Tuesday 23 January 2018

Quality rather than quantity in North Norfolk

A chance for my first Norfolk trip of the year. I had nothing else on and the forecast looked favourable, so setting off fairly early meant I was in Wells for a coffee before 10 and then on to Lady Anne's Drive at Holkham. Here the usual fare on the Freshmarsh, wigeon, redshank, brent geese, few pink footed and plenty of greylag. A search through all of this didn't give up any white fronted. Overhead, 2 geese were noted flying towards Holkham Hall, I looked up and was surprised to note they were barnacles, not an everyday goose in Norfolk.
Barnacle geese

Looking west over Holkham Freshmarsh

Noisy redshank

drake wigeon

wigeon from Lady Anne's Drive
I then wandered on to the beach, noting a flock of goldfinch in the dunes as I headed east towards Holkham Gap. Here, a party of 9 shore larks were fairly confiding. In the same area where a group of 30+ had been a couple of years ago. I then set off for a sea watch, but rather disappointing with just a few red throated divers flying towards The Wash along with numerous gulls and cormorants.
7 of the 9 shorelark

I remained still and they slowly headed towards me.

Pleased with this one.
I then headed back to the car. Skylarks and meadow pipits called. A brief check in the pines failed to give up anything unusual so back to the drive where a snipe was evident, if distant and a stonechat popped up near the building site that will soon be a new cafe, apparently.
very camera shy stonechat

I then drove to Cley and Salthouse. not too much on show at Cley due to high water levels everywhere, so a check on Gramborough Hill from Beach Road, Salthouse. The usual turnstones were feeding on the shingle whilst around the back of Gramborough Hill, 80+ snow buntings. A good sight, indeed.
white fringes to wing coverts indicate 1st year turnstone

How many snow buntings here?

Good flight detail of a 1st winter snow bunting

feeding flock of snow buntings

Black headed gull, Salthouse beach
Time was still on my side, so off to Sheringham for a quick sea watch. Not too much from the Promenade but a confiding black redstart was great to see, dropping down on to some waste ground by the flats on the left as you wander towards the prom. It seemed to favour a small clump of vegetation in the corner of this area.
Black redstart's favoured perch

coming down to feed

a very showy bird
I then headed back west, stopping off for a quick check from Cley beach and a rapid scan over the Eye Field, but just more of the same so on to Titchwell. En route, I popped onto the mud at Burnham Overy Staithe, near the sailing club and was pleased to note all the teal and oystercatchers go up as one just as a female merlin sped over. Another good bird for the day. I like to be at Titchwell mid afternoon as the light is best, but today, having enjoyed cloudless skies all morning, it was becoming increasingly grey. After a brief stop for sustenance I headed off on to the reserve. Again, water levels were as high as I have seen them, so just wildfowl on the Freshmarsh. Therefore, it was possible the waders would be on the saltmarsh and, indeed they were: redshank, black tailed godwits, dunlin, grey plover, avocet along with shelduck and a solitary ruff. Little grebe, teal, mallards and a few wigeon were also on the water.
avocet in fading light

Black tailed godwit



Grey plover

Looking towards Thornham in the west

Last photo of the day, much enhanced lighting on a group of Knot

Little grebe

Drake Teal

Looking east over the Salt Marsh

Sunset over Thornham
 I then spent some time on the beach, scoping the sea. Good birds, all too far out for any photos but a raft of common scoter moved west on the incoming tide and in with these, 2 goldeneye. A little further west, 3 great crested grebes and 2 red breasted mergansers. On the tide line: grey plover, sanderling, oystercatchers, bar tailed and black tailed godwit. A great day out, managing to be back home before 7.30pm. A good way to get my 2018 bird list up and running.
Species from the day:

  1. red throated diver
  2. little grebe
  3. great crested grebe
  4. cormorant
  5. little egret
  6. grey heron
  7. mute swan
  8. pink footed goose
  9. greylag goose
  10. barnacle goose
  11. brent goose
  12. shelduck
  13. egyptian goose
  14. mallard
  15. gadwall
  16. shoveller
  17. wigeon
  18. teal
  19. pochard
  20. tufted duck
  21. common scoter
  22. goldeneye
  23. red breasted merganser
  24. marsh harrier
  25. kestrel
  26. merlin
  27. common buzzard
  28. red legged partridge
  29. pheasant
  30. moorhen
  31. coot
  32. oyster catcher
  33. avocet
  34. ringed plover
  35. grey plover
  36. golden plover
  37. lapwing
  38. knot
  39. sanderling
  40. turnstone
  41. redshank
  42. dunlin
  43. black tailed godwit
  44. bar tailed godwit
  45. curlew
  46. snipe
  47. ruff
  48. black headed gull
  49. common gull
  50. herring gull
  51. great black backed gull
  52. lesser black backed gull
  53. stock dove
  54. wood pigeon
  55. collared dove
  56. skylark
  57. shorelark
  58. meadow pipit
  59. pied wagtail
  60. wren
  61. dunnock
  62. robin
  63. black redstart
  64. stonechat
  65. blackbird
  66. great tit
  67. blue tit
  68. magpie
  69. jackdaw
  70. rook
  71. carrion crow
  72. starling
  73. chaffinch
  74. goldfinch
  75. linnet
  76. bullfinch
  77. snow bunting
  78. yellowhammer
A pleasing first list of the year: not everyday in Norfolk you'll get barnacle goose, shore lark, snow bunting, black redstart and merlin on the day list!

Sunday 14 January 2018

First moths of the year

I ran the heath 15 watt actinic moth trap in Millennium Wood on the 11th, catching 3 Pale brindled beauties and 2 winter moth. The following night, I got my first garden species of the year, another Pale Brindled beauty. These 2 species remain the only 2 so far. With a cold week forecast it may be a little while before I am out with the portable trap again. Tonight I left it running at Pig's Green, but nothing taken. 2 of the Millennium Wood PBB's shown here.

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Sri Lankan Visit

Set off for Sri Lanka on the overnight flight on Boxing Day, spending 2 days in Negombo followed by a week in Galle before returning to Negombo for 2 nights as it is easy for transfer to the airport. Not a birding trip, but I managed to get out on a few occasions, most memorably to a new area of Kottawa Rain Forest where I scored with the elusive and secretive white tailed shama. Other new birds for my SL list were crimson fronted barbet at Hiyare Forest and a distant osprey from the beach at Negombo.
I visited Kottawa with Anoma, naturalist in residence at the superb Jetwing Lighthouse hotel in Galle. I have spent plenty of time out and about with Anoma over the years and Wendy and I enjoyed his and his wife, Anusha's company on the Saturday night for a buffet at the hotel. We were also invited around to their house for a meal where son, Kevin, was the star of the show.
Anoma leading the way

Listening for the call of the white rumped shama

dense forest

This path only lasts about 50 metres

success: white rumped shama, a very difficult bird to find, never mind photograph

showing well, the male with the longer tail

shorter tail indicates a female
The beach at Negombo was great for a spot of sea watching, with indian cormorants, white bellied sea eagles, occasional brahminy kite and numerous terns. The latter were almost all gull billed and whiskered, as shown here.
gull billed tern

whiskered tern

whiskered tern

another whiskered tern

katamaran out fishing

Little egret, Negombo beach

white bellied sea eagle off the sea

distant white bellied sea eagle
Other birds noted around Negombo were common sandpiper on the beach whilst in the Jetwing vegetable garden, a family of tailorbirds, asian koel, shrika and plenty of rose ringed parakeets.
juvenile black hooded oriole

common sandpiper

juvenile tailorbird

adult tailorbird

Negombo beach

blue tailed bee eater hunting dragonflies on Negombo beach

Whilst in Galle, Anoma and I walked the local lanes and visited Kurulubedda chalets, set in their own forest and paddy area adjacent to Mahamodara River. Here, black monkey as well as a selection of everyday birds, always good to see. I returned to this lane on another occasion to get a few more photos, such as these;
black hooded oriole, adult

Black monkeys

common mynah

the lane leading from Jetwing Lighthouse

purple rumped sunbird

red vented bulbul

common kingfisher

Buddhist stipa along the lane with accompanying cattle egret

white bellied drongo
Another visit with Anoma was to the reservoir at Hiyare Forest. Here, brahminy kite, little cormorant and my first crimson fronted barbet, that refused to pose for the camera!
crimson fronted barbet

same skulking bird

Hiyare reservoir and forest

juvenile Brahminy kite

same bird

little cormorant

white  throated kingfisher
All in all, a superb time with birds everywhere. Restrictions on time meant no big trip out this time but still plenty noted and many pleasing species recorded.
cattle egret

Indian pond heron

Oriental honey buzzard outside Lighthouse hotel

red wattled lapwing

This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird. September 2009

Caley Wood view

Caley Wood view
sunshine through the canopy 29.05.08

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007
Best birds on this walk: black and middle spotted woodpecker and short toed treecreeper

About Me

My photo
A primary school teacher for 30 years, I retired from teaching in July 2009 to set up my own science enhancement and communication company. The Primary Works offers science clubs, workshops and staged science shows nationwide. I have always been interested in bird watching since my early years. Apparently my first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds. By the age of 9 I had moved on to Tory Peterson's collins guide and was now involved on YOC birding holidays to Northumbria, Essex coast, Slimbridge and Yorkshire. My twitching rule is that I will willingly travel 1km for each gram the bird weighs. However, I have had many rarities just by being in the right place. I have travelled widely throughout Europe and also visited Australia and Sri Lanka. In 2016 I spent time at Portland Bird Obs and two trips to Aviero, Portugal. 2017 found me back in Sri Lanka in Feb/March, then July and back for New Year's Eve celebrations in December. Also returned to The Camargue in May for a 4 day trip. Few plans for 2018, but nothing yet booked apart from a trip to the IOW.

Grey heron

Grey heron
Over the allotment 28.09.08

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker
Ridge footpath 27.08.08

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)
Note the stripes, denoting a bird fledged this year.

common blue

common blue
Ash Valley G.C. 15.08.08

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)
River Ash

azure damselfly

azure damselfly
River Ash 28.07.08

marbled white

marbled white
Discovered at Westland Green 22.07.08

ruddy darter

ruddy darter
Bush Wood 21.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08
growing in hedgerow in Chapel Lane

cinnabar moth caterpillar

cinnabar moth caterpillar
Photographed on ragwort 19.07.08


Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly

River Ash

River Ash
looking south from the bridge at Hadham Ford

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)
in rape field 29.05.08

Caley Wood sunshine

Caley Wood sunshine

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)
06.05.08 banks of the River Ash

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)
flowers, leaves and fruit edible . Good in salad and pesto

April showers

April showers
Double rainbow 30.04.08

Caley Wood bluebells

Caley Wood bluebells

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel
Chapel Lane (20.04.08)

sunlight 16.04.08

sunlight 16.04.08
looking south west from Bush Wood

snowy buds

snowy buds
06.04.08 in Bush Wood

Looking north west

Looking north west
05.04.08 evening shower approaching

Back Garden

Back Garden
Easter Sunday (23.03.08)

Brick Kiln Hill

Brick Kiln Hill
Looking east (23.03.08)

No play today

No play today
The 2nd hole at Ash Valley golf course

Teasel head

Teasel head
Bush Wood (21.03.08)


daffodils at Bush Wood pond (21.03.08)

Swollen River Ash

Swollen River Ash
The river at the bottom of Winding Hill 16.03.08

Daybreak over the chapel

Daybreak over the chapel
Thursday 13th March

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
growing in Bush Wood

January snowdrops

January snowdrops
Banks of River Ash, north of Much Hadham

Good Moon

Good Moon
From garden 24.01.08

Village Green

Village Green
Looking east towards Acremore Street

Looking south before Hadham Ford

Looking south before Hadham Ford
rare January blue sky

Useful sites

The following are some useful websites that may interest readers of this blog.
Firstly, Bishop's Stortford Natural History Society http://bsnhs.webplus.net/

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. http://hairybirders.blogspot.co.uk
http://www.hertsbirdclub.org.uk/ The official herts bird club website. Frequently updated, listing bird sightings around the county. Offers links to many other websites. Both of these sites also offer links to yahoo discussion groups.
http://www.birdforum.net/ An international site. You can enter as a guest but become a member( free) to post comments, bird sightings and just about anything to do with wild birds. Good news updates, classified section for binoculars, cameras etc.
http://www.guidedbirdwatching.com/ A new site set up where you can contact people worldwide who will help you find good birds in their country. UK section being set up presently.
Fellow birders blog. Strtford resident, Graeme Smith regulary birds the area south of Stortford as well as around Spellbrook and the River Stort from Spellbrook to Twyford Locks. Some superb bird photography: Graeme uses a digital camera attached to his powerful telescope to get detailled images of the birds he sees. Well worth a browse.
Two local sites that may be of interest can be found at
http://www.thehadhams.com/ www.thepelhams.net/content/section/12/139/

South Easterly walk

South Easterly walk
black, normal, red extended walk

South Westerly route.

South Westerly route.
Black usual, red extended

North Easterly walk

North Easterly walk
black short, walk. Red, extended

North West Patch

North West Patch
black route regular. Red route the extended wander