Norfolk: Day 1

Norfolk ~ 18th - 20th February 2014 ~ 

It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in the car, watching and photographing Snow Buntings in Salthouse car park at very close range, but that was a whole year ago. In that year I have done so much and a lot has changed; Salthouse car park is now just a mass of shingle, the sand dunes at Titchwell have been pushed back and halved in size and the boardwalk out to the beach has been completely destroyed. As well as this I have travelled to some fantastic locations such as Australia and Hong Kong and seen some amazing birds including European Roller, BrĂ¼nnich's Guillemot, Splendid Fairywren and Southern Cassowary!

On Tuesday morning we left early in order to avoid the morning traffic. Our first stop was West Stow Country Park where people have been getting amazing photographs of Common Crossbills drinking in puddles in the car park. However upon our arrival we realised that the car park didn't open until 9am. So, we decided to head to Lackford lakes, a short drive away, to see what we could find there.

Our first bird was a Marsh Tit, a great sight considering we don't get them where I live! We spent quite a while wandering around the reserve, seeing and hearing lots of birds which included Grey Heron, Lesser Black-blacked Gull, Cetti's Warbler and Goldeneye. Once we had been round the whole reserve and got back to the car park, we made our way back to West Stow CP.

Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris)
Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

At West Stow CP we were really hoping that the Crossbills would come down to drink soon as it was pretty cold and had started spitting with rain. However, after waiting in the cold for a few hours, having only had a few glimpses of the Crossbills and only managing photos of them at the tops of the trees, we headed to a hide where we could photograph birds coming in to some feeders. There was quite a selection of birds including Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit and Chaffinch. After a while we decided to head on to our next stop and as we headed for the car a Skylark flew overhead and we watched a Stoat running around in the field adjacent to the car park.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) 
Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Our next stop was Sculthorpe Moor Community Nature Reserve near Fakenham. When I visited Sculthorpe last year it was pretty good - Brambling in large numbers, Bullfinches and a skulky Water Rail. This time however, we went straight to the Fen Hide as I remembered that it was the best of them all last time. Doing this proved to be a great shout because within minutes of sitting down and opening the shutters we had a Water Rail showing really well underneath the feeding tables. This just added to the plethora of other species present which included Marsh Tit, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and Brambling!

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus)
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
We spent a good couple of hours in the hide before heading back to the car. On the way back we saw a few Mealy Redpolls, Lesser Redpolls, Siskin and Goldfinch flitting around a nyger seed feeder. As we were getting in the car, another birder shouted to us that there was a Barn Owl hunting the field. Obviously we leapt out of the car, cameras in hand and speed walked over to the birder and immediately spotted the Owl quartering over the field. Unfortunately it was a bit distant, but lovely to watch nonetheless!!

Barn Owl (Tyto alba)
After Sculthorpe we headed to our hotel in Old Hunstanton. On the way there we encountered a large gathering of birders in one of the lay-bys at Burnham, so we stopped to see what was going on. One kind birder told us that there was a Rough-legged Buzzard sat on the dunes in the distance and let us have a look through his scope. Although it was very distant, you could quite clearly make out why it was not just a Common Buzzard! The Buzzard flew off about 10 minutes later so we continued on to the hotel. Once back, we had a lovely meal and then went to bed, absolutely shattered but excited about what the next two days would bring.

As always, thanks for reading and I will endeavour to get the post about our second day in Norfolk finished and published soon!

Don't forget, you can keep up to date with my activity on Facebook and Twitter and my website here.

Starlings, Tits and a green thing with a strong, red beak

Bletchingley Bird Ringing ~ 16th February 2014 ~ 

Having not been ringing since before Christmas, I was glad that at last the weather looked favourable for a ringing session, and on the first weekend of half term too! No sooner had I thought this on Wednesday evening, did I have an offer of going ringing at Bletchingley, a garden site I have been to once before, on Sunday morning from CL and DKL. After a bit of arm twisting and pleading with my parents, I was glad that my mum agreed to take me.

We met CL and DKL at the service station where we enjoyed a cup of tea and a bit of breakfast to kick-start the morning.

Arriving at the site, we erected four nets around the numerous feeders and didn't have to wait long before the birds descended in their masses!

A smart Lesser Redpoll.

Like when we visited before, there were hundreds of birds around the garden and as a result there were plenty of birds to ring and process. We were so busy that we didn't sit down from the time we put up the nets, to the time we left at 16.00!!

This is a beautiful male Goldfinch and you can tell this because the red on its face extends
beyond the eye and the nostril hairs are more of a black colour than pale black/grey
which you would generally find on a female Goldfinch.

The highlights of the session for me were the Ring-necked Parakeet - amazing to see up close, but their bills are so strong and can inflict a lot of pain if/when they choose to sink it into your fingers, the Starlings - it was great to catch a few different individuals and be able to compare them next to each other and see the differences between ages and sexes side by side, last but not least the Great Spotted Woodpeckers, of which we caught 8 - they like to practice their pecking skills on your fingers but it is such a privilege to see them up close that you don't tend to worry about it too much!

The wounds inflicted on my fingers by the Parakeet - ouch! 

This is a male Great Spotted Woodpecker and you can tell this due to the red on the nape. Also,
you can tell that it is aged 5, which means that it was born last year, because of the unmoulted
greater coverts (they are browner than the rest which means they are a different generation of
feather) and the white tips to the primary feathers are only present in juveniles and sub-adult birds.

All in all a fantastic ringing session and hopefully it won't be too long before the next session, fingers crossed.

Me holding a Starling while sporting my new BTO beanie hat!

Many thanks to CL and DKL for inviting me to join them, and to Ralph and Pat for their hospitality!

Our totals for the day are as follows: 148 (37)

Ring-necked Parakeet - 1
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 6 (2)
Blackbird - 1
Dunnock - 1 (2)
Robin - 8
Blue Tit - 71 (24)
Great Tit - 26 (8)
Nuthatch - 1 (1)
Starling - 7
Chaffinch - 6
Goldfinch - 14
Lesser Redpoll - 6

As always, thank you very much for reading and you can keep up to date with my activity on Facebook and Twitter and my website here.