Saturday 29 November 2014

Grimes's Graves GGS

This morning it was off to the Norfolk Brecks to look for the Great Grey Shrike around the Grime's Grave area.
After parking the car we took a rather circuitous route to the location where the bird is supposed to frequent. Having lugged all my gear, there was no sign of the bird. Nonetheless en route we did hear / see Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, several Green Woodpeckers and a nice flock of Lesser Redpolls (didn't see any Mealys amongst them). And this rather fetching looking idea what it is, answers on a postcard please!

Mystery fungi - ID suggestions welcome please!

We tracked back the way we had come and when Nick stopped to scan a distant fence-line, lo and behold, there was the shrike sitting atop a far-away bush. So as it turns out if we had, at the beginning of our trek, turned left rather than right we might have found the bird within the first fifteen minutes. Anyway, while we watched the shrike I heard a bird call twice from the adjacent woods that to me immediately sounded like Pallas's Warbler. I am aware that another birder mentioned on his blog that he was pretty sure he heard a Hume's Warbler calling from the woods while he was out looking for the shrike. I heard the call once more about ten minutes later, this time a little further away. Unfortunately though whatever was calling never showed but on listening to recordings of both Hume's and Pallas's on my iphone afterwards and xeno-canto later at home as well as recordings on The Sound Approach, I think the calls were either one of the two leaf warblers rather than an unusual Coal Tit call.
Anyway back to the shrike, we headed further along the path towards the bird, I took a few distant heavily cropped record shots but unfortunately that was as good as it got as regards photographs. Having walked a little further we couldn't relocate the bird so decided to call it a day and return to the car.

Grainy, heavily cropped and distant record shot of the Grime's Graves GGS

Sunday 9 November 2014

The Beautiful and The Damned

It had been a text book weekend up to this point. Fresh from seeing the The Damned in concert in Norwich on Friday night (a long awaited 'tick' in itself) and Ireland giving the Springboks a good going over in Dublin on Saturday evening, it was going to be hard to follow all of that.

Punk legends The Damned at The Waterfront, Norwich - 7th November 2014

But two obliging Desert Wheatears in both Lowestoft, Suffolk and Gorleston, Norfolk put the proverbial tin hat on it all. Almost three years to the day since I first saw that species (on the east coast of Ireland (see Desert Wheatear - Wicklow, Ireland)). Perhaps there is a pattern to their movements? This time there had been a small influx of birds late last week with singles in Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk. It had rained hard all Saturday night and that deluge continued this morning but with a clearance around 10.30am, I headed down to Lowestoft. As I walked along the sea wall from the Links Road carpark in the Ness Point direction, I could see a gathering of birders off in the distance. It was going to take me ten minutes or more to get that far but as I walked, a small bird flew along the sea wall towards me and alighted within about twenty feet. The Desert Wheatear himself. Its not often that easy, they don't normally fly towards you like that. It fed busily and made its way along the low concrete wall until it was less than twenty feet away. The background is not great but this is full frame at 700mm.

Male Desert Wheatear, Lowestoft, Suffolk
It continued to feed along the same stretch, impervious to passers-by and birders. When the sun came out I extended my tripod legs to get a better background and almost filled an 8GB memory card with files. I've still lots more to go through but so far this one is the pick of the bunch.

Male Desert Wheatear, Lowestoft, Suffolk
Having 'filled my boots' and still with time to spare I decided to head north towards Gorleston and see if the female Desert Wheatear was on show. I stopped off briefly at Ness Point where a first winter Red-backed Shrike was present in the pipe compound. I presume the same bird that I had seen last month behind the Birds-eye factory (see The Birds-Eye Shrike).
At Gorleston I was not to be disappointed. I walked along the sea wall to the third shelter south of the amusements and joined a small group of photographers / birders waiting patiently for the bird to show on the beach. In due course the bird appeared and fed quite confidently within twenty feet. At one stage it was so close I was unable to focus on it. I have never seen a female Desert Wheatear so this was interesting, obviously not so well marked as the Lowestoft male but a very attractive bird nonetheless.

Female Desert Wheatear, Gorleston-on-sea, Norfolk

Sunday 2 November 2014

Twite at last

I had three targets in mind this morning. Surf Scoter, Twite and Yellow-browed Warbler. I succeeded with just one of that trio but it was the one I wanted to see. Surf Scoter and YBW I have seen before, many times in the case of the latter. But Twite has alluded me. In Ireland they are very scarce, I tried a couple of times at Raghly Pier in County Sligo but always came up short. I have also tried at Thornham Harbour in the past and there too I drew a blank, but today was different.
First though to Holkham Gap for a fine drake Surf Scoter. I parked at Lady Anne's Drive and walked to the beach, the tide was out so I needed to do quite a walk before I could get into a position to scope the scoters. Yesterday the bird was reported as being west of Holkham Gap, I walked in that direction and spent an hour checking through the Commons and Velvets but in the end came up with nothing. It was reported later, east of Holkham Gap. Never-mind, the Velvet drakes were nice consolation. I'll check again later in the winter.
On to Thornham Harbour for Twite and this time it was straightforward. A mobile flock of twenty plus birds seen on the saltmarsh, viewed best from just beyond the first bench on the seawall. They were too distant for photos, I tried an approach after first checking with other birders present if they would mind. However, a nervous Redshank spooked the flock and all I managed was this record shot. Still, a life bird all the same so I was happy with that.

Twite, Thornham Harbour, Norfolk
From there, with only a little time left, I headed to Titchwell to look for the YBW, reported yesterday as showing along the Meadow Trail near the dipping pond. However, no sooner had I left the car, than the heavens opened. I got no further than the cafe. In the end I had to call it a day as time ran out before the rain eased.