Sunday, January 27, 2013

Norfolk - Common Cranes

Had a nice weekend in Norfolk with my wonderul wife Lori. We headed out at midday from Woking and arrived at Hickling Broad in Norfolk at about 16:00. Hicking Broad is a National Nature Reserve and is probably the most reliable sites in the U.K. to see Common Crane.

The area we walked out to from the car park (3/4 mile and wear wellies) was to the Stubb Mill lookout; one of the best winter raptor sites in the county and also a great lookout to see Common Crane come in to roost. On arrival there were already 30 or so birders in position; neatly lined along the look out area. Two Common Crane were already on the ground, though they were only view-able with a scope. This was no problem. so within minutes both Lori and I got to see our first Common Crane!

There wasn't any chance of photos as they were too far away and, as you can see, fading light. Raptors included as massive roost of Marsh Harriers (55 individuals) many of which were in the air at one time, an amazing site. Also, 2 Kestrel, 1 Merlin and Barn Owl. Some one shouted Hen Harrier but no one else go on the bird. Lori and I were nearly the last to leave; which worked out well as we got to see four of the Common Crane fly off the site and vocalize  En-route back to the car Lori rounded the day off by spotting a fly over Woodcock!

Before departing Hickling Broad we popped into the Greyhound Inn for a quick pint before heading for Mundesley. We arrived at Overcliff Lodge in Mundesley at about 18:30, our accommodation for the night. We were welcomed warmly by our hosts: Dave and Lena Robson. They absolutely spoiled us rotten and I cannot express how impressed we were with every detail at this wonderful guest house. The atmosphere, decor, food and service were second to none. I would highly recommend anyone to stay there. We finished our evening with a meal the Ship Inn in Mundesley; a ten minute walk from the lodge. Great food, good staff and nice atmosphere, again, I would recommend this pub to traveling and weary birders.

All Saints

The Ship Inn

The following morning we started our day with an amazing breakfast and 7 Waxwing outside the front door!


Headed north up the coast through Cromer, past Cley and onto Tichwell RSPB reserve.

Brent - Cley Marshes


Never did connect with the reported Lapland Bunting, seen everyday for the last week except for when I turned up...that's birding.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pallas's Warbler

This Pallas's Warbler has been seen for the last week at Moor Green Lakes Nature Reserve; associating with a party of Long-tailed Tit. Today, it took four hours and a bit of luck to connect with this stunning little Siberian rarity.

I arrived on site at about 09:30am; a forty minute drive from Woking. There were a few cars in the car park and the online directions given by the RBA were spot on. From the car park to the area where the bird had been seen was approximately a 20 minute walk, though it took me longer as I birded along the way whilst checking the tit flocks. Birds of note included Bullfinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting, Redwing, Snipe, Red Kite, Goosander and Egyptian Goose. 


I was about 2 1/2 hours into the search when I met up with Ginger Baker, a birder from my neck of the woods. We chatted for a while but he had to head off, and had been on site since dawn...I continued the search but was beginning to feel it might be in vein, as there were probably 10-12 people looking and no one had seen the bird all day. Just as the trickle of doubt started to poke at my psyche a lady walked passed with her two children and casually said, "Are you looking for the Pallas's Warbler?" 

Pounding my way along the path I realized that I should start jogging again, and soon. My lungs were wheezing, my heart pounding and my breathing was 'some what erratic'! Never the less, I arrived in time for the ladies husband to say, "It was here 30 seconds ago!" That old chestnut eh!

The bird had moved back behind a Willow tree and into a bramble bush. However, within minutes it began to vocalize and then made its way into view, giving killer looks including the central head stripe and pale yellow rump: PALLAS'S WARBLER!

The Willow tree that held the prize
Just as I was sending a message to Ginger's wife to tell him the bird was showing he arrived. He only made it as far as Yatley when he stopped for a snack, checked Bird Guides and turned back around. Anyway, I was happy he made it back....where we got to share this great British lifer!

Ginger Baker (middle) - savoring the moment  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Temmink's Stint...for a start...

Had a great day with our youngest son Nolan, who, without influence, (honestly) decided he wanted to come on a twitch with me. Taking advantage of this blip in his own sanity I sorted out the itinerary, fueled up the car, sorted out our gear, made sandwiches and finally promised McDonald's to seal the deal.

We hit the road at 05:00 am, heading west on the M4; destination Somerset. The journey was fairly uneventful; spending our time putting the world to rights and cranking up some great punk tunes courtesy of NOFX. Our quarry this morning was the reported (RBA) Temmink's Stint by Parrett Estuary, Steart, Somerset. We arrived just after 08:00 am and made our way out. Prior to this we  had a brief interaction with a rather grumpy birder in the car park, who seemed insulted that I said good morning to who him. He seemed even more irritable when I inquired about the stint. Not sure what his problem was..

It was a 30 minute slog out to the site, though we stopped and scanned along the way. Once we got to the 'flooded field', the area the bird was frequenting, we set up camp and began to search. We met two other birders out there (both nice), the first informed us that the bird was there but flew onto the estuary after being spooked by a crow. An hour later we met the second, who new a little more about this individuals behavior. He was confident the incoming tide would push it back into the flooded field. At 10:30 am I looked up, as I first heard, then spotted my first Temmink's Stint! We had great views and thank goodness for digi-scoping. We pointed it out to our grumpy friend who was looking the other way. See, its nice to be nice.

Twenty minutes down the road we stopped at Hawkridge Reservoir near Spaxton where we connected with the reported Ring-necked Duck. This stonking looking male was mixed in with a group of about 8 Tufted Duck on the far side of the reservoir. A bird I was very familiar with in Canada but had not yet seen in the UK..until now...tick. Ironically, I hardly gave the tufties a second glance, yet it was a Tufted Duck that got me all in a tither when it was reported on Kings Pond in Victoria, Vancouver Island. Funny old game in it! The below is from Vancouver Island.

Ring-necked Duck 

Two birds down, one to go. My plans, thus far, had worked out. Our final twitch of the day was a 40 minute drive Devon! 40ish minutes later we pulled down Milbury Lane; a quaint and narrow little street in the town of Exminster. Surveying the scene I immediately noticed a kind looking gentlemen; he stood looking up at an apple tree, bins around his neck and a camera in his hand. He greeted me with a smile as I asked him the obligatory question; "is it still here?" 'The bird' had been around but was currently missing in action. It had been about 30 minutes since it had last made an appearance but I was hopeful. Ten minutes later I focused my binoculars on a Starling, but not any Starling, this one was a long way from home. "Got it". I said. I was looking at my lifer Rose-coloured Starling

This eastern European breeder should be wintering in India and tropical Asia not Devon! Incredible as that is, I was more impressed that this bird had been found, identified AND reported from a very nondescript street in western England! 

© David Land
I tried to get a few record shots but failed miserably, as you can see in the top photo. Fortunately, David Land, the gentleman I met, kindly promised to send me a few photos. That was about 13:00, so all that was left to do was to hit the road back to Woking....via McDonald's! Many thanks to Nolan who was a real trooper all day and great company, to the to lads I met at the stint, the couple I met at the duck and Dave Land who kindly hung around to help locate the starling..