Thursday, 30 September 2021

A New Toy

 Sep 1st Strumpshaw &Sheringham

September started grey, dull and slightly drizzly and at Strumpshaw, it was another unexciting day. The early morning walk provided only one highlight, a red-legged partridge running away from me along Sandy Wall. At Reception Hide, 2 bearded tits proved to be a small crowd pleaser as they both popped in and out of the bottom of the reedy islands for much of the latter half of my shift. Buzzards, marsh harriers, a brief water rail, a cormorant, a heron, a few ducks, moorhens and coots and a basking lizard as I was leaving the reserve were the best of the rest.

Guillemot (Sep 1st), My new scope (Sep 5th),
Kingfisher and Willow Emerald Damselfly (Sep 8th)
Near the end of my shift, Mum surprised me with a phone call asking if I wanted to go sea watching at Sheringham while she took my elderly grandparents for a short stroll along the front. Of course, I wasn't going to let an opportunity to sea watch pass me by, so I said yes. Mum then popped over to mine to collect my scope and then collect my grandparents before picking me up. When we arrived, I made my way to the shelter usually popular with other sea watchers only to find it was empty.

The waves were rolling hard, slightly rough conditions, perfect for sea birds to be blown into my way. There had been some brilliant sightings of late, from skuas to shearwaters. This form of birdwatching was my weakest, so my confidence levels were low now that I was alone finding these sort of birds. The sea is vast and always moving and hiding the birds constantly. More pairs of eyes would have came in handy. However, I didn't do too badly as I found plenty of gannets, a guillemot, some cormorants and sandwich terns, 4 common scoters flying past near the shore, dunlin, a great black-backed gull and something that may resemble a shearwater, but I wasn't 100% sure.

Sep 5th Cley & Sheringham

Another visit to the coast for another session of sea watching. That was what I was intended to do any way. What happened instead was a new purchase. You see, when I got to the beach car park at Cley and joined the group of sea watchers that were already at the shelter there, I set up my scope and peered into the lens only to discover that the focus was not working at all. Try as I might, I just couldn't see out of it. It was frustrating. So, Mum and I popped back to the visitor centre and ended up buying a brand new one. A very late birthday present as I finally spent my birthday money that was given to me back in March.

After a short, disappointing visit to the hides (seeing ruff, curlew, little egrets, marsh harriers, godwits, teal and avocets), we went to Sheringham to test out my new scope. The zoom and the focus was a vast improvement to my previous scope (in which I had since 2003) and I could see for miles out at sea much, much clearly. There wasn't too much about though due to calmer waters. I managed to spot a few gannets, a small flock of scoters, cormorants, a guillemot and a fulmar.

Sep 8th Strumpshaw Fen

I had to get a lift into Strumpshaw this morning as my bus never showed up, possibly due to the lack of drivers that were probably Covid bound or something. Thanks to that, I missed my train and had no time for my morning walk before my shift. I went straight to Reception Hide. Unfortunately, it was the morning that Ben (one of the Strumpshaw wardens, if you are new) decided to strim the front of the hide, scaring a water rail in the process. The noise of the strimmer didn't last for too long, thankfully. Though the noise was replaced with a fairly quiet scene besides the odd bearded tit, marsh harrier, moorhens, 3 herons and a few groups of ducks.

After my shift, I decided to walk over to Tower Hide to make up for the morning walk that I missed earlier. A good choice as there was more to see here than at Reception Hide. When I arrived, I had just missed out on a red kite that had apparently just spook everything up. Saying that, there were still ducks galore. Teals, gadwalls, shovelers and mallards making up a large mass of waterfowl. Try as I might, however, I could not find the three long-staying garganeys that were reportedly somewhere amongst them. The star of the afternoon was a kingfisher that perched right in front of the hide for quite some time. I ended my day finding a willow emerald damselfly on the walk back.

Sep 15th Strumpshaw Fen

September at this point was becoming like a summer we've barely had. Hot, sunny and very pleasant. However, the wildlife at Strumpshaw was on the quiet side. Perhaps they were having a siesta?  The stand out highlight of the day turned out to be a great white egret that kept flying around the back of the broad outside Reception Hide from one side to the other, often obscured by reedbeds and the reedy islands. Other than that, there were the usual marsh harriers, buzzards, herons, cormorants and ducks. Very quiet!

Great White Egret (Sep 15th), Sandwich Terns (Sep 19th),
Bearded Tits (Sep 22nd) and Water Rail (Sep 29th)

Sep 19th Sheringham

My parents decided to take me out to sea watch at Sheringham again. The sea was calm and I thought it wasn't going to be very productive at all. I was glad it wasn't the case. It wasn't bad at all. Gannets, flocks of brent geese, a few red-throated divers, cormorants, 4 oystercatchers, turnstones, herring, black-headed, lesser and great black-backed gulls, sandwich and common terns and a guillemot floating near the shore.

Sep 22nd Strumpshaw Fen

Bearded tits were very visible this morning with about 10-20 of them showing well at the top of Sandy Wall and later at Reception Hide sitting on the tops of the reeds. Other than that, it was another not very memorable day. The other minor highlights include swallows, herons, marsh harriers and a parasitic wasp with a long ovipositor (possibly Gasteruption jaculator).

Sep 23rd Potter Heigham Marshes

A long-billed dowitcher (which is like a godwit from America) has been hanging around Potter Heigham since about July, but only seen on and off since then. Today, Dad and I went to try our luck. I only know the way to the reserve by following the river from Potter Heigham itself. Unfortunately, this was a bad decision as reed beds obscured the pools and everything was quite distant. We just couldn't figure out how to get to the other side of this place. So, in the end, we missed out and the trip was a big waste of time, though we did spot a kingfisher, a kestrel and a ruff.

Sep 29th Strumpshaw Fen

The weather has turned once again and it has become more autumnal. It was very blustery and chilly. A water rail and 2 wigeon was a welcoming sight at Reception Hide when I arrived to the reserve. Bearded tits braved the winds at the top of Sandy Wall and gave me great close views just as they did the week before. The wind got stronger as the morning went on and everything seemed to be sheltering from it, providing with very little to see for the rest of the day.

Sep 30th Catton Park

My 9th dawn chorus of 2021 and it was a short one at Catton Park. Not a very exciting one, but the sky was fantastic in a pallet of golds and pinks. The birds were on the quiet side and were mostly robins, wrens, great and blue tits, the odd blackbird alarm call, a brief outburst from a song thrush, a dunnock, jackdaws and several noisy gulls that were flying by. The most interesting thing that I've discovered during this walk was that there are now 11-12 wood sculptures dotted around the park. They definitely weren't there when I last visited.  

Monday, 30 August 2021

Slow Summer

 Aug 4th Strumpshaw Fen

I went straight to Tower Hide in the hope of finding one of my Strumpshaw 45 targets. For a couple of weeks up to this point, a couple of garganeys had been seen on and off here. This is the UK's only summer visiting duck, arriving from Africa with the males looking absolutely spectacular in their chocolate brown and grey plumage with a bold white stripe above their eyes. At this time of year though, that plumage has since faded as the birds enter their summer moult and are less obvious. They now appear as a brown duck with the stripe being very faint. Outside the Tower Hide, there were definitely a lot of brown ducks around, but only two were small enough to be garganeys. One gave me long enough to study and I could see the tell tale pale eye stripe. I finally could add this duck to not only my Strumpshaw challenge list, but also my overall bird list.

No otters, but I did glimpsed a kingfisher, bearded tits, a sparrowhawk, watched marsh harriers, common terns, swallows, house martins, herons, shovelers, gadwall and reed warblers. There were also many red admirals, peacocks, brown hawkers, emperor dragonflies, red-eyed damselflies, southern hawkers, common darters, banded demoiselles and many other insect species, but none of them were my Strumpshaw 45 target species.

Garganey (Aug 4th), Otter and Mute Swan (Aug 11th),
 Painted Lady (Aug 11th) and Avocet & Green Sandpipers (Aug 15th)

Aug 11th Strumpshaw Fen & Buckenham Marshes

Before this week's shift, I was on the hunt for willow emerald damselflies, which is another of my target species. The dipping pond near the entrance of the meadow trail is a good place to find them, but it took 2 attempts this morning before I had to head to Reception Hide for my shift until I finally found one. Sadly, I couldn't get a photo of it as it was obscured by the willow leaves it was perching on and when I went to the other platform to be much closer, I quickly lost it again. A green damselfly amongst green leaves is not really that obvious to spot.

Between attempts, I did pop into Fen Hide for a bit and saw a water rail, common terns, a heron and a marsh harrier. At Reception Hide, an otter was busy hunting in the broad for 30 minutes and even swam close to a pair of swans without them show any interest what so ever. Other than a heron, bearded tits, common terns and many mallards, there wasn't much else around.

After lunch, I decided to leave early and head to Buckenham Marshes. It turned out to be a very long walk in the hot sun with a plague of biting insects only to discover that the only hide there was closed! Not only that, but someone's unleashed dog squeezed under a gate and ran towards the only pool of interest that was full of waders. Thankfully and amazingly, the dog was eventually called back before the birds noticed or flew away. I didn't bring a scope, so everything on the pool was a bit too far away for me to get a clear view to spot any potential wood sandpipers or the like. There were starlings, lapwings, black-tailed godwits, ruff and a lot of geese, but before I could study the pool any further, the horseflies attacked and I legged it for the long walk back to Brundall station. While at the reserve, I also found several painted lady butterflies and a Chinese water deer.

Aug 15th Cley

I went out to Cley with Mum for a spot of birdwatching on this Sunday afternoon. Two of the three central hides were open and we spent most of our time in them. The pools were mostly dried up, but had many waders on them. Snipe, ruff, lapwing, black-tailed godwits, avocets, shelducks, teal, gadwall, redshanks, greylags, gulls, woodpigeons, 2 stock doves, pied wagtails, marsh harriers, swallows and several green sandpipers made it a very busy scene that for a while, we had the hide to ourselves to enjoy it.

I was really happy to add the green sandpipers to my list, but it was suddenly bested by a whimbrel that was flying over, alerting me to it with a series of notes. "Pipipipipipip!" This is a bird that resembles a curlew with a short bill and stripe above the eye. I don't see them very often and this was the first time I've seen one in flight nor one calling before. With whimbrel added to my list, it now takes my total to 142 birds species seen this year.

There was enough time for me to walk along the Eat Bank to the sea. Nothing new here for my list, but I did see many sandwich terns, curlews, little egrets, a heron, oystercatchers and plenty of snipe and other waders I've already seen earlier. All in all, it was a decent visit. The best in a while.

Aug 18th Strumpshaw Fen

A rather quiet, gloomy, slightly drizzly start to the day. However, it did improve as morning moved into afternoon. At Fen Hide, about 3 or so juvenile bearded tits were showing well for short amounts of time to pose on some reeds. Meanwhile, at Reception Hide, an otter appeared while I was filling up the shelves of the freezer with a fresh supply of ice cream. Many families were arriving and the coffee orders were coming in thick and fast. Between the coffee orders though, I did see little egrets, 2 common terns, marsh harriers, cormorants, a water rail, more bearded tits and a heron.

Bearded Tit & Otter (Aug 18th), Rainbow & Kingfisher (Aug 25th)

Aug 25th Strumpshaw Fen

Another quiet morning. There wasn't too much about at Fen Hide, so I made my way to the pumphouse. When I got there, however, the weather suddenly turned and it started to drizzle with rain. It wasn't even forecast to rain, but thankfully it wasn't too bad. It was on and off throughout the morning. Highlights include; a mother and fawn muntjac deer, kingfishers (including one that perched on the measuring post outside Reception Hide), a Chinese water deer, bearded tits, marsh harriers, herons and 2 snipe that flew over Fen Hide.

Aug 28th Catton Park

My 8th dawn chorus of the year wasn't the liveliest as expected for this time of year. I arrived at my local park just after 5:30am on a dull, cloudy morning, a few hours before a sudden heavy downpour occurred. This month's chorus included tawny owls, the odd calls of both great spotted and green woodpeckers, magpies, jays, carrion crows, jackdaws, woodpigeons, goldfinches, coal tits, robins, wrens, gulls and many chirruping crickets and grasshoppers that pretty much out sang the birds.

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Too Hot For Birds?

 July 5th Minsmere

My first visit to Minsmere in almost 2 years! I went out with Dad to check out how this reserve was dealing with Covid restrictions. Most of the changes were around the visitor centre and the café area. The rest of the reserve was more or less the same just with the usual rules applied. The picnic benches outside the café were for the café customers only, so we had to take our packed lunches to the beach, where we watched terns fly over us with fish in their bills and sand martins collecting material from the dunes a few metres behind from where we were sitting.

On the way to the beach, we came across the spot along the main path where the solitary wasps and bees make their nesting burrows and a little further on, we found a strange black worm-like creature crawling beneath our feet. This, I believe, was a great silver diving beetle larvae, which is known to leave the water from time to time.

Great Silver Diving Beetle Larvae & Little Terns (July 5th),
Otter (July 7th) and Grey Wagtail (July 10th)

The scrapes were alive with bird life. Terns especially were very active and noisy as they (and the black-headed gulls) had chicks to feed. Most of them were common and sandwich terns, but, in front of the South Hide, there was a small colony of little terns. These and a Mediterranean gull, a ruff and a spotted redshank in almost perfect black summer plumage asides from a scruffy white patch around the eye (which should be more ringed shaped) were all new additions to my year list, taking it to 135. Also seen at the scrapes were; kittiwakes, avocets, oystercatchers, lapwing, shelducks, a common sandpiper, black-tailed godwits and lesser black-backed gulls. Meanwhile on the dunes, I encountered a ringed plover and a whitethroat.

At the Bittern and Island Mere hides, we saw a bittern, marsh harriers and hobbies and heard bearded tits. Also found during our visit were; Norfolk hawker dragonflies, ringlet, small heath and small copper butterflies, really large southern marsh orchids, hound's-tongue, sheep's-bit scabious, centaury, biting and English stonecrops, sea kale and yellow-horned poppies.

July 7th Strumpshaw Fen

A fairly quiet, grey morning at Strumpshaw. Not too much around during my pre-shift walk except for a few marsh harriers, an oystercatcher, 2 bullfinches and hearing some bearded tits. At Reception Hide, I saw 2 kingfishers, an otter and a bittern appearing minutes between them, which livened the shift up a bit.

July 10th Nagshead RSPB

Since July 8th, I've travelled with my parents to my youngest brother's place in Cheltenham to stay for a long weekend away. Two of these days were spent visiting zoos, but on the Saturday (July 10th), we all went to the Forest of Dean. My mum and I went birdwatching at Nagshead (the place where I was washed out and almost cried with a Naturetrek group last March) while my dad, brother and my brother's girlfriend visited a sculpture trail a few miles down the road.

I was hoping to find pied flycatchers, wood warblers, redstarts and a few other specialities found on this side of the UK. Sadly, July is a quiet time of year with many of them moulting by now. However, I did think I heard a redstart make a short outburst, but I'm not really familiar with their song to be completely certain. There was one hide that provided views of a fleeing fallow deer, 2 stock doves, nuthatches, goldcrests, a buzzard and a grey wagtail, but other than that, it was a fairly disappointing trip.

July 14th Strumpshaw Fen

Another quiet, grey morning with the odd drizzle of rain. Not much again, though the marsh harriers were flying close to the Reception Hide. A kingfisher also flashed by as well as sightings of a common tern, a heron, a little egret, a sparrowhawk and many ducks in eclipse phase plumage. I also had a short walk amongst the marsh orchids in the meadow trail and saw a great spotted woodpecker.

July 20th Norwich

A heatwave has hit the UK this week on the week in which many of the Covid restrictions being relaxed or scrapped. The birds have gone quiet on me for the moment, so I went dinosaur hunting instead today. Dippy the Diplodocus from the Natural History Museum of London is on tour and currently at Norwich Cathedral. It has been 10 years since I've last seen Dippy, which is a replica skeleton of the sauropod originating from the USA that stood at the entrance hall of the museum for many years before recently being replaced by a blue whale skeleton. It was an interesting reunion with him being inside a religious building. In Charles Darwin's day, a place like this wouldn't see dead in having the remains of a creature that represents evolution like this within their walls. That thought kind of amuses me a little. Today though, Dippy was attracting many visitors and the cathedral did a great job displaying him.

Dippy the Diplodocus (July 20th), Pipistrelle Bat (July 21st),
Green-lichen Beauty & Brown Argus (July 26th) 

July 21st Strumpshaw Fen

A much brighter day at Strumpshaw. In fact, it was quite warm and brought out the biting insects. It had been so hot lately that my colleagues found a bat in the sink at the reserve's workshop, in which has a nursery colony within the building's walls. It was rescued and placed on a wall to find its way back.

There were plenty of marsh harrier action this morning. One female managed to divebomb a rodent in the reedy islands in front of Reception Hide, scaring the many ducks in the process and was quickly harassed by her hungry, recently fledged chicks. Also seen were bearded tits, a kingfisher, swallows and reed warblers. After my shift, I was able to find a few silver-washed fritillaries flying around the woodland glades.

July 26th Mousehold Heath

 The second group walk at Mousehold since lockdown was lifted. The group was slightly larger than the one held in May and was led by Will the warden and Peter, our wildlife expert and included my aunt Barbara and my friend, David. The theme of the walk was about butterflies. The weather was promising to start with, but then big grey clouds covered the sun and was a bit chilly and threatened to rain, not exactly the best conditions for butterflies.

We started with a few moths caught by Peter the night before, which included some rather beautiful ones such as a green-lichen beauty. Then, we checked the trees and an area by the roadside near Zak's car park and had great views of brown argus, small coppers and, best of all, white-letter hairstreaks on some elm trees. After lunch, we made our way to an enclosed area full of wildflowers, finding purple hairstreaks along the way. In this fenced off area full of ragworts, wild oregano and other species of wildflowers, we found plenty of gatekeepers, meadow browns, burnet moths, the odd common blue and many cinnabar moth caterpillars. Also seen during our walk today was a low-flying buzzard, brown and southern hawkers, common darters and a froglet.

July 28th Strumpshaw Fen

A bit grey and muggy to begin with but brightened up before an epic thunderstorm appeared later in the evening. A few odds and ends on a fairly quiet morning, including a very, very brief otter appearance, 2 great white egrets, marsh harriers, bearded tits, a kingfisher and herons. A few families were doing some pond dipping and one caught a very tiny water scorpion to show me, which now takes me a total of 32 species out of 45 on my Strumpshaw 45 challenge.

July 29th Snettisham

For about a week now, Norfolk's 2nd ever western sandpiper has been staying at Snettisham. This is an American wader that resembles a small dunlin and very rarely visits the UK. Though going to see it was the main priority, I just wanted to visit Snettisham in general as I haven't been here since January 2017. I went with Dad and discovered that the car parks were unsurprisingly packed, but still managed to find a spot. 

Great White Egrets (July 28th), Western Sandpiper,
Roseate Tern? (the bird in centre amongst Common and Sandwich Terns),
 Knot sleeping and Knot flying (July 29th)

After the long walk to the reserve on my own (Dad wanted me to get going while he had a coffee break at the car), I found a small colony of terns sitting on some rocks in the first pool. Most of them were common terns and a single sandwich tern. But amongst them, I spotted a tern with a dark bill that was much different in shape compared to the other birds around it and was also slightly different in body size too. This, I believe, was my first ever roseate tern, the rarest of the UK's breeding tern species. It is so named due to a pink flush to the breast, not that I could see it from where I was standing. I'm still debating if this is indeed a roseate, but would love some confirmation. 

(Edit: Apparently roseate terns have much darker bills at this time of year, so probably not one sadly.) 

As for the western sandpiper, there was a lot of people looking for it. Some had seen it, others were still looking. The tide was in when I arrived to the beach and was apparently in front of Shore Hide, which was completely packed and I had to wait my turn. Looking for the bird here was like a needle in a constantly moving haystack as the flocks of hundreds of dunlin it was possibly hiding within was a bit flighty and reshuffled their positions. Knot, redshanks, godwits, turnstones, the odd common sandpiper gathered here also, forming patchy carpets of grey and orange-red plumages on the rocks in their thousands!

United with Dad, we made one more attempt at Shore Hide with the same result. We decided to head back to the beach for lunch. At this point, the tide was retreating and the birds were streaming back to the mudflats in several flocks. On our hunt for a spot to eat, someone from a group of men lined up behind a small bush with their scopes called out to us saying "Found it!" He directed us to a small lonely wader patrolling the ridge of a deep channel in the mud. Apparently this was the bird we were all looking for. I was so busy trying to find it with my camera while battling against the wind, that I didn't really appreciated it much, or get its photo after all that. The bird vanished into the muddy chasm, possibly like walking into the Grand Canyon to its point of view, and my chance for a photo was over.

I was happy to see it, but failing to get a photo of it really made me feel a little disappointed. All I could do now was watch the many birds still making their way to the mudflats to feed, including a mass exodus of the knot that weaved their way over the beach like a long waving ribbon. For the rest of the visit, Dad and I checked out the other hides, including the brand new Knots Landing Hide. We returned to the beach much later to discover that the place was deserted! All the twitchers have given up for the day. We almost had the entire beach to ourselves. Even the thousands of birds have moved on as even the mudflats appeared empty and looking like the surface of Mars. There was a curlew sandpiper on show, but no western sandpiper.

July 31st Norwich

I almost went through July without doing a dawn chorus walk! With the combination of work, my holiday to Cheltenham, the heatwave and the wet weather that sandwiched it, I've just couldn't find the right day to do it. So as it was my last chance, I had to do it today or miss out completely for my once a month lockdown dawn chorus challenge. I had just woken up after a night at work at 4:30am this morning only to discover that it was lashing down with rain. I was not looking forward to it and was expecting it to be a waste of time. However, I got outside, and it was fine. The rain had stopped, though it was still dull and grey. I decided to just do a walk around the block. Nothing that exciting, but I still can say I've done a dawn chorus in July.

The chorus itself wasn't anything amazing. It was fairly quiet and muted and dominated by the odd car passing by, but there were woodpigeons, collard doves, herring and lesser black-backed gulls, blue tit, wrens, the odd goldfinch, pied wagtail, coal tit and blackbird to make up some kind of avian soundscape. I also saw a squirrel climbing bins and fences along a street. Not the most memorable dawn chorus of the year, but I did it!

Friday, 2 July 2021

My 2021 Bird List So Far (Update)

It has been a while since I last updated my bird list that I've been doing this year. There wasn't too many birds around in Norwich that I hadn't added to the list already. Though, there were a few I missed out on since my last update, such as a corncrake (that was heard only), a rosy-coloured starling (briefly), ospreys, a black-tailed godwit, lesser whitethroats, a ring ouzel and black terns to name a few. However, since lockdown lifted a couple of months ago and that we could travel the country more, I decided to make an extension list to include birds outside of Norwich. So below is my Norwich list followed by a Norfolk+ list that continues my tally.

  1. Mute Swan
  2. Pink-footed Goose
  3. White-fronted Goose
  4. Greylag Goose
  5. Canada Goose
  6. Barnacle Goose
  7. Egyptian Goose
  8. Mandarin
  9. Gadwall
  10. Teal
  11. Mallard
  12. Shoveler
  13. Pochard
  14. Tufted Duck
  15. Scaup
  16. Goldeneye
  17. Smew
  18. Pheasant
  19. Little Grebe
  20. Great Crested Grebe
  21. Grey Heron
  22. Little Egret
  23. Cormorant
  24. Red Kite
  25. Sparrowhawk
  26. Buzzard
  27. Kestrel
  28. Hobby
  29. Peregrine
  30. Water Rail
  31. Moorhen
  32. Coot
  33. Oystercatcher
  34. Lapwing
  35. Snipe
  36. Woodcock
  37. Curlew
  38. Common Sandpiper
  39. Kittiwake
  40. Black-headed Gull
  41. Little Gull
  42. Common Gull
  43. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  44. Herring Gull
  45. Yellow-legged Gull
  46. Great Black-backed Gull
  47. Common Tern
  48. Rock Dove/Feral Pigeon
  49. Stock Dove
  50. Woodpigeon
  51. Collard Dove
  52. Ring-necked Parakeet
  53. Cuckoo
  54. Barn Owl
  55. Tawny Owl
  56. Swift
  57. Kingfisher
  58. Green Woodpecker
  59. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  60. Magpie
  61. Jay
  62. Jackdaw
  63. Carrion Crow
  64. Blue Tit
  65. Great Tit
  66. Coal Tit
  67. Long-tailed Tit
  68. Skylark
  69. Sand Martin
  70. Swallow
  71. House Martin
  72. Cetti's Warbler
  73. Chiffchaff
  74. Willow Warbler
  75. Sedge Warbler
  76. Reed Warbler
  77. Grasshopper Warbler
  78. Blackcap
  79. Garden Warbler
  80. Whitethroat
  81. Goldcrest
  82. Wren
  83. Nuthatch
  84. Treecreeper
  85. Starling
  86. Blackbird
  87. Song Thrush
  88. Redwing
  89. Mistle Thrush
  90. Robin
  91. Black Redstart
  92. Whinchat
  93. Stonechat
  94. Dunnock
  95. Yellow Wagtail
  96. Grey Wagtail
  97. Pied Wagtail
  98. Meadow Pipit
  99. House Sparrow
  100. Chaffinch
  101. Greenfinch
  102. Goldfinch
  103. Siskin
  104. Linnet
  105. Lesser Redpoll
  106. Bullfinch
  107. Reed Bunting

108. Brent Goose
109. Shelduck
111. Red-legged Partridge
112. Spoonbill
113. Bittern
114. Great White Egret
115. Marsh Harrier
116. Crane
117. Avocet
118. Ringed Plover
119. Sanderling
120. Dunlin
121. Black-tailed Godwit
122. Redshank
123. Turnstone
124. Sandwich Tern
125. Rook
126. Marsh Tit
127. Bearded Tit
128. Spotted Flycatcher
130. Corn Bunting
131. Roller

Obviously, there had been more birds outside of Norwich that I've missed than in Norfolk. But when you don't have a car and rely on public transport and others offering lifts, like I do, it is really difficult to get around to see them. If I did, I expect I'd have reached 200 species by now. As much as I would have loved to have seen the marsh warbler at Kelling or the bee-eaters in Great Yarmouth, they will have to remain on 'Missed Out On' list like many other species. Hopefully, I will get back into continuing this list very soon (especially once the Euros are over!) and reach my goal of 200 species (inside or outside of Norwich) by the time the year ends. 

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Summer Of Colour

 June 2nd Strumpshaw Fen

Swallowtail season was upon us. Visitor numbers has grown significantly at Strumpshaw, all after this rare British butterfly. I've already lost track on how many times I've been asked about how and where to find them. However, they have been late this year due to the cold spring we have had. There has been frosts well into May and this has set the swallowtails back by a couple of weeks than normal. And it isn't just swallowtails, the meadow trail has only just opened up to the public and there's barely any flowers in bloom there. The ditches, broads and the river were only beginning to stir with dragonfly life. It has been a rather strange spring indeed and possibly a rather worrying sign of things to come in this ever warming world.

Grasshopper Warbler, Marsh Harrier & Mallard and ducklings (June 2nd)
and Sunrise at Catton Park (June 6th) 

The birds were fairly active at least. At Fen Hide, I watched marsh harriers bringing in clumps of vegetation to build their nests with the males passing it over to their mates. Meanwhile, bearded tits were busy pinging away and providing the odd glimpse of themselves before vanishing back into their reedy world. Leaving the hide, I encountered two male cuckoos fly over me chasing one another into some trees left of the hide. Not far away near the alternative entrance to the meadow trail, the sound of the long-winded reeling of a grasshopper warbler resonated from some shrubs and after some searching, I managed to find this secretive bird. It was showing rather well and long enough to get a few photos of it. 

Back at Reception Hide, it was a very busy and at times, stressful morning as I tried to keep up with the orders of coffees, teas and snacks. When I did have time, I did manage to spot a few bearded tits, marsh harriers, a brief flash of a kingfisher, a common tern, cormorant, herons, swallows, swifts and a family of mallards with 10 ducklings.

June 6th Catton Park & Whitlingham Broad

My 6th dawn chorus of the year and I decided to return to my local park to experience it. Arriving at 4:30am, it was already light with blue skies despite the sun still rising above the horizon. The birds weren't quite as loud as they have been in the last few months, but there were still plenty singing. Wrens, blackbirds and song thrushes were the most vocal, but there were also blackcaps, goldcrests, dunnocks, blue and great tits, goldfinches, chaffinches, stock doves, a white throat and a drumming great spotted woodpecker.

The real highlight of the morning though occurred while I was sitting on a bench by the pond when suddenly I heard a commotion in a group of oak trees very close by. Many corvids, including jackdaws, magpies and carrion crows, were mobbing something and were making quite a raucous. At first, I thought it was a bird of prey, but when I went to take a better look, I noticed a fox with something like a pigeon or something in its mouth trotting casually through the long cover of buttercups all the while withstanding the attacks of the bombarding corvids. I have never seen a fox at this park before and it was making the most of the quietness as there wasn't a single dog walker or runner in sight at this early time in the morning.

Returning from what was a fun dawn chorus walk, I wasn't done just yet. A few hours later, I went out with Mum for another walk, this time around Whitlingham Broad. I heard more than what I could see with a calling cuckoo being the main highlight out of the mini chorus that included about 6 species of warbler. However, the walk was overshadowed by the weather as the hot, sunny spell was suddenly replaced by approaching black clouds that blocked out the clear blue sky and threatened to turn stormy. Thankfully, the rain held off until we got home.

June 9th Strumpshaw Fen

Another hot Wednesday and the chances of swallowtails was pretty high. People across the country were making their way to Strumpshaw, though maybe not as many as previous years due to Covid restrictions. It took until after my morning walk for me to actually see one myself as it briefly flew over the nectar garden without stopping. That was pretty much it though. These butterflies were proving very elusive and few and far between this year. 

Before the sighting though, I had 2 hares on a field on my way to the reserve, my first tweyblades of 2021and a single southern marsh orchid on the meadow trail. At Fen Hide, a cuckoo was singing from a dead tree close to the hide, producing some interesting 'bubbling' sounds. I also saw bearded tits and marsh harriers there as well. At Reception Hide, a bittern flew by from right to left over the back of the broad. 

June 16th Strumpshaw Fen

The hot weather continues to soar and the chances of swallowtails grew even more than it was the week before. This time I was fortunate to see one by the river at the top of Sandy Wall and I nearly stepped on it as it snuck in without me noticing to bask on the ground! At the end of my shift, another turned up at the nectar garden and I was lucky enough to get one good photo of it.

Swallowtail & Poppy Field (June 16th), Roller (June 27th) & Otter (June 30th)

Dragonflies were everywhere this morning. I lost count of how many species, but they include Norfolk hawker and red-eyed damselfly. Southern marsh and common spotted orchids were starting to dot the landscape of the meadows and the sand cliff area, but not in great numbers just yet. On the way back to Brundall to catch my train, I had just a little bit of time to admire the magnificent display of red poppies planted in a field.

June 23rd Strumpshaw Fen

Not one of my best days at Strumpshaw. I was looking for a barn owl that was apparently hunting by the pumphouse and I wanted to find it for my Strumpshaw 45 challenge. I made my way through the meadow trail and along the river to find it, finding a cuckoo along the way. However, whilst making my way there, the horseflies began to swarm around me and were landing on my body. My trousers and fleece were protecting me from their bites for the most part, but they were still making me panic and in the end, I abandoned my search for the owls and legged it into the woods.

I made a quick change into shorts before my shift as it was a nice day (the first decent day in a week) and I made sure to dose my legs with repellent to keep the horseflies at bay. But the horseflies were soon replaced with coffee hell as I was in charge with making the hot drinks and gathering the snacks. By lunch time, I didn't really had time to look for wildlife as the orders were coming in fast. The supplies were extremely limited and running out really quickly. There was a point where I had to make a new batch of coffee, but forgot to put a flask under the machine to fill it up. So in a panic, I picked up the nearest flask, which happened to have a little bit left instead of the clean, empty one beside it and the coffee overflowed onto the counter! This is why I don't drink or make coffee at home! The few highlights during a very busy shift was a common tern, a very fleeting glimpse of a swallowtail, marsh harriers, marsh tit and a variety of bees, wasps and a longhorn beetle in the nectar garden.

June 27th Lackford Lakes

In the past week, the east of England has been invaded by colourful, exotic-looking birds. A flock of nine bee-eaters were attracting a lot of attention in Great Yarmouth, while a collard pratincole (a beautiful plover-like wader) was at Hickling Broad. Down in Suffolk, meanwhile, a roller had been staying just south of Icklingham for a few days. I would love to have seen either three of these species, however the bee-eaters had moved on and the pratincole was also likely to have disappeared on the one free day I could travel. The roller was the one I really wanted to see though. I managed to convince my parents to take me on the long drive into Suffolk to see it and as soon as we got to the spot, it wasn't long until we found the crowd indicating its presence.

The scene was like a mini music festival, with the roadside to a field jam packed with people and cars. We somehow found a spot to park right by the crowd of twitchers armed with cameras and scopes and as soon as I got out of the car, I found the roller sitting on a wire immediately! Despite being slightly distant, I could still make out its colourful blue-lilac plumage. It was also the size of a jay, which made it easier to spot. Rollers are scarce migrants to the UK that winters in Africa and breeds in southern and eastern Europe and is easily a crowd pleaser. This was the 4th day this bird has been here and I was thankful that it was still around so that my journey wasn't a wasted one.

After the roller, we moved on to Lackford Lakes just down the road and spent the rest of the visit to Suffolk there. I noticed that on the sightings board that a glossy ibis was around. Sadly, when I went to the area where it supposedly was a couple of times, I kept missing out as it kept hiding behind vegetation whenever I turned up. No ibis, but I was more fortunate in seeing a hobby, oystercatchers, lapwings, little and great crested grebes, tufted ducks, cormorants, common terns, beautiful displays of biting stonecrop and viper's bugloss and heard a cuckoo and a kingfisher.

June 30th Strumpshaw Fen

The last day of June and it was a bit rubbish with dull, grey clouds and some rain. Despite this, I did get to see a few cuckoos this morning as well as an otter catching an eel in front of Reception Hide and marsh harriers and a sparrowhawk. After what happened last week, I was surprised to see that there was a new addition in the hide as there is a brand new coffee machine on the counter. This means we now serve lattes, flat whites, etc with a simple click of a button. We still have the filter coffee as an option, but as everyone wanted the fancier stuff, I didn't have to worry in making a mess like I did last Wednesday.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Good To Be Back (Again)

 May 2nd Whitlingham Broad

For this year's International Dawn Chorus Day, Dad and I got up at 3:30 am to experience it at Whitlingham Broad. The moon was magnificent when we arrived at 4am as the sunrise was just a dim glow in the east and a thick mist covered the broad. The wildfowl, including the Mandarin duck, were like silhouettes by the broad's shoreline, disturbed by my sudden appearance. 

Dawn Chorus Day at Whitlingham with Common Sandpiper

Reed warblers, sedge warblers and reed buntings were singing in the dark alongside the sounds of ducks, geese and the wrens, robins and thrushes. However, the star of the show at this early hour were tawny owls. Walking along the river, several owls were hooting close by. I managed to make out a silhouette of one perched amongst the branches of a tree. The light gradually got brighter as I continued down the river and more and more birds added their voices to the chorus like chiffchaffs, blackcaps and willow warblers. In one bush, I could hear a bird that sounded similar to a blackcap but with longer phrases and wasn't quite as loud. I believed this was a garden warbler.

We stopped to watch the sun rise out behind the largest cloud like a glowing crown of gold above the heavily misty lake of Thorpe Marshes. The Great Broad of Whitlingham behind us was, in comparison, was extremely thick with mist but was soon blasted away by the blinding light of the rising sun. Following the light's direction as we made our way back to the car, common terns emerged from the gloom, a kingfisher perches right in front of us and a heron blocks our path. To end things full circle, a pair of common sandpipers were feeding by the shore, but the Mandarin was now gone after completing its nap. 

This was a good 5th dawn chorus of the year, providing me with three new birds for my list (reed warbler, garden warbler and common sandpiper), taking me to 102 species in and around Norwich. I was a little disappointed that I didn't hear any cuckoos, but the tawny owls more than made up for it. Seven more dawn choruses to go.

May 3rd Earlham Marshes

I was informed that a blue-headed wagtail and a little ringed plover had shown up at Earlham Marshes. It was just too good for me to miss, so I went for a look. To my surprise, my birder friend, David, was there as well as a couple of other birders. There was no sign of the birds I was after, but together, we did find a yellow wagtail. Blue-headed wagtails are just a race of yellow wagtails anyway and either way, it was still a new one for my list. 

Yellow Wagtail & Whinchat (May 3rd), Sandwich Tern (May 9th) & Garden Warbler (May 10th)

David was telling me that a whinchat and a ring ouzel had been seen in a field behind the marshes. I followed a young birder down to a group of his young birder friends and a couple of more senior birders at the spot the whinchat was last seen. It wasn't long though until I managed to spot the bird and it posed for me atop of some small trees like a Christmas tree angel with its striking white supercilium quite visible above its eye. Sadly, there was no sign of the ring ouzel, but there were plenty of linnets, stonechats and whitethroats. Back at the marshes, the young birders pointed out a hobby and some swifts, both new to my list. I also saw 2 common gulls, a couple of mallard families with many ducklings between them, 2 little egrets and swarms of swallows and house martins. 

May 6th Strumpshaw Fen

A horrid morning to visit Strumpshaw again as it was throwing it down with rain. Dad had dropped me off while he went to the recycling plant nearby, but would eventually catch me up during my walk with his umbrella in hand. I, on the other hand, didn't have an umbrella and was absolutely soaked. Because of the awful weather, there wasn't too much to see. Continuing my Strumpshaw 45 tick list, I only managed to tick off a cuckoo that I could hear calling in the woods. The bluebells weren't quite in full bloom yet to create the dazzling display that I had on my list, so I couldn't tick it off just yet. The only other highlight of this soggy walk was herding a pair of swans that were in the way at the sluices as we made our way to and from the Tower Hide like a pair of shepherds.

The next day after this forgettable walk, I had a very important visit to a clinic to get my second Covid jab. So, I am pleased to say that I am fully vaccinated!

May 9th  Titchwell

A glorious day after a week of almost constant rain. It was so nice that my parents decided to take me out to Titchwell for the first time since November. When we got there, I could hear a bittern booming from the car park. The hides were all closed still, but the benches overlooking the pools were the next best thing. The sky was full of birds including a hobby, a red kite (we also saw 2 on the drive up to the reserve), marsh harriers and swarms of house and sand martins, swallows and swifts. The reed beds was buzzing with the sound of reed, sedge, willow and Cetti's warblers and reed buntings, while the pools themselves had avocets, sandwich and common terns, 2 black-tailed godwits, 2-3 redshanks, shelducks, brent geese, gadwall, linnets and a mother mallard with ducklings.

On the beach, a gathering of turnstones, dunlin, sanderling and oystercatchers were making the most of the exposed seaweed before the incoming tide covered it up once again. I also saw a siskin, a Chinese water deer and a possible bearded tit. Before heading home, we made a short stop at Choseley Barns in the hope of dotterels, but only saw hares, and red-legged partridges and heard a corn bunting instead.

May 10th Thorpe Marshes

I was intrigued to find out if there were anything new to see at Thorpe Marshes since my last visit. As I made my way across the railway bridge and halfway down the steps to get onto the reserve, I discovered a garden warbler singing in a bush that was beside the bridge. It moved around quite a bit, but I still managed to get a couple of great photos of this elusive warbler that's usually tricky to see in full view. Nearby, a grasshopper warbler was reeling somewhere close by but failed to show itself. A kestrel was busy hunting over the marsh, while the swifts, swallows and martins swirled high above. There was one new addition to my list in the form of a cuckoo flying past me. The lake was fairly quiet with nothing too out of the ordinary other than 2 common terns, tufted ducks, a pochard, swans, a great crested grebe, gadwall and a cormorant.

May 12th Strumpshaw Fen

My final visit to Strumpshaw as a visitor before I am allowed back to volunteer in another week's time. It was a vast improvement in the weather compared to the previous week in the rain as it was rather summer-like. The hides are yet to reopen to the public, so I was glad that it wasn't raining this time around. 

From Reception Hide, I was greeted with the sight of 4 hobbies hunting insects on the wing together. In the woods, the bluebells were finally in full bloom, forming a mini blue carpet in one small corner of the reserve. Whilst admiring the bluebells, a small bird perched atop of a long stump-ended trunk of a double-trunked tree. It was a spotted flycatcher! This was the best view I've had of one at Strumpshaw and I was able to get a couple of photos of this charming little bird with a squeaky wheelbarrow-like call. Now I just want to find one in Norwich for my main list.

Spotted Flycatcher (May 12th), Marsham's Nomad Bee (May 18th), Ruby-tailed Wasp (May 19th), Wheatear (May 22nd) & Blue Tit (May 26th) 

I added more ticks to my Strumpshaw 45 challenge sheet, though the majority of them were birds that I only managed to hear this time, which included treecreeper, bearded tit and kingfisher as well as a cuckoo, water rail, a garden warbler and a grasshopper warbler (the latter two not actually on the list). Also seen today was a great white egret, common terns, marsh harriers, lapwings, a Chinese water deer, common terns, a pair of swans with cygnets and many butterflies and damselflies.

May 18th Mousehold Heath

It had been a long time since the last group walk to be held at Mousehold. I was handpicked for an experimental walk today. I joined a small group led by Will (the warden) and Peter (our wildlife guide) and three other very familiar faces. We spaced ourselves out a bit to meet the social distancing guidelines, but was still able to enjoy the wildlife together.

Highlights include; a bank vole (that ran in front of me on the way to meet up with the group), a Marsham's nomad bee, buzzards, hearing a garden warbler and seeing a red kite soaring high in the clouds (the 2nd ever recorded at the site). The weather was good up until a rumble of thunder suddenly threatened our walk out of nowhere. It then started to rain during our lunch break and as we had to keep outside, we got a little damp. I had to leave due to this as I had to walk home before it got extremely worse, but while making my way home through the heath, the rain stopped and the sun came out with very warm sunshine that dried me out fairly quickly.

May 19th Strumpshaw Fen

I have returned! My first shift at Strumpshaw since just before New Year's and before lockdown came into place. This was my 10th year as a volunteer here and it was good to be back. With this being the week that many indoor public places such as theatres were allowed to open again, so too were the reserve's hides. Fen and Tower Hide have now reopened, though to a limited capacity and you need to wear a mask inside. For now, Reception Hide operates like it did when I was last volunteering here with me and my colleague the only ones allowed inside. I was back on coffee making duties once more.

It was nice to pre-shift routine once again. Travelling on the train, walking to the reserve, walking around the reserve, sitting in the hides and filling up the bird feeders, I had missed it all! The birds were more active at this early time of day and I enjoyed hearing several cuckoos and grasshopper warblers singing all over the place in what seems to be a bumper year for these two species at Strumpshaw, while bearded tits and marsh harriers were making themselves known from Fen Hide. I watched a pair of harriers do a food pass, which reminded me that life continued here while I was away. I also saw a linnet and had good views of a Cetti's warbler. 

My back was in agony from a long shift at work at the Royal Mail sorting centre a couple of days ago, in which I believed to have pulled a nerve and during my first shift inside the Reception Hide in ages, it really was playing up. Just sitting and scanning with my binoculars was enough to annoy my back. Despite the pain though, I continued to make the coffees and watch the wildlife outside. Around lunchtime, the sky suddenly turned black as a storm was approaching. The air felt cold and as if it was being sucked upwards and many rumbles of thunder were heard, getting louder and louder and there was even the odd flash of lightning. During the storm, swallows, swifts, house martins, black-headed gulls, a common tern and 2 hobbies swooped and swirled over the broad and once the storm calmed, I saw a cuckoo sitting on a stump on the far side. This scene was was like a good representation of how I felt returning to volunteering today and the way my back was feeling.

May 22nd Cley

While my back was feeling slightly better, I went out to Cley with my parents. It was still causing some discomfort, so we didn't stay for too long. Only one hide was open due to a pair of marsh harriers nesting nearby to the three central hides. There wasn't much on the pools anyway other than a few avocets, shelducks, a large swarm of swifts, swallows and sand martins and a herd of cattle. Apparently, there were 3 whimbrels and a short-eared owl at Arnold's Marsh. All I could find were a flock of curlews, a couple of turnstones, dunlin, redshanks, sandwich terns, a wheatear and some nesting avocets, but no whimbrels or owls.

May 26th Strumpshaw Fen

I was having a week off work to give my back some time to recover. It is now much better than it was, though a little bit of pain still lingers. Today's shift at Strumpshaw was my first big test for my back  and by the end of my shift, it was achy but not giving me too much agony. The morning started really nicely with bright sunshine, though a tad chilly. On the way to the reserve, I startled a hare into running on a nearby field, but as it was not on the reserve itself, I couldn't tick it off for my Strumpshaw 45 challenge. At the reserve itself, I managed to spot a cuckoo, a few bearded tits and had a very brief glimpse of a grasshopper warbler that was reeling in a bush close to Sandy Wall. 

When I returned to Reception Hide, I learned that there had been a white-spotted bluethroat (pretty much a robin with a blue throat) that had been seen or heard for the last 3 days and apparently it was still around this morning. However, it was all rather hush hush and no one was telling me anything when I met a few groups of people who seemed to be returning from looking for it. By the time I went to check for it myself, the weather turned and was a bit blustery. Most of the birds at this point were now less vocal with birds like the grasshopper warblers and cuckoos being mostly silent. It seems this bluethroat is most likely more active during dawn and dusk if I wanted to see it. The best I could muster was a lizard, hobbies, marsh harriers and another cuckoo.

May 28th Thorpe Marshes

The weather was too nice to go to waste and so I went over to Thorpe for a few hours. I was here on my own, but I ended up unintentionally tagging along a guided group walk that I met along the way round. The highlights being a family of stonechats, a pair of common sandpipers, buzzards, a heron, lapwing, a couple of tufted duck and great crested grebes, swifts, whitethroats, reed, sedge and Cetti's warblers and, after leaving the group for a second walk around the reserve, linnets and little egrets. There were also a few interesting plants in flower such as ragged robin and yellow flag iris.

Friday, 30 April 2021

The Quest For Bird 100

 April 5th Whitlingham Broad

The end of March was very summer-like with what was like a mini heatwave. The start of April was the complete opposite as it became winter again with light snow and hail showers and strong chilly winds. A very strange time to look for spring migrants at Whitlingham Broad. I began the month on 90 species of bird on my Norwich year list, needing only 10 more for my 100th. Could anything be arriving in these wintery conditions, I wondered. However, within the first few minutes of scanning the broad, that I was in for quite a surprise. Flying over the broad in great numbers was a swarm of swallows, house and sand martins. Three species that recently travelled from the heat of Africa only to arrive into Arctic-like conditions. How alien must it feel to them? 

My list grew to 93 already and after I turned from the view of the hirundine (that's the family swallows and martins are from) swarm, I made it 94. Amongst the swans, ducks and geese that hang around near the car park area was a male mandarin duck. I've never encountered this exotic bird here before despite hearing it regularly comes in to roost most days. Despite being non-native, I was delighted to add it to my list. A chilly walk around the broad later, we met up with another birdwatcher who pointed out my 95th bird out on the broad. Actually, it was two, as two kittiewakes floating on the broad's surface that appeared similar to that of the sea these birds were more accustomed to. I've never thought I'd find these gulls this close to Norwich. It left me with 5 more to go and the month had only just begun. Other highlights of this visit included a kingfisher, siskins, buzzards, great crested grebes and tufted ducks.

Mandarin & Kittiewake (April 5th) and Spoonbill (April 11th)

April 9th Thorpe Marshes

On the day that Prince Philip died, I was out at Thorpe Marshes wading through ankle-height flood water. That's right, it had flooded again. And though the floods weren't as bad as it was over winter, I still went home with some damp pair of boots. At least the weather was warmer, though it did end up drizzling with rain. On the plus side, I did hear my first willow warbler of the year, making it 96 species. I also heard sedge warblers, blackcaps, chiffchaffs and a water rail and saw a few swallows, 3 buzzards, a little gull, 2 courtship displaying great crested grebes, an oystercatcher, a heron, tufted ducks, teal and gadwall.

April 11th Cley

For the first time since December, I was finally out of Norwich. With lockdown restrictions easing, I was allowed to visit the coast without the fear of being handed a fine. Cley was technically still closed to the public and was a day away from actually doing so, but you could still could use the car park and walk to the beach. As Mum and I made our way to the beach via the East Bank, the weather suddenly became Arctic-like with icy winds blasting us, causing our faces to feel numb, followed by rain, then hail and then sleet with large snowflakes. We took refuge in the shelter at the opposite end of the East Bank feeling cold and wet. A short while later, it became bright, warm and cheerful again. 

Bird-wise, we had a relatively close encounter with a spoonbill as well as seeing avocets, redshanks, dunlin, 2 ringed plovers, shelducks, rooks and a host of other birds that were already on my Norwich list. Because we were far from the city, these 7 mentioned birds can not go on my official list, but I will include them to an extension list (a side list in other words). So I'm technically on 103 birds seen or heard this year, but only the 96 city species count.

April 16th Thorpe Marshes

A week since my last visit to Thorpe, the floods had completely dried up (which made me feel foolish for wearing wellies this time). However, it was a fairly disappointing visit as there wasn't anything new to add other than a couple of sedge warblers, 2 kingfishers, an oystercatcher, 2 little egrets, tufted ducks, great crested grebes, buzzards and a lot of gulls.

April 19th Norwich and Mousehold Heath

My 4th dawn chorus walk of the year was highly interesting. I decided that my walk for April would be along the River Wensum, taking me through the city before heading north to Mousehold Heath. Basically a big circuit looping back to my flat. I arrived at New Mill Yard at 5:20am, listening to blackbirds, robins, wrens, blue tits and a possible redwing along the way. It was light enough to see when I got to the mill and I was greeted by the sound of a singing grey wagtail. It took a while to actually spot it sitting on the lower side of the river wall. I saw another one further along by Fye's Bridge as well as 2-3 kingfishers, a pair of Egyptian geese with a gosling, a cormorant and several lesser black-backed gulls.

After success along the river, I moved on uphill to Mousehold. Blackcaps and chiffchaffs added their voices to the chorus with the more regular common woodland birds, including drumming woodpeckers. Sadly, there were no willow warblers as I was hoping. On top of that, the majority of the gorse bushes looked rather brown and dead. A very sad sight that reminded me of bleached coral reefs due to global warming. There just haven't been enough rain to keep these bushes green and yellow. A slight downer to what was a great dawn chorus walk, especially while by the river.

April 21st Whitlingham Broad

One group of birds I'd thought I'd see by now were terns. I was starting to wonder when they would show up. So, on this walk around the broad, I was very happy to finally see some sitting on buoys and flying over the water. I think they were mostly all common terns, but there was at least one that seemed to be bigger with longer tail streamers. Could this be an Arctic tern? I know that they have pure red bills and common terns have a black tip to theirs, but I just couldn't get a clear enough view to be certain. I felt it was safer not to include it to my list. 

While the terns were causing me headaches over which was which, there was at least one new addition that was nice and simple to identify with complete confidence. Whitethroats have arrived and I found a couple that were singing their scratchy ditty during this visit. I also came across the Mandarin duck, sedge, willow and Cetti's warblers, swallows, house and sand martins, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, a kingfisher, tufted ducks, great crested grebes, linnets and a heron. A very productive morning, though rather chilly due to a strong, blustery wind.
Common Tern & Little Gull (April 21st) and Crane (April 28th)

April 22nd Mousehold Heath

For the first time since 2019, I helped out Will the Mousehold Heath warden with a bird survey. Around the pitch and putt side of the heath, we noted down on a map all the birds we hear or see and any nest sites we find. Blue and great tits, robins and wrens dominated the survey with blackbirds, blackcaps, chiffchaffs, greenfinches, chaffinches, long-tailed tits, coal tits and the odd dunnock, goldcrest, treecreeper, buzzard, kestrel, and house sparrow also recorded. We also found a sparrowhawk nest site with both adults making a lot of movement in a pine tree and we encountered 4 muntjac deer.

April 23rd Thorpe Marshes

A third visit to Thorpe this month and an improvement to the week before as I heard my 99th bird. Making my way over the railway pedestrian bridge, I instantly heard the distinctive reeling of a grasshopper warbler! These birds are very elusive to see, so I was happy to just hear one at least. At least the whitethroats and sedge warblers were more showy. 

I was hoping to see more terns here, but in the end only one common tern appeared amongst the large gathering of gulls over the broad. Also seen were reed buntings, linnets, mute swans, greylags, Canada geese, 2 lapwings, Cetti's warbler, a great crested grebe swallowing a large fish, tufted ducks, gadwall, teal, a few ducklings and a stock dove.

April 26th Catton Park

Not much to add from the park this month, though I think I heard a whitethroat that was singing in extremely brief outbursts that lasted about a second before going silent again. Buzzards, sparrowhawks, a kestrel and 2 greylags (flying high over) and the yaffle of a green woodpecker were the only main highlights. On the plant side of things, I found a patch of few-flowered garlic that smelt heavily of onions and in the woods, the bluebells are starting to bloom while the wood anemones are now wilting.

April 28th Strumpshaw Fen

Since the end of December, I'm finally back at Strumpshaw. However, I'm only here as a visitor and not as a volunteer. It will be another couple of weeks until I can resume my duties here again. For now, I wanted to do the Strumpshaw 45 challenge I had made a tick sheet for and had planned on doing since the first lockdown last year to celebrate Strumpshaw's 45th anniversary. Just like 5 years ago when we were celebrating the reserve's 40th, I will be searching for the original 40 species I had to find plus 5 more that I have chosen myself. Unlike last time though, I will not try to photograph them all and will just tick them off if I've either seen or heard them.

My Strumpshaw 45 tick sheet  and Common Lizard
Better late than never, I made up for lost time and ticked off 15 of them. These 15 were; jay, marsh tit, water rail (heard only), marsh harrier, goldcrest, Cetti's warbler, teal, Chinese water deer, candlesnuff fungus, scarlet elfcap fungus, water flea (the water of the ponds we so clear that I didn't need to scoop them out to see them), a hobby, great crested grebe, common lizard and ash tree. I left with a great haul, but there were a few bonuses. I startled a grass snake in the woods, heard reed, sedge, Cetti's and willow warblers, saw a whitethroat, swallows and house martins, common terns and, best of all, a crane that flew in front of the Reception Hide and were heard bugling across the reserve. It was good to be back and I can't wait to return to my voluntary duties in time for the swallowtail season.

April 30th Earlham Marsh, Earlham Park & The U.E.A Lake

A rather damp end to the month as I went for a walk around Earlham Marsh, Earlham Park and the U.E.A Lake on my own. As I started my walk into the marshes after being dropped off, it began to rain and continued doing so until after I left for home. The marshes (in which the large pools have now disappeared into muddy marshland) provided most of the bird action of the day, but nothing new to give me my 100th bird. The best I got were 2 little egrets, reed buntings, sedge warblers, swallows and house martins, mallards, mute swans and a moorhen on a nest. I tried really hard to seek for any waders and searched every tree, etc near the marshes and also in the park for little owls, but found nothing. The U.E.A lake had a couple of common terns, swallows and great crested grebes with 4 chicks. 

Plant List Update

And so, here is where my plant list comes to an end. I have made a full year (more or less) of plant hunting around Norwich. There isn't too much to add that I haven't found from last year at this point. The cherry trees near my flat are bright pink with blossom, leaves are starting to appear on most of the trees in my neighbourhood and bluebells are blooming everywhere now. Other than the few-flowered garlic, I've found honesty, cowslip, primroses, groundsel, ground ivy and forget-me-nots.