Sunday, 10 May 2020

Totally Locked!

I'm actually starting to quite enjoy this whole lockdown thingie! Well, kind of. But it has its advantages. The '2kmfromhome' competition has given me an enthusiasm that I haven't felt about birding for many years. Furthermore, its now the '5kmfromhome' competition so that has offered some further opportunities to me.
On my last post a week ago I was at 76. That's increased in the last week to 85 and although I'm unlikely to increase much beyond this, the last week has included some quality birds.
It started with a fruitless search around Queen's Hill Estate in Costessey looking for a pair Firecrests found by James Lowen. Firecrests are popping up all over the place so hopefully I will add that to the list soon. I was back home and just about to sit down to dinner when Nick called to say there was a Little Ringed Plover on the deck down at Bowthorpe Marsh. Cue a quick dash out of the front door and down the hill to see that. Then, at about 9pm that evening, I saw a Whatsapp message to say that a Cuckoo had been calling from the edge of Colney Gravel Pits at 8.30pm. This was the same Cuckoo that had eluded me twice already. It's literally a 2 minute walk so I popped out but no luck. He continued to elude me the next morning and again on Monday night. Although I did add Grey Wagtail to my list in the meantime. His elusiveness continued again on Tuesday evening too.
On Wednesday my new bike arrived so I was now going to be able to cover more ground within my 5km circle. I cycled down to UEA to check the stretch of river bank behind the Sainsbury's Centre where a Cuckoo had been reported a day previously. Of course, no luck with this one either. I checked along the boardwalk below the UEA broad where Cuckoos are often seen and again no joy. But there were plenty of Sedge Warblers and at least one Garden Warbler too. I cycled back as dusk settled and decided for one quick check of the elusive Colney Cuckoo and guess what!

I rose early on Friday morning and pedalled into Norwich City Centre to search for singing Black Redstart. I was just thinking this would be a tricky bird as I reached the junction of Westlegate and All Saints Green. I sat down on a bench facing John Lewis and played Black Redstart song on my iphone to familarise myself with it (very long time since I heard one sing), when a male bird popped up on the edge of the building to my right and sang for at least the next 15 minutes. Result!

Black Redstart, Westlegate, Norwich City Centre - 8th May 2020

No sooner had I finished there when news came through of a male Wheatear amongst the log pile just off the UEA boardwalk. That was more or less on my way home, so I stopped by there and the bird was still present.

Male Northern Wheatear, University of East Anglia, Norwich - 8th May 2020
The return to home was accompanied by numerous Blackcaps and Sedge Warblers, at least one Garden Warbler and a further tick in Reed Warbler.

Reed Warbler - River Yare between UEA and Earlham Park - 8th May 2020

 Common Whitethroat numbers seem to be pretty healthy too, with plenty of singing males about.

Common Whitethroat - Bowthorpe, Norwich - 8th May 2020

Once home I put my feet up in the back garden and began scanning the skies for raptors. Whilst I wasn't as fortunate as some observers who had picked up a very, very high up Osprey or a Black Kite the previous day, I did at least get in on the Hobby action. Apologies for the very small, cropped image but it was moving away from me at a fast rate.

Hobby, Bowthorpe, Norwich - 8th May 2020
That evening whilst Polina nipped out to the back garden for a sneaky cigarette she heard a Cuckoo. She called me down immediately but I was too late, however much to my delight I heard it myself from the garden the following evening. A Whatsapp message from local birder Will Soar that there were multiple Little Ringed Plovers calling over Bowthorpe Marsh was enough to prompt me to put my sound recording gear out for the night. I only just checked the files this morning and have added a Whimbrel to my garden list!
Yesterday Saturday I checked the area of hawthorn and brambles above Bowthorpe Marsh where the Nightingales used to be. I was looking for Lesser Whitethroat but was struggling. I was on my way home and feeling a little dejected when I heard a softish tacking call and found a male Blackcap busy chasing a Lesser Whitethroat.
So, at this stage there's not much else I can expect to add. I still hope to come across Firecrest, Kingfisher is also missing from the list and Ring-necked Parakeet is also possible.
The weather has closed in for the next few days however and those birds I just mentioned are not easy to see. Whilst anything else after this is a complete bonus, the whole thing has being great fun and I'm definitely a little fitter after all the cycling and walking.

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