Thursday, 31 December 2020

12 images from 2020...

 Despite all the other problems with 2020, the birding has been memorable, in fact it may have been my best ever in terms of quality and quantity. Splitting my time between home in Northumberland and uni in Norfolk certainly helped with that too! Choosing twelve photos has been difficult but here they are, and will hopefully be a good overview of an great year of birding...

Back when car sharing was still allowed, being offered a lift to see the male Black-throated Thrush at Whipsnade Zoo in January was a highlight of the first part of the year. 

My highlight of the spring lockdown was finding a pair of Willow Tits nest-building close to home - one of Britain's fastest declining birds.

After the frustrations of lockdown, June provided some of the birds of the year. The superb Asian Desert Warbler on Holy Island was an unexpected first for Northumberland.  

I was able to catch up with the incredibly showy Blyth's Reed Warbler at Far Ings NR in June. Don't think I'll ever get better views of one!

This Greater Sand Plover hung around at Tyninghame Bay until Scottish travel restrictions were lifted in July, allowing us to make the short journey from Northumberland into Lothian to catch up with an attractive bird. 

My highlight of the year was getting stunning views of the Sooty Tern at Cullernose Point in July. Having seen a brief flyby at Newbiggin last year, getting prolonged views of it flying around and on the cliffs just below us was memorable!

A fortuitously timed family holiday in the west of Scotland during the summer provided a memorable encounter with a group of summer plumage Black-throated Divers on a sea loch. Having positioned myself in some rocks, I was able to watch as they made their way closer and closer while hunting for fish. I was able to finally decide on my favourite British bird! Other highlights of the trip included Golden Eagles, Hen Harriers, Storm Petrels, Pine Marten, Minke Whales, Common Dolphins and a Northern Emerald dragonfly.

The smart adult Pacific Golden Plover at Longhoughton Steel was a highlight of late summer. Meanwhile, a productive period of seawatching included Long-tailed and Pomarine Skuas, Sabine's Gull and Black Terns.

The Brown Shrike at Warham Greens was an early indication of a good autumn, and gave excellent views as it hunted for insects from the low vegetation. Other early autumn highlights in and around Norfolk included Caspian and Gull-billed Terns and two Honey Buzzards.

An excellent period of birding in late September and through October gave me the chance to see a couple of my Northumbrian bogey birds - this Radde's Warbler in Southwold and a Rustic Bunting in Lowestoft.

A Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin at Stiffkey was something I certainly didn't expect to see in mid-October! Other autumn rarities and scarcities included two Red-flanked BluetailsSteppe Grey, Great Grey and Red-backed Shrikes, two Stejneger's Stonechats, Pallas's and Barred Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Lesser Yellowlegs and Long-tailed Skua, as well as numerous Yellow-browed Warblers and Caspian Gulls. Then it was back into lockdown again!

I was able to return home in early December and was pleased to find this Todd's Canada Goose at Hadston Carrs on the 9th. A distinctive bird, it hung around for most of a week, giving local birders a chance to catch up with it. 

So there's twelve of my favourite birds during 2020. However, narrowing it down to these meant I wasn't able to include many other great birds during the year! 

I hope everyone who reads this has also been able to take relief in Britain's birds and wildlife during a difficult year, and has a happy and healthy 2021!

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Autumn highlights from East Anglia - Part 3

 A final selection of photos from the autumn with these being from mid-October until I returned home in mid-December...

Incredible numbers of Red-flanked Bluetails turned up along the Norfolk coast with up to at one site alone. This one lurked in the undergrowth in Holkham Pines. 

Pallas's Warblers are always great to see. This individual was in Holkham Pines, while other late autumn highlights there included a putative Stejneger's Stonechat, Barred Warbler, Hawfinches, Yellow-browed Warblers and up to 17 Cattle Egrets

The rarest bird of the autumn and biggest surprise was the eastern-race Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin at Stiffkey. 

Another, more showy Pallas's Warbler was also at Stiffkey the same day as the Scrub Robin.

This Red-flanked Bluetail showed superbly at Holme Dunes. 

Two of the Hawfinches at Holkham.

A Lesser Yellowlegs showed down to a few metres at Cley late in October.

An influx of Caspian Gulls to Cley the same day as the Yellowlegs included this smart Dutch-ringed first-winter (phonescoped). 

During the lockdown these Glossy Ibis turned up at Horsham St Faith - within cycling distance of my Norwich house. 

I managed one post-lockdown trip to the coast before returning to Northumberland, with a juvenile Iceland Gull at Weybourne being the highlight and a Black Brant at Cley. 

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Autumn highlights from East Anglia - Part 2

A few more of my highlights from an exciting autumn with these being from early to mid-October. 

I really enjoyed getting good views of this Radde's Warbler in Southwold having missed a couple in the past.

Another of my bogey birds - this Rustic Bunting showed nicely in Lowestoft.

Steppe Grey Shrike at Bencare...

... with this Great Grey Shrike present nearby.

A DNA-confirmed Stejneger's Stonechat at Happisburgh.

A long awaited British tick for me, this Hoopoe showed really well at Wighton.

A flypast from a dark morph juvenile Long-tailed Skua in Winterton Dunes.

Monday, 28 December 2020

Autumn highlights from East Anglia - Part 1

Here is a selection of photos from the first part of my birding in and around Norfolk over the autumn (in roughly chronological order). With so many good birds around and lots of uni work to do, I struggled to find much time to post my photos on my blog. Instead I’m going to try and sum it up over three posts in the next few days...

One of two Red-backed Shrikes at Waxham in September.

A flyby from 9 Cattle Egrets on the marshes at Burnham Overy. One darker-billed juvenile can be seen in this image.

The first of two Lesser Yellowlegs during the autumn giving a nice flyby at Runham Mill.

A Red-breasted Flycatcher along the south side of The Dell at Wells Woods.

One of a group of five Yellow-browed Warblers together in Holkham Pines.

Juvenile Purple Heron in a tree at Ormesby Little Broad.

Brown Shrike at Warham Greens. I had better views than the photos suggest and it was one of my highlights of the autumn.

There were good numbers of Lapland Buntings on the Norfolk coast with this showy individual being on Blakeney Point.

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Todd's Canada Goose

 Last week, I was able to finally return home to Northumberland for the first time since early September. On Wednesday (the 9th of December) I had gone out for the afternoon for a break from uni work. I decided to look at Hadston Carr for gulls, and was surprised by just how many birds were feeding in the stubble fields there.

There were thousands of gulls, Starlings, Woodpigeons and Pink-footed Geese, as well as over 100 Whooper Swans. As I scanned through the geese, I picked out an interesting looking Canada Goose with the Pink-feet. I was struck by how dark it was and barely larger than the surrounding Pink-footed Geese. I quickly realised this was most likely a vagrant Canada Goose, and asked for some other opinions which all came back positive. With its dark brown breast and body, dirty looking chin strap and small size, the Todd's Canada Goose (or perhaps even Lesser Canada Goose parvipes) really stood out from the feral Atlantic Canada geese a few fields away.

I put the news out, and the goose was seen by good numbers of birders until it disappeared on the 15th. The same day a Todd's was reported from Norfolk, so it seems likely that the Hadston bird has moved south with the Pink-feet (although I'm yet to see any photos of the Norfolk bird to confirm it's the same). Hopefully the my photos below will give a good representation of just how different it looked from our more regular Atlantic Canada Geese.