Shore start

Having spent the best part of a day and a half chasing the Pallid Swift we decided that today we’d take it easy. After a relaxed breakfast we headed down to Winterton, hopefully for me to add Shore Lark to my year list – Jane having already seen them a few days before. We stopped off at the bushes below the Hermanus restaurant to check for the reported Pallas’s Warbler but there was no immediate sign so we continued to the beach in search of our quarry. A single adult winter bird, there had been three earlier in the week, was quickly located feeding at the base of the dunes. We watched it for ten minutes or so before heading back to the Hermanus, where the Pallas’s was showing occasionally. Having got rather ‘thin’ views we returned to the car and set off to our next stop at the beach car park in Caister-on-sea, where the juvenile Rosie Starling was seen almost immediately, first on the roof of a nearby cottage and then feeding on the grass by the side of the car. We then followed the coast road north as far as Happisburgh, where we stopped for Sunday lunch, at the excellent Hill House pub, before  continuing northward. A couple of texts alerted us first to a possible Pacific Swift and then a possible Black-browed Albatross at Hopton, both heading north – so we decided to stop off at the beach car park at Walcott in the vague hope of seeing either bird fly by! Nothing doing, except a number of cheeky Turnstone on the sea wall, so we pressed on towards Trimmingham to see if we could perhaps connect with the Pallid Swift, which was still around. There were a few cars in the lay-by but no birders so we pressed on to the cliffs at Cromer, where the birds had been seen on the three previous late afternoons. News of a Richard’s Pipit at Cley was enough to lure Jane away but I decided to stick it out. After an hour or so of getting blown about and seeing nothing our interest was rekindled by a telephone call to one of the guys standing with me, saying that a Black-browed Albatross had just flown past Overstrand, two miles down the coast! We stared out to sea and after a couple of minutes I became aware of a large black and white, long winged, bird wheeling and ‘towering’ above the horizon – not a gull nor a Gannet, I felt pretty confident that this was our bird. I got the guys on it as it started powering away to the north but less than great views were had before it was finally lost from sight. Unfortunately, Jane returned from a fruitless trip to Cley just at that moment – she felt sick… and so did I!!

A very nice Shore Lark to get the day off to a great start

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A second ‘Pink Stink’ in as many weeks

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One of those cheeky Turnstones

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And to finish with Horsey wind pump, against a threatening sky… aaah!

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Poscript: Apparently the Albatross was seen a little further round the coast from West Runton, but not from Sheringham, before it obviously disappeared to the north.

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Pallid performance

The first report of a Pallid Swift in our part of Norfolk came a few days ago when a bird was seen at Cley and various points along the coast to Cromer. Then, on Thursday when I was tied up at an all day conference in Cambridge, Tim a local birder texted to say that he and Dawn had found possibly the same bird at Felbrigg Hall – practically our ‘back garden’! Yesterday we got up early to get to Felbrigg, where we spent a couple of fruitless hours looking for the bird.  In the afternoon I had to go to Norwich and by the time I’d finished my various meetings it was beginning to get too late for birding…or so we thought! We decided against a shopping trip to Morrison’s and went straight home. Shortly after dark the message came through that the Pallid had been showing well, ‘late afternoon’ between the supermarket and the pier, and had possibly gone to roost on Cromer church – grrnash! Up early this morning to go and stare at Cromer church tower for an hour or so… nothing. Back for breakfast and a report that there were now two birds over the cliffs at Trimmingham. Off we go, only to  be told when we get there that the birds had flown off a couple of minutes before… double bother! A pager message came through that a bird was showing above the wood we could see in the distance… but we couldn’t see the bird. Then another message to say it was seen heading east towards Cromer. Off we go to Cromer sea-front, see nothing but bump into three lads who are pleased to show us their photos of Pallid Swift taken a little earlier at the lighthouse – triple bother! Back for lunch and await further news. None is forthcoming so we go back to Felbrigg. No luck there either but a further text to say that a Pallid Swift is back, somewhere between Trimmingham and Sidestrand. Off we go again, arrive at a likely spot, hoof it to the coast, where a lone birder points to a dot in the sky… that’s the bird! We hoof it back to the car and drive to the village where, thankfully and not before time, the Pallid Swift performs dutifully above us for ten minutes or more.

And the moral of this tale… twitching swifts can seriously damage your (mental) health!

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A few rather poor images of a very welcome addition to the year list!

Turns out that there were indeed two birds, a ‘pale’ bird, which came from Cromer and the west and a darker bird from the east. They both met up briefly over the coast at Trimmingham, mid morning!

GPOG Cornwall 2013

Last week we set off on the regular GPOG (Greater Peterborough Ornithological Group – a rather grand title for a bunch of birding & drinking mates, loosely based in the Peterborough area!) birding excursion to Cornwall. Twelve of us left Market Deeping on Wednesday night, returning late on Sunday. The timing of the trip is intended to maximise our chances of finding rare birds in the valleys of west Cornwall but it’s fair to say that we’ve enjoyed mixed fortunes over the 15 or so years we’ve been going! Star birds in the past have included Aquatic, Bonelli’s, Radde’s, Melodious and Greenish Warbler, Red-eyed Vireo, King Eider, Black Duck, Lesser Scaup, Buff-breasted, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Cory’s Shearwater, Sora Rail and a host of other ‘goodies’, but this year, it’s fair to say, there were much leaner pickings on offer. Our modest total of 114 birds included Chough, Snow and Cirl Bunting, Rosie Starling, Yellow-browed Warbler, Firecrest, Richard’s Pipit, Whooper Swan and Glossy Ibis – still a reasonable haul at a time when rarities nationally were in a bit of an uncharacteristic lull. The trip did produce a couple of ‘lifers’ for members of the group and the beer, food and hospitality at the Bucket of Blood (our alternative ‘club hut’) were exceptional – so all things consider, a good time was had by all!

The first of our star attractions, a juvenile Rosie Starling. We’ve managed to find these birds on almost every trip we’ve done to Cornwall. This one was in the car park of Morrison’s at Marazion. Compare the rather drab plumage of this bird with that of a breeding adult, featured on this blog  in June –‘Rose coloured spectacle’

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One of our target birds for this trip was Chough. We had expected to scour the Lizard peninsular to find them but they gave themselves up relatively easily in the Cot Valley. This was one of at least seven, roosting in a quarry.

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Mediterranean Gull were reasonably easy, with up to a dozen on the Hayle estuary and others dotted around the coast. This adult was at Sennen.

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Talking of coastal birds, Rock Pipit are always nice to see – just a pity that it’s distant cousin, the Richard’s Pipit, didn’t give itself up as easily!

IMG_6503This Whooper Swan was a surprise find on Helston park lake –  no rings, honest Guv! A rare Cornish bird and a ‘grip-back’ for yours truly

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A stop-off at Labrador Bay in Devon produced the goods with this fine male Cirl Bunting, appearing in the hedge between heavy rain showers

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There’s been an increasing trend of autumn ‘invasions’ of Glossy Ibis – we caught up with a couple of this years wanderers at Ham Walls, Somerset on our return journey. Who knows, perhaps these birds will linger on to breed and add to the incredibly impressive list of rare breeding herons on the Avalon Marshes!

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These ‘bl**dy clickers’ can never get close enough… can they Will?

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But to be fair, this was a very approachable Snow Bunting!

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All in all, a pretty good trip with some very nice birds, but I guess Parula Warbler in the Cot Valley will have to wait for another year….!

Jack in the bag

After several days of routine domestic tasks, including painting the outside windows using a ladder (I must be mad…!) we decided to have a day out, birdwatching. Starting at Holkham pines, we went in pursuit of Yellow-browed Warbler which had, so far, eluded us, despite there being hundreds of this extreme long-distant migrant in the country over the past week. Nothing on the walk down, nothing around Washington hide and nothing in the tit flock at Meals House… until that is Jane noticed a warbler fly into a nearby Sycamore tree – a couple of brief but distinctive calls and the bird was ‘in the bag’! We did see the bird a couple more times, as well as a late Willow Warbler, a flock of Common Crossbill and Siskin, before heading off to Titchwell. There was nothing particularly gripping on the board when we got there, so we set off for what turned out to be a really enjoyable afternoon’s general birding. The tally of ‘interesting’ species included Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Hobby and, just before we headed for home, a very obliging, if somewhat distant, Jack Snipe  – with Common Snipe for useful comparison, on the new scrape called Patsy’s Pool.

One of at least three, winter plumage, Spotted Redshank

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Greenshank

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Jack Snipe, back left against the vegetation, with Common Snipe, front right (behind the Teal), for comparison

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Jack Snipe is noticeably smaller/stockier than Common Snipe, with a short thick based bill and shorter legs, more of a dark chocolate colouration on the back with broad gold ‘braces’, streaking rather than barring on the breast and no pale central crown stripe. Jack Snipe also exhibit a ‘bobbing-like’ action, whilst feeding.

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