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Saturday 30 September 2017

This MUST be a Caspian Gull, surely?

I had an enjoyable solo walk around Buckenham Marshes this morning: no passerines popped up and no raptors, either. The water in the 'scrape' was pretty deep, so the few birds present were crammed onto the small islands. Apart from a flock of Lapwings and a single Ruff, the only other birds of interest were gulls: Lesser Black-backed, Black Headed, Common and - hello! What's this? A largish white headed gull dropped in briefly near a somewhat bulkier Lesser Black-back. It was doing a fairly good impression of a Ring-billed Gull: I offer the possibility that it is a first winter Caspian Gull, and wait to be ridiculed by those who stayed in to watch F1 qualification or chased off after other people's discoveries!

I carried on round to Strumpshaw, where there was even less to look at: quite a large gallery waiting for the BTs, though. This included Brians S & T, as well as 'Blonde Liz' and Rob Wilson - always good to chat.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Nighthawk: one that got away...

One Autumn several years ago, Martin Read (a friend of mine with whom I've shared many amazing birds) had one of those bitter-sweet birding experiences. He was walking through Norwich when he noticed a long-winged, dark bird swooping around a street light - this was in the daytime, by the way. He immediately realised that he was looking at a Nightjar of some sort and that, this being Autumn, it had to be a rare vagrant. Martin made field sketches (he's a brilliant artist) and submitted these to the usual pundits and committees, all of which dismissed the observation virtually out of hand.

Yesterday morning, as I was getting ready to go out with Linda, Norman and Brian, I glanced from the kitchen window and noticed that Venus was quite high above our newly-trimmed hedges. I realised there was a chance to catch a glimpse of two other planets in the pre-dawn skies: Mars and Mercury. Accordingly I stood at the window trying to pick them out along the ecliptic. After a minute or two, I noticed a long-winged, dark bird (!) swooping around over next door's garden. It flew over the hedge and apparently began chasing insects around our large Chusan Palm. I watched it for perhaps ten seconds (which is longer than you think!) before it flew north and out of sight. As you do, I ran through all the things it could have been: Hobby, Kestrel - nothing seemed to fit. In my heart of hearts, I knew - know - it was a Nightjar of some sort.

Now: Nightjars are early migrants and push off to warmer climes in August. Do any of you know whether or not a few linger until September? (The picture below is - obviously! - a simulation.)

Wednesday 27 September 2017

Little Stints at Titchwell.

Leaving Holkham just before our parking ticket expired, we carried on along the coast to Titchwell: as is generally the case, the car parks were already nearly full, but we managed to find a space. A glance at the blackboard in Reception (and a chat with Sue Bryan!) revealed that there was a somewhat elusive Yellow-browed Warbler around the picnic area but little else. We didn't spend too long looking for (and failing to find) the YBW, but, walking out to Parrinder Hide, enjoyed good views of a variety of waders, including six Little Stints.

After a further fruitless look for the warbler, we decided to drive back to Cley for coffee and a check of the scrapes. Here again there was little new to look at, so we called it a day and headed back to the Yare Valley.

Great White Egret at Holkham...

Yes, I know we're supposed to call them 'Great Egrets' nowadays, but I'm old school! Linda joined Brian, Norman and me for a run up to the North Coast in the hope of a few migrants. First stop (And first part of today's post!) was Lady Anne's Drive, Holkham.

A slow, careful grill of the trees out to Meol's House produced one possible YBW, but nothing to point a camera at. However, a visit to Washington Hide was instantly more productive, with good - if distant - views of a Great White Egret. We watched it catch several fish, including what seems to be quite a large Silver Bream or hybrid. A walk along to the Jordan Hide added nothing to the daylist, apart from the first Pinkfeet of the year: a vast flock of several thousand birds that flew restlessly back and forwards. After drinking a flask of tea, we headed west...

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Sensational Strumpshaw Fen: Bearded Tit, Water Rail, Bittern, Little Owl....

Just occasionally the Fen pulls out the metaphorical stops and delivers bird photography opportunities of the highest quality. At the moment the 'film stars'  are the Bearded Tits, a pre-dispersal flock of which feeds along the Sandy Path, sometimes approaching within just a metre or two. While I was watching these this morning, a Bittern flew across the reed bed, adding itself to a daylist that already included Kingfisher, Water Rail, Snipe, Siskin and Jay.

I had work to do, so left earlier than usual: perhaps this was the reason I found one of the resident Little Owls perched right by the road!

Monday 25 September 2017

Redstart and Pied Flycatcher at Horsey

Linda had booked some tree surgeons to come and manicure the garden, so I sloped off on a solo migrant hunt at Horsey.
Parking at the end of the Nelson's Head track, I walked through to the blue container where I found the only Wheatear of the morning, as well as a few Stonechats, Goldfinches and a Hobby.

The walk eastwards to the pine plantation was uneventful (apart from a peek at the seals from the top of the dunes) and I was thinking of returning to the car when I spotted Tim H huddled down by the fence. He was obviously on to something, so I got down and crawled over to join him. A terrific patch birder, Tim is never that desperate for company, so it was kind of him to whisper that there were a few birds flitting in and out of the conifers. After a wait of perhaps half an hour I got some decent images of  female-type Redstart and Pied Flycatcher: most welcome!

Sunday 24 September 2017

White Storks: time for a little common sense!

If you haven't taken the trouble to visit the White Stork at Long Stratton, I honestly recommend that you do: it's a super bird, unringed and unpinioned and behaving just the way White Storks are supposed to behave. Of course, you could be led by the nose by some of the news services into dismissing this - and every other White Stork seen in Norfolk - as an escape. But on what evidence is this bird being rubbished? Is it ringed? No. Has it been wing-clipped (like many of the known Sussex wire hoppers)? No.

To arbitrarily call all White Storks in Norfolk 'escapes from Thrigby Hall' seems not just illogical, it is also misleading for the simple reason that there is no evidence! While it is true that Storks have escaped from Thrigby, it is also true that many of their birds are ringed and in a secure enclosure. As far as anyone knows, those that did go over the wire a few years back don't stray too far from the Hall. Let's face it: on the one occasion a pair attempted to nest it was on the roof of the Hall, about 300m from their enclosure!

There is a second potential source of escapee Storks: the Shorelands Wildlife Gardens near Diss. For a couple of years they have been looking after some injured Polish birds, apparently with a view to releasing them into the English countryside. Hmmmm... I can't see a licence being issued for that!

But! Even if it could be proven that many/most of the Storks that pop up around East Anglia are of captive origin, I'd argue there is no logic in failing to go and look at any that are free-flying and unringed: it's not as if White Storks don't occur here as genuine migrants: over the years I've seen a dozen or so whose origins were not questioned. As an aside: I'm old enough to remember when the long-staying Titchwell Stilt was claimed to have escaped from Pensthorpe, the Horsey Hickling Cranes were dismissed as escapes and when every Night Heron was said to be from Edinburgh or Great Witchingham Zoos!