Monday, 5 October 2099

WelcomeYou have found us. We are a secret group of crack birders who have turned our backs on the machismo, corruption, and backstabbing greed that constitute today's birding scene, and have united together to follow the True Path of non-competitive, collaborative and generally lovely birding-as-meditation-and-spiritual-growth. Consequently, we never see anything. Birds that land right in front of our noses, and which we can identify with our observer book, are written about here. Oh, and they have to be seen in - or from - the parish of Winterton-on-Sea, Norfolk, or on the walk round past East Somerton Church ruins and up the concrete track to Winterton Holmes (because it's a nice walk which we all do).

Sunday, 6 June 2021

May 2021 Roundup

With one or two fabulous exceptions, May turned out to be in large part a pretty miserable and cold continuation of April's conditions. Nevertheless there were a few bird spotting highs... 

On the 1st several Reed and Sedge Warblers were singing along the Holmes Road, and two Grasshopper Warblers were also reeling on the patch. A Short-eared Owl was seen over the village, and 19 Whimbrel were still present in the farmland at the north end. The evening saw a small fall of Wheatears in the North Dunes - Colin counted 9. 

Little Terns had also arrived, with an estimate of around 500 on the 2nd. Also on this date Mick had a high flying Black-tailed Godwit going south - the second record of this rare bird for here this year. 

Tern passage continued on the 3rd with Maynard noting Common, Arctic and Little moving north, as well as a Ring Ouzel in the South Dunes. On the same day we had a really big passage of Hirundines - all mostly going south, as they usually do in spring here! Pat saw a Short-eared Owl and 3 Yellow Wagtails in the North Dunes that morning too, and Sean had a flyover Canada Goose in the valley.  

Just before mid-day news came out that a Pallid Harrier had been seen up the coast at Waxham, and it was heading south. In the vague hope it might get to us, Sean headed into the North Dunes and sat on a hill, and Pat and Tim stationed themselves inland at the end of Low Road, as we have noticed that many southbound raptors seem to cut inland when they reach what we call 'the Warren' (a patch of rather open scrubby land west of the fence-line about half a mile north of the village).  An hour's skywatching produced 4 Red Kites and a host of Buzzards to entertain us, but there was no sign of the Harrier, so Pat and Tim went home and Sean got to his feet and started to wander slowly further north through the dunes.  We assumed the Harrier had either taken another route or whizzed through very quickly before we could get ourselves into position. However, amazingly, just before 1pm, over an hour after it was first reported, the Pallid Harrier appeared, sailing casually and elegantly across the dunes, riding the wind with effortless ease, and even deciding to take a detour east to dance over Sean's head before heading back inland and drifting casually into the Warren, just has we had predicted it might!  Sean immediately sent a photo via WhatsApp to our local group, and within about ten seconds Pat had called for further information.  "Get back to Low Road, it's flying really casually and dawdling, and it's heading through the Warren" Sean shouted down the phone, so Pat whizzed back and amazingly also saw it as it glided across the farmland.  It then headed on, on a more inland route, and was seen once more, further to the south of us. Incredibly, later analysis of the photos showed it was the same bird that had been on Bryher, in the Isles of Scilly, just a few days before!  It was a very special encounter with a really wonderful bird, and we must thank Will Walmsley and Robert Smith for putting the news out so promptly. 

Some of Sean's Pallid pics:

And here is an atmospheric pic taken by Pat as it crossed farmland on the west side of the village:

Back down to earth on the 4th a Swift appeared in the valley in the rain that morning, and very annoyingly a Bearded Tit flew over, pinging away, but Sean was unable to actually see it because of raindrops on his binoculars and glasses!  

On the morning of the 5th there were 2 Ring Ouzels in the valley, whilst the Iceland Gull was still here, on the south beach along with a summer plumaged Dunlin and a large party of Ringed Plovers. The Peregrine was seen on the east side of the church tower, and remained with us throughout the month again. 

On the 6th Sean attempted the first Breeding Birds Survey visit for the square which covers the first km of the North Dunes, and almost got frostbite trying to fill in the paperwork. A Cuckoo calling was the highlight of the visit. Later in the valley Mick had 4 Ring Ouzels and a cracking male Redstart which stayed for the next few days, proving to be a master of the vanishing act for the majority of the time it was here, although eventually most of us managed to see it. 

Now you see me...

...and now I'm gone!

On the 7th Mick S, one of our very regular visitors, had 2 Spoonbills flying south, but annoyingly none of us managed to get on to them.  They are a difficult year tick here! 

Meanwhile Lesser Whitethroats, Cuckoos and Ring Ouzels were still in evidence, with at least 5 Ouzels in the valley that morning, and Maynard had a Hobby in the North Dunes. Sean had a calling flyover Woodlark in the valley too, the first of the year.

On the 8th Maynard was lucky enough to see 4 Black Terns come in off, and Sean had Hobby and the Redstart in the valley, and the first significant arrival of local Swifts happened that evening, with quite a few flying around over the village. 

On the 9th there were two Spotted Flycatchers and a Whinchat in the valley, and a steady passage of Yellow Wagtails moving south with Pat counting 19 from the Plantation and Sean 6 in the valley. Up at the north end the Whimbrel were still present, with Tim counting 30, and also seeing two Woodlarks going south.  

On the 10th Spotted Flycatcher and Ring Ouzel remained for us locals, but once again we all managed to miss the best bird, a female Red-footed Falcon which Mick S saw as it whizzed south along the dune tops at the Plantation.  We really must try harder! Mick's photos below. 

On the 11th Tim had a Garden Warbler back at its usual territory and the rest of us caught up with it over the next few days. 

In an indication of how cold it continued to be, there were still a few Purple Sandpipers around at this point in the month too, and Tim took this fine picture on the 13th.

On the 16th there was a Common Sandpiper on the north beach amongst the groynes, and Tim and Mick were lucky enough to see a Turtle Dove whizzing south at speed from the Plantation. 

On the 18th Sean saw a Black Redstart and a late Redwing in the South Dunes.

On the 19th Sean had a tussle with this plain Acro in the valley which was resolutely silent and mostly refused to give itself up, although eventually he did get a couple of shots.  A tentative identification was concluded on the balance of probabilities, but readers' comments are always welcome! 

On the 20th Barry had another Common Sandpiper and later Tim and Mick had 2.  There was also a Red-breasted Merganser on the sea. Mick had 2 Canada Geese on the sea too! Sean's nocmig recorder picked up a Little Grebe over the house at 1.21am the previous night. That evening Pat had an Arctic Skua during a short seawatch.  

The cold weather continued and a Spotted Flycatcher in the Totem Pole bushes on the 21st was a sad sight as it huddled out of the wind with not a single insect to be had for its breakfast. 

On the morning of 22nd the (or a) Peregrine was hunting in the valley, and the Red-breasted Merganser was flying up and down the south beach.  Lesser Whitethroats remained in the valley, hopefully breeding,  but they were not singing at all so were often difficult to track down. 

At least 2 more Spotted Flycatchers were present in the valley on the 23rd and another on the 24th.  On the morning of the 25th, as cold weather continued, Sean saw two Hobbies sitting on the beach. When dog walkers came past they only flew a short way and landed on the sand again.  This was surely rather worrying behaviour and we feared that the lack of insects was really having an impact on them. We have heard of Hobbies dying of starvation in the UK this year...

On the 26th Mick had 2 Knot on the sand bar and 2 Arctic Terns flying north. On his way back from the seawatch he found another Spotted Flycatcher in the dunes near the houses off North Market Road. 

As the month ended breeding seemed to be getting underway for most species and several more Red Kites were seen, and as the weather finally began to show some incipient signs of warmth, butterflies and dragonflies at last began to emerge. It turned out to be a great month for both Green Haistreak and Brown Argus, and on top of those quite a few Walls, Painted Ladies and other moer common butterfly species were seen.  

On the 29th Pat had 3 Avocets and a Green Woodpecker from the Plantation, plus a Woodlark south, and Sean caught up with the Avocets a couple of days later.

 Fittingly for this month, it ended with another great bird being found by another visiting birder. This time it was Drew's turn to find this beautiful female Red-backed Shrike in the classic 'shrike bushes' north of the concrete blocks.  It was a tricky bird to see, but eventually we all managed. A male was also present a short way up the coast at Waxham, and we would have our own male a few days later, but that's the story of another month (where Drew will also play his part!).  Here are his own photos of his excellent bird. 

And one from Tim:

And what of Mays of yore? I hear you say... Here's three of Peter's accounts from last century to finish off with.  

Good patch birding everyone!




Sunday, 2 May 2021

April 2021 Roundup

Although the spring rain was notably absent, April lived up to the rest of T.S. Eliot's famous description, and migrants had a hard time of it in the almost continuous cruel and cold NE wind. The early flurry of Swallows in particular must have really struggled.

Nevertheless there were some decent birds, although it most definitely was NOT the best April ever here (which for Sean was April 2008 in case you're interested 😊 - some will remember why...).  The Iceland Gull remained throughout the month, our Peregrine continued to use the church tower throughout as well, and there were pretty good numbers of Ring Ouzels to be seen, so we made do.

Mick had three Wheatears in the north dunes on the 1st, and on the Second Maynard had a Green Woodpecker, the second of the year, at the back of the Low Road paddocks. On the 3rd Pat found two more Canada Geese from the concrete track, allowing at least one of us to get a welcome grip-back for our year lists... Pat also had a Sand Martin from his garden on the same day. 

Sean had a lone Swallow on the 4th, and Tim a Willow Warbler in its customary territory near to the concrete blocks.  It snowed on the 5th, yet despite this Sean had the first Common Tern, along with several Sandwich Terns, an appropriate Snow Bunting and near frostbite...  The tide and the wind were so powerful on the 5th that the rope fencing and posts cordoning off the hoped-for Little Tern nesting area, only erected a few days earlier, was ripped out by the sea. Mick bravely went down that evening and tried to secure it, and was nearly pulled out by the tide!

On the 7th a distant Grebe sp going north was considered to possibly be a Red-necked, but it was too far out for us to clinch.  On the 8th Mick had a few more Sandwich Terns sitting on the Cockle light station (about 3/4 of a mile out to sea). They really must have been wondering why they had bothered... Pat had a Siskin on his feeders, but a dead Harbour Porpoise towards the north end miserably failed to attract any Ivory Gulls... we had to make do with this little fellow, which Tim photographed up at Bramble Gap on the 9th when he also saw 3 Great White Egrets and a Swallow

On the same day Pat saw the first House Martin of the year from his garden, and the next day took these impressive photos of an impressive beast still in the area, the White-tailed Eagle.

On the 11th Barry had an Avocet from Bramble Gap, in what over the years has become known as the Avocet Pool, and Ted had a Purple Sandpiper on groyne 52.  Pat recorded two more Siskins in his garden.

Red Kites were seen by most of us on various dates through the month, and Fulmars became increasingly regular on the sea and even along the beach. There were a few more White Wagtails seen, including one by Barry from Low Road on the 14th and this one by Sean in the same place a few days later.

On the 15th Mick saw a Ruff on the plantation pool - a good bird around here - and in a very brief seawatch Sean managed a pair of Tufted Ducks before coming to his senses and giving up due to the absolutely freezing north wind. Later that day day Mick also had the first Ring Ouzel of the year in the south dunes, and Colin had 3 Wheatears in the north dunes. 

On the 17th Mick saw the first Yellow Wagtail of the year moving north, and Ted located the first House Martin away from Pat's garden area, above the Low Road paddocks. Bar-tailed Godwits were still moving at this stage in the month: Pat had 5 on the 17th, Mick 7 north off the car-park on the 18th and one on the plantation pool on the the 22nd, Tim had one on the 23rd from Bramble Gap, Sean had 5 going south off the south dunes on the 24th and Maynard had 2 in the same place on the 30th. 

On the 18th Pat heard a Grasshopper Warbler reeling at full throttle in the north dunes quite early. Most of us went up for it but by the time we arrived it had clearly decided conditions were far too cold for pouring its heart out, and we only heard it giving very short bursts, from very close by, and stubbornly refusing to show itself. 

A feature of the last third of the month was the passage of Whimbrels which began on the 20th with one seen by Sean and Mick as it flew south calling along the shoreline of the south dunes, and numbers picked up steadily until by the month's end flocks in their tens and twenties were being seen. 

The first Whitethroats were seen by Mick on the 20th,  and a few Song Thrushes and high Sparrowhawks seemed to be migrating on the same day.  

Pat's garden continued to be the only reliable site to see House Martins. Here is one of the two whizzing around there on the same date.

In the afternoon of the 20th Sean saw the first Cuckoo of the year, a male near the double pools in the north dunes, and shortly afterwards found a Wryneck near the concrete blocks.  The Wryneck proved impossible to get a photo of but he did capture this astonishing image of the Cuckoo 😁.

On the 21st Mick came across a roosting Short-eared Owl in the north dunes which allowed him to get this fantastic photo - almost as good as Sean's Cuckoo shot 😂.

From the 22nd Ring Ouzels started to be seen daily in both the north and south dunes, up to about six at a time, and Red Kites continued to put in regular appearances. 

On the 23rd, with most of us still waiting to see our first, Tim saw his second Green Woodpecker of the year at Bramble Gap. Pat had a Yellow Wagtail over and found another, or the same male Cuckoo in the north dunes. With careful fieldwork he was able to equal (or perhaps even exceed) Sean's earlier success and capture this stunning image 😂. 

On the 24th April Sean saw the unusual sight of about 80 Carrion Crows flying south quite high in several loose flocks just out to sea, obviously migrating.  Apparently others have noticed this sort of movement in spring on the north coast too. 

Black Redstarts popped up at the end of the month, with Barry finding one in the village on the 25th and Stephen, one of our regular visitors, finding another in the valley on the 26th, which was also present the next day. 

On the 27th Sean and Barry saw another Cuckoo in the valley, plus a House Martin and the Black Redstart, and the Iceland Gull decided to have a little investigation of the newly planted McCain Oven Chips field to the south of the village.

The 28th finally saw reasonable numbers of Swallows arriving and this continued for the last few days of the month; although there was barely a letup in the wind, it had at least got slightly less freezing.

On the 29th we had the first significant arrival of Little Terns, with around 50 moving north before 9am. Barry had the first Sedge Warbler along the Holmes Road the next day (30th) Tim added Reed Warbler in the same place. Interestingly both of our commoner Acrocephalus warblers have been present at inland sites for well over a week now. Pete suggested that the reason they arrive here later is because it is sub-optimal habitat and so only gets used when places like Hickling etc are filled up with breeding pairs. 

Also on the 30th Tim had another Yellow Wagtail, but they have been very thin on the ground so far this year.  

Another birds that has been really notable by its absence this year has been Brent Goose - numbers have been way, way down in every month compared to previous years. We wonder if other observers along the east coast have noticed this seeming collapse?

At the end of the month on the 30th Sean had the first patch Lesser Whitethroat of the year, singing from a hedge opposite Duffles Pond.

Honourable mention must also go to our resident Hybrid Hoodie who can always be relied upon to cheer up the day. 

So that was April. Our collective total for the year has gone up to 160 species.  Let's hope this bloody wind changes in May!

In other wildlife news we have noticed a lot more Roe Deer on the patch this month, along with the more usual Red Deer, Muntjac and Chinese Water Deer.  Hares have been much in evidence too, even in the north dunes, and adders have been out in the sunshine, braving the continuing cold wind. 

We'll leave you with a few more photos of the month, and after that a couple of blasts from Aprils past.  Good patch birding everyone!

30th April 2019

March entries from Peter's original bird notes of yesteryear, written for and published by the NOA, charting the early stages of the third technological revolution: from the Olivetti Typewriter, via the Amstrad Word Processor to the IBM PC! 




And finally...

April 20th, 2008