrew Character, Bawdeswell, 7th March


Wednesday 6th March

Popped in to Rawhall on the way to work this morning - only had 5 minutes but enough to find a Ruddy Shelduck and see that the Little Ringed Plover was still present.

The lunch time search for the eagle produced only Red Kite (at Flitcham), lots of Buzzards and Barn Owl.

It turned out to be the best night so far this year for moths, not that that says a lot. A couple of Chestnuts represented the macros while micros consisted of probable Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana and Winter Shade Tortricodes alternella. The latter was only my second record here (following 2 last year on 9th March).

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Chestnuts, Bawdeswell, 6th March


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Winter Shade Tortricodes alternella (left) and probable Common Flat-body Agonopterix heracliana (right), Bawdeswell, 6th March


Tuesday 5th March

Dave found a Black-tailed Godwit at a new site near Beetley this afternoon - a good bird for the Wensum valley. I didn't rush out of work to see it as although I've never seen one this close to home it's not quite within the confines of my local patch. But when I did leave work I spoke to Dave and learned that he'd had 6 species of wader I decided to head straight there anyway, just to see the site! There's nowhere close to home where you can expect to see 6 species of wader on a single day - especially not in early March and especially not if they're not just flying over - this was sounding like a new site worth getting to know!

When I arrived it was almost dark but Dave had now found a 7th species of wader - an early Little Ringed Plover! There are single county records from 3rd and 4th March but this is the third earliest ever Norfolk record - a pretty good start for a new site! The Black-tailed Godwit continued to show along with 5 Snipe. A Grey Partridge called and a Little Owl sat calling from the top of a nearby tree. Looks like a really tasty site, at least by Wensum Valley standards, so definitely one I'll be visiting again. Not sure if it has a name, but as it's on Rawhall Lane just up from Rawhall hamlet I think for now Rawhall Gravel Pits is as good a name as any.

Lots of moths in the headlights coming home but only one at home - a late Dark Chestnut.

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Dark Chestnut, Bawdeswell, 5th March


Monday 4th March

Another March Moth this evening.


Sunday 3rd March

No birds today, except a Little Egret in front of Lenwade Mill. A March Moth appeared this evening.


Saturday 2nd March

Went to the Brecks again today as my brother was up and wanting to see some of the Breckland specials. Before meeting up with him I checked Wayland Wood, a site I've not visited for nearly 10 years. The site was once well known as one of the easiest places to see Golden Pheasant but following some management work there a few years ago they became much harder to find. So much harder that I was under the impression that they didn't occur there at all. A report of one there last year had me checking the county bird reports and I was surprised to find that records continued there far beyond when I thought they'd disappeared, so I decided to check it out early this morning. I didn't see any Pheasants, nor much else for that matter - Nuthatch and Treecreeper were heard but that was about the lot.

After this I checked Thompson Water which was pretty quiet apart from gullls. This site seems to be quite unusual - I presume it's really shallow as there are swathes of vegetation growing across parts of the lake. For some reason it reminds me of Mas d'Agon in the Camargue - if I return in the spring I will expect to see Whiskered Terns bouncing around there and Squacco Herons feeding among the vegetation in the lake. Today though it was just Black-headed Gulls and the odd Gadwall. Perhpaps it was the Cetti's Warbler singing across the back that was reminiscent of the Camargue - this was my first Breckland Cetti's I think and there still aren't all that many records from the area.

Next I returned to between Hilborough and Bodney Camp where we saw 3 Reeves's Pheasants last week with a view to showing them to my brother. He and Chris were already there watching them. We them moved on to near Great Cressingham where I located another 4 Reeves's Pheasants. I've still not seen a female in the Brecks though. A search for Goshawks looked like it would end in disappointment, with only the odd Woodlark to compensate, but at the eleventh hour a Goshawk duly appeared. A second Goshawk was interacting with a Marsh Harrier - which I imagine could be a rarer bird than Goshawk in the Brecks.

Willow Tits were the next target but although my site had delivered for a friend this morning, they weren't playing ball for my brother. Marsh Tits were better behaved, and these were the topic of more than one conversation today as they seem to be slowly heading the same way as Willow Tits, becoming harder to find in many places than they used to be.

Next up was the Eagle. Or rather it wasn't. We had a good look round but to no avail. Andrew headed off home via the Thetford Dipper & Otters while I decided to stay at Bunker's Hill til dusk. That tactic resulted in the ringtail Hen Harrier that's been knocking around for at least a few days but not a great deal else.

Back at home a Dotted Border appeared at the window though didn't seem to want to come in.

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Pheasant, Anmer (left) and Goldcrest, Houghton (right), 2nd March


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Fallow Deer, Houghton, 2nd March - though I don't doubt that these came from the deer park at Houghton Hall, they weren't actually within the confines of the park


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