April 2014

 

Saturday 12th April

Another thoroughly enjoyable morning spent at Burnham Overy. On the way down to the dunes I notched up a couple of adult Mediterranean Gull, Short-eared Owl, 7 Sedge Warblers and the first of 4 Willow Warblers. The dunes held 2 Red Kites, a Hen Harrier and a couple of Wheatears. But it was the viz mig that was where most of the action was. I learned a bit about how viz mig works at this site, I think. The last few visits I've noticed that I've seen very few birds moving until I reach the point past Gun Hill, and then it all kicks off. It seems that birds move west over the dunes and the beach, but mainly the seaward side of the dunes, and then funnel through a narrower line at Gun Hill before crossing to Scolt Head. Walking along the landward side of the dunes you just don't see as much going through as you do from the seaward side, although there are probably more grounded migrants on the landward side. From Gun Hill a party of 12 Redpolls flew west while streams of Meadow Pipits, Linnets and Goldfinches poured through. I notched up 12 Swallows and 9 Yellow Wagtails, and a notable count of 50 Carrion Crows but the true number of birds moving through must have been way higher - I reckon I spent less than 5% of my time in the flight path of the majority of Yellow Wagtails I saw. Best birds moving were an early Tree Pipit and a group of 3 Whimbrel. A Sandwich Tern was also new for the year and I eventually heard a Ring Ouzel at the east of the dunes. I couldn't see it at first so I moved over to some other birders who pointed it out- a nice male in the top of one of the pines and then another male (a different bird, I was assured) on the deck nearby. The non-avian highlight this morning was larval tents of Brown-tail moths - there were loads of tents in the Sea Buckthorn patch and also on Hawthorns near the boardwalk - must have been many thousands of caterpillars. Must be one of the commonest moths I've not yet seen as an adult.

As I drove inland I passed a singing Whitethroat in one hedgerow and when I reached the patch I discoved another new bird for the year, a House Martin. It was pretty cold on the patch though so I didn't give it long before heading home. Not many moths at home tonight but among them were 2 Nut-tree Tussocks - a species I sometimes record in numbers when out and about but don't often see at home - less than annual here.

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Red Kite, Burnham Overy, 12th April

 

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Hen Harrier, Burnham Overy, 12th April

 

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Wheatear (left) and Willow Warbler (right), Burnham Overy, 12th April

 

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Brown-tails, Burnham Overy, 12th April - here on Hawthorn but more tents on Sea Buckthorn

 

Friday 11th April

Having heard that the Crag Martin had disappeared from Yorkshire earlyish I nipped up to Hunstanton to look for it there in my lunch break. I didn't see it, because it was still at Flamborough. I did see a Yellow Wagtail fly north and 2 Wheatears though.

 

Thursday 10th April

Nothing more unusual than a Red Chestnut and a Brindled Flat-body Agonopterix arenella tonight, but a couple of early records of note. First up was a Red Twin-spot Carpet, my earliest by nearly 2 weeks. Also my earliest ever, and by an even bigger margin, was Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana. Lots of county records of the latter this early so odd that I don't normally get them until later, but the carpet does seem to be a genuinely early record.

 

Wednesday 9th April

Just a quick look round the patch on the way home tonight, producing 4 Little Ringed Plovers, 3 Green Sandpipers and 6 Sand Martins. More unexpected was a large (perhaps 200) flock of Golden Plovers, flying around very distantly. Such large numbers this late seems unusual - haven't seen this many on the patch even during the winter this year.

Not all that many moths tonight but some interesting ones. A Purple Thorn was the first time I've had one here and 2 Brown-spot Flat-bodies Agonopterix alstromeriana were good, my second and third this month but one I had never recorded until last September. 14 Many-plumed Moths Alucita hexadactyla was a good count. An Engrailed was interesting as it sported a pair of dark square spots which, if you go by the textbooks, should make it a Square Spot. That would be a first for Norfolk, so it demanded a bit more care and after checking a few images online I remained of the opinion that it was just an Engrailed - the dark square does not extend as far as the next cross line which it does on all images I can find of Square Spot. The only other difference referred to in the book is the relatively clear broad crossband on Square Spot but for this individual it seems to be within range of either species (but less distinct than on most Square Spots). Judging from the internet images there seem to be other minor differences that seem to be consistent to a lesser or greater extent and if they are valid features then they also point to Engrailed. A few images of other Engraileds, including one or two taken in Norfolk, show similar dark spots, so I've no doubt it's within normal variation.

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Purple Thorn, Bawdeswell, 9th April

 

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Engrailed (left) and Early Grey (right), Bawdeswell, 9th April - the dark squares look more prominent in life than they do in the photo

 

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Brown-spot Flat-body Agonopterix alstromeriana, Bawdeswell, 9th April

 

Tueseday 8th April

Just 2 moths again tonight. One of them was another Phyllonorycter and this time I did (I think) a better job with the ID. I think this one and the one from last week are both Common Thorn Midgets Phyllonorycter oxyacanthae. They would need dissecting to be 100% sure.

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probable Common Thorn Midget Phyllonorycter oxyacanthae, Bawdeswell, 8th April

 

Monday 7th April

My first Swallows today - a total of 6 at Hunstanton in my lunchbreak, mostly moving south. Nothing much on the patch in a quick look on the way home - just 1 Green Sandpiper. Just 2 moths tonight but one was a Ruby Tiger. This species is much more numerous in its second generation - I've seen over 40 between July and September but this was only my second spring record.

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Ruby Tiger, Bawdeswell, 7th April

 

Sunday 6th April

Still 3 Green Sandpipers and a Little Ringed Plover on the patch today but the highlight was a pair of second-summer Mediterranean Gulls flying over Hell Pit. I finally got my first hirundines of the year - 18 Sand Martins at one site. Dave got a better look than I did at an orange flying insect - he was sure it was a moth not a butterfly, in which case it was presumably an Orange Underwing.

It was a good evening for moths at home. Pale Pinion was the first I've recorded at home but the best moth was my first ever Streaked Flat-body Depressaria chaerophylli. Other highlights were Chinese Character and Wormwood Pug, both of which were my earliest ever records, and another Red Chestnut.

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Streaked Flat-body Depressaria chaerophylli (left) and Chinese Character (right), Bawdeswell, 6th April

 

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Pale Pinion, Bawdeswell, 6th April

 

Saturday 5th April

I started early at Burnham Overy hoping to find some migrants. As I walked from the staithe I saw the Barn Owl again and my first Sedge Warblers of the year - there were at least 4 singing along the dyke. A Mediterranean Gull called overhead, and eventually provided views, and then I found a male White Wagtail. It was singing (albeit a bit half-heartedly) - the first time I've heard one sing in Norfolk I think.

Reaching the boardwalk bushes I was surprised to see a Great Grey Shrike pop up on a bush in front of me. I hastily turned my digiscoping camera to the correct settings and went to take some pics but it had vanished! I couldn't see it anywhere, so after photographing 2 Barnacle Geese that were flying around I continued on towards Gun Hill. 3 Redpolls flew west and I started to notice the odd corvid moving too, and a couple of Great Tits, but viz mig didn't seem to be as volumous as I'd expected. I rounded Gun Hill and as I started back the Great Grey Shrike appeared again. Got more prolonged views this time, which was a relief as I'd already put news out based on what was a couple of seconds of a front-on head-only view and I'd started to wonder whether I had adequately ruled out other shrike species! Next up were 2 Spoonbills flying around but after that things slowed down a bit. The dunes to the east were quiet, save for my first Yellow Wagtail of the year flying over and a Stoat. By now twitchers had started turning up for the shrike, which had gone missing. It was relocated nearer the road after I'd gone and judging from the number of updates I think it must have been the most twitched bird in Norfolk today! Apparently it's the first to be reported this spring and there weren't any overwintering birds this year, so I guess it's one for the year-listers.

I was happy I'd come here first but I was supposed to be meeting the group at Sculthorpe Moor this morning and I was already well and truly late. By the time I joined them I had missed a showy Water Vole which was a shame, but I'd also missed the worst of the disruption caused by an Easter Egg hunt event! A few Brambling and Bullfinches were among the birds in front of the hide, and a Marsh Tit briefly. A Bank Vole showed frequently here too, which was nice (if not as good as the Water Vole would have been). We continued to the river bank where a group of photographers were watching another Water Vole! I had a second chance! They weren't happy because it wasn't fully out in the open, but all the Water Voles I've seen before have been in view far too briefly to get a good look, so I was happy with one that was sitting munching away on reed leaves while we all watched on, even if there were a few reed stems between us and it.

Both Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail sped by while we were watching it, but the former was a glimpsed shape in the periphary of my vision and I don't think any of the group got on it at all. Among the butterflies seen today were a couple of female Orange-tips.

This evening I took the light to Bawdeswell Heath where the first moth to visit it was a Water Carpet, although it didn't settle. At least 10 Nut-tree Tussocks were new for the year, and March Tubic Diurnea fagella was equally numerous, and showing quite a bit of variation in their appearance. Moths I've not seen often before included 3 Purple Thorns, 3 Early Tooth-stripeds, 2 Frosted Greens and another Pale Pinion. Still not tiring of Oak Beauties, of which there were 4 tonight. The best moths was one of three micros that I initially but tentatively identified as Common Oak Purples Dyseriocrania subpurpurella. I was pretty sure about the first two but as I'd been talking to Rob earlier about the need to retain specimens of the other Eriocraniids for confirmation I thought I better hang on to them to check later. Good job I did as while I think my ID was correct for the first two, a closer look at the third revealed an insect with almost entirely purple wings - it appears to be an Early Purple Eriocrania semipurpurella which, if confirmed, will be my first and a worthwhile record.

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Great Grey Shrike, Burnham Overy, 5th April

 

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Barnacle Geese, Burnham Overy, 5th April

 

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Spoonbills, Burnham Overy, 5th April

 

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Shelduck, Burnham Overy, 5th April

 

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Water Vole, Sculthorpe Moor, 5th April

 

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Bank Vole (left) and Scarlet Elfcap (right), Sculthorpe Moor, 5th April

 

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Bullfinches, Sculthorpe Moor, 5th April

 

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Bramblings, Sculthorpe Moor, 5th April

 

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Reed Buntings, Sculthorpe Moor, 5th April

 

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probable Early Purple Eriocrania semipurpurella, Bawdeswell Heath, 5th April

 

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Common Oak Purple Dyseriocrania subpurpurella (left) and Purple Thorn (right), Bawdeswell Heath, 5th April

 

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March Tubics Diurnea fagella , Bawdeswell Heath, 5th April

 

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Frosted Greens, Bawdeswell Heath, 5th April

 

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Nut-tree Tussock (left) and Early Tooth-striped (right), Bawdeswell Heath, 5th April

 

Friday 4th April

Had a look for a large flock of a few hundred Golden Plover I'd seen in my lunch break on Monday - it had surprised me how many there were as most have gone by now. They were a bit harder to find today as they had gone down a bit - well, a lot actually - there were only 3 birds left!

Another Golden Lance-wing Epermenia chrysophyllella among tonight's moths as was my first Phyllonorycter of the year (and by far my earliest ever). [Updated 10th]: Despite my earlier assertion that it keyed out as salicicolella this ID had surprised me as I was expecting it to be a blancardella-type. Now reviewing this in the light of a second individual which also keyed out as salicicolella despite looking equally wrong for that species I have found a better key and researched it a bit more thoroughly. The outcome of that is that it's very probably Common Thorn Midget Phyllonorycter oxyacanthae, although it would require dissection to completely rule out blancardella or mespilella. If confirmed as oxyacanthae it would be my first, although I suspect some of my unidentified Phyllonorycters, and perhaps some that I've tentatively put down as blancardella, are likely to have been this supposedly common species.

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Golden Plover, south of Brancaster Staithe (left) and Great Crested Grebe, Brancaster Staithe (right), 4th April

 

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probable Common Thorn Midget Phyllonorycter oxyacnathae, Bawdeswell (left) and 10-spot Ladybird, Brancaster Staithe (right), 4th April

 

Thursday 3rd April

Among 32 moths tonight was a record count of 22 Common Quakers. Better was a new moth for me, Ruddy Flat-body Agonopterix subpropinquella. Otherwise nothing better than another Parsnip Moth Depressaria radiella.

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Ruddy Flat-body Agonopterix subpropinquela, Bawdeswell, 3rd April

 

Wednesday 2nd April

Fewer waders at the patch on the way home tonight, except 5 Green Sandpipers. Also 8 Shoveler at a site where I don't normally see them was a surprise.

 

Tuesday 1st April

A plethora of waders at one site on the patch this evening, including 4 Little Ringed Plovers, 4 Green Sandpipers and 17 Snipe. Best of tonight's moths was a Brown-spot Flat-body Agonopterix alstromeriana.

 

 

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