Spring movement has definitely started here on the north Norfolk coast with the first evident movement of finches on February 18th with 38 Greenfinch E at Sidestrand in the first hour of day light.
Common Gull have featured once again this month with birds noted at opposite ends of the scale, proving how variable these birds can be, and generally these observations are fairly random and by no means concentrated.
Common Gull Larus canus. Adult. Sidestrand. This bird shows a distinct rectangular shape to the black outer primaries caused by P8 being fully black up to the primary coverts and P7 appearing to nearly reach there. The 'bayonet' on P6 looks long as well as a solid, thick band on P5. A good candidate for heinie but presumably within the variation of canus?
Common Gull. Larus canus. Adult. Little Melton, Norwich. A random stop whilst at work, I noticed this bird flying off a roost on a pig field. The amount of white in P8 is striking, especially when compared to the bird above. Superficially resembling the Nearctic counterpart brachyrhynchus 'Mew Gull', there is little else to suggest anything other than canus
A fabulous hour on the cliff before work yesterday morning (24th February) had a handful of finches moving, but was first punctuated by a cute WOODLARK going east along the cliff giving good views as it passed by...
I then had a group of 18 'Crossbills' go east over Overstrand and Sidestrand. Caught between photographing them or seeing if I could get any flight calls recorded, I opted for the later. I'm glad I did, because the sonogram, I think, is pretty conclusive that these were in fact PARROT CROSSBILLS!
Note the frequency peak just above 3.5Khz with the 'thicker' part of the call on the downward 'curve' of the distinct, lower case 'n' shape (especially at 8.6 seconds)
By good chance I had an appointment in Ormesby on Monday, which meant I had to virtually run-over a couple of Glossy Ibis that have taken up temporary residence at Martham ferry. Not knowing where to look I was scanning distant fields and creeks, until I noticed another bird further down the bank seemingly 'scoping his feet! I then had the best views I've ever had of glossy Ibis, either home or abroad.
Its taken me nearly 3 months and eight visits to finally connect with the Parrot Crossbills that have been frequenting Holt and Edgefield, but yesterday on a murky, misty morning they finally fell.
4 birds were watched as they fed almost completely silent (gggrrrrr!) in a Scots Pine extremely unobtrusively.
I say almost completely silent, one bird did give a snatch of song with some call like notes thrown in.
The most noise they did make was from the regular dropping of mullered pine cones, one of which I managed to retrieve, straight from the loxia's beak, as it were.
Parrot Crossbill, male. The large, blocky, sledge hammer shaped head is enhanced by the fact that the bill appears to 'run in' to the forehead without sloping
The bill doesn't seem huge in relation to the build of the head, which does appear to big for the body!
This pine cone was dropped by one of the feeding birds, the lower exposed seed scale had been sliced off.
I always see or hear Bullfinches when walking the outskirts of the village here in Northrepps, a few years ago we were lucky to be graced with Northern Bullies (here
) I have managed several recordings of our Bullfinches over the past 3 winters and they all have the same sound and 'shape'. Over Christmas I managed a particularly clear recording of a group of birds that I was able to approach quite closely.
Sonogram. Bullfinch Northrepps. A couple of notes showing the inflection of the call rather than a smooth, pure whistle that we can often mimic.
Having received the excellent 'The Sound Approach to Birding' for Christmas, I was interested to see in the section for Bullfinch calls some notes on 'Continental' europea Bullfinch. These calls appear to be consistent with all my recordings of Bullfinch from the village during the winter, with none of mine showing the pure 'whistle' tones (or shapes) noted for British Bullfinch. The Norfolk Bird Report notes that europea 'may occur' and I would be very surprised if it didn't.
We know that all birds have a range of calls, but could it be that our birds are more likely to be continental immigrants, rather than consistently coming across 'British' birds that have non-sub-species specific calls?
Along with these calls I also heard a good candidate for a Northern Bullfinch giving the 'trumpet' like call, although the quality is not so good, the 'nasal' sound is shown by the 'notes' being stacked.
Bullfinch, possibly Northern, Northrepps. Not a great recording but the beginning of the sonogram shows the 'notes' being stacked which gives the nasal, buzzy tone which is attributed to the 'trumpet' call of Northern.
It comes around every year, and the harder I look, the more confusing it gets! As MC Hammer was once heard to say whilst touring eastern Poland "It's canus time!"
Common Gulls (or Mew if you're that way inclined) are on the increase going into winter, and with hardly a 'big' larid locally inland, these are the next worse thing.
The interest in heinei
has wanned somewhat, the variation within nominate canus makes it very difficult to make a solid claim of this form, though expert gull watcher Chris Gibbins details what to look out for here
A trawl through photos of canus from the heinie zone (east of the Russian White Sea) shows that this race is varible also, and does not solidly conform to these features throughout.
A ringed bird, with measurements to back it up would be favorable.
So far this 'season' I've seen nothing more notable than 'interesting variation'...
Common Gull, Norfolk UK. This bird shows a larger amount of black in the primariy pattern due to P8 (third in from top) being solid black up to the primary coverts. However for heinei alarm bells to ring we would want the black 'spur' on P6 to extend further up the feather (more than the 40% here) and a nice thick black band on P5. I would also want to see some black on P4 to make it even more convincing
Common Gull, Norfolk UK. I found this bird in my 2012 photos from March. The interest here is quite the opposite, P8 has a distinct white 'tongue' with extensive white borders seperating the black primary 'tips' from the grey of the rest of the wing. This pattern is similar to that that can be found on North American 'Mew Gull', but there was nothing else on this bird to suggest this.
Common Gulls, Norfolk December 2013. Structurally these two birds look very different, the right hand bird being more typical than the left hand one (behind the flying Black-headed Gull) which shows an apparently slighter shorter bill, smaller size and more rounded head. Again superficially reminicient of Mew Gull but the structure is still not right for this form and Mew Gull rarely show such pronounced bill markings. There was nothing untoward in the wing pattern when seen inflight either.
I had an appointment in Eccles on Sea on Friday (15th November) morning. Now Eccles on Sea is affectionately named 'Shanty Town' at work, in reference to the diabolical state of some of the dwellings there, but that aside, for me it usually gives me a chance to do a little birding in my tea break!
I'd driven up Bush estate to Cart Gap, taking care not to rip off my exhaust on Eccles on Sea's superb roads. Walking up to the lifeboat ramp I good flock of Eider went sailing past, so I nipped back to the car to get my scope. On my return, and having put my scope up, I was immediately struck by a concentration of Gannets directly out at sea, and then, bang on cue, a massive black shape rolled up out of the water before slowly rolling back down again-I'd finally connected with the HUMP-BACKED WHALE! I saw it a further two times and saw three 'blows' before I had to depart, but it was well worth the trip down to Shanty Town!
the best I could manage at distance, and possibly one of the most pointless photo's I've ever unleashed on the web, the remnants of the whale blow...
what I had seen just prior to above was something like below, but further away, and not with a Californian accent!
An hour or so before work on a cool drizzly morning at Sidestrand resulted in the spectacle of hundreds of thrushes, mostly Blackbirds, pouring in of off the North Sea. Scattered amongst them were smaller numbers of Fieldfare, Redwing and Song Thrush and a continuing arrival of Starlings. The thrushes mostly pitching in to the first available cover briefly before melting away inland. A near-coronary moment occurred when an adult male Blackbird with a stark white rump flew up the face of the cliff!
Oblivious to the fact that the east Norfolk humpback was still present on the Saturday (November 11th) I had a pleasent morning at Sidestrand with a Red Kite, 14 Snow Bunting and occassional birds coming 'in-off' including a nice Woodcock. In the evening I arranged with Carl to go down to Sea Palling the following morning to see if we could get the whale.
Sunday was blustery with a biting North-westerly coming down the North Sea. Sea Palling was to say the least, a bit choppy off-shore - less than ideal conditions for looking for arching Humpback's or frothy blows. We we spent half an hour here or so before locating further down the coast to Horsey Gap.
Being slightly 'around the corner' it appeared less choppy here so we started scanning for feeding Gannet clouds - a sure sign that the whale was below.
After about three quarters of an hour Carl commented that a Black Brant had been seen heading north off-shore at Hopton on Sea. A little confusion then transpired as I mis-heard the timing of the sighting and Carl had read Hopton but thought Hemsby!
A group of Brent materilised to our right, and we got all excited because it had to be with this lot - it wasn't!
We then re-grouped and got our timings and locations sorted and predicted it should pass us (if it was going to) in approx 15 minutes. Bang on cue a group of Brent rounded the corner in the distance, and it was immediately apparent that the Black Brant was in this group, second bird from the front!
Black Brant- Horsey. A fantastic sight on viz-mig, much better than seeing one on Cley Eye on the deck!
Another pre-work amble down to Sidestrand produced little of note moving so I decided to have a walk along the cliff top - which I haven't done for a while. All was quiet until I saw, briefly on the deck, then heard, the distinct 'schreeeping' of a Richard's Pipit. As usual it was a bit flighty but I managed a couple of on-deck views and also enjoyed a couple closer fly pasts. Unfortunately I had to leave not long after, but the bird eventually performed well (a corking photo of it here ) and was seen the following day too.
Richard's Pipit - Sidestrand. Bulky, long tailed with a long hind claw, a typical Dick's pipit.
the bird had moulted a couple of greater and median coverts, and can be easily seen in flight shots (especially the over exposed ones!)
We've been here at Northrepps (NR for Carl!) for 4 years now, and when we first moved in I had always harped on about having a pond in the garden. Other things usually got in the way, but this summer, spurned on by the numbers of birds comming to our couple of bird baths, I eventually set spade to ground and got digging.
None of this namby-pamby "I'll get a bloke in with a digger" sh**e, nope, just back-braking blister- enducing digging!
These three apparatus featured heavily over late summer, and how I laughed every time I had to use the wheel barrow with a flat tyre!
The final size was approx 4m x 3m and I nearly managed a metre deep in the centre. A 25 yr liner was purchased that took up half the garden!
Initially filled from a waterbutt that I connected up to our newly built wood store (all part of the big plan) the pond is well filled now and will be left to settle down over the winter. Whilst filling up a Migrant Hawker landed on my hand and a pair of Common Darter had already started laying eggs!
The phragmites in the corner awaits the arrival of Little Bittern/Baillon's Crake/Great-reed Warbler