Saturday, 2 November 2019

The week

It has been very quiet this week with only the addition of a pair of Goldeneye the only highlight. A small group of seven Pochard were observed by they are far later than is usual, with the odd bird usually returning by late September.

Five Siskin were seen but that was about it. Today Saturday a walk around produced a group of 125 Canada Geese and an impressive 13 Greylag.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Shustoke Monday 21st October

Having not visited for a while I spent the morning at the Reservoir. I had just left the car park when a Rottweiler galloped past me. The owner quiet happily related a story of his dog being attacked by two Swans as it swan in the Reservoir! I pointed out that it would have happened if his dog hadn’t been in the water. He seemed to take exception to this statement, at that moment I noticed a Med Gull quite close in and my focus shifted. He carried on, then stopped turned round and asked me if I was all right!

Med Gull, Shustoke Reservoir
I returned to the car to get my scope then couldn’t find the bird for about an hour, they seemed to be disappearing to go and feed, they must be ploughing the field locally. At that point a steady drizzle started falling so I was just about to head off when I relocated the bird.

This was my 111 species of the year for Shustoke Reservoir, I have got a good chance of a few more. I am hoping for 120 but I think that might be a bit of a tall order unless Ladywalk evict a few Willow and Marsh Tit for starters, come to think of it a Cetti’s would be nice!

On Tuesday I made another visit with the best bird being a Dunlin, although there was a steady passage of Redwing and Skylark overhead.

Wednesday was a waste of time with the fog not lifting the whole time I was there.

Norfolk week 12 to 19 October


When we arrived on Saturday we went straight to Titchwell where it just so happened there was a Hooded Merganser a rare American duck. I didn’t get too excited as I have seen them before and it is unlikely that it will get excepted, although the date was spot on and it has the company in the UK of a lot of other “Yanks”. The fact that it departed the next day may well strengthen its credentials, but somehow I doubt it.

Then we walked out to Thornham Point in search of a Grey Phalarope but we missed it by minutes and although we waited for over an hour it failed to reappear.

During the course of the week we saw Bearded Tit, Grey Phalarope, Yellow-browed Warbler and the usual variety of species at Titchwell in about six visits.

The other site that we like is Burnham Overy Staithe were we walk out along the sea wall to Gun Hill then east to the Pine belt that continues on towards Wells-next-the-Sea.
Hooded Merganser, Titchwell


Today was a bit of a wash out, fortunately there was plenty of sport on the tele. I watched the Rugby in the morning and the Football in the afternoon, I managed to get out in a lull in the rain during the afternoon where I managed to get good views of the Grey Phalarope, it had relocated a few hundred yards away from where it was yesterday and it gave good views, due to the weather there were few people around.

On the walk back I bumped into Keith Warmington and his wife and I explained where the bird was located, then it was back to the cottage were we got ready for the main event.

Grey Phalarope, Thornham Point

Whooper Swan, Titchwell
Joy and I book tickets to see the 3 Degrees at the Palace Theatre in Hunstanton, it was ok but not really my bag. It was a little cringe worthy when half way through they asked a member of the audience to stand up as they had received a letter from his wife. She relayed that one of their songs was “Their Special Song” and they had been happily married for years! Then at the end she wrote that her husband had been recently diagnosed with cancer. After a round of applause they started singing their big hit, “When Will I See You Again”. I think “Take Good Care of Yourself” would have been a much more appropriate selection!


In the morning we visited Titchwell again as Joy wanted to see the Grey Phalarope, it had not been reported and everyone coming back said it had gone. I like searching through the Buckthorn for migrants so we carried on. I also thought the bird might have been overlooked, it wasn’t always on show yesterday when I was there and was apt to hide amongst the vegetation. And it proved to be and we picked the Phalarope up on another small pool. The bushes held a few Goldcrest but little else. We check the sea out on the return walk but it was quiet apart from a few Red-throated Diver.

In the afternoon we went to Burnham Overy Staithe where the intention was to walk out to Gun Hill. However, the weather was on the turn and although we saw the group of eight Cattle Egret we decided to return to the car, we just arrived as the heavens opened so we called it a day.


We parked at Burnham Overy Staithe and walked out to Gun Hill then to the Pine belt that carries on East to Wells. Bird wise it was quiet, but there was a light passage of Skylark, Redwing, Fieldfare and Chaffinch heading West. Amongst the Chaffinch we managed about six Brambling during the course of the day. The eight Cattle Egret were on show as well as four Great Egret. 

Cattle Egret, Burham Over Staithe
Other birds of note at Gun Hill were a couple of Ring Ouzel, but we could not find the reported Whinchat and just missed a Short-eared Owl.

In the pines we found a Yellow-browed Warbler and enjoyed the rest of the day birding then it was back along the sea wall on the return to the car.

In the evening Joy and I had tickets at the Palace Theatre for Wishbone Ash. I was never a big fan, like everyone my age into Rock I owned Argus, a best off plus a couple of the latter albums which I wasn’t that keen on. But I was pleasantly surprised and they were excellent.

Then as we walked back along the road to the car a Barn Owl appeared hunting along the cliffs, surprisingly it was to be our only one of the week.


Spent the day morning at Chosely Drying Barns walking the inland path that runs parallel to the coast, apart from a Blackcap and a couple of Yellowhammer it was rather quiet.

In the afternoon we went to Holme and walk the footpaths there, there was little in the way of migrants but we had a good number of species including a four Barnacle Geese and a Med Gull on the sea.


I didn’t fancy driving much as it was my birthday and I just wanted a days birding so we spent the day at Titchwell. We had a good day without seeing anything stunning with a Whinchat the highlight. Three Red Kite at Thornham Point were very confiding and circled over us for a while.
Red Kite, Thornham Point


We spent the morning at Burnham Overy Staithe where once we arrived it was obviously very quiet, so we cut our losses and returned to the car. Unsure where to go we decided on the reserve at Cley and parked at the East Bank where we circled the reserve clockwise.

The reserve at Cley is a shadow of its former self and for the first half of the walk we saw very little. On the sea there were a few Red-throated Diver, with a few Razorbill and a good number of Guillemot. A group of feeding gulls included a Little Gull and a Med Gull but apart from a Peregrine it was quiet. For the second time this week we got back to the car before the rain started.

Monday, 7 October 2019

4th October – Shetland Day 7

With the wind changing to light north-easterlies we were expecting some fireworks but the relality was that the weather was too good with bright sunshine.

We birded around Sumburgh with the highlight a couple of Snow Bunting, we then retired for a coffee and headed towards Quendale as an Arctic Redpoll had been reported.

We saw a Mealy Redpoll and a Yellow-browed Warbler and there were Redwing and unto seven Brambling plus a steady stream of Goldcrest that seemed to be coming in off the sea. Also seen were a group of Twite and a Chiffchaff resembling Siberian.

We drove to Sandwick/Hoswick to search again from Purple Sandpiper, this time we were successful. Then news broke of Hump-backed and Minke Whale off West Burra so we jumped into the car and headed that way. We found a suitable vantage point and eventually Keith picked up a Minke Whale at about three miles distance. We persevered for a while but the Hump backed could not be located so we left.

We decided to revisit Levenwick and bird the rest of the day there. We parked at the car park and quite a few other birders had had the same idea, but it was dead with little to see. Apart from a couple of Redstart it was dire.

We walked up to check out the garden the Rubythroat had been in a few years back, Bob and I  moved along to check up the drive and the edge of the field leaving Keith at the far end. I saw a movement to my left, turned and Keith had gone, I assumed he had jumped the fence into the garden! Then I saw the bottom of two boots appear in view followed by Keiths head peering at us! He had stepped back and had disappeared “Del Boy” like straight into a ditch! He seemed wedged tight and Bob and I helped him out, it was the funniest thing I have seen in years.

As we got back to the car we saw both Merlin and Peregrine it was a fitting end to a great week.

3rd October – Shetland Day 6

We started this morning at Skat Ness where we split up with Keith hearing a Lapland Bunting, but the best bird we could all manage was a Jack Snipe. A call from Bob who had done his own thing got us in pursuit of a warbler he had seen, we eventually tied it down and it was our only Garden Warbler of the week, the only other bird of note was a Whinchat.

We then had a trawl around the Sumburgh Head area with the Semipalmated still present on the beach at Grutness. We birded from the Hotel and scanned the bay north picking up a Long-tailed Duck. After a coffee we headed north, with nothing much to go for we though we would have another look at yesterdays Greenish Warbler which showed really well now the wind had dropped.
Also the Shrike decided to play ball and we all had good views of that as well.

Greenish Warbler, Cunningsburgh

Red-backed Shrike, Cunningsburgh
We then headed back to Hoswick and the Swinister Burn were we eventually got good views of the Olive-backed Pipit. We then drove down the coast to Levenwick where we saw a couple of Yellow-browed Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat.

2nd October – Shetland Day 5

After breakfast we drove to Lerwick where a Barred Warbler was present in the middle of the town, we arrived at the spot and were on the bird straight away as it fed in the sycamores on the edge of a bowling green.

Next we headed for Sandwick where were unsuccessful in locating a Purple Sandpiper. We then drove to Quendale where the only bird of note was the weeks only Fieldfare.

We were on the verge of returning to the chalet for a coffee when news broke of a Greenish Warbler at Cunningburgh, so fifteen minutes later we were out of the car and standing with a small group admiring this stunning little bird. Just 50 yards up the road was a Red-backed Shrike which was proving elusive and we only had a couple of brief views.

Greenish Warbler, Cunningburgh

News of a pod of Orca off the coast at Bigton had us heading in that direction, but a chance encounter with some birders driving the other way, saw us abandon our Whale hunt – for a while, later the same pod were relocated off Wester Quarff so we headed north again arriving there at the same time as a birding group from Heatherlea.

The Ocra had been seen heading north and it was assumed that they would turn when they arrived at the bridge from the Mainland to Tronda so we waited in the rain for them to appear, but it would appear the bridge didn’t discourage them and they must have passed under it.

With the light fading and the rain falling incessantly it was a visit to the chippy in Lerwick and then back to the digs for an early night.

1st October – Shetland Day 4

After breakfast there was nothing rare on the Islands that we hadn’t connected with so we went first to Loch of Brow and Loch of Spiggie where we saw Pochard, Goldeneye, Wigeon and Scaup and a single Slavonian Grebe.

Our next stop was the small hamlet of Duncansclett on West Burra were there was an American Golden Plover, on arrival it started raining. We had no information as to where the bird was and if it wasn’t for the fact that we saw a couple of birders about a mile west of us who were obviously watching something we may have given up. Anyway, after the rain stopped we trudged our way towards them. The hill side was alive with waders with Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew and an American Golden Plover! The scenery was excellent as it is throughout Shetland and we enjoyed 30 minutes enjoying the bird.

American Golden Plover, West Burra
As we sat in the car, a long staying Snowy Owl was relocated on Ronas Hill so we headed that way, we found the track up Collafirth Hill and parked by the masts. There were a steady stream of people heading back over the tundra. We started walking in the general direction and I met a birder I knew who gave me directions, 30 minutes later we reached the edge of a ridge but there were no birders. The scattered boulders and peat hag made for awkward walking, I was used to it but the others weren’t. We had a discussion about what to do and were undecided. A couple of birders on the next ridge appeared and I suggested we get directions from them and make a decision. We spoke to them and they said the bird had located even further away, I was happy to crack on – the others not so keen, but we decided to go for it. Although the terrain was confusing the mast was clearly visible so getting back wasn’t an issue. We headed off to the distant ridge and at the bottom of a drop I turned around to find the others had stopped. I tried to phone but there was either no answer or I couldn’t hear due to the wind. I decided to head for the next ridge and see how the land lay, on arrival it was still a good half a mile away.

With the others having stopped I though I had better head back abandoning the Snowy Owl. I could see the mast in the distance but I had no idea where I had come from, the terrain was that confusing. I walked back quickly, gaining height over the secondOK ridge, but could see no sign of the others. I tried phoning again this time getting an answer, they had gone upwards to get a better view but Bob had started to make his way back on his own, a bad move. I gained height quickly and saw Bob in the distance. I phoned him and told him I would catch him up, I then phoned to other to make sure they were OK with getting back and they said they were on there way. I then saw them pop up over the ridge, so I headed off in pursuit of Bob who was nearing the masts. As I rushed to catch him up I saw him fall. It seemed an age before he got up and waved at me, as I got closer I could see he was bleeding from a cut to his eye. Apparently he had fallen on three occasions bruising his knee and thigh. The atmosphere in the car seemed a little strained and I felt a little guilty at leaving them and relieved that Bob had made it back on his own. If he had fallen and been badly hurt it would have difficult to find him.

We decided to have another look at the Bee-eater but it didn’t play ball so we headed south, on route our luck changed with news of a Red-backed Shrike near Gott, we were the first to arrive with several cars arriving soon after, we managed to get a parking spot and had good views of the bird.

Red-backed Shrike, South Califf, near Gott