Saturday, 3 December 2011

Western Sandpiper

I have had to wait until the weekend to catch up with the latest First for Norfolk
On arrival early in the morning the hides were not as packed as I thought they would be, I even got a seat!
The bird was already on show, distantly at first but it then became the closest bird from Dawkes hide.
This little 'peep' was controversial at first. Having seen it now I can see it looks spot on for Western rather than Semip.
Structure - like a miniature Dunlin rather than like a small Stint. Which is what the Brownsea bird also reminded me of. When the bird was running around feeding it appeared to be flat backed with a square head rather than rounded stance and round headed like a Semip.
Bill - distinctive and although Semip can be long billed im sure this would be a very extreme bird ( like the Felixstowe Stint )
Rufous tones to crown and scaps still slightly visible despite the bird being in an advanced winter plumage

On the whole an instructive bird!

Past Cley coastguards were: Little Auk (a close bird), a few Kittiwakes, Goldeneye, Merganser, a few Scoter, Razorbill and Guillemot. The Little Auk is the first I have seen for a while.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tundra look-alikes

I thought I would add a photo of one Goose at Burnham Marshes that had me confused (for a bit)

It appeared to have orange legs and orangey bill. Could be confused with Tundra Bean Goose however all other plumage features pointed to Pinf-foot. The head was distinctly two toned (grey/brown) unlike the real Tundra Bean Goose nearby which had a darker head all-over.

I have ofetn heard about Pink feet with odd leg colours but now I realise how confusing they can appear.

I think it is best to use a combination of features to confirm the ID and good views are required!

Any comments on Geese ID are welcome

Monday, 21 November 2011


Caught up with some of the Geese that have recently arrived on the N Coast today

1 Tundra Bean Goose was showing very well by the A149 near Burnham, with just a few Pink feet

I had forgotten how much orange they can show on the bill but the short neck and head structure is classic Tundra rather than Taiga

Also seen at Burnham Overy were : 21 Barnacle Geese (looking wilder than the usual ones present), 2 Buzzards (but no R Legs)

Earlier around Wells Woods and beach:
1 Chiff
10+ Grey Partridge
50+ Snow Buntings

Sunday, 20 November 2011


A visit to stay with my sister and her family in Florida recently has mean no Norfolk birding. Looks like there have been some impressive Geese arrivals here though. So I hope to catch up with some of these.

As for Florida, no birding, but it is hard to avoid seeing birds as they are everywhere there. And so tame too.

I managed to see a new bird .. Snowy Plover, on the beach in Sarasota. A recent split from Kentish, it certainly looked paler and different in the bright, hot sunshine. All the waders there were ridiculously tame with Willets, Semip Plovers, Grey Plovers, Knot and Sanderlings all running around the feet of joggers and sunbathers!

Also noteworthy was the Amrican Bittern seen in flight from my sister's balcony along with many other roosting Herons, Egrets and Ibises. The first American Bittern since the one I saw at Martin Mere.. Many years ago

Lots of Ospreys , Palm Warblers as usual.

Now back to bread and butter birding here in the UK!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Late Autumn

What may be my final walk to the Point this year as Autumn is soon to turn into Winter (and I am off to Florida to visit family for a week)

An imm Metlin flew along the breaking waves at Cley and a stunning SE Owl flew along the shingle at the start of the walk.
Despite lots moving through the county a few weeks ago, this was the first one I have seen this year.

The walk was quiet. No decent migrants but lots of Starlings in-off in groups of 20 to 100.

Highlight was watching a Peregrine hunting out at sea near the old seawatching shelter.
It flew after migrating Starlings and at one point it chased after 4 Wigeon.
I lost site of it when it chased after a few birds further out. It always amazes me how much time Merlins and Peregrines spend hunting over open seas, something that not everyone realises.

This weekend looks good for something very rare. But I will not be in the Uk!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Siberian Chiffchaff

Beautiful sunny warm day

Started with a seawatch at Cley with Mark Golley - 5 Pom Skuas (7 seen in total today between Cley and the Point) a few Bonxies and lots of Little Gulls lingering and moving through - over 150 counted between Cley and the far Point area.

With the possibility of either a Pallas's or Richard's Pipit around in light N to E winds I headed up the Point in glorious weather

A few Rock Pipits around and lots of Skylark moving West. Imm Shag on the sea was a long awaited year tick! plus a few Guillemots and Razorbills around

I then found a Phyllosc near the Hood - It appeared quite pale and frosty coloured. It called and I knew it was no Collybita! It had a piping , monotone , deep call .. and different from 'normal' Chiffs

Amazingly the bird then sat in a bush just 15-20 feet away and I even managed to get a shot through the binoculars using my phone!

The defining features were

Warm brown cheek and no yellow in plumage
Frosty pale below with just warm flanks
Green only in wings
mantle grey brown and eye looked really beady, almost Bonelli's like face
Bill dark with just pale around cutting edges
Legs dark but toes appeared paler than rest of legs - This is the only feature which didn't fit as I thought they are meant to be jet black legs and feet?

On the whole - coupled with the call - a pretty good candidate for tristis - I put the news on Birdguides as this rather than possible or probable - a bit foolish maybe , but looked good enough to me!

R Porter managed to see it too a few hours later and he also got some shots. In the brighter light later in the afternoon it looked much paler .. but the warm tones and call that it showed earlier still make me think it was a Sibe Chiff

I have previously seen one bird that wintered (with an abietinus type) at the Brent Res many years ago .. and the odd possible bird on Scillies .. but this was the first time I have seen one in Norfolk

Photos below:

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

All quiet in Norfolk

West winds are still blocking all migrants.

A Brambling and Grey Wag over garden in Salle gave me hope that there would be some migrants on the coast.
In reality, although it felt autumnal, there were no migrants around

I can't believe Norfolk will not get a decent October rarity. The Sandhill Crane will of course be one of the rarest birds of the year to cross the county.

I am just glad I saw it (even if it did mean a rare trip out of the county!)

Last year the 'Alder Fly' was for me the star bird and I would be surprised if a rare american passerine does not get found this year as well....
Now ... A Parula or Y Rump Warbler (two big bogey birds of mine) would be very nice.

Thursday, 6 October 2011


High winds are still blocking any decent arrivals from the East.

1 close juv Pom with a large amount of white on forewing (something i've never seen before?) went past harrasing the few S Terns left.
I have in the past seen Bonxies with larger than normal pale areas. Not sure if this is common with Skuas .. Please comment if you have also noticed strange Skua plumages.

2-3 A Skuas, 5 Manxies, plenty of Gannets, Razorbills and Guillemots
A few RTDivers

N Hide was quiet

Went to Kelling with a visiting couple from Surrey who were birding in Norfolk for the week. There had been some J Snipe the day before but could not relocate these.

Highlights were:
1 juv Yellow Wag which had a greyish upper tone and yellow confined to lower part of body. Certainly not Eastern origin but had been described as 'continental/g headed' by someone else.Not sure how it would be possible to racially identify autumn juvs! But it did look interesting. One Possible White Alba also in the group of Wags

Other than a Little Stint..not much else was found here.
Bring on some E Winds please!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Sandhill Crane in Suffolk

Sandhill Crane is one of those birds that I never imagined seeing in the UK. The last bird in Orkney in 2009 and then the recent bird in Scotland were too far away for me.
When the Scottish bird started slowly moving south, being tracked along the east coast I was hoping it would reach Norfolk.
The odds of thus happening and for me to catch up with it were not great, however, when the bird stopped in Suffolk I was slow at getting there (due to family commitments) but today I managed to get there.

On arrival at 7.30am the bird was already flying around and being admired by a small crowd.

Great bird and amazing to think it has traveled over 4000 miles so far already!

Last time I saw one was wandering around a lawn in Florida... Great to see one so close to home

A blocker no more

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Lap dance

Nothing that exciting happening on the coast today!

But did find an imm Lap Bunting in the eye field. Rest of day was birdless. Will have to wait for Easterly winds before venturing out again.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

More sunshine and very few birds

Today (with Raymond the dog) walked Blakeney to Watchhouse, Wells Woods and to beach at Titchwell. There were plenty of Martins moving through Sand and House, with a few Swallows all moving West
More Mipits in today. 4 Wheatear on beach at Cley

Very few seabirds. A few A Skua and Red T Divers etc

3 Yellow Wagtails at Titchwell and a good candidate for White Wag (a juv bird with grey crown and grey upper rump) with plenty of Pieds

Greenshank and Spot Red along river Glaven with a single Pink foot over.
2 Little Stint at Titchwell still.

Another pleasant day but fairly migrant free. There are now two (UK) ticks for me in the country.. Long T Stint and N Waterthrush.. But will spend my last day off work tomorrow trying to find at least one scarce bird nearer to home. There has to be at least one good bird in Norfolk!

Monday, 19 September 2011

Sunny September day

A short seawatch from Cley produced: A few Manxies, 2 Bonxie, 1 A Skua and plenty of Gannets nearly all going East

Despite sunshine and west winds I decided to check the Point anyway
After about 40 minutes I got a call from John Molloy in Northumberland! To let me know that a Fea had been reported going West.. I rushed up to James McCallum who was watching a Black Tern and had a look out in case it was seen again.

The B Tern was the first I have seen this year, so was pleased with that.
As for the Fea.. I have just just read the description and I must say, compared to James's bird last week does not sound too convincing to me!

Only other migrants today:
Whimbrels, Wheatear..a Peregrine .. Not much else. But a beautiful day anyway

Friday, 16 September 2011

I Have no Fea....

....on my list!
I have always wanted to find a Fea's Petrel and today I came close to seeing one in Norfolk. But not close enough.
Chose to go to Cley to seawatch at around 8am and when I got there I found out (via a text alert) that a Fea's had passed Sheringham earlier in the day.

Plenty of Cley regulars looking for it but other than a few distant Manxies, 8 Bonxies, 2 Arctic Terns and the first Brent Geese of the autumn there was very little.

The only 'new' thing for me was HEARING 3 Red T Divers calling to each other close to shore. I had never heard one before. Sounded like a strange Gull being strangled. A Walk to the Watchhouse on Blakeney Point produced just one Grey Heron a Knot and a few Whimbrel! So I turned back.

Next week I have a few days off work and will be out searching quite a bit... If only the winds would stay from the East it would be great.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Urban Birder visits Norwich

Yesterday evening I went to a book signing and talk by my old friend David Lindo (aka The Urban Birder)

The talk was great and summarised his book well. To anyone who hasn't got it yet it is his autobiography and covers his early years, growing up in urban London and his passion for birds and wildlife despite living in a busy city centre with what is wrongly considered by the general public a 'lack of birds'!
The book mirrors my life in terms of the same fascination with wanting to learn more about the birds around me and both growing up in London. We also both 'borrowed' bird books from the library for rather long periods of time and memorised each page. I think we both still have some of those early books!

I first met David while walking around the Brent reservoir birding and then in later years we started birding at Wormwood Scrubs. We started to realise its true potential as a migrant stop-over point when we found Pied Flycatchers, Tree pipits etc
David has gone on to find a long list of scarce migrants there with Wryneck (which I got to see), Richard's Pipits, Little Bunting, the first UK wintering Redstart (which we named Rudolph) etc etc

His passion for showing young people in cities the wealth of wildlife they can see if they just look up is to be commended .. and his enthusiasm for birds and wildlife can clearly be seen on his Television appearances
I must admit that when I am feeling down about the lack of birds on Blakeney Point the text updates from the Scrubs sent to me by David keep me going. If he can keep going when it is hard work finding anything, then so can I !

Keep up the good work David!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Red sky in the morning...

Whilst walking Raymond (the dog!) around Salle early this morning had a stunning Red Kite low over the road. Even managed to get some decent photos on the phone without the use of binoculars!
Great birds and always a pleasure to see.
I have seen them flying low over main roads a few times in the early mornings. My guess is that they are searching for overnight road kills?

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Cley morning

A quiet morning after all the excitement yesterday.
A pleasant stroll up to North Hide. No sign of yesterday's Dotterel. Some close Arctic Skuas, a flock of 22 Eider on the sea, a hunting male Peregrine.
... Just waiting for the winds to turn easterly.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Titchwell Twitchwell

Well, what a morning! Nothing wrong with a bit of good old fashioned twitching now and again.

Got to Titchwell early and already a crowd was forming where the Little Bittern had been seen. Gave it about 20mins but decided to check the hides instead.

From the main hide:
Cattle Egret showing well (my 3rd in Norfolk)
Buff-breasted Sabdpiper 1juv - Amazing how small these birds look next to Ruff.
Curlew Sand - 7+
Little Stint
Spot Red
Then on hearing that the L Bittern had been seen again I headed back to the 'scrum'. After only about 30 mins I got good views of the juvenile bird sitting in the reeds.
This Is only the second one I have ever seen (anywhere in the world) after a very nice male in Sussex in about 1988! I was therefore very happy to see one again.

A beautiful Red Kite flew over the marshes being hassled by Marsh Harriers.

Was hoping to see the Citrine at Cley but no sign of it since early morning. 11 Spoonbill at Cley were feeding and not sleeping for a change!
Out at sea just a few close Gannets and Arctic Skua.
It's an exciting month.. Anything can happen.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Still quiet..

..with these westerly winds.
Very few passerine migrants but waders seemed to everywhere.

7 Common Sandpipers
8 Whimbrel
and in low tide Greenshanks and Spotted Redshank on the river Glaven channel.

Only about 20 Linnets and M Pipit numbers slowly building.
1 Eider on the sea.

Next week will hopefully be better as it really is quiet on Blakeney Point at the moment!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Autumn begins - Thu 25th Aug

A recent fall had me heading up to the Point with high expectations .... The reality was that nearly all the migrants had already moved on!

A nice male Red backed Shrike was still hanging around the bushes at the start of the walk near the river Glaven.

At the Watchhouse 1 Phyllosc in the area where there had been a Greenish Warbler would not play ball and refused to show itself more than a few times in flight. One Whitethroat was the only other migrant seen!

1 lone Swift over Blakeney Marsh, as rain moved in, may be the last of the year here..

There were still signs of summer with a few butterflies like this Small Copper hanging in there:

Small Copper

The clouds produced a dramatic sky ... but no rare birds

A few birders were twitching the Shrike. I am hoping there will be a bigger crowd pleaser here this autumn .. Only a few weeks before the main fun and passage really starts:

Friday, 5 August 2011

Pec Surprise

Walked into N Hide at Cley late morning and was asked to help out with the ID of a wader which they suspected was a Pec Sand.

Bird flew in closer, nice Adult Pectoral Sandpiper! Released the news and a few birders including S Gantlett managed to see it before it flew out of sight. Seems to like the left corner looking out from the hide.

Cley is looking in perfect condition for a really rare wader this month.

This was the best shot I could manage on my phone when the bird briefly flew in closer to the hide. Before it was chased away by the usual Avocet pair that attack any close waders!

I was surprised by how yellow the legs were. The pectoral band was very defined. The structure was very similar to a miniature Ruff, hunched over when feeding. Size was smaller than the Green Sandpipers next to it.

Stopped at Buxton Heath on way home briefly. One Crossbill flew over but highlight for me (of the day!) was a new moth. A Beautiful Yellow Underwing . Dayflying Heathland species which I did not even recognise until I looked it up.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Lazy summer day

As there have been a few Storm Petrels seen further north I was hoping for one past Cley today (having just missed one at Sherringham last year and still not having seen one in Norfolk!). However, the weather was not ideal for seawatching and all that passed were the following:
Gannet x 7
Arctic Tern - 1 Adult (my first of the year)
Kittiwake - 1 juv
Guillemot x 2 on sea

North Hide at Cley - 12 Spoonbill (13 reported on Birdguides, but there was a sleeping L Egret amongst them!)
c.100 Dunlin - A few more juvs appearing
Ruff - 1 juv amongst plenty of adults
Hobby - 1 hunting as usual
Knot - 1 ad

..... The only decent migrant recently is a Dark Sword Grass - a scarce immigrant moth and a new one for me. Trapped a few days ago at home

Yesterday the journey to work was livened up by a rather tatty Red Kite circling low over the road just outside of Reepham.

Thursday, 14 July 2011


As it is generally quiet on the bird front in June and July here are a few moths I have trapped recently (gets me through the birdless summer months!):

Pine Hawkmoth

Poplar Hawkmoth

Red-necked Footman - Rare but increasing in Norfolk

The Womble like Drinker Moth

Pale Pinion - Huge palps!

And finally the massive Privet Hawkmoth

Seawatching season begins .. (almost)

Strong N and NW winds overnight gave me some hope that there may be some seabirds passing today and with a day off work I headed up to the Cley shelter.

At around 9am a few Gannets were passing. Mostly immature birds (sub adult) heading west. A close Bonxie and very distant Arctic Skua were my first of the year. Also new for year for me was a distant Manx Shearwater and another Skua in mid distance looked bulky but did not come close enough to be clinched as a Pom. A summer plum Bar T Godwit, Whimbrel and 70+ close Com Scoter were the only other birds of note in 30min Seawatch

It is always strange seawatching on your own rather than in the big groups such as those at Sherringham. You start to think 'What if an Albatross was to pass now' .. Would anyone believe it !? Would you start to imagine that you did not see it? .. Seeing as there was just about as much chance of winning the Euromillions lottery .. I did not have to worry too much about the consequences.

The highlight of the day was the number of returning waders seen from North Hide:
Stunning adult sum plum Curlew Sandpiper
juv Sanderling
juv LRPlover
many Dunlin - mostly adults (1 juv)

A Hobby flew away in distance, 1 YL Gull was picked out and 15 Spoonbill were gracing Simmond's scrape (again seen in distance from N Hide only)
This must be the largest number I have seen but staring to lose count of largest flocks.

All in all , a good taster of the autumn migrants that are just around the corner.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Collared Fly theory and Roller memories

I have put some comments and a link to two photos of the Collared Flycatchers that turned up on Fair Isle and the Holme bird this Spring. Both first summer birds, within three days of each other and both with remarkably similar plumage features... coincidence? I think not.

The finder of the Fair Isle bird had contacted me and also thinks they could be the same bird. Not sure it will be possible to prove. If anyone has photos of the Norfolk bird in flight it sounds like the tail pattern could be the proof. The F Isle bird did have quite distinctive outer tail feathers...Will be interesting to see if the rarity reports treat them as different birds.

Meanwhile, lots of birders getting excited about the Roller in Suffolk. Great birds. Dave and I watched at least 8 birds along one stretch of road on Spain recently, whilst reminiscing about one of the first twitches we ever went on from London to Devon back in 1989!

Will not venture into the unknown and out of Norfolk this time... But if it carries on north and over the border then I would be tempted!!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Back to the search for the big rarity

Encouraged by the amazing find up in Cleveland today (The first twitchable W T Robin) I decided to do a quick seawatch and then a stroll up to the Point ... just in case there was a mega hiding out in Norfolk too!

The highlight of the seawatch was a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver heading close in going West .. not a plumage i've had the pleasure of seeing in Norfolk before.

Razorbills x3, Guillemot x1, Fulmar x2 and about 30 Gannets past ..... It appears the NW winds not quite as good as the recent NE winds were for passage seabirds.

The walk up to the Point was livened up by the usual Little Terns, Oystercatchers with chicks etc

At the Plantation:
Spotted Flycatcher (my first of the year)
Willow Warbler
Wheatear x 2 .. late birds?

No June mega but a pleasant walk despite some rain


Back from a great trip to Spain .. Not so 'Pointless Birding' with Dave Gandy, my friend who lives in Thailand

We cleaned up on all the target birds within the first few hours of the day

Spanish Imperial Eagle
Great Bustards .. Still displaying which was a real surprise!
Little Bustards
Black-bellied and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse
.... not to mention the huge number of great common birds like Calandra, Thekla and Crested Larks. Rollers, Hoopoes etc etc

Mega rare Eagle .. Spanish Imperial
Great Bustard turning itself into popcorn!

R R Swallows

Sunday, 8 May 2011


A fantastic weekend and a reminder of how great birding in May, in Norfolk, can be.

With the winds in a great direction decided to walk to the Point, despite the lack of rain on Saturday:

Sedge Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Whitethroat x5
A singing Grasshopper Warbler at the Hood
Little Terns
A few C Terns
Whimbrel x10
Yellow Wagtail
A few Wheatear
A male Hare was so busy chasing a female, with her 'boxing' him, that they both nearly ran into me.
One large raptor distantly flew over the Gull colony and over the marsh (Buzzard sp?)

After returning to the car had a quick look out of North Hide where the day was rescued with Spoonbills x2, Tem Stint, Greenshank x5 and LRP amongst the other waders there.

Real feeling that a bit of rain would produce something really good....... Which was revealed on Sunday..

SUN 8th:

Started morning by dipping the Citrine Wagtail found by Mark G the previous evening. Still, it was nice to be out with many more Hirundines and Swifts than the previous day passing over. Hobby near Holt on way.
Hides at Cley produced just Common Sand, LRP and a Stoat running around chasing birds and anything else in it's way.
It was also great to finally hear some Bearded Tits as the cold winter seems to have reduced numbers of them this year.

After returning home was not expecting any the message at 4.20pm. COLLARED FLYCATCHER Holme....

Rushed up there and by 5.15pm I was in amongst a crowd of 2-300 trying to see it high in the canopy.

Eventually saw it well with the bonus of a Wood Warbler there too.

Some photos of the crowd to follow...

Quote of the day from one birder struggling to see it:
Birder 1 - ' I have seen the White belly and black head, so I'm happy to tick it '
Birder 2 - ' Could have been a Pintail! ' haha

Finished the day with a Turtle Dove seen from the car near Haveringland. A rare sight these days!

What a great day. And my first new British bird in 2011.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Spring is here

My first April walk up Blakeney Point this year
There was a real feeling that birds were on the move. Plenty of Spring migrants arriving and lots of Winter species departing.
Of the departing birds:
2 Pink footed Geese - Eye Field
20+ Golden Plover - most of which were in summer plumage
1 Female Merlin - which headed straight out into the north sea!

And the fresh arrivals:
1-2 male Redstarts
2 Whitethroat
3+ Whimbrel
25+ Wheatear
10+ Willow Warblers
6+ Chiffchaff
and a few Swallows

Monday, 18 April 2011

Fudge Duck at Strumpshaw

A quick visit to Strumpshaw this pm resulted in seeing the Ferruginous Duck that has been elusive at times. The bird was right in front of Fen hide and was displaying to Pochards. Tipping its head back and calling.
No sign of any rings and as pure as can be
This was a long awaited Norfolk tick having dipped them a few times over the last few years.

Also here: 2 Green Sand flew over. 1 Common Sandpiper. Singing Grasshopper Warbler. A few Sedge Warblers now back and lots of Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs

Strumpshaw in the sunshine