Friday, July 27, 2012

Too many Waders

With a few good waders around the country lately, I thought i'd take a low-tide walk around Blakeney Harbour to see what I could find. It was looking great at first as there were clearly heaps of waders around, but it soon became apparent that checking them out wasn't going to be easy. There were simply too many birds, a big flock of Curlews on one side, Golden Plover to the other side, and Dunlin, Turnstone, Redshank etc. scattered about in front of me, it wasn't going to be possible to get anywhere without flushing everything. So I turned around and squelched through the mud all the way back home. 

 Black-tailed Godwit. You can see the inner primaries have been replaced, just the two outers left

Curlews and Little Egrets

 Golden Plover and Dunlin 

This juvenile Black-headed Gull was flying around with a cockle attached to it's foot, looks rather uncomfortable

At The Hoods this morning was this colour-ringed juvenile Stonechat. After some quick inquiries we found that it had been ringed just down the coast at Gramborough Hill in early June

Earlier in the week I got the combination of a  colour-ringed Sanderling on the beach at The Point, i'll be posting up the details of it's life history once I get them through

The three successful Swallow pairs around the Lifeboat House are all building new nests for second broods. It's a little late in the year, but good luck to em

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Long-distance travelers and long-term residents

Today started well with the first Green Sandpipers of the autumn, 4 dropping out of the sky and onto the saltmarsh on their way south from breeding grounds in Scandinavia.

An unusually tame juv Cormorant on the beach had me thinking it might be injured, but as soon as I downed camera and bins and entered 'stalk and capture mode' it jumped up and flew strongly out to sea.

It soon returned and fed close inshore on the same shoal of fish a mixed flock of terns were targeting 

 Hobby's are awesome birds, but not when sat on the fence around our Little Tern colony. Shooing this one away was the first time I've ever deliberately flushed a Hobby, it felt a bit weird I must admit

This Hare was enjoying the evening sun yesterday

 Surprise of the day came when the Short-toed Lark popped up from under my feet on Yankee Ridge. We hadn't seen it for 13 days now so we're a bit miffed as to how it's eluded detection in the meantime. My only excuse is that it sits so tight that you practically have to step on it for it to reveal itself ,and as you can see from the photo, it's pretty well camouflaged when not flying. Since we last saw it, the bird has replaced most of it's greater coverts and one tertial. This moulting might be why its hung around so long?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


After a lovely, but all to brief family trip up to Herefordshire over the weekend, on return to The Point I was well in the mood for spending a couple of weeks sunbathing, reading Tolstoy, listening to the cricket and moth-trapping (the soporific nature of all these activities being pure co-incidence) before the autumn migration kicks off. I was terribly disappointed then to find two Willow Warblers in the garden this morning, signalling the beginning of the southbound passerine migration. Oh well, all spare time will now be spent suadea-bashing and the previously mentioned activities will have to wait until next summer. 

Arctic Skua's are still hanging around terrorising the terns

Last night a large hatching of flying insects caused a huge flock of Black-headed Gulls to swarm over the dunes in a feeding frenzy, capturing this amazing sight with a 400mm lens wasn't really possible

A few Meditteranean Gulls also joined the throng, this is one of 40 that fledged from the colony this year

Oystercatcher chick growing up well

One of the baby Swallows featured in a previous post. All the broods are buzzing around in a big flock so it's impossible to judge the success of individual nests, but they seem to have had a very good season

 And finally, we've had a few camera traps out in the dunes just to see whats roaming around the place when we're not about. I was most surprised to find this Short-eared Owl checking the camera out last night

Saturday, July 21, 2012

More suppression in Norfolk!

Yesterday while killing time waiting for a train in Sheringham (yes, I have actually left The Point for a while, I figured late July was the best bet for some time away, should be safe), I was admiring the mural on the sea-wall and spotted this little image clearly depicting an Oystercatcher species other than ostralegus. Although identification of the black Oystercatchers is pretty difficult,  I would imagine that African Black Oystercatcher Haemantopus moquini is the most likely to reach European shores given that it's the nearest of these sedentary species. There was no reference to the date of the occurrence being celebrated, but someone has some serious explaining to do! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Final Countdown: 100 days

Long-term readers of this blog will be aware that every now and again I like to flee the UK for a birding trip of epic proportions to some far-flung corner of the world. I've spent the last three years absolutely aching to get away again but have been restricted in time and fundage by university. Now that that's all over its time to hit the road again, and at the end of October I set off on what could well be the most epic of my trips yet.
My previous short visits to Nepal have encouraged me to return there for a proper trip, so i'm going to be spending 4 months birding my way around the trekking routes of the Himalayas.

The current plan is to something like this:
After arriving in Kathmandu, fly to Tumlingtar, and then trek the route, only recently opened to independent travellers up to Makalu Base Camp and back. The restrictions on this route have mean that very few westerners have birded it, but Satyr Tragopan, Fire-tailed Myzornis, Blood Pheasant and Grandala are all a possibility, as are Red Panda, Snow Leopard and Yeti. From there, it's up the Arun Valley to Lukla, the gateway to the Everest region. I won't have time then to explore around Everest so i'll head down the original approach route for Everest expeditions through the lowlands to Jiri, where i'll bus it back to Kathmandu.
Back there i'll be meeting up with some of my family, and then head up to Pokhara, for the trek up through the heart of the Annapurna region to Annapurna Base Camp over Christmas. From there i'll probably carry on solo around the Annapurna Circuit, trying out the new trails that have been created to avoid  the major new road project, and a couple of quick side trips up towards Dhaulagiri and Mustang. I'll cross the Thorung La pass to the east side of the circuit, and take a few days to visit Tilicho ice lake, claimed as the highest lake in the world, before reaching Manang and returning to Kathmandu again. Then i'll meet up with my old mate Joe Parkes, who trekked Annapurna with me in 2008, and we'll take 3 weeks starting on the Helambu trek, over the Laurebina La to the sacred Gosainkund Lakes, then down to the Langtang Valley and up to Kyanjin Gompa, exploring as far up valley towards Tibet as we dare, before heading back to Kathmandu.

After that, i'll still be in the country for another month, and haven't worked out where to go yet, there's just too many options, possibly the Manaslu circuit, the Ganesh Himal, a return to Lukla to visit Everest Base Camp and Chukkung Tse (at 5883metres the highest peak climbable without a mandatory guide) or maybe i'll have had enough of mountains by then and bird the lowlands of Chitwan and Koshi Tappu, or maybe just mong out in some Buddhist retreat for a month?

However, past trips have rarely even come close to following original plans so i'll probably end up doing something totally different ,whatever happens though, its going to be an amazing trip, I can't wait!

Below Langtang Lirung Glacier, December 2010

I've recently added a new page about Birding in the Nepal Himalaya to the bar above, check it out to see why I love the place so much. I hope to gradually add more stuff to it to make it useful for anyone else planning a trip out there, in the mean time, if you're at all inspired and would like to know more about visiting this superb region, drop me a line.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Baby Swalllows

Several of our Swallow broods have fledged over the last few days and the youngsters are hanging out in the garden, giving some nice photo opportunities. I've not quite got the shot I want yet, but rest assured it'll be on here if and when I get it. For the meantime, here's a few from this afternoon. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Long Point Bird Observatory 2008

Sharp eyed readers may have noticed another addition to the bar at the top of the page. I've uploaded a wedge of photos from a phenomenal trip to  Long Point Bird Observatory in Canada from mid August to mid November 2008. I did post a few photos up here at the time, but like with the Scilly photos, had a few more that I thought ought to be shared. Also, I feel that they act as a good inspiration to get out there this coming Autumn. Some of the birds have never been recorded this side of the Atlantic, but the way I see it, anything that migrates down the eastern seaboard of North America has the potential to end up over here. So have a look, dust off your Sibley, dubbin your boots, and get ready to thrash some dykes. Yellow Warblers and Orchard Orioles are migrating in the first week of August, so don't hang around waiting until 'Teachers Week' at the end of October, there's birds to be found!
Nashville Warbler
One Day................

In other news, I've got my exam and dissertation results through, and it turns out that i've managed to swindle a 2:1 (in Ecology and Wildlife Conservation) out of Bournemouth University, despite spending most of my time birding up here on Blakeney Point. Get in!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Going Cuckoo

The title of 'surprising bird of the day' today went to this Common Cuckoo in The Plantation this morning. Looking very rare here, we tried, and failed to turn it into the Oriental it should have been

After another look at the Short-toed Lark, I was distracted for a while by this Arctic Skua allowing a very close approach on the beach. It has a dislodged secondary on the right wing, revealing it as the bird first seen  a week ago

 I went back for another look at the Cuckoo, seeing as how I hardly see any of these fine birds these days, what with their shocking and worrying decline as a breeding bird. Check out the BTO for their brilliant Cuckoo tracking project which is trying to find out what's happening to them on their migration and wintering grounds

 To my astonishment, as I watching this adult male, a juvenile bird flew onto the fence alongside it. I can only think that this is just a co-incidence that two birds were present together, and that there is no parenting involved?

And finally, a picture of the Blakeney Choir about to launch into a full throated rendition of 'OHMYFREAKINGODTHERESAPERSONONYANKEERIDGELETSSCAREOFFEVERYOTHERBIRDFORMILESAROUND'

Thursday, July 12, 2012


Anyone birding along the Norfolk coast lately would have noticed plenty of young Sandwich Terns around, most, if not all of which will have come from our colony. Last week we counted 2200 fledged birds around the colony site on Far Point, and this number is dropping daily as they disperse.

Little Terns are a bit later with their breeding season, with just a handful of fledged birds so far

This little guy ended up on the ground after part of the nest had collapsed, we quickly knocked up a shelf to put in place of the broken nest and returned him to his siblings who were clinging on for dear life. The adults seemed to accept their new extension and hopefully we wont see these birds again until they fledge properly, hopefully sometime over the weekend.

Still some time to go before this Oystercatcher can fly

 We didn't actually see this Redshank chick flying but it looks big enough to manage if it really needed to

The parent was still keeping a close eye on it though

Migrant waders are still heading North, though at this time of year there could well be failed breeders heading South too
Bar-tailed Godwit



Amazingly, having not been since Sunday afternoon, the Short-toed Lark re-appeared on Beach Way today, I wonder where it's been hiding? 

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Larking Around

And still they keep on coming. Whilst walking back from Cley through torrential rain this afternoon, absolutely soaked and friggin freezing (shorts were a bad choice), stumbling across yet another good bird was the last thing on my mind. But as I walked through Beach Way, a lark with no trailing edge popped up from the gravel, calling like a Sand Martin, flippin Short-toed Lark!! After the rain eased off the bird showed well, giving much better views than I got of the one here 2 years ago down at the Cley end.

Bird of the day yesterday was this Arctic Skua putting on a great show as it chased terns close offshore, even flying over the shingle ridge to the saltmarsh at one point.

What else have we got to come before autumn kicks in?

p.s. no I haven't seen a Caspian Tern

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Back where it all started

Today, as part of the relationship between the National Trust and the RSPB, I was over at Titchwell Marsh helping out with some work clearing vegetation on the freshmarsh. After work we had a little look around the place, the highlight being this escaped falconers bird. I tried to catch it (failed miserably), and i'm not really sure what it is, juvenile Lanner maybe.

Way back in 2004, I volunteered at Titchwell for 6 months as part of my work placement for college (yes, the same work placement as took me to Scilly, hard life I know). Having previously just been birding at weekends and school holidays, this was an awesome introduction to living next to and working on a reserve, and birding it dawn til dusk. Life has never been the same since.

My time at Titchwell was before I started using a DSLR, so I was using some very basic digiscoping gear. Here's a few shots I found while rummaging through the archives.

Broad-billed Sandpiper. I got the call about this just as I got back to the volunteers cottage after a days work. As the other volunteer (who had a car), was in the shower, I had to run all the way to Parrinder Hide to see it before it got dark.

 Glaucous Gull on the beach

Pectoral Sandpiper

Snow Bunting

Waxwing, in the garden of the vols' cottage, digibinned from the sofa.

After 6 months, I hadn't actually found any decent birds, which I was a little bit disappointed by given the effort I had put in. On my final day I was just tying up some odds and ends in the office, looked out of the window and saw this beast, Coue's Arctic Redpoll, a great bird to end my stay! (obviously,  definite identification wasn't quite so straightforward as that)

And of course, who could forget Sammy