Thursday, 15 July 2021

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 7

In any other episode stories of Least Terns, Short-billed Dowitchers, European Rollers and Pacific Golden Plovers would be enough to occupy us completely and that's without our ramblings on Tayto Park and the Patagonia Picnic Table Effect. 
However, this episode is really about about Sean's two stonking nocmig records. First of all he digs out a Baillon's Crake in Wicklow (Ireland's 5th record if accepted) and a week later he outdoes himself when he comes across a Semi-Palmated Plover down on the Mizen Peninsula - the lad is on fire!!

Monday, 5 July 2021

June / July Catch-up

Time for another catch-up post. We are bang slap in the middle of the birding doldrums but there have been birds to see and some good ones at that.

I'll start with the crowd-pleasing Roller found on the 23rd June at Lackford Lakes, Suffolk and then re-found not far away at Icklingham. Had I got bins in the car with me I would have gone from work that same evening but I was more prepared the next day and twitched it after work on 24th June. There were some stunning images obtained of the bird during its 5 day stay (I think), I failed miserably to get anything other than record shots. I could easily have returned for seconds but I thought better of repeating a walk along the edge of the hair raising A1101 road (until a safer route had been figured out, you needed to park 300 meters or so away and then walk back up along the narrow A1101 road to  where the bird was.....not for the faint hearted).

                   

                                                                    Roller, Icklingham, Suffolk - 24th June 2021

Tuesday the 29th June was a significant day for other reasons - after over 8 years, my time at Baxter Healthcare came to conclusion. I was given a very nice send off, finished on good terms with great memories and now have 3 weeks off before I venture into the fascinating world of cell and gene therapy. Which means that until then I have some time for birding!

News broke last Saturday 3rd July of an adult Pacific Golden Plover showing well on Bishop's  / Brendan's Marsh at Hickling NWT. I was otherwise engaged that afternoon but in the evening when everyone else was watching the England game, Nick and I headed to Hickling. I have dipped on a few Pacific Golden Plovers (PGPs) in the past. And I dipped again!! Five minutes before we arrived it had been showing well and then took flight, it didn't seem to have left the area according to other birders but we never saw it. But it was a very pleasant evening otherwise with Common Cranes, Bittern, Wood and Green Sandpipers, double figures of Ruff, Little Ringed Plover and two Black-winged Stilts.


                                            Black-winged Stilt, Hickling, Norfolk - 3rd July 2021

All was not lost though, I got a second bite of the cherry when a PGP was found on the Serpentine at Cley on Monday evening (same bird I guess?). I headed up on Tuesday morning and the bird was showing very nicely. PGP was a lifer for me, its cousin, American Golden Plover, occurs more frequently in Ireland (I've seen 3 or 4 of those and I've even managed to find one myself (An almost expensive finds tick)). So, it was nice to finally see a PGP and a fine adult breeding plumage bird at that!



                                                Pacific Golden Plover, Cley, Norfolk - 5th July 2021

A Roseate Tern amongst Sandwich Tern on Arnold's Marsh was a nice bonus and a very good Norfolk bird too!

I'm still keeping an eye on my local patch too. Obviously much quieter than April and May had been but warblers are still singing albeit not with the same vigour as earlier. A walk around the area on Sunday morning produced singing Blackcaps, Common Whitethroat (3), Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler (2) and Sedge Warbler (3). 

Nocmigging as you'd expect has been quiet. Since mid-May due to wet weather and migration dropping off, I only put my parabola out on 17 out of 50 nights (34%). The highlight was a Common Cuckoo, calling twice at 2.45am on the morning of the 29th May. I didn't pick it up at first, I saw the Blackbird alarm call whilst scanning through the sonogram, despite recognsing what that is and it being nothing unusual at all, I decided for some reason to listen and slap bang it the middle of the Blackbird alarm call there was a Cuckoo. Score!

 

Otherwise its been quiet although Curlew passage started at the end of June (I had Curlew on three nights) and if the number of returning waders on Hickling last Saturday is anything to go by I should be getting Green Sands coming through soon and if I am super-lucky perhaps, just perhaps a Wood Sandpiper isn't totally out of the question!


Sunday, 27 June 2021

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 6

We sit down for a fascinating chat with Alan Lauder. He tells us how an early passion for birding on Scotland's east coast lead to a career in ornithology and conservation plus he tells us all about Ireland's newest Bird Observatory on Inishtrahull island off the Donegal coast.
Oh - and there's the obligatory mystery bird at the end!

Friday, 18 June 2021

Night Moves

It was still in the mid-twenties temperature-wise when Nick and I parked up at Buxton Heath last Wednesday night. I thought we had arrived a little early as the Nightjars don't often start churring until after dark there (in my own experience) but one was already going when we arrived at the spot around 9pm. I set my parabola up, pressed record and stepped back.

 


It went quiet for about 20 minutes before the churring started again, this time with a backing track from a distant Cuckoo.

 

Soon after that it flew out of the trees from where it had been singing, glided past us giving a few sonorous croaks and then clapped its wings loudly a couple of times. I had my camera at the ready but instead I just stood and watched it - what amazing views! 

Thankfully the parabola was running so I got a nice record of the moment.

 

 

With the light fading, we weren't going to improve on those views, plus rain was on its way and we had a planned rendevous with Mr. Crex back in Norwich. We trooped back to the car as another bird churred away in gathering gloom.

 

15 minutes later we were back in Norwich. A few days before a Corncrake had been heard calling from Hellesdon Meadows. Whilst I was very pleased to hear Stuart Whites's excellent bird at Thorpe Marshes last year, it was outside my 5 km circle. This one was well within my 5km and in fact just a stone's throw from home. We pulled up at the allotted spot, switched off the engine, rolled down the car windows and there it was craking away. 

 

In all likelihood, this is bird from the release scheme in Pensthorpe. But still, it will have flown to and from sub-Saharan Africa before pitching down in Hellesdon Meadows so credit where its due. It would be amazing if a breeding population could be established along the Yare or Wensum river valleys in the next few years. Fingers crossed for that.

Sunday, 30 May 2021

The Phil More's Corner Podcast - Series 2 Episode 5

Just about time to get another episode in before spring ends and the summer doldrums begin. Graham and Sean have both been out in the field pointing their parabolas at anything that makes a sound and in the process have managed to capture some nice recordings. Rattling Lesser Whitethroats, spinning Wood Warblers, drumming Woodpeckers and scratchy Sardinian Warblers.......who'd believe it's an Irish spring. We finish with a promise from Harry and Brian that they'll get out birding and find something to talk about in Episode 6.

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Local is where it's at!

I continued throughout the past week to look in on my local patch whenever possible. Most evenings there has been an impressive gathering of Swifts hawking insects over Earlham Marsh. On Tuesday evening I had a Common Sandpiper there (which I initially messed up as a Green Sandpiper - d'uh) and a female Yellow Wagtail. Whether that's a new bird or one that lingered on following the arrival of Yellow Wagtails a few weeks ago is hard to know but by Wednesday it appeared to have gone.

In terms of summer migrants, I think I have seen most of what I would expect within my 5 kilometer circle. So, on the weekend I decided to try the coast. I hit Happisburgh early on Saturday but in terms of migrants it was dead.....and very cold! There appeared to be good numbers of Common Whitethroats on territory plus I had several Sandwich Terns which were my first ones this year.

Bird of Year so far came along on Sunday morning when Norwich birder Dave Andrews found a Caspian Tern on UEA broad whilst strolling with the family. An absolutely cracking find by Dave and what is most likely the first record of the species in Norwich. The bird stayed around for at least an hour and half which meant most local birders were able to see it. For me it was my "5km from home" #117.


Caspian Tern, UEA broad, Norwich - 16th May 2021

Nocmigging

Its been quality rather than quantity this week. I managed to put my gear out each night and had Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper each on four ocassions.


 

 Plus a Barn Owl briefly on Monday 10th May and full nocmig tick in Redshank on 14th May.


 

Actually I did a quick review of my recent nocmig activities. From the 13th April to the 15th May, I recorded 24 nights out of a possible 33 nights (73%). The species that occured the most was Redwing. I recorded them 21 times although the last one was on 30 April and I've unsurprisingly not heard any since. After that the commonest species were Oystercatcher (9), Moorhen (9) and Coot (8), I presume local birds moving about. Water Rail I've recorded 4 times (again I expect local birds rather than migrants). I had Common Sandpiper 6 times and Whimbrel 4 times. Other waders included Redshank and Dunlin (1 apiece). Highlights in that period have included Ring Ouzel (2 birds on 17th April), Little Ringed Plover (1), Barn Owl and Common Scoter (although the real passage for that species was late March to early April when I had them on 4 ocassions).



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

Catch-up

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??

Nocmig

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'!