Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Norfolk - 22nd-24th January 2016

It's January again, and I've been off for a few days' birding in Norfolk, mostly in the company of Chris Morgan (and at whose lovely B&B in Sheringham I stayed).

  Brent Goose, Thornham, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016

To get the most out of the time (three full days, Friday to Sunday), I usually start out early enough on Friday to arrive in the northwest of the county at dawn , and then head east towards Sheringham, birding all the way (check out last year's trip here). With a potential lifer - a Serin - present at Downham Market since the 17th January, I decided this would be the best starting point this year.


I met Chris on site around 08:15, and we made a search of the area along with maybe three other birders. After 15 minutes we'd drawn a blank, but noticed a couple of the other birders leaving the site. We couldn't find out if they'd given up after only 30 minutes (max) searching, or had seen it but didn't let on (to us or the bird info services).

Undeterred, I headed up the bank toward the railing line, and almost immediately saw a small finch-type bird fly into a hawthorn, showing a dark tail and a bright lemon-yellow rump. It was the Serin. I went to get Chris and the bird flew up out of the tree, went high around the houses, and landed in brambles nearby. Soon the bird sat up in the brambles giving us great views of its dull yellowy-green streaked plumage. We were happy just watching it really, rather than worrying about photos, and it soon dropped into cover; but it did show and call a couple of more times before we left. A nice way to start the trip.

After checking the Great River Ouse for Goosander and nearby Tottenhill for Black-necked Grebe, we headed off north to do some coastal sites. By the time we reached Thornham (after dipping the Golden Pheasant at Wolferton) the weather had turned for the worse. Strong winds with rain, and clearly about to get worse. A flock of 20+ Twite was nice, but the weather made photography with my poor skills (and cheap bridge camera) very difficult.

  Redshank, Thornham, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016

  Twite, Thornham, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016

We checked out Titchwell and then Holkham Freshmarsh in heavy rain and blustery wind. Eventually the weather improved and we headed out on to Holkham beach in a vain search for Shore Lark. 

Avocet, Titchwell, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016

  Robin, Titchwell, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016

  Eurasian White-fronted Goose, Holkham Freshmarsh, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016

  Holkham Freshmarsh, Norfolk - Friday 22nd January 2016


We started out locally, looking for a generally reliable Black Redstart amongst the seafront flats, but to no avail. We heard from a local birder it hadn't been seen for 5 days, which at least made us feel we weren't the only people unable to find it. Of course, it was reported as present again while I was heading home on Sunday.

There was a lone Purple Sandpiper on the rocks at Sheringham, while a groups of 20+ Turnstones pecked over the shingle. I found a couple of dead Guillemots in the tide line too, presumably victims of the random and rapid changes in weather recently.

  Guillemot, Sheringham, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016

  Purple Sandpiper, Sheringham, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016

We popped to West Runton to the east to have a look at an adult Mediterranean Gull (I wonder if it was the same as the one I found on the beach here on my family holiday last year). Next stop was Weybourne, just along to the west, the highlight being a Mealy Redpoll with the finch flock (which also included a fare few Brambling).

We headed for Cley and the new Babcock hide. A Grey Phalarope was showing well on the shallow scrape. A nice addition to what Cley offers. Lots of exposed mud but now sign of any Water Pipits. A lovely redhead Smew was hiding among the Shoveler on Pat's Pool. Skylarks were singing loud and clear (what a change from the previous day) as we walked along the East Bank. A flock of c30 Snow Bunting were where the bank meets the shingle.

  Grey Phalarope, Cley, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016

  Egyptian Goose, Cley, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016

  Marsh Harrier, Cley, Norfolk - Saturday 23rd January 2016

The roost at Stubb Mill was impressive as ever, with at least 30 Marsh Harrier in the air at one time, circling in a tight ball. Barn Owl and Short-eared Owl too, with two Common Cranes on the deck, frequently calling.


We made our way along the north Norfolk coast, starting at Cley. A few Ruff, Knot, and Snipe along with the more showy waders. As is normal for Norfolk, a few Common Buzzard and the odd Barn Owl were on fence posts along the A149, as we drove towards Choseley. One Buzzard at Holkham was really pale, but perhaps not as pale as one at the same site the previous year.

Lots of Red-legged Partridge at Choseley, with around eight far less showy Grey Partridge. The Rough-legged Buzzard showed well, but only after we'd relocated further east to Mill Road, Brancaster.

  Common Buzzard, Holkham, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016

  Red-legged Partridge, Choseley, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016

After a short visit in poor weather on Friday, popped back to Titchwell. A couple of Water Pipits were showing pretty well on the mud with lots of Meadow Pipits to the west of the main path. There was a big wader roost on the freshwater marsh, with hundreds of of mainly Golden Plover and Lapwing. There was a raft of Common Scoter offshore, with a few Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser.

  Water Pipit, Titchwell, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016

  Black-tailed Godwit, Titchwell, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016

  Grey Plover, Titchwell, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016

  Freshwater Marsh, Titchwell, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016

Chris had to head back, and not long after he left news came through that a Pallid Harrier s) was showing at Abbey Farm, Flitcham. This would have been a lifer for Chris, and he'd already dipped this bird four times, so I felt a bit guilty heading off on my own! All the more so when the juvenile Pallid Harrier showed really well after a 20 minute wait. Really nice to get a chance to see one so well, after the near miss on Unst last October. That was an education, which I put to good use here, because just before the Pallid appeared we had a ringtail Hen Harrier across the back to the field.

I watched the big flocks of Bramling and Linnet and decided to have one last go for the Golden Pheasant. Ten minutes later I was in position on the north side of the famous Wolferton "triangle", and fifteen minutes later the Golden Pheasant was showing well. It seems to be looking after itself (I'm sure there's been only one for at least five years), though it must be getting on a bit now.

  Golden Pheasant, Wolferton, Norfolk - Sunday 24th January 2016

A nice end to the weekend.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

After all the relatively mild weather over the last few moths, with all that rainfall and flooding, we got our first real taste of winter in Leeds on Sunday 17th January 2016.

Redwing, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

The snow and ice tends to concentrate birds in certain places, especially water birds, which added extra interest to the WeBS count.  It's always nice to be out birding in the snow (well, fallen snow, if not blizzards), regardless of the bird numbers, and we had quality if not quantity. The reserve looked great in the snow, so I took few landscape photos as well as the birds.

 Kestrel looking out over Tim's Field - Sunday 17th January 2016

 Tim's Field, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

 A lone Snipe on the Duck Marsh - Sunday 17th January 2016

More Snipe out on the frozen Lagoon - Sunday 17th January 2016

 The Lagoon was around 95% frozen - Sunday 17th January 2016

 Lagoon islands in the ice - Sunday 17th January 2016

A group of up to six foxes were yelping from across the river - Sunday 17th January 2016

A nice surprise: a massive Barn Owl pellet - Sunday 17th January 2016

 Redwing by the Visitor Centre, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

 Dragonfly Ponds, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

 The corner of Tim's Field, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

 Looking west over the Wet Grassland, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

 Looking east over the Wet Grassland, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

Scrubland, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

Little Owl roosting in the Yorkshire Water compound - Sunday 17th January 2016

Bullfinch in the Manager's Garden - Sunday 17th January 2016

Fish Pass, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

Another surprise: two Black Swans with Canada Goose - Sunday 17th January 2016

 Willow Path, Rodley Nature Reserve - Sunday 17th January 2016

 Siskins on the alders byetween the Lagoon and Access Rd - Sunday 17th January 2016

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Patchwork Challenge: Rodley Nature Reserve, Leeds - 10th January 2016

I made my first visit of the year to Rodley Nature Reserve on Sunday 10th January, kicking off my 2016 Patchwork Challenge.

Rodley NR had suffered during the recent floods, and unfortunately I wasn't able to help with the clear up. After some great work  by regulars and volunteers over New Year, the reserved opened for business in early January.

Most of the car park was still cordoned off, and the lake in the adjacent field was still flooded from last year. There was a decent number of gulls on the water, including an adult Herring Gull among the Black-headed and Common Gulls. A good bird to start the year - it took me until November to get it on the patch list last year.

Herring Gull, Rodley NR - Sunday 10th January 2016

A lone female Tufted Duck, with Moorhens, was the only duck on the flood water, and this proved to be the only one I'd see today. Duck numbers on the reserve were certainly down. Getting the winter visitors on the list is key at the this time of year, and two each of Redwing and Fieldfare were obliging in the riverside trees, with a Mistle Thrush. 45 Greylags and c50 Canada Geese were on the grassy slope behind.

A couple of Cormorants flew upriver and I noticed a Kestrel was hovering unusually high up over the entrance road. A mixed flock of Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits moved along the fence line, while a Wren burst into song. I was doing pretty well and hadn't moved more than five metres from the car.

The Mallards were on the nearby Lagoon, but in pretty low numbers. Gadwall was the most numerous duck, but the highlight was a group of four Goldeneye (2m, 2f). There was Coal Tit on the peanut feeder on the willow oath behind the Lagoon hide. Now this was a good bird - only the second I'd ever seen on the reserve itself. I normally pop over the canal to Bramley Falls Wood (still on the Patchwork patch, but not part of the reserve) to get these, along with Nutchatch and easier Treecreepers. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker soon flushed the Coal Tit off the feeder.

The Duck Marsh was relatively quiet, but I did add Grey Heron, Little Grebe, a brief Kingfisher and a skulking Snipe to the tally.

Common Snipe, Rodley NR - Sunday 10th January 2016

Bullfinch, Pheasant and Reed Bunting were among the birds by the visitor centre. The reliable Little Owl was up by the manager's garden, with a decent flock of Stock Dove in the field behind.

Little Owl, Rodley NR - Sunday 10th January 2016

Bullfinch, Rodley NR - Sunday 10th January 2016

I drew a blank up at the new Sludge Lagoon hide, but got great views of a Common Buzzard on the scrub, and managed a photo before it got fed up being mobbed by crows.

Common Buzzard, Rodley NR - Sunday 10th January 2016

I checked out the area around the Dragonfly Ponds and the river. The flood damage was clearly at its worst here. The riverside Hawthorn I call the "Goldcrest tree" because of it's reliability for Goldcrests was missing, or at least mostly obliterated by the raging river. I caught sight of a stonking male Goosander flying upstream.

Dipping pond, reedbed, and dragonfly pools after the flood - Sunday 10th January 2016

The "Farming for Birds" fields, planted with seed crop to attract birds in winter and spring, was now mostly a muddy mess. Fortunately the Linnet flock (smaller than usual) were still finding some food there. Some other regular Rodley birders pointed out a Red Kite way over Headingley to the east. We noticed there were a pair, slowly moving north west towards Horsforth. My only two-pointer bird of the day.

I checked out the flood water by the car park as dusk approached (picking up a couple of Jays in the trees), and a half-decent gull roost was forming. Would be nice if Rodley could develop one of these.

Some Feral Pigeons on the factory roof were my final species of the day: 49 spp, 50 pts. Full list below. Not a bad start, given some very obvious omissions. It's the monthly WeBS count at Rodley next week, giving my another chance to build up a decent score before the end of the month.
  1. Black-headed Gull 
  2. Common Gull
  3. Herring Gull
  4. Tufted Duck
  5. Moorhen
  6. Jackdaw
  7. Magpie
  8. Redwing
  9. Fieldfare
  10. Mistle Thrush
  11. Greylag Goose
  12. Canada Goose
  13. Blue Tit
  14. Great Tit
  15. Long-tailed Tit
  16. Wren
  17. Kestrel
  18. Carrion Crow
  19. Cormorant
  20. Coot
  21. Mallard
  22. Gadwall
  23. Goldeneye
  24. Little Grebe
  25. Mute Swan
  26. Coal Tit
  27. Robin
  28. Dunnock
  29. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  30. Snipe
  31. Grey Heron
  32. Woodpigeon
  33. Bullfinch
  34. Pheasant
  35. Stock Dove
  36. Reed Bunting
  37. Blackbird
  38. Kingfisher
  39. Little Owl
  40. Greenfinch
  41. Chaffinch
  42. Starling
  43. Goldfinch
  44. Buzzard
  45. Goosander
  46. Red Kite
  47. Linnet
  48. Jay
  49. Feral Pigeon