My intension was to catch up with the end of 2014 which was virtually "All about the gulls, bout the gulls, no vagrants" with an excellent run of Caspian Gulls ensure that I was well and truly hooked on larids. However I am going to restart later than when I left off, to the beginning of this week actually, when an impromptu visit to my local lake turned up trumps with a redhead Smew which as usual was not approachable what so ever - rare ducks are one of the few groups of birds that you do NOT want to be able to get close to!
So it's early September (7th) and in the early morning light we are busying ourselves for the drive to the airport prior to a week in the Caribbean. From the kitchen window I spy a bird on top of one of the garden posts, it then 'bobs' - stopping dead in my tracks, I double take - it's a KINGFISHER!!!!!!! Tearing up stairs to where my camera lays next to the suitcases, from the bedroom window I watch incredulously on as it dives(!) into the pond (the 5m x 3m that was dug out last summer) catches one of the big back-swimmers, eats it then high tails it east of the fields - utterly, utterly stoked!
...looking at Sea-gulls!
With regular pre-work morning watches off of Sidestrand, and little to view in early autumn I turned my attention to the gulls offshore, hoping to see/find a Yellow-legged Gull. Now Yellow-legged, along with Caspian Gull, are regularly seen at Cley and the like, but when I used to watch from Sheringham they were as rare as hen's teeth (I never saw one from there, and there were few who did) and records east of Sheringham along the coast also seem few and far between. I was rather pleased then when, on the morning of August 29th I picked up a first -winter Yellow-legged Gull going west just offshore. Little did I know at the time but this bird heralded a fantastic run of good gull sightings in the area (mostly Cromer) with at least another adult YLG and adult and first-winter Caspian Gulls!
Yellow-legged Gull (first-winter) note the blazing white tail with neat, broad black sub-terminal tail band. The pale base of the tail extends up onto the rump. Also note the plain outer greater coverts, which in 'flat' light' gives a dark bar effect. The inner primaries have a hardly discernible paler 'window' (much more evident on Herring Gull) Also here you can see the rather blunt appearance to the head and bill, compared with the rather more elongated proportions of Caspian gull.
August has been very much a local affair this year, with nearly all available time spent watching from, and around Sidestrand. Added to this I finely gave in to the larids and started to look closer at our 'seagulls' locally with some excellent results.
However it started on August 9th when, standing on the cliff top at Sidestrand I was aware of a bird passing below me underneath the cliff - it took a second to register, but when it did it came as a bit of a shock - it was a big white falcon! I took some rather scrambled shots as it passed around the corner out of site. I waited for it to remerge and continue down the coast, but it didn't. Somewhat perplexed I walked back along the cliff, and turning one of the 'coves' there sat a huge seemingly pure white falcon in the Norfolk sunlight! It was too distant for any detailed images but it looked impressive, with no jesses or tethers visible around the legs. After about two minutes it silently slipped off from its resting place and moved off west.
Falcon sp. Probably Gyr x Saker type.
It was highly unlikely this bird was going to be either 1. wild or 2. pure bred, so I sent some shots to raptor guru Dick Forsman who very kindly replied confirming my suspicions:
In this case I think it is safe to assume that the bird is a hybrid between these two species.
Just like yourself, I also believe this is a Gyr x Saker hybrid. Some birds are almost impossible to id., but in this particular case I think it is a bit easier. The orange/tanned flush, which can be seen in the light barring of the flight feathers, as well as the distinctiveness of the barring across the same feathers + the extensive dark trailing edge to the hand are all pro Saker features, while the lightness itself, of course, comes from a Gyr.
Hi Andy,Thanks for sending the images.
My interest in sound recording started about four years ago after a contentious wagtail sighting - here demonstrated the potential importance of being able to actually capture bird sounds to aid identification. (The record still languishes in IC after initially being accepted by BBRC on its first circulation - third party objection apparently!)
Anyhow, soon after the wagtail I sought to kit myself out with a suitable piece of hardware for the job. The Remembird, a small recorder especially for birders was just the ticket. Designed to attach below the bridge of your binoculars, and complete with an 8 second pre-record buffer, the Remembird was, and still is an excellent addition to my birding kit. (Unfortunately due to the comparatively small market for such an item the device is no longer available from Chris at Hothouse Software, but if you get the chance of a second hand item, grab it!)
The Remembird has been invaluable on a number of occasions, not least during last years Parrot Crossbill invasion when I was able to record a flock of 'Parrots' on vis-mig at Sidestrand - tangible evidence on a PC screen!
With a continuing interest in recording, I wanted the ability to record at night, hopefully being able to pick up night moving migrants whilst being tucked up in bed in a blissful slumber!
With all things being relative, I was not on a mission to be the next Magnus Robb or looking to produce new bird call Cd's, so the financial lay out for such a piece of kit was going to be fairly modest.
After reading many a review on different models I opted for the OLYMPUS LS-3 PCM recorder.
View specs here
There are a number of features on this model that I find useful for the kind of recording (visible migration) that I do.
The unit itself 'feels' good quality, it doesn't feel 'tinny'. The face and rear are in solid black plastic but the body is a brushed steel, which includes the 3 microphones that are on the top, the external jacks along the sides, and the sliding on-off button. The screw thread for attaching the unit onto a tripod is in the back, so if you fit it on a tripod the unit faces upwards (which I have found convenient when checking the status on the info screen) The screen is clear and concise, although it takes a little getting used to initially (like anything new) and one of the first things I did was turn off the voice guidance!)
You can set up the built-in microphone to your requirements, mine vary little, but I might adjust the recording level if there is a blue moon and birds are calling/singing close to.
So generally I will have the centre mic ON, low cut filter OFF, mic-zoom to HIGH 6,
and generally recording level in manual, set high (small birds, far away I need all the 'reach I can get!)
It also lets you save different recording modes as recording 'scenes', this is where I find this bit of kit very useful.
For my 'Scene 1' I use the 'Pre-Recording mode. This is the same as the Remembird pre-recording buffer, i.e. if you hit the record button it records what you have already heard. Unfortunately with the LS-3 the buffer is only 2 seconds, so you need to be pretty close to the unit if you are going to record on a 'selective sound basis'. However what the Pre-recording mode does allow is for you to connect some headphones or buds to enable you to listen to what the recorder is picking up. This is very useful if you are hearing-impaired (moi) Using hearing aid 'loops' I am now picking up sounds via the recorder that previously I was undoubtedly missing. (I only use it for one ear in case a bird goes past behind the mic!)
My 'Scene 2' utilises the VCVA facility (Variable Control Voice Activator) basically this is my night recording mode. The recorder is on but is in standby until it is activated by sound. With the activation level at its highest setting this enables me to go through approx. 20-30 mins of sound recording between 2230-0600, capturing the majority of the night-time goings on of Northrepps!
Although it's early days I now know that 1. there are a lot of dogs barking in the middle of the night in the village, 2. Hedgehogs often visit my log-store where the recorder is position overnight and 3. There is an incognito Mallard that is visiting our little pond on a regular basis under the cover of darkness!
Oystercatcher over garden in dead of night, going west!
The only draw back with the VCVA mode is that possibly distant calling birds may not be loud enough for the recorder to activate, but then again I really would not be able to find the time to go through 7-8 hours of sound each day, listening for the distant peeping of a nocturnal sandpiper! (then again, if it starts raining just after you go to bed for the night, expect a full on-board memory in the morning!)
Talking of memory, it ships with 4GB of memory which gives up to 5 1/2 hrs WAV file or MP3 up to 149 hours! You can add a micro SD card to increase memory.
My set up - you can also connect external mic's, I've got a budget Audio-Technica ATR6550 with a dead-cat windshield. With the external mic I have found the recordings to have increased 'white noise' still experimenting but have not found much advantage over the built-in-mic, especially now adding a Rycote windjammer.
So if you fancy having a go at recording this autumn, give it a try - you never know what you might not be seeing!
Pre-work viz-mig paid off this morning when 2 Avocet went west off of Sidestrand at 0820 and were later seen continuing west at Kelling at 0845 by Marcus Nash (via Twitter)
July is normally a fairly quiet time of year but can turn up some monster rare birds, usually way up north somewhere. But punctuated with my own sightings of returning Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews and Common Scoters, a monster did turn up in Norfolk when a Great Knot was found on Breydon Water in Great Yarmouth. The first morning after its arrival I was unable to get there, but the following day I took a chance and headed down towards Norfolk's answer to Blackpool and found myself on the North wall awaiting the tide to push the waders in. It was a little tense waiting for the distant shapes to become identifiable but eventually I managed to pick the bird up as the tide pushed it closer in. No Great Dot this one, I was chuffed with the views in a fairly flat light and was pleased to see the fine flank markings when it flew around before dropping in to roost.
Also in July I added a long awaited bird to my TG23 list when a Great White Egret turned up at a private site staying for 3 days. With these birds getting more frequent in the country and the county, it was only a matter of time before this one fell.
Very often here, I see notable, and sometimes darn good birds just as I step out of the back door for some random nothing. I can get up at the crack of dawn looking, and see nothing for two hours, or spend all afternoon scanning with nowt but a couple of Common Buzzards to show for it, but go up to the top freezer for a loaf of bread (everyone keeps their bread in the top freezer, right?) and birds will appear. So it was on this particular morning when I caught sight of an unfamiliar silhouette just dipping below the lane hedgerow south of our garden. A raptor, large, looking long tailed and paddled winged - suspicious. As it lifted up going away it was obvious to see that it was a Honey Buzzard, a nice garden year tick, and the third from our garden.
Honey Buzzard - Honey Buzzard is a bird that is often claimed erroneously being confused with other, commoner large raptors (Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier), however like many of these 'confusion' species, if you are seeing the real deal there shouldn't be a problem.
If in doubt - it probably isn't.
A rather unproductive hour on the cliff at Sidestrand was somewhat punctuated by a Pheasant that appeared virtually at my feet! It was rather a cute, bright female, and something familiar yet not immediately forthcoming was trying to get out of my brain. The penny dropped when I realised that it was actually a hen Reeve's Pheasant, an exotic species with no right to be at large in the countryside. It drifted west (on foot) and out of sight, ne'er to be seen again.