A very dull today with frequent rain showers or drizzle driven along on by a fresh south-west wind. Visibility was fair to good although light was generally poor.
I was hoping today for the possible sign of the first summer migrants on my patch, both Chiffchaff and Wheatear can be expected to appear around the middle of March, however, I didn't see or hear any of these earlier species - I am sure they are out there somewhere!!
STOW BEDON MERE
This beautiful, small, ancient mere, has an 'African Queen' feel to it in that it is very swampy with tall reeds and tangled woodland. In spring and summer this site is alive with a variety of Warbler species including both Sedge and Reed Warbler and given the small size of the mere these birds can be observed closely.
No sign of any summer migrants today, however, the woodland held a good range of species. Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Marsh Tit, Great Tit (pair), Long-tailed Tit (pair), Wren, Goldcrest, and Jay were all seen or heard.
On the mere itself, a few Teal occupied the more swampy areas. This has been a great winter for Teal with good numbers at several sites including maybe a 4 figure counts at one site on my patch. Also seen on the mere was a pair of Gadwall, a few Mallard, and Moorhen.
ASHILL (The Common to Quidney Farm)
This road, which is about 1.5 miles in length runs out at Quidney Farm, passes over a bridge under which the former Watton to Swaffham rail line ran. The disused line has steep banks either side with a wealth of trees and bushes for both breeding and migrant species to use.
Ashill is one of the higher parts of Norfolk and over the years of I have found some good birds in the area including passage Wheatear, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, breeding Warblers, and Quail (probably bred). Encouragingly, this area also seems to have a good concentration of breeding Turtle Doves - a declining species in the UK.
Birds seen today: 10+ Golden Plover, a flock of 8 Skylarks, a single Siskin, 50+ Starlings, and interestingly a Buzzard species which appeared to have a rufous-coloured tail - possibly an escaped Red-tailed Hawk.
On a sad note, a Badger was found dead in a roadside ditch.