March 2014

 

Monday 31st March

A good evening for moths with 45 moths of 15 species. Probably the most surprising was a very early Pale Tussock - 6 weeks earlier than my previous earliest! Also of note were 2 Golden Lance-wings Epermenia chaerophyllella, Parsnip Moth Depressaria radiella, at least 14 Many-plumed Moths Alucita hexadactyla, Shoulder Stripe and Red Chestnut.

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Chiffchaff, Thornham, 31st March

 

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Pale Tussock, Bawdeswell, 31st March

 

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Many-plumed Moths Alucita hexadactyla (left) and Shoulder Stripe (right), Bawdeswell, 31st March

 

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Golden Lance-wing Epermenia chaerophyllella, Bawdeswell, 31st March

 

Sunday 30th March

Nothing hugely exciting at the patch during the day - Little Ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Snipe, Little Owl, etc. Also a good (for the site) count of 24 Gadwall. It got better after dark though. I took the light to Creaking Gate Lake for my first field session of the year (and for the first time since getting my generator fixed - relieved to find it worked fine, but still a bit narked with myself for having to pay for it to go all the way to Pembrokeshire and back for someone to tell me I hadn't pushed the spark plug cap down hard enough). I got the light going, nipped back to the car to get some pots and returned to the sheet to find 3 species on the sheet already, and a fourth coming in. This one proved to be a Small Eggar! A new species for me and one I have been keen to see as it's a bit of a looker!

The rest of the session was lively - loads of moths buzzing around all the time. Most were the expected species that are common at this time of year but Pale Pinion was another new species for me. A couple of Pine Beauties were nice, my first this year, and even in a good year I never tire of seeing Oak Beauties, of which there were 3. Dark Chestnut was a surprise and 3 Brindled Pugs, Engrailed and 2 Twin-spotted Quakers were all new for the year. A Satellite was the only other noteworthy species, although what was probably a Lead-coloured Drab would have been had it not been so worn I couldn't resolve the ID to my satisfaction. Perhpas the biggest surprise were a couple of pet rabbits that came to see what was going on! It's quite a way from the nearest house so I presume they were dumped here?

Came home to find 2 Shoulder Stripes at the porch light followed by my first White-shouldered House-moth Endrosis sarcitrella of the year - and my earliest by nearly a month. Have only had one April record before, although I get loads of them later in the year and theyr'e not meant to be unusual in early spring.

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Small Eggar, Creaking Gate Lake, 30th March

 

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Pine Beauties, Creaking Gate Lake, 30th March

 

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Oak Beauty (left) and Pale Pinion (right), Creaking Gate Lake, 30th March

 

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Brindled Pug (left) and Satellite (right), Creaking Gate Lake, 30th March

 

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Rabbits, Creaking Gate Lake, 30th March - anyone recognise these pets? Either very lost or, I suspect, left here by someone who doesn't want to look after them any more

 

Saturday 29th March

Having failed to make it out of bed early as planned I decided not to head up to the coast but started on the local patch instead. There didn't seem to be much doing, the escaped Ruddy Shelduck and a few butterflies, but nothing to keep the interest levels high. So instead Dave and I headed to the Brecks where the first stop produced a male Reeves's Pheasant (the one with a deformed bill - have heard about it from others but not seen it myself before) and a Red Kite. After another Red Kite not far away we went to a different site where we located another 3 Reeves's Pheasants (all males). The warm sunny conditions seemed to be better for insects than birds and I saw more Brimstone butterflies today than I've ever seen in a day before.

Back at the patch I decided to have a quick look for some sallows where I hoped to find Adela cuprella, a long-horn moth that can be found lekking above sallows on sunny days at this time of year. It's described as rare but although there aren't all that many records - none anywhere near here - it's probably not really that uncommon so I thought it was worth a shot. Rolled up to the most likely-looking willows (not actually sure if they were Sallow or not) and right on cue there were at least 3, probably more, Early Long-horns Adela cuprella. My first day-flying moths of the year, and a new species for me and for the area.

It's not been a very exciting week for moths at home but tonight was better. Brindled Flat-body Agonopterix arenella and Red Chestnut were new for the year (so too, but belatedly, was March Tubic Diurnea fagella).

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Reeves's Pheasant, Hilborough, 29th March

 

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Red-legged Partridge (left) and Brimstone (right), Great Cressingham, 29th March

 

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Early Long-horn Adela cuprella (left) and Small Tortoiiseshells (right), Bittering, 29th March

 

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Brindled Flat-body Agonopterix arenella (left) and Red Chestnut (right), Bawdeswell, 29th March

 

Sunday 23rd March

A quick look round the patch today turned up nothing better than a Green Sandpiper. But a patch-related record from yesterday that I missed off from my account: I had a quick look round the patch on the way home from Burnham Overy and heard and saw a spanking adult Mediterranean Gull following the plough at Bittering. Actually technically half a mile outside of the patch boundary, but a good local bird anyway.

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Brown Hare, Bittering, 23rd March

 

Saturday 22nd March

An earlyish start at Burnham Overy produced a Barn Owl - normally a common sighting here but not this year. Despite the strong wind 3 Bearded Tits showed in the open for a while at the reedy pool. I hoped for some vizmig but it wasn't until I rounded Gun Hill that I started to notice any. Then it became clear why - everything was sticking to the seaward side of the dunes, presumably to get some semblance of shelter from the wind. Quite a few birds were moving, though not remarkable numbers. As well as the Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails trickling west, several small parties of Siskin flew overhead. The highlight was a group of 3 Mealy Redpolls which flew past me at knee-height, the closest one being inches away from me, giving me a great view of its cold frosty upperparts and pale rump.

More evidence of spring came from a Chiffchaff singing in the sueda and 4 Wheatears below Gun Hill. Later on there were 4 Wheatears east of the boardwalk which at first I guessed were the same birds, but scoping back to Gun Hill I could still see at least 2 there, so not so. As I walked through the dunes looking for Sandgrouse I flushed a Short-eared Owl from right under my feet. Finally a Spoonbill flew in from the direction of Holkham and plonked itself down in the saltmarsh where it spent most of the time hidden, presumably down a creek that I couldn't see.

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Wheatear (left) and Cormorant (right), Burnham Overy, 22nd March

 

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Short-eared Owl, Burnham Overy, 22nd March

 

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Spoonbill, Burnham Overy, 22nd March

 

Friday 21st March

A couple of Oak Beauties were the highlights of tonight's moths, though at the time I thought the best moth was a Lead-coloured Drab. In hindsight I'm not so sure. All the emphasis on ID texts is on separating them from Clouded Drab but while the majority of Common Quakers are easily separated it seems that a minority of them can look very similar indeed, at least to my eyes. I think many Lead-coloured Drabs will be easy, but this one, if it was one, was one of those that look quite close to how extreme Common Quakers can appear, so I'm not sure any more.

 

Thursday 20th March

Back in Norfolk and another lunch break spent at Brancaster Staithe.

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Herring Gull, Brancaster Staithe, 20th March

 

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Black-headed Gull, Brancaster Staithe, 20th March

 

Wednesday 19th March

Last day of the trip to Scotland. The best bird was early on - the drake Surf Scoter off Joppa. Other highlights for the day included the likes of Slavonian Grebe and Dipper, but again the strong wind made coastal birding a challenge! The full trip report is now available here.

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Surf Scoter (left) and Velvet Scoter (right), Joppa 19th March

 

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Gannets, Bass Rock, 19th March

 

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Grey Wagtail, Pease Bay (left) and Rook, Bamburgh (right), 19th March

 

Tuesday 18th March

A Glaucous Gull at Peterhead was probably the best bird we saw this morning, though I think I enjoyed the close drake Long-tailed Duck in Boddam harbour more. In the afternoon we failed to see the Ring-billed Gull in Fife but were more successful at the end of the day at Largo Bay. Here, at Ruddons Point, I found a wintering Whimbrel among the Curlew while Dave did one better picking out the female King Eider. The trip report is nearly done now - I expect to have finished it by tomorrow.

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Glaucous Gull (left) and Purple Sandpiper (right), Peterhead, 18th March

 

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presumed Canada Goose x (domestic Swan Goose x Greylag Goose) trigen, Ythan Estuary (left) and Long-tailed Duck, Boddam (right), 18th March

 

Monday 17th March

Today wasn't a great day, starting off with dipping the Capercaillie again and then hitting the coast where the wind made it difficult going. But it was enjoyable for the most part and though we didn't see anything hugely exciting, things like lots of Red Grouse and Long-tailed Ducks are always enjoyable for us southerners. Also some moths trapped in the headlights pre-dawn proved to be interesting, my first Early Flat-body Semioscopis avellenella and Marbled Buttons Acleris maccana - the latter restricted to the Highlands. Another new moth was a Mottled Grey that Dave found in a toilet block at Findochty.

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Early Flat-body Semioscopis avellenella (left) and Marbled Button Acleris maccana (right), Tulloch - Nethy Bridge, 17th March

 

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Red Grouse, Lochindorb, 17th March

 

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Lochindorb, 17th March

 

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Eider, Buckie (left) and Red-throated Diver, Portknockie (right), 17th March

 

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rainbow, Cullen, 17th March

 

Sunday 16th March

After my first ever Pine Marten overnight, day 2 of the Scotland trip was much less successful, starting with an abject failure to see Capercaillie. We didn't quite fail to see Ptarmigan, but they were so far off they looked like tiny spots of snow until they started moving. A displaying Golden Eagle was just as far off but at least the American Coot showed well. Trip report coming soon...

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American Coot (left) and Pied Wagtail (right), Loch Flemington, 16th March

 

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rainbow, Alturlie, 16th March

 

Saturday 15th March

Day 1 of 5 in Scotland, and probably the best of the bunch with Black Duck, 2 Snow Geese and American Herring Gull. Also Iceland Gull, lots of Greenland White-fronted Geese, Black Guillemots, both Black-throated and Great Northern Divers and lots of Hooded Crows (and their hybrids). More to come in a trip report to be published soon, but in the meantime here are a couple of snaps from the day:

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Black Guillemots, Corran Pier (left) and Black Duck, Strontian (right), 15th March

 

Wednesday 12th March

I can't recall seeing/hearing a Rock Pipit sing in Norfolk before, but this one sang. I wondered if the tail pattern might help to identify it to subspecies but apparently not.

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Rock Pipit, Thornham, 12th March

 

Sunday 9th March

I was going to go down to Kent to look for the Chinese Pond Heron today, but decided against it at the last minute, which was probably a good thing as there was no news on it today. A look round the patch instead was uninspired and produced as much as the effort given to it, which wasn't a lot. I've been meaning to go to Pensthorpe for years now - have never been except for a quick twitch of the Squacco Heron there in 1998, so it is overdue. Putting me off is the extortionate entrance fee, especially knowing that it probably contributes towards some dubious "conservation" initiatives like the Crane reintroduction project, for example. But with no better plan in place I decided to bite the bullet and pay the £11.25 entrance fee, hoping to see lots of interesting wildfowl. Dave joined me, and having been there before was expecting to see more - it seems that they don't have as much in their collection as they used to.

Although there were fewer birds there than we expected, there were a few interesting things - and plenty of photo opportunities. Seeing displaying White-headed Ducks was a first for me, but it was the noise they made as they pattered their tail against the water that really impressed me - I had no idea they did that! Reminded me of a Great Snipe display. Another interesting thing was the pair of Black Storks - I'd not appreciated how irridescent their plumage was before - they should be called Rainbow Storks!

Potentially wild birds there were 3 Avocets on the scrape and some Barnacle Geese (nowhere near the 100 or so that others have been seeing here). Also Small Tortoishells on the wing, along with my first Brimstone of the year seen earlier in North Elmham. Another quick look at the patch on the way back produced the escaped Ruddy Shelduck and 2 Green Sandpipers.

Best night of the year for moths - best number (39), best variety (13 species), 2 record counts (7 Common Flat-bodies Agonopterix heracliana and 10 Common Quakers), 2 earliest ever records (Double-striped Pug and Early Thorn) and best of all, a Scarce Alder Slender Caloptilia falcipennella - my first new moth this year and only the 8th county record.

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captive Bearded Tits, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive Black Stork (left) and White-faced Whistling-Duck x Fulvous Whistling-Duck hybrid (right), Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive Falcated Ducks, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive Garganeys, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive Smew, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive White-headed Ducks, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive Red-crested Pochard (left) and Hooded Merganser (right), Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive Wigeon x Chiloe Wigeon hybrids, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive Baikal Teals, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive Red-breasted Geese, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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captive White-naped Cranes, Pensthorpe, 9th March - the one on the left is tossing the clump of dead vegetation in the air as part of its display

 

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captive Red-crowned Cranes, Pensthorpe, 9th March

 

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Scarce Alder Slender Caloptilia falconipennella, Bawdeswell, 9th March

 

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Hebrew Character, Bawdeswell, 9th March

 

Saturday 8th March

Peregrine, Red Kite and Hen Harrier were among the raptors at Burnham Overy this morning. I worked the dunes as if it were spring and discovered that it was - a Chiffchaff was in the sea buckthorn. Other migrants included the odd Redwing and Song Thrush plus Rooks in off the sea. Holkham Pines produced a Firecrest, 2 more Red Kites (different birds) along with lots of Avocets and a few White-fronted Geese.

Stopped at the patch on the way home where I finally saw the white Egyptian Goose that Dave found a while ago. I couldn't find the pair of adult Mediterranean Gulls he'd seen during the morning, nor his Jack Snipe or Dunlin - just a Grey Wagtail and 3 Green Sandpipers.

A dozen moths tonight, mostly Common Quakers. Best of the rest was a Grey Shoulder-knot, only my 4th record.

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Pheasant (left) and Meadow Pipit (right), Burnham Overy, 8th March

 

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white Egyptian Goose, Bittering (left) and Grey Shoulder-knot, Bawdeswell (right), 8th March

 

Friday 7th March

A lunch-time drive produced my first young birds of the year, Egyptian Goose goslings as usual. A Satellite was the best of tonight's moths.

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Pheasant (left) and Red-legged Partridge (right), West Rudham Common, 7th March

 

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Satellite, Bawdeswell, 7th March

 

Thursday 6th March

Working at home today I just had time to pop over to the patch in my lunch break - all I could find were 3 Snipe at Rawhall. The best night of the year so far for moths with 9 moths of 6 species, of which Shoulder Stripe and Early Grey were new for the year.

 

Wednesday 5th March

Five species of moth tonight included another Oak Beauty and my first Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla of the year.

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Redshank (left) and Bar-tailed Godwit (right), Brancaster Staithe, 5th March

 

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Teal, Brancaster Staithe, 5th March

 

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Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla (left) and Oak Beauty (right), Bawdeswell, 5th March

 

Tuesday 4th March

Of the 3 different moths tonight, March Moth was new for the year.

 

Monday 3rd March

A lunch time drive produced a Red Kite at Holkham. 5 moths tonight included my first Chestnut of the year.

 

Sunday 2nd March

An early start at the patch produced a few birds, though nothing amazing. At one site 2 Green Sandpipers flew off and the escaped Ruddy Shelduck (blue ring) spent the whole time I was there attempting to chase off 7 Shelducks, but with absolutely no effect. At Rawhall there were 2 Green Sandpipers, perhaps the birds that had flown off from the previous site, or (as there have been 4 there recently) perhaps different birds. A Curlew was more of a surprise here. At Bittering the most unexpected bird was another escapee, a White-cheeked Pintail!

Viewing houses during the afternoon resulted in Red Kite low over North Elmham and Marsh Harrier at Barney.

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escaped White-cheeked Pintail, Bittering (left) and Green Sandpiper, near Beetley (right), 2nd March

 

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escaped Ruddy Shelduck with Shelducks, near Beetley, 2nd March - aggressive little beast but a bit outnumbered!

 

Saturday 1st March

Started the morning at Cley where I hoped again to find this hybrid Brent family, but I couldn't even find any ordinary Brent Geese! Best bird was a Kingfisher at the sluice. Stopped off at Salthouse, Blakeney and Morston before joining the usual monthly group at Wells, seeing Greenshank at Morston. Wells was pleasant and the group seemed to enjoy the good views and variety of waders as we walked down the sea wall. For some reason they weren't quite so enthusiastic about the Black Brant x Dark-bellied Goose hybrid! Looking back towards Holkham hoping to find one of the Red Kites for the group I picked up a very pale Buzzard, but as I suspected it would, it turned out to be just a pale Buzzard and not the Rough-legged Buzzard. No sign of the Kites though. We watched a first-winter Shag in the marina area for a while before one of the group noticed a second Shag on the bank. This one was an older bird, though in view of the pale tipped wing-coverts I presume a second-winter, not quite an adult? In the woods a Crossbill was heard flying over but we couldn't see it. I had to leave early but I got an excited call from one of the group a bit later, as they were watching a Red Kite.

At home my first Hebrew Character of the year, along with 2 Dotted Borders.

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Rock Pipit, Cley, 1st March

 

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Greenshank, Morston, 1st March

 

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Little Egret, Morston, 1st March

 

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Redshank (left) and Curlew (right), Wells, 1st March

 

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presumed Herring Gull, Wells, 1st March - pinky yellow legs but same shade of grey as nearby Herring Gull so I presume a Herring Gull; having said that the orbital ring seemed quite bright (red) and it had a bit of a Yellow-legged Gull feel about it, so not entirely sure a hybrid is safely ruled out - would have liked better views but it disappeared prematurely - comments welcome!

 

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Shag, Wells, 1st March

 

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Sparrowhawk (left) and Muntjac (right), Wells, 1st March

 

 

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