November 2013

 

Saturday 30th November

Burnham Overy this morning was good as always, despite the weather being windier than I was expecting and much wetter than had been forecast. Highlight of the walk out to the dunes was an adult Black Brant. Not the most striking individual but I think it was good enough not to raise the hybrid flag. From Gun Hill the harbour held 2 Long-tailed Ducks, a female Eider and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers. As I headed over to Holkham Pines I fliushed a Short-eared Owl from the dunes. At least 30 White-fronted Geese were viewable from Joe Jordan hide and a Cetti's Warbler was calling nearby. The walk back produced repeat views of the Black Brant and now also 2 Barnacle Geese. Also 3 Lapland Buntings flew over the sea wall.

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Black Brant (left) and Red-breasted Merganser (right), Burnham Overy, 30th November

 

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Long-tailed Ducks, Burnham Overy, 30th November

 

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Common Seal, Burnham Overy, 30th November

 

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Scolt Head from Burnham Overy, 30th November

 

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Burnham Overy Staithe, 30th November

 

Friday 29th November

One more December Moth was the lot tonight.

 

Thursday 28th November

Another 4 December Moths tonight. A lot of people are recording exceptional numbers of these at the moment.

 

Wednesday 27th November

Driving through Bircham at lunch time I saw a lone white bird fly over the village - turned out to be an adult Mediterranean Gull. Arrived home to find a Winter Moth at the porch light while the MV light went on to attract a whopping 6 December Moths, double my previous best.

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December Moths, Bawdeswell, 27th November

 

Sunday 24th November

A Red Kite flew over the road between Thornage and Holt this morning. I was on my way back to Holt Lowes where I'd failed to see the Parrot Crossbills before heading off to Cornwall and where they had shown every day since. I hadn't been there long before they were located again and good views were obtained of several birds. There were about 10 or so birds in the flock and all the birds I saw well were certainly Parrot Crossbills, my first in Norfolk.

Next stop was Cley where I hoped to see a family of Brent Geese that James McCallum had told me about recently. Apparently there was a Pale-bellied Brent Goose paired to a Dark-bellied Brent Goose and accompanying 5 hybrid young. Pale x Dark-bellied Brent Goose hybrids are surprisingly rare and although I've suspected one or two before I've never definitely seen one. Well I found some weird looking juvenile Brent Geese which Dave and Kieran had seen the day before, but they weren't accompanied by a Pale-bellied adult. Although one or two were very pale (as much in the upperparts as the belly though - all birds showed broad pale fringes to the wing-coverts and on a couple this extended to the mantle giving them quite a pale-backed impression) - they weren't what I was expecting the hybrids to look like. Really not sure what to make of them though, so did check with James just to make sure they weren't his birds - thanks to James for confirming - they are not his hybrids!

Couldn't find anything among the Brents at Salthouse so headed west to Stiffkey Fen where I hoped the Greylag x White-fronted Goose hybrid I'd tentatively identified there a couple of weeks ago would still be around. It was, and I still think that's what it was, though as always I'm open to other ideas.

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Parrot Crossbills, Holt Lowes, 24th November

 

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Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Cley, 24th November - leucistic or just extremes of normal variation?

 

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Herring Gull (left) and Greylag Goose (right), Salthouse, 24th November

 

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probable White-fronted Goose x Greylag Goose hybrid, Stiffkey Fen, 24th November

 

Saturday 23rd November

My last morning in Cornwall and I didn't have long birding at Porthgwarra before having to head back and vacate the cottage. Even so, I managed to eke out a couple of interesting birds. First up was a Snipe which I flushed from the heather almost as soon as I reached the moor. It was a fat, bulky, heavy bird, or so it seemed, quite unlike how Snipe I'm used to seeing normally appear. Fortunately it called like a Snipe as soon as I saw it so I avoided that heart-stopping could-it-be-a-Great-Snipe moment, but it was an interesting bird all the same. I presume it was a Snipe of the race faeroensis. Not sure how regularly this northwestern race occurs in Cornwall but the information I can glean seems to suggest they usually winter in Ireland so it doesn't seem too far-fetched to think they might appear in Cornwall sometimes, if not often. I first became aware of faeroensis years ago when I stayed on Fair Isle - I remember the observatory staff warning us that they are often mistaken for Great Snipes there due to their larger bulk - but I'm not sure I've ever knowingly seen one before. I guess this observation isn't sufficient to record it as a definite faeroensis, but I'd bet that's what it was. Another 5 Snipe were later seen in flight, all looking normal.

I nearly didn't stop at Trevean Pool as I didn't have much time, but I decided I had just enough time to check it quickly. There was nothing at first but then a warbler flew across the pool from just behind me and landed on the opposite side. A Chiffchaff, but apparently lacking any yellow or green tones instead being a dull browny-grey colour. My immediate impressions were that it was a Siberian Chiffchaff, and as it moved off back through the trees behind the pool it began calling, confirming my suspicions.

Once out of the cottage we had an hour or two longer than we needed to get to the restaurant where we were booked in for lunch, so we paused at a few places along the route. Land's End car park produced 3 Black Redstarts and at Hayle a Peregrine put on a fantastic show. A drive round Colliford Lake didn't produce much except for some great views of a Merlin perched next to the road.

Finally we arrived at Gidleigh Park for lunch. It's a wonderful place nestled in deepest Dartmoor with incredibly beautiful surroundings and even more amazing food. We reckoned chef Michael Caine's two Mitchelin stars are very well-deserved!

apparent faeroensis Snipe, Porthgwarra (left) and Black Redstart, Land's End (right), 23rd November

 

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Black Redstart, Land's End, 23rd November

 

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Peregrine, Hayle, 23rd November

 

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Merlin, Colliford Lake, 23rd November - photographed through the windscreen

 

Friday 22nd November

Had a good look round Porthgwarra this morning. I flushed 7 Snipe from the pool - the first 6 flushing on approach and the last one from under my feet. That one felt a bit unlucky - should have been a Jack Snipe flushing from so close! That feeling quickly passed when I flushed another Snipe from under my feet - and that one was a Jack Snipe. A Peregrine sat on the cliffs in the distance and 2 Choughs flew over my head as I walked back down the road. On the whole though it was very quiet save for a few (very few) Redwings and Fieldfares coming in.

Next Vitty and I walked off to St Levan, returning via the Minack Theatre. The cliffs just west of the Minack Theatre produced a Black Redstart and a Firecrest was heard calling nearby.

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Chough (left) and Fieldfare (right), Porthgwarra, 22nd November

 

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Stonechat (left) and Red Admiral (right), St Levan, 22nd November

 

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Buzzard, St Levan, 22nd November

 

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Logan Rock from Minack Theatre, 22nd November

 

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Porth Chapel, St Levan, 22nd November

 

Thursday 21st November

Headed off to the Lizard via Helston with Vitty today. The boating lake at Helston held a tame Whooper Swan - according to a bystander it has been there for ages. Helston Loe Pool produced 4 Goosanders with heard-only records of Kingfisher and Water Rail. A probable Yellow-browed Warbler called once but was too far off to locate and I didn't hear it clearly enough to be 100% sure. I gave it as long as I dared given that I was supposed to be on a walk with Vitty but it wasn't long enough. With one being reported here a few days later I expect I was right with my initial impression but the record won't go down this time.

Nothing more noteworthy than a cheeseburger on the Lizard (and it wasn't a very noteworthy cheeseburger). The wind died down by the evening so the light went on again, producing Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana, Dark Sword-grass, presumed Large Yellow Underwing (it didn't land) and my second Large Ranunculus.

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Whooper Swan, Helston Boating Lake, 21st November - I didn't realise how pale-eyed they can be, but a quick search of online images of this species produced quite a few similar birds

 

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Tufted Duck, Helston Boating Lake, 21st November - the bird on the left shows some similarity to Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrids with what looks like a reddish tone to the breast and crown, but I'm leaning more towards it being a pure Tufted Duck, probably a first-winter male

 

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Poldhu Cove, 21st November

 

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Large Ranunculus, Porthgwarra, 21st November

 

Wednesday 20th November

The wind was still strong today, but slightly further round to west of northwest, so I headed back to Pendeen. A slight change in direction meant for a much more comfortable seawatch. The tally consisted of 4 Manx and 7 Balearic Shearwaters, 6 Great Skuas, 2 Red-throated and 1 Great Northern Diver and 86 Common Scoters. A pretty unremarkable haul for most of the day spent but I enjoyed it anyway.

A Parsnip Moth Depressaria heraclei found inside the cottage in the morning may have come in tonight but given how unsuitable the conditions were I suspect it had been lurking there a bit longer.

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Common Scoters, Pendeen, 20th November

 

Guillemot, Pendeen, 20th November

 

Razorbill, Pendeen, 20th November

 

Gannet, Pendeen, 20th November - with its contrastingly dark head this one reminded me a bit of a Brown Booby, but among other things the pale uppertail-coverts quickly put paid to any such ideas!

 

Tuesday 19th November

With strong northwesterlies blowing the only thing to do was seawatching. I've always thought that Porthgwarra was best in southwesterlies and Pendeen better in northwesterlies, so I headed up to Pendeen. What I didn't appreciate was that if it's just slightly north of northwesterly, as was the case this morning, all shelter is lost. I stuck it out for a bit but it was impossible to keep optics steady and I was struggling even with the close stuff. Anyway there didn't seem to be much passing other than Guillemots, Kittiwakes and Gannets. A few quick checks in valleys south of here didn't turn anything up so I tried again for the American Golden Plover at Sennen. This time I located a flock of 300 Golden Plovers but a thorough search through them failed to turn up any American. Land's End produced a Black Redstart but that was the highlight of a poor morning's birding.

Later on I headed back to Gwithian Sands to see if I could get better views on the suspected female Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid. These views were secured and I still think it must have been this hybrid, despite its significant differences from 1-2 other presumed female Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrids I've seen documented previously. Comments welcome! Lastly a quick look round Tehidy Country Park which produced a few common birds but nothing exciting.

Update: one comment on the hybrid duck is that Ferruginous Duck could be involved. It does look quite similar to some Pochard x Ferruginous Duck hybrids, but I'm not convinced yet.

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Guillemots (left) and Kittiwake (right), Pendeen, 19th November

 

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possible Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid, Gwithian Sands, 19th November

 

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Pochards, Gwithian Sands, 19th November

 

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Jay, Tehidy Country Park, 19th November

 

Monday 18th November

Headed off to Pendower Beach this morning in the hope of seeing the Pacific Diver that turned up there recently. A distant flock of 5 divers eventually came close enough to be confident that they consisted of 1 Pacific Diver and 4 Black-throated Divers. The Pacific was subtle, an educational bird. Also in Gerrans Bay were 4 Red-necked Grebes and 3 Great Northern Divers. On the beach was a Mediterranean Gull and, more unexpectedly at this time of year, a Whimbrel.

Next stop was Feock to see all the Black-necked Grebes that have been off Loe Beach recently. A good scan round failed to turn up any grebes, a second scan found one, a Little Grebe. Finally I found an enormously distant flock of 25 Black-necked Grebes, tiny dots way off in Carrick Roads. Nearby Trelissick Gardens produced lunch and a Narrow-winged Grey Eudonia angustea in the toilets. Nearby an adult Mediterranean Gull flew over the road. On the way back to Porthgwarra I was for the second time unable to locate the flock of Golden Plovers that still contained an American Golden Plover at Sennen - just another Mediterranean Gull.

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Pacific Diver (right hand bird) with Black-throated Divers, Gerrans Bay, 18th November

 

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Whimbrel, Pendower Beach, 18th November

 

 

Sunday 17th November

An early look round Porthgwarra was pretty uneventful - 2 Choughs and Raven were birds I don't see at home but there was little evidence of migration. A flock of over 500 Golden Plovers were flying around for a while - I couldn't pick out anything among them but I wouldn't mind betting that it was the same flock that was later at Sennen containing an American Golden Plover. Also a pod of 3 Harbour Porpoises offshore.

The Hayle Estuary produced another 200 Golden Plover and an adult Mediterranean Gull. A drive up the coast road from Hayle was less pleasant than it might have been had there not been zillions of surfer-types everywhere but a flock of Aythya at Gwithian Sands deserved a look through. No sign of the hoped-for yank but an interesting bird which I think is a female Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid. Although Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrids are not hugely rare, females aren't very well-known compared to the more obvious drakes; one or two females I've seen documented were quite different from this individual so I am not completely certain about the identity. Seen from the road views were a bit distant but I will try and return during the week to get better views.

Back at base there were a few moths but not much variety - 9 Rusty-dot Pearls Udea ferrugalis and 1 November Moth agg. Epirrita sp. I think my light was competing with other lights nearby, one of which attracted 3 Feathered Thorns at least.

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Buzzard (left) and Grey Wagtail (right), Porthgwarra, 17th November

 

Harbour Porpoises, Porthgwarra, 17th November

 

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Robin, Porthgwarra, 17th November

 

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Mediterranean Gull (left) and Rook (right), Hayle Estuary, 17th November

 

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probable Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid, Gwithian Sands, 17th November - structurally very similar to Pochard but plumage was more reminiscient of female Tufted Duck - which was not the case in two other female Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrids I've seen documented previously

 

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Rusty-dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis (left) and November Moth agg. Epirrita sp. (right), Porthgwarra, 17th November

 

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flies, Porthgwarra, 17th November

 

Saturday 16th November

A week's holiday starts today and we're heading down to Porthgwarra. A bit late in the season but we have to take what we can get! But a logistics problem presented itself today - I need Parrot Crossbill for Norfolk and there are 10-12 at Holt Lowes, I want to see the whale that's still getting reported off east Norfolk and there's a Western Orphean Warbler in Pembrokeshire, one of my most wanted birds. Technically I could get the warbler en route to Cornwall, but that would require an early start which after a long hard week I didn't fancy, so instead I opted for trying to see the Crossbills at Holt before heading down to Cornwall. Sadly the Parrots didn't play until I was on my way to Cornwall, though I enjoyed watching a flock of Common Crossbills.

Arriving in Porthgwarra well after dark I put the light straight on. Moths appeared immediately and I thought I was in for a good night, but unfortunately they dried up almost as soon giving me a total of just 4 Rusty-dot Pearls Udea ferrugalis and 4 Feathered Thorns. Maybe if I'd got there earlier it would have been better?

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Crossbill, Holt Lowes, 16th November

 

Thursday 14th November

A worn Brick was tonight's only moth.

 

Wednesday 13th November

Another December Moth tonight.

 

Monday 11th November

Some moths tonight: Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana, Common Plume Emmelina monodactyla, December Moth, Spruce Carpet and November Moth agg. Epirrita sp.

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December Moth, Bawdeswell, 11th November

 

Sunday 10th November

Moral of today's story is to check the weather forecast for where you're heading not for where you're coming from. I wanted to see the whale in east Norfolk so headed out east this morning. It was a little breezier than would be ideal but not too bad, and at least it was dry, and forecast to remain so for the rest of the morning. Only problem was that was the forecast for home - when I got out to Waxham it was blowing a right old hooley and chucking it down with rain, and on checking the forecast for there, I discovered it was set to stay that way! Couldn't believe how different the weather was half way across the county and I wouldn't have bothered trekking out here to look for a whale in this weather. Anyway, eventually the rain eased (but not the wind) and I headed out to join others looking for the whale without success. Velvet Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser passed by, along with 4 Great Skuas and a distant shearwater that was too briefly seen to name, but no whale. I soon gave up and headed instead to Martham Broad where at least I might find some ducks to look at. Sometimes this place is heaving with birds and other times it's quiet. Today it wasn't either - it was dead. On first pass there wasn't a single bird on the broad and on second pass a single Little Grebe and a few Black-headed Gulls. Still, it was a nice walk and 2 Cranes flew over. Leaving the coast cost me a Black Brant tracked moving north with half a dozen Brent Geese - an excellent east coast record.

As I left Martham Broad I got a call from Tim (thanks Tim) informing me that he'd got the whale at Sea Palling, so I put my foot down and sped up there. As I parked I could see people walking up the bank - they arrived just in time but I didn't! No whale for me today. Finally I gave up and popped in to the patch on the way home where I heard a Curlew. Pretty rubbish day really - good job yesterday was more successful!

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Cranes, Martham Broad, 10th November

 

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Mute Swans, on river near Martham Broad, 10th November

 

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Mushroom, Martham Broad, 10th November - I think it's one of the Dapperlings, maybe Blushing Dapperling? (or is it a Parasol?)

 

Saturday 9th November

A nice morning spent at Burnham Overy. At first it was not particularly productive - a few Fieldfare and Woodpigeon in and lots of Starlings streaming west, and a Lapland Bunting heard calling, but nothing remarkable. By the time I reached the east end of the dunes and the start of Holkham Pines I'd not added anything to the list for ages, but as I stood in the dunes overlooking Holkham Bay it all went mad! A quick scan of the sea produced Long-tailed Duck, Great Northern Diver and Slavonian Grebe and a wader flying erratically over their heads looked suspiciously like a Phalarope. Yes, surely it was, a Grey Phalarope. Then it pitched in, fed for a few nanoseconds before heading off again, pitching in again, feeding for a few more nanoseconds and heading off again. It disappeared off but a few minutes later it reappeared, flying around as hyperactively as ever. Finally it flew north out to sea and I didn't see it again. While all this was going on I'm pretty sure a small flock of Twite flew over my head followed by a flock of 7 Shore Larks! The Twite weren't calling helpfully so I didn't nail them but the Shore Lark were making the right noises and a few minutes later they returned and pitched in to the beach nearby. Oh, and 13 Snow Buntings were there too, and a redhead Goosander flew west.

After that it calmed down a bit - a Red-necked Grebe was in the bay and as I headed back to Burnham Overy a second Great Northern Diver appeared. As I headed back to the staithe a Short-eared Owl hunted the freshmarsh. Looking back to the harbour I picked up 4 Long-tailed Ducks in the harbour. These attracted the attention of a Marsh Harrier which repeated dived at them, which seemed a bit odd behaviour. They had the upper hand being able to dive under water to evade the marauding harrier. Mind you, after a while I could only find 3 Long-tailed Ducks so maybe the harrier was cleverer than I'd given credit to it.

I headed off to Stiffkey after this but couldn't find a great deal there. At least 80 Little Egrets were flying in to roost - and that was without making any attempt to see them all. Potentially quite interesting for hybrid nerds like me was a goose among the Greylags on the fen. Unfortunately I didn't pick it up until it was nearly dark so couldn't get as much on it as I would have liked. I think it was a Greylag Goose x White-fronted Goose hybrid, though I would like better views to be completely sure.

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Shore Larks, Holkham Bay, 9th November

 

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Curlews, Burnham Overy, 9th November

 

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Dunlin, Burnham Overy (left) and Curlew, Wells (right), 9th November

 

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Grey Plover (left) and Lapwing (right), Wells, 9th November

 

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Pheasant (left) and Candlesnuff Fungus (right), Stiffkey, 9th November

 

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Barn Owl, Stiffkey Fen, 9th November

 

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Waxcaps, Burnham Overy, 9th November - one of the Hygrocybe species I think, maybe Hygrocybe intermedia?

 

Friday 8th November

My first moth since Tuesday was a Satellite - my first this year.

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Satellite, Bawdeswell, 8th November

 

Tuesday 5th November

A quick look at Brancaster Staithe during my lunch break was mainly spent looking at Common Gulls. One adult showed a distinctive dark hind-collar that reminded me of a Kittiwake while a first-winter that flew towards me looked so brown I almost dismissed it as a Herring Gull. It showed a few interesting features like barred inner axilliaries but in the end I couldn't find anything to pin heinei on it with.

Another Sprawler tonight, hot on the heels of my second ever on Sunday.

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Common Gull, Brancaster Staithe, 5th November

 

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Common Gull, Brancaster Staithe, 5th November

 

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Common Gull (left) and Herring Gull (right), Brancaster Staithe, 5th November

 

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Sprawler, Bawdeswell, 5th November

 

Monday 4th November

A lunchtime drive produced a Brambling at Houghton.

 

Sunday 3rd November

Tonight's moths were London Dowd Blastobasis lacticolella, Rhomboid Tortrix Acleris rhombana, November Moth agg. Epirrita sp. and my second ever Sprawler (which was sprawled on the floor looking like it had been trodden on).

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Rhomboid Tortrix Acleris rhombana, Bawdeswell, 3rd November - quite a small example but I think it must be rhombana

 

Saturday 2nd November

A group excursion to Titchwell seemed to be enjoyed as there were plenty of birds on show. A Stonechat and a Red-crested Pochard on the way up were a good start but as is often the way I think the common birds were enjoyed as much as the scarcer ones - let's face it a distant female Red-crested Pochard is never going to be as appreciated as 80+ relatively close Pintails or a swirling flock of hundreds of Golden Plovers, or even the chance to study a close Bar-tailed Godwit side by side with a Black-tailed Godwit.

Deteriorating weather conditions meant for no moths tonight except one, which I suspect may have actually come in last night and hidden until tonight. That one was a good one anyway - another Dark Sword-grass, my second in a week but only my third here ever.

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Teal (left) and Shoveler (right), Titchwell, 2nd November

 

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Black-tailed Godwits, Titchwell, 2nd November

 

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Golden Plovers, Titchwell, 2nd November

 

 

Stonechat, Titchwell, 2nd November

 

Friday 1st November

A reasonable night for moths compared with many of late, with Ashy Button Acleris sparsana, December Moth, Spruce Carpet, Juniper Carpet, 5 November Moth aggs. Epirrita sp., 2 Feathered Thorns, Beaded Chestnut and Angle Shades.

 

Next month: December 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 ;

 

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