Friday, 1 October 2010

Norfolk Birding: Back to its Best!

The last week has been so busy birdwise that I have been unable to keep up with the birds I have seen! So here are the highlights:

Friday 24th September
The forecast had promised much, but before school there was little wind to be spoken of. However, throughout the day the winds built from the NNW to gale force. Unfortunately, I was not dressed for the occasion, so decided to park up at the Cliff Road Car Park, where watching from the car is possible, even with the heating full on! It turned out to be one of the best sea watches I have experienced and I managed to see the majority of species seen from the shelter. The main highlight was the number of Great Skuas passing in groups of 20+. I estimated a total up to c 200 (later finding out that someone counted 215 from 3.30 onwards). There were much smaller numbers of Arctic, with 3 or 4 Pomarine Skua and 2 probable Long-tailed Skua also seen. A fantastic sight of a Sabine's gull moving past close in was another highlight, moving through with some Sandwich Terns and not the Kittiwakes that were passing. Brief views of a presumed petrel were no more than that, but coincided with a Leach's seen!! A few shearwaters were also seen with double figures of Manx and a couple of Sooty.

Saturday 25th September
The day that, thanks to James McCullum, will live long in the memory!
Sunday 26th September
The hoped for day of recovery was shattered by news of a Bonelli's Warbler sp at Wells, found by Stuart White. I raced up, paid the 'toll', sorry car parking fee and made my way into the area between the kissing gate and the dell. The bird had been showing, but disappeared just before I arrived (Marcus, who was a few minutes behind me lucked upon the bird on the southern side of the track! - 5 mins too late or a few mins too early!!) Another 1 1/2 hours passed (during which I went back to pay more 'toll', thanks to Ian and Duncun!!) with a couple of Pied Flycatchers and a calling Yellow-browed Warbler the highlights. A couple of close calls occurred as I tried to follow the sightings and intercept the bird, when finally I noticed birders moving quickly. I went round, but stopped to look into the trees and immediately saw the jewel of Bonelli's Warbler. The bird was then watched on and off for about 1/2 hour, with some excellent views noted. Although it wasn't heard to call, there seemed to be no plumage details that would suggest Eastern (a couple of days later he call was confirmed and Western Bonelli's Warbler was safely on my Norfolk list! As I was about to leave the Bonelli's appeared again over our heads and a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen briefly.
I took advantage of some extra time and moved on to Warham Greens to see the Common Rosefinch and Yellow-browed Warbler that John Furze had found.

Monday 27th September
A quieter day, but I couldn't resist getting back out to the North Coast.

I started at Gramborough Hill, Salthouse, where brief views were had of the Barred Warbler. Also in the area were Blackcap, Garden Warbler and a couple of Chiffchaff. A Redpoll sp was also seen, being either a Lesser or 1st winter Mealy.

Onto Kelling Water Meadows, to see the Grey and Red-necked Phalaropes. The walk down to which was punctuated with brief views of not one, but two Yellow-browed Warblers. The Phalaropes were feeding in close proximity to each other, often seemingly moving after the same food source! Elsewhere in the area a cracking male Redstart was found (with one or two others seen later) as well as c20 Wheatear and Robins were everywhere, with smaller numbers of Song Thrushes arriving from the continent!

A return to Gramborough gave slightly better views of the Barred Warbler, but little else.

The day finished at Walsey, where two newly arrived Siskins quickly found the feeding station with the local birds.

Tuesday 28th September
A later start had me arriving at Weybourne to meet up with Julian at the Preston’s, where an excellent ringing session was occurring. I arrived to the excitement of a small 'locustella' being trapped. Thoughts went rare and the measurements were very close, but eventually these, combined with plumage details lead the identification to a Grasshopper Warbler - the smallest Martin had ever rung. Other highlights included a young male Sparrowhawk and Siskin, which the Sparrowhawk might have been chasing! Earlier a Barred Warbler had been trapped.
News of a Red-flanked Bluetail just over the border in Suffolk, eventually proved too much to resist and Julian, Duncan and myself headed don o admire my 6th delightful encounter with this once 'mythical' species!

Wednesday 29th September
Some real birding out with Dave produced an excellent migration. The main highlight came early on with a find tick for Dave, a Great Grey Shrike (probably the commonest bird he hadn't found himself before!) It showed well and stayed loyal to its original perch, even returning after flushed be a car. A couple of Wheatear seemed to follow us around and a calling Lapland Bunting went over. However, this was quickly surpassed when two, probably different groups of 10 and 8 Lapland Buntings were located in the fields. Elsewhere 7 Redstarts were found, most in close proximity to each other and again included some lovely males. Two Pied Flycatchers were found together, with another bird elsewhere, where a Ring Ouzel was also seen. An interesting Garden Warbler was seen, being a tea-colour!

Thursday 30th September
A visit to Gramborough Hill before work was rewarded by much better views of the Barred Warbler. The other birds seen in the week were also present, but had be joined by 2 Whinchat, 5 Wheatear, 2 Goldcrest and, best of all, a Grasshopper Warbler.

An evening return (arriving to find some people standing less than 1 m from the brambles) again gave reasonable views of the Barred, but even better were two Short-eared Owls - one very dark and the other biscuit colour, a wonderful contrast as they occasionally tussled together. These were joined by two of the local Barn Owls and, as the darker Short-eared disappeared it mobbed a ringtail Hen Harrier and it flew east!

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