Friday 21 June 2024

Hingham(Seamere Marsh) 21 June 2024 (1100-1145)

 I had a late morning break so decided to have a quick survey of birds at Seamere Marsh.  A pleasant day with something more akin to summer with long sunny spells and warming temperatures.  

Over the years this location has provided some surprises with my most exciting find being in February 2019 when I found a Corn Bunting in a broken hedgerow by a field of weed seeds.  This bird was certainly a rare bird in this part of Norfolk.

With only limited places to overview this wonderful location and habitat, most records of singing birds are gathered from within earshot, clearly, the habitat here lends itself to good numbers of breeding birds, especially Warblers with most notable genus being Acrocephalus and Locustella species. A broken hedgerow comprising a few scattered trees and close to marshland habitat produced most records today.

3 Buzzard
1 Kestrel
2 Stock Dove (Pair displaying and song heard)
2 Blue Tit
1 Chiffchaff (singing male)
Blackcap (singing male)
Whitethroat (singing male)
1 Lesser Whitethroat (singing male)
1 Reed Warbler (singing male) undoubtedly more present.
2 Dunnock
Blackbird (singing male)
2 Wren
1 Yellowhammer
2 Reed Buntings (singing males)

Overviewing Seamere Marsh 21 June 2024

An interesting short visit to this beautiful location with several species seen or heard in the broken hedgerow in the middle of the above picture.  On the distant marsh a couple of male Reed Buntings held territory with one bird remaining for the whole of my visit on the only patch of willow scrub visible (a typical nesting site).  
The broken hedgerow habitat held singing Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, and a single Reed Warbler which sang only very briefly.  The habitat here clearly will hold more Reed Warblers. Resident species present included singing Wren (3), singing Blackbird, singing Dunnock, and a lovely scoped view of a male Yellowhammer singing on the top of an old Hawthorn. 
The highly visible display flight by a pair of Stock Doves was seen over the marsh, both alighted in a large nearby Oak where the monotonous song was heard.


Wednesday 19 June 2024

Garden Observations 19 June 2024

Today I had several jobs to do in the garden, therefore, the following is a list of bird species either seen in the garden, or seen from the garden.

Sparrowhawk seen passing over garden
House Sparrow (adults/juveniles)
Starling (ad/juvs)
4+ Blackbird
30+ Swift
Blue Tit (ad/juvs)
6+ Herring Gulls
Wood Pigeon (on nest)
Collared Dove
1 Lesser Black-backed Gull - North
4+ Buzzard
1 Sparrowhawk (female)
12+ Goldfinch
1 Greenfinch (singing male)
2 Dunnock

My forty feet long hedgerow in my garden was planted by myself 10 years ago and comprises all native species, these being Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Dogwood, Dog Rose, Silver Birch, 1 Ash tree, Goat Willow, and a couple of Alders.  This habitat is attractive to nesting species, birds seeking food and shelter, and also acts as a corridor for birds and insects to pass through.

The most visible birds present today was House Sparrows and Starlings, both species accompanied by young birds.  Goldfinches were particularly mobile with single figure birds (largest number of 7 birds) passing through.  Young Goldfinches were present, these are identifiable by their plain brown heads. A single male Greenfinch was singing.

Both adult and juvenile Blue Tits passed through, one juvenile seen quite well feeding in the willow.  The juvenile Blue Tits are readily identified by their distinctive yellow cheeks (white in adults).  A Wood Pigeon was on the nest in the willow.

Overhead movements in the morning saw at least 6 Herring Gulls pass over and one Lesser Black-backed Gull flew North.

By mid-afternoon it was sunny and pleasantly warm.  A female Sparrowhawk passed low and directly over the garden, this bird was clearly carrying prey in its talons.  

Swifts were present all day with a notable gathering high overhead in the evening.   

Sunday 16 June 2024

5 June 2024 (Sylvia Warblers)

A productive visit to an area of Little Cressingham which in previous years has always been reliable for Sylvia Warblers.  The habitat here comprises hedgerow, scattered hedgerow trees, bushes, scrub, and a predominantly Larch belt.

As predicted, the four Sylvia species I expected to see were indeed present, these were Whitethroat (singing male), one Lesser Whitethroat (singing male), 2 Blackcaps (singing males), and one Garden Warbler (singing male).
The most vocal of all four Warbler species on this visit was a singing male Lesser Whitethroat, this bird flew the whole length of the hedgerow in this picture and continued to sing with brief glimpses of this bird either in flight or moving in cover.

Garden Warbler

Little Cressingham 5 June (Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler present here)

Little Cressingham 5 June.  Typical Sylvia Warbler habitat. 

Lesser Whitethroat - an absolutely stunning Sylvia.

Dog Rose at Little Cressingham 5 June

Also seen on this visit was a male Woodlark, this bird was singing overhead, it also was seen dropping to a nearby field on a couple of occasions to feed and collect food which was carried into the nearby training area.
A distant male Sparrowhawk was seen flying low and fast over a large field before entering nearby woodland.  A memorable observation was seeing the Sparrowhawk turn to reveal its distinctive blue-grey upperparts.
Finally, a single Cormorant was seen very high overhead circling, and then watched flying off in a westerly heading whilst remaining very high.

Friday 14 June 2024

May 2024

May 2024 will be remembered for being one of the wettest May's on record.  Locally, on the patch, many low lying areas were under significant amounts of water and both rivers and ditches ran much higher than normal. 

4 May
First thing in the morning I heard the great pleasure of walking a friends beautiful dog around Merton Common, on this walk I counted 5 Whitethroat territories, all of which were singing ♂♂.

Later in the day I visited a flooded meadow at Bodney where 5 Little Egrets were present. One Little Egret was watched wading in shallow water and using a foot to stir up the mud in its search for invertebrates.
A single Kingfisher was briefly seen flying at speed along Watton Brook.
On the way back to Watton a single Little Egret was seen flying west over the town.  Later in the afternoon a calling Cuckoo was heard in the Merton area.

8 May
Birding today was confined to the garden due to the effects of Covid

My first Hobby of the year was seen directly above the garden where it soared for a short while. Other raptor species seen included a female Sparrowhawk which passed through the garden low and at speed. 3+ Buzzards were seen from the garden and in the garden both Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove had nests in our hedgerow.

10 May
A very productive day on the patch with evidence of passage waders at Bodney and of breeding behaviour and successes in the Bodney and Little Cressingham areas.

Little Cressingham/Bodney (Hopton Bridge W to flooded meadow at Bodney)
A fantastic start to this visit with a pair of Whitethroats, 3 Grey Wagtails, a stunning ♂ Blackcap, singing Mistle Thrush and Chaffinch, and a ♂ Great Tit in the tall Poplars, all within minutes of my arrival.
Whitethroat (one of a pair) Little Cressingham 10 May

With low lying areas remaining under significant amounts of water, I decided to visit a flooded meadow at Bodney where I located 3 Redshanks, all three birds were wading in shallow water and probing to feed.  A nicely proportioned bird, these Redshanks are medium-sized waders with a medium length straight bill which is red at the base with the distal half being black.  A brown bird with a bright white eye ring and dark lores.  The underparts are white with neat arrowhead like markings.  The legs are red.  In flight the trailing inner wing (secondaries) have a broad white bar.

Other wader species present included singing Snipe, a pair of Curlew, Lapwing (including a young chick), and a single Oystercatcher.
Wildfowl present included Mute Swan, a pair of Shoveler, Gadwall, and a pair of Mallard with ducklings.

Little Egret at Bodney 10 May

A single Little Egret overflew the flooded meadow.  The picture here shows a beautiful pure white bird with a black dagger-like bill and black legs with yellow feet.  In the ditch below the Egret a single Reed Bunting held territory in suitable breeding habitat.

Grey Wagtail at Little Cressingham 10 May

In the Watton Brook valley at Little Cressingham at least 3 Grey Wagtails (2 juveniles) were present. I am sure you will agree how striking the Grey Wagtail is.

14 May
An early morning visit to Little Cressingham saw a female Goshawk soaring above woodland for a few minutes before descending rapidly into trees.  Goshawks are encountered on frequent visits to the patch, these species is the definition of power.
Also noted on this visit was 3 Little Egrets which flew east until lost to view, and along a tree-lined track a Lesser Whitethroat was singing.

22 May
The morning was very wet with persistent heavy rain, this cleared to an afternoon of frequent heavy showers and with highly variable light, thick black cloud was driven along in the wind and short spells of bright sunlight produced the variable light.

Little Cressingham 22 May. An afternoon of highly contrasting lights. 

Despite the at times poor conditions (and getting very wet) I was treated to the fantastic display-flight of a Snipe.  This bird chose to display under very dark cloud and rain and when a shaft of light caught it, well, it was stunning.  This Snipe performed circular flights directly above me and in shallow dives I could clearly hear the vibrating winnowing sound, this sound is produced by the outer tail feathers being held at an angle from the rest of the tail, the passing air causes the beautiful vibrating sound.  Once the circular display was completed the Snipe dropped rapidly to the ground, it was then I briefly heard the "chipper chipper" song.  A very memorable sighting and sadly, becoming rarer. I remember a farmer once telling me that the vibrating sound is likened to the bleating of lambs.  In the 19th century, Ornithologists thought this vibrating sound was the bird calling. 

28 May
A very pleasant early morning visit to Bodney where I walked an area of vast arable habitat with commanding views over exposed open country.
The most obvious species both seen and heard was Skylark with many performing song-flight, an encouraging observation saw a couple of Skylarks carrying food for young which were hidden somewhere within a young wheat crop.
Skylark at Bodney carrying food for young 28 May

Also seen on this visit was a single Woodlark performing its song-flight high overhead.  This is such a sweet song which comprises beautiful prolonged notes as "lululululululu".  The Woodlark is a Breckland speciality and is a target species for visiting birders.  
A single male Cuckoo was calling distantly but then located visually as it moved through treetops with some urgency.
A small patch of Bramble scrub looked good for a Sylvia species, moments later, a male Whitethroat was singing.  Two male Blackcaps were singing as was a single Song Thrush.  A male Stock Dove sang its rather monotonous "Ooah Ooah Ooah Ooah" song.

Thursday 13 June 2024

Cattle Egret at Bodney 21 April 2024

A single Cattle Egret seen with 2 Great White Egrets and 2 Little Egrets in the Watton Brook valley north of the Sewage Treatment Works. The Cattle Egret was later seen on the flooded meadow east of the STW. This record of Cattle Egret is my first on my local Breckland patch and although an exciting record, my feelings have been for some time that this species would be seen on my patch sometime in the near future.

Cattle Egret at Bodney 21 April 2024

With all three Egret species seen together, comparisons were easy to see.  The more familiar Great White and Little Egrets need no comparison notes, however, the Cattle Egret, being less familiar, showed obvious differences from the other two species.  The Cattle Egret was the smallest of all three species, it was also a stockier looking bird with a short, thick neck, a strong short bill, and a definite jowl.  A faint yellow-orange wash on the crown indicated this was a male bird.

The Cattle Egret was first seen in the company of two Great White Egrets and two Little Egrets on flooded meadow habitat.  The Cattle Egret fed by probing with occasional short chases for prey.  I noticed that the Cattle Egret often wandered into thick grass habitat in its search for food.

Wednesday 12 June 2024

April 2024

1 April
A murky, grey start to the day with fair distant visibility.  Light was variable due to low cloud. The afternoon was brighter and quite warm.
An early morning visit to the boundary of the army training area at Bodney produced 2 singing Chiffchaff, one Blackcap, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush.  A displaying male Curlew was a wonderful reminder of how important Breckland is to this bird, a species whose song is more reminiscent of lonely upland moorland habitat.
A flooded meadow held Mute Swans, Gadwall, Mallard, and a pair of Shelduck, and as expected, several Snipe were flushed from the wet ditch and nearby wet meadow.  
Two Cranes flew low and N/E and were watched until lost to view.  

3 April
I was just outside the small village of Garvestone when my attention was drawn to the distant call of Ravens, a short search of the area eventually revealed a pair of Ravens noisily calling and often alighting on one of the many pylons
Raven.  Increasing in Norfolk
6 April
The morning began with a single Siskin sitting in the top of our Ash tree, this bird rapidly departed upon the arrival of a female Sparrowhawk.
At Bodney, a very elegant Great White Egret was seen on a flooded meadow.  A very distinctive species, even at range.
A mid-morning visit to Hockham saw a pair of  Marsh Harriers displaying overhead. Also here was at least 3 singing Blackcaps and a pair of Chiffchaff engaged in courtship behaviour.

7 April
I decided to visit the path from Thompson Church to Griston road because the large meadow looks prime habitat for both passage Wheatear and Ring Ouzel, although none were seen it was good to see another target species at this locality, a pair of Stonechats.  The male bird was the most frequently seen bird as he hung onto the tops of tall weeds and bushes in the strong wind.  The ♀ Stonechat was seen later on one occasion on a bush top, I suspect her absence earlier was probably due to her being at her nest. 
A singing Willow Warbler was briefly heard rather distantly in suitable breeding habitat alongside the Drove Road, the wind did not help in trying to relocate the song again.
Also seen on this visit was a single Redwing.  I noticed a small Thrush-sized bird fly up from the ground into a thick hedge, this briefest of glimpses revealed the orange-red axillaries.  The bird was later relocated in a bush giving its alarm call.

11 April
I had a slow walk through the mature Scots Pines which looked good for Redstart, especially given the habitat similarities with Wretham Heath.  The Scots Pine habitat held singing Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, and Treecreeper, whilst overhead a ♂ Woodlark was performing its song-flight.  A little later the Woodlark was joined by a second bird, a chase ensued through and above the trees, at one point at height, both Woodlarks appeared to make physical contact.
The first of two Willow Warblers was seen and heard in song in open woodland habitat with scattered Hawthorn and Blackthorn with lots of Bracken ground cover.
A scan of bare ground and heath west of the road looked good for migrants, so a scan of the ground produced a single Northern Wheatear.  The bird was still and I first noticed the ochre throat and breast of the bird, a distinctive feature despite the distance.

12 April
A visit to Wayland Fields ponds in Watton produced a single Green Sandpiper around the muddy fringes of a pond.  Also seen here was a pair of Egyptian Geese with 8 young birds.

14 April
With an extended late morning work break I decided to pay a visit to Seamere Marsh at Hingham. The highlight of this visit was the presence of a singing Lesser Whitethroat (my earliest ever date for this Sylvia Warbler.
Also seen was a male Reed Bunting in suitable breeding habitat whilst overhead a male Kestrel was hunting.  A female Sparrowhawk soared overhead and two Swallows arrived over the marsh.  Both Blackcap and Chiffchaff were singing.    

16 April
Following on from my earliest Lesser Whitethroat on the 14th a further 3 singing birds were located in the Great Cressingham area on the 16th.  Reports from other parts of the country indicates there was a big arrival of this species on these same dates.

20 April
A visit to Thompson Common produced a singing Garden Warbler (first of the year) and a singing Cetti's Warbler.

21 April
A visit to the Watton Brook Valley at Bodney was to be a memorable one with all three Egret species seen together.  Two Great White Egrets, two Little Egrets, and a single Cattle Egret were all standing more or less together on wet grassland.
Even without the use of binoculars I could see that one of the Egrets was noticeably smaller and proportionally more thickset than the other two Egret species, I immediately thought Cattle Egret, and indeed it was.  Although an exciting find on my patch I was not too surprised as I thought the day would come when the species would visit.  The smallest of all three Egret species, this Cattle Egret had a stocky build with a short, strong looking bill (quite unlike the dagger-like bill of Cattle Egret) and a noticeable jowl.  I noticed that the Cattle Egret would wander through grassland more so than the other two Egret species.
Two Little Egrets, Great White Egret and Cattle Egret at Bodney

Cattle Egret at Bodney 21 April

Cattle Egret at Bodney 21 April

24 April
A forest clearing near Hockham held 2 Tree Pipits with both birds singing and launching their display flights from isolated trees within the clearing.  Also present in the same clearing was evidence of successful breeding by Stonechats when a pair was seen with at least 4 young birds. 

27 April
Golden Pheasants appeared to have become extinct in the local area, long gone are the days when I could see 25+ in Wayland Wood.  Another exotic, very large Pheasant is the Reeve's Pheasant, a beautiful male was seen near Great Cressingham.  Reeve's Pheasant is much larger than the more familiar Pheasant, it is stocky in build with a thick neck.  I have read that this bird can be aggressive towards humans.
Reeve's Pheasant (male)

A check of a flooded meadow at Bodney produced a single Whimbrel, this bird was initially seen roosting by the water but later started feeding in a nearby field.  A Curlew was seen to chase the Whimbrel on a couple of occasions, it was then that the obvious size difference was easily seen.  The striped head pattern was seen well and the bird called once whilst being chased by a Curlew.


Friday 28 April 2023

Is it safe to go to the beach now?

 As you all know, I am not a twitcher, I am a Birder, and a Birder who has a passion for dogs. Equally, I love to share my passion with others who wish to learn.  What I do dislike are certain people who think our countryside, including our beaches are there for them only and for nobody else to share and enjoy.

I feel that our countryside and beaches are for all to enjoy providing they follow the countryside code, respect wildlife, and leave the countryside in a clean and tidy state upon their leaving.

Responsible dog owner know to keep their beautiful dogs on leads in sensitive area for wildlife, and indeed, those responsible people will hopefully respect certain areas where no dogs are allowed, and indeed areas where people as well who should go in order to protect wildlife and their sensitive habitats.  There are some irresponsible dog owners who should not be allowed to enter sensitive areas, however, in these cases it is rarely the fault of the dog.

I pride myself on not being a twitcher and I am careful to whom I reveal my finds too because I have seen evidence, both having read about and witnessed, when twitchers have worried birds, including species whose very nature is to skulk and remain in cover, but are subjected to organised flushes to see the bird.  I have also witnessed criminal damage in the pursuit of birds.  It is poor behaviour and totally embarrassing to see twitchers as they chase their quarry.  During the pandemic we witnessed in the media idiot twitchers breaking lockdown rules, causing dangerous conditions on our roads due to irresponsible parking, and trampling sensitive habitats as they go.

I equally dislike those who are critical of others using our beaches for their social recreation, dog walking, and taking the family out for the day.  Most families are responsible people, however, there are other families who let the side down.  On the whole, it muse be said that humans have the biggest impact upon the safety and wellbeing of wildlife on our beaches and in the wider countryside.

  On Sunday 23 April, I was birding on my local Breckland patch.  At the end of a great mornings birding I was confronted with the ugly side of humanity when over a 1/2 mile stretch of roadside I collected 2 large (and eventually, very heavy bags) of litter thrown out of cars.  Clearly, the offenders here have an underdeveloped brain and are unable to put together a few letters forming a single syllable word, the word is BIN, well use it then.  I however feel sorry for these offenders as they clearly have an inability to distinguish right from wrong.
I also dislike certain elements of society who feel noisy children should not visit the beach etc, it must be remembered that those who are critical were once children themselves, more importantly, a noisy child who visits the beach may be that person whose curiosity about something they have seen or heard may be the spark needed to get them interested in wildlife and our countryside, after all, the children of today will be the future custodians of our countryside.  So don't be critical of our future environmentalists and naturalists.  

To end, I will once again repeat my dislike of twitcher types who feel dogs, and children should not be on our beaches and countryside.  These selfish people are equally not welcome in the countryside if they are not willing to share it.