Sunday, 9 May 2021

This weeks update

Despite the ongoing chilly weather, the migrants are continuing to arrive on my local patch. I headed out early on Saturday morning ahead of the heavy rain and whilst water levels are noticeably higher on Earlham Marsh, there were still a few birds there. The best being a female Yellow Wagtail. There hadn't been any Yellow Wagtails reported all week so I rather fancied that this was a new bird. I updated the Norwich birders WhatsApp group, looked back again and the Yellow Wagtail plus the three or four Pied Wagtails it was with had vanished. I never saw it again. 

It rained heavily thereafter before finally clearing around 7pm that evening when it was clear that a lot of Swifts had arrived. Dave Holman had 100 + over Colney Gravel Pits and there have been birds screaming high over the house all day. A little late but welcome back!

I walked Earlham Marsh early this morning. The temperature was nearly 20 degrees, seems like a very long time since I felt that. It appears like Common Whitethroat numbers are peaking, I had up to ten birds including one carrying nest material. I also had a female Blackcap carrying food, all very encouraging signs. After that 3 Sedge Warblers, 2 Garden Warblers, 1 Reed Warbler and bird of the morning a Common Cuckoo that flew over Earlham Marsh. 

One of the two Garden Warblers was singing very nicely so I popped back home for the Parabola and got a nice recording.



It even sat out for a bit, a little out of focus but you get the picture.


Garden Warbler, Earlham, Norwich - 9th May 2021

Common Cuckoo had brought my "5kmfromhome" list to 114, matching the number I finished on last year. As the day warmed up I hoped that I might be in with a chance to get a passing Hobby over the garden which would bring me past my 2020 total. Once home I sat out in garden with a cup of coffee and after about an hour of scanning my luck was in when sure enough a Hobby passed over. 

Hobby, Bowthorpe, Norwich - 9th May 2021

 It was quite high up so I needed to crop and brighten the image so the birds features (including its fetching orange breeches) were visible. As it happens I saw another Hobby later in the day so fingers crossed this bird may stick around for the summer.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Earlham's Purple Patch

The unseasonably chilly weather hasn't stopped the migrants arriving at my local patch of Earlham Marsh / Bowthorpe and the place is having one of its best springs ever. A combination of good cover and the marsh being in decent nick. Its hard to believe that 4 months ago (on Christmas Day to be exact), heavy rain and big tides had turned the place into a lake.

West Earlham Marsh - 25th December 2020

The ink was barely dry on my last blog post when a pair of Greenshank showed up on Earlham Marsh. Perhaps not too big a deal on the face of it but they were my first ever Norwich Greenshanks and some seasoned observers hadn't seen any Greenshank in Norwich in over 25 years - so quite the bird!

The next day the keen eyes of Max Helicar picked up a Yellow Wagtail on Earlham Marsh. One bird became two, then three and by the end of the week there were four 'flavissima' Yellow Wagtails present. I'd never had even one before now. On a chilly Saturday morning, I popped down for a look and found a very smart male Blue-headed Wagtail which hung around until Sunday evening at least.


                                                Blue-headed Wagtail, Earlham Marsh, Norwich

With the Hirundines and Swifts buzzing overhead, Yellow Wagtails calling, Little Ringed Plovers bobbing around on the mud it's given the place such a great feel - its not always like that, but its a special place when it is.

As the week went past more migrants arrived. A Garden Warbler on Saturday, a singing Lesser Whitethroat on Sunday, at least seven Common Whitethroats, four Sedge Warblers and a Reed Warbler on Monday.

I tried but failed to record the Lesser Whitethroat singing. I managed to get it tacking at a Sedge Warbler which then burst into pretty impressive mimicry of Blue Tit. Take a listen!



On Monday morning I tried a second time to record the Lesser Whitethroat but it was silent. I bumped into Robin Chittenden who'd managed to find a cracking male Ring Ouzel on the slopes above Earlham Marsh. Its been a very decent spring for them.

I had just finished chatting to him when I checked my WhatsApp messages to see that Jack Morris had found a male Whinchat in the bushes behind the path that runs alongside the Bowthorpe side of Earlham Marsh - the gold streak continues.


Male Whinchat - Bowthorpe / Earlham, Norwich - 03 May 2021

Nocmigging has been a little quiet in the past week. Moorhen and Oystercatcher were the commonest birds. Two Common Sandpipers over on the 29th April were the first ones this year on nocmig and the accompanying Curlew was nice. I had a late Redwing on 30th April and close-by Water Rail on the 2nd May.



The weather looks like it will finally warm-up in the second half of the coming week. I'm still waiting for some local Cuckoos to arrive and hopefully I'll get a Hobby in the coming week. That will bring my past my 5kmsfromhome 2020 total of 114. 

If Earlham Marsh's purple patch continues who knows what else it could throw up - we'll see!

Sunday, 25 April 2021


Before the flood gates open and the summer migrants arrive in force (hopefully), it's just about time for a quick catch-up. 

5 kilometers from home

I am thoroughly enjoying the local patch birding. I'm on track to beat my 2020 total of 114 as I have already reached 106 before the end of April. The interesting thing is that of that 106 there are 14 species that I didn't have last year. Namely, Peregrine, Little Owl, Raven, Marsh Tit, Goosander, Grey Partridge, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Jack Snipe, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Scoter, Ring Ouzel and Common Redstart.

The undoubted highlights were searching Earlham Marsh one night with Stephen Vickers using thermal imaging equipment and finding a Jack Snipe. Stephen ringed the bird and I got to hold it before it flitted off into the night.


Jack Snipe, West Earlham Marsh, Norwich


A confiding Little Ringed Plover on Earlham Marsh earlier this month was a good bird and even better when it was joined by a second one a few days later.

Little Ringed Plover, Earlham Marsh, Norwich

Another highlight was a finding a fine female Ring Ouzel at Bowthorpe Southern Park, literally 5 minutes walk from my house. I was looking for a reported Yellow Wagtail without success when I found it amongst a flock of seven Fieldfare. The next day in almost the same spot someone found a smart looking female Common Redstart. I never thought I'd say this but I find myself preferring patch birding over searching the coast for migrants!! Who knew??


The first few months were quiet as you'd expect but I perserved. Redwing movement seemed to continue throughout the winter and was always pronounced ahead of and during icy weather and snow. It slowed to a trickle in April and by now they seem to be finally all gone. I look forward to the 'seep' calls again in October. In March I started to get Teal and Wigeon flocks once more. I waited and hoped for Common Scoter and got them four times between late March and early April.



I lived in hope rather than expectation for Ring Ouzel. However, to my surprise I had one night where I got two birds over. The NFC is a different from the hard chaking type calls they give during the day but there's an excellent article on The Sound Approach website that helped me confirm what I heard as being Ring Ouzel (and a bit of guidance from my fellow podcaster Sean Ronayne). 


 Other highlights included Little Ringed Plover (which I've had twice now this spring).


And a close calling Barn Owl (I live in a housing estate so this was a pleasant surprise).


Other sounds

When I bought the parabola last year I knew that come spring I wanted to record some of my favourite songsters. So far I've managed Grasshopper Warbler at nearby UEA and Common Nightingale at Maidscross Hill in Lakenheath, Suffolk.




Thursley Common

Its a bit like admitting a sordid secret. But when 'Colin the Cuckoo' turned up for at least his seventh year at Thursley Common in Surrey, I felt compelled to go and see him. Colin has been coming down to mealworms and perching tamely for photographers at the Parish Field in the beautiful Thursley Common reserve near Goldaming in Surrey for seven years now. To see a Common Cuckoo this well is difficult, I've certainly never done so. I got good photos, it'd be hard not to and some nice shots too of Common Redstart and Woodlark. I ran out of time to see the Little Buntings that wintered there but did have a little wander around what is a really beautiful spot.

'Colin' the Cuckoo, Thursley Common, Surrey

I'm glad I went in the end, despite the 4 hours on the M25 to get there. Naturally, if I got photos like this of a Cuckoo in normal circumstances I'd be thrilled, but it was like shooting fish in a barrell. Great to see a creature like that so well but I went away feeling strangely unfulfilled. 

Common Redstart, Thursley Common, Surrey

Woodlark, Thursley Common, Surrey

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 4

We are joined on this episode by the long-serving warden of Cape Clear Bird Observatory, none other than Mr. Steve Wing. Steve regales us with stories of great days on Cape that included such birding gems as Blue-winged Warbler, Chimney Swift and the famous 2008 trio of Yellow Warbler, Solitary Sandpiper and Northern Waterthrush. We hear what its like to spend winter in the obs, we discuss the future of bird observatories and finally get to talk to Steve about his excellent book 'The Natural History of Cape Clear 1959 - 2019'.


The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 3

Spring is finally here and there's plenty to discuss on this episode of The Phil More's Corner Podcast. Sean shares his prize winning 'Cuckoo' recording with the group. We hear some odd Treecreeper calls and of course there's obligatory mystery bird.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 2

It may still feel like winter and we may still be in lockdown but spring is just around the corner. After a short break The Phil More's Corner team bring us up to date with their birding exploits. There's the first known Irish recording of Great White Egret, the sound of departing Whooper Swans and some memorable birding moments from times past.

Sunday, 24 January 2021

The Phil More's Corner - Series 2 Episode 1

 Welcome to Series 2 of The Phil More's Corner Podcast. It may be deep winter, we may still be in lockdown but there's always some birding to talk about. Sean has left sunny Spain and returned to damp old Ireland. We hear his remarkable recordings of Otter and Red Fox plus possibly one of the fewest recordings of singing Redwing in Ireland. We also veer hugely off topic and discuss the origins of the Banshee and the legend of the dreaded 'Three Knocks'!