Tuesday, April 11, 2006

251 Species of bird recorded without any motorised transport in 2005 a UK record!

251 the number of bird species I saw in Norfolk druing 2005 covering over 2500 miles on abike and undoubtedly walking several hundred miles into the bargain!

Apparently it's a UK record.

There is an extract from most of the months - also see Zootherapy.blogspot.com for my rivals score down in Hanpshire.

If you want to see what I am doing this year then go to www.norfolkbirding.com and look at diary.

Friday, December 23, 2005

23/12/05 Time is running out, but my chance arrives.

Well with 8 days of the year left, fate appears to have offered me the real chance of reaching 250.
Thursday night on 22nd December I have now finished for 2005, and the pager has announced the arrival of a drake Smew at Tottenhill, plus the confirmed residence during the last week of a Rough-legged Buzzard (or a Rough- buggered Lizzard as Simon texted me with last night!) in the Massingham Heath area.

Everything looked good Thursday night for Friday, a relatively mild day was forecast with a 10 mph westerly wind. With Oscar now home in Ireland, I rang Pete Dalton to see if I could twist his arm to check for the presence of the Smew at first light, Pete, being the good bloke agreed to it – and we agreed he would phone me around 8am, with the news either way. I know it’s going to be a big ride as it is at least 31 miles to Tottenhill GP’s, this is my first target. I decided to travel light, knowing I was likely to knock up around 70 miles.

I was eagerly into the saddle by 7am, progresss was only halted by the regular need to remove layers as my body heat started to increase. The light westerly breeze was quite noticeable along the exposed stretches of the B1145, and I had just passed Litcham 18 miles en-route at 8am, when Pete rang. My mobile was in my top pocket, so there was no need to stop. The phone confirmed it was Pete and a breathless conversation confirmed that the news was good “It’s here”, said Pete. I told Pete I would be at least another hour, he decided to pop into King’s Lynn and see me there a bit later.

It was now head down, bum up time, the positive news putting renewed vigour into the legs. The miles steadily slipped by, the head on breeze ensuring that the legs were constantly working. I passed through Blackborough, then Wormegay and finally through the village of Tottenhill, it was now left at the junction then right – the tree lined pit was now in sight. There was clearly one birder, with a scope looking out over the pond, I jumped off the bike, the birder was not someone I recognised, but he knew why I was there. “The Smew’s out here”, he announced, within seconds I had the bins on to the cracking drake Smew – 249!!!!! The emotion was two fold elated and relieved. Pete turned up a few minutes later and I was able to enjoy scope views and the warmth of the interior of his car! I felt pretty good, although how I would have felt had the Smew of disappeared or not have been present, is hard to assess!

By 11am, I was heading back a through Wormegay and Blackborough, my destination now Gayton newsagent for food, in preparation for a full afternoon scouring Massingham heath for Rough-legged Buzzard. With a full stomach and confirmation via the pager that the Rough-leg had indeed been seen once during the morning, my enthusiasm level was full to the brim. This psychologically for now, far outweighed the physical efforts of 3hrs riding and 40 miles covered, with the wind now behind me my only thoughts were of the “Buzzard” and the Holy grail of 250 species.

The next few hours encompassed much of the emotions I had felt through the year. I stood for an hour from a favoured vantage point, no sign, in fact no “big” birds of prey. Impatient and frustrated I started to chill, and tire slightly, I circuited the area via the lanes for 40 minutes, adding another 7-8 miles to the trip, finishing back at my favoured vantage point, still nothing. The negative thoughts and the ride home entered my head, I sat down and considered a contingency plan
I made a call to Gary Elton at 230PM, to confirm the availability of a bed for the night at Fakenham. If I had to come back tomorrow so be it, but I was going to make life a little easier for myself, rather than doing another 50 miler tomorrow!

I sat down again and scanned, checked the time, scanned again, checked the time,and scanned again, at 3PM I decided that at 3.40Pm I should call it a day…………..then just to my left heading directly towards me, clearly a big bird of prey, at 500m with the bins on it, clearly a Buzzard, very pale head….come on turn, please turn, it banked, pale tail with broad dark terminal band!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was all over - ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD -250, 250, yes, yes, yes!!!
It landed in the conifer belt, just to my left so I headed round across on the footpath, and was treated to further great views, I watched as it headed North – presumably heading for it’s chosen roost.
Ecstatic I rode home forcing the legs through the pain barrier for most of the way, the day ended though with a lesson learnt.
On arriving home at 415PM with 71 miles cycled, I was probably some what exhausted, but the elation and adrenalin were still working. I knocked a quick sandwich up and a hot cup of tea, these I feverishly devoured and minutes later I jumped into a piping hot bath. I took around 40 minutes for my body, and particularly my stomach to react – this came in three assaults of diarrhoea and the shakes, it took about an hour to recover – I then suddenly felt quite tired!!
I did manage the evening out with friends and there were a few celebratory beers!

71 miles & 250

Sunday, November 06, 2005

No show Bunting, but Bill is crossed off and combined with a “white stripe” Teal

With another Friday booked off work, this one was dedicated entirely to the provision of my NMYL!
The bike was loaded up Thursday night, and the alarm set for 6.15 am. Target species were
Crossbill (again!), Little Bunting and possibly GW Teal.

I was on the road by 0700am, a beautiful cool crisp, blue skied affair, the first of the autumn.
Less than a mile from home I skidded to a halt, 2 Swans, over Themelthorpe had to be worth checking,
as the bins focussed in, I could just see the bill shape and the hint of yellow, the size and jizz unfortunately told me there were Whoopers rather than Bewick’s (the latter still needed!),
as I put my bins down I noted two more 400 yards behind the first two, as I homed in on these, they also called. Although I really wished them to be Bewick’s it was a really nice start to the day, especially as I never had them anywhere near home before.

I was at Holkham around 830, a walk around, circuiting the Washington hide and shoreline produced a good array of birds, and yessss……… just as I neared the endo fht epine belt on the seaward side I could hear the distinctive deep kip, kip, giving the presence away of 2 Crossbills I then heard another single and mangd to get flight views – CROSSBILL at last.
A nice group of 20 Brambling also passed overhead, drawing my attention with their deep nasally overhead tones.

A walk along the shoreline provided Grebes, and divers aplenty. Three Slav’s, four Red-neckeds, 20 Red-throats, 500+ Common Scoter, 2 Long-tailed Duck, 10 Eider and 10+ Guillemot.

I refuelled at Wells, and sat enjoying my meal in the sunshine alongside the quay, I then headed for Stiffkey, the Little Buntings chosen site for the last 10 days or so. This proved very difficult as the weather started to deteriorate. The wind in particular had increased, and after 2 hrs and studying every Reed Bunting in the area I decided it was not to be, besides I had a text meesage from Dave and Ray telling me the Green-winged Teal was sat roosting in front of Teal Hide at Cley.

I arrived Cley and headed out fro Teal Hide, only to be told the dreaded “Sparrowhawk story” -, “it’s just flushed everything, and the teal is not on view”. Was it going to be one of those days.
Just before entering the hide I was distracted by a “phyllosc”, that I gave brief attention to as I was troubled more by the Teal, although the brief views concerned me as it gave me the impression of a Willow Warbler rather than a Chiff – chaff, it would have to wait.
As I walked into the hide, I had mentally prepared myself for a blank.
As Dave and Ray were still in the hide, I enquired “I heard a Sparrowhawk has flushed all the duck, no further sign?” It was a weighted question! They both looked surprised and pointed to the nearest group of Teal and replied “No, it’s just sat at here look!” You just never know with birding, this proved to be the easiest bird of the day, it was just feeding a few hundred yards from the hide - I need not have worried!

After 15 minutes of the “White stripe” GREEN-WINGED TEAL, I got Ray, Dave and another birder on to the warbler it was now feeding in the phragmites just outside the hide. We eventually had killer views and bit by bit it became clear that it was definitely a very late Willow Warbler.

Another great day with 3 more NMY ticks.

237 species NMYL further 50 miles on the bike.

Return for the Little Bunting 06/11/05
I then made a return journey the next day for the Little Bunting, after choosing between Hickling for an American Wigeon, (on the pager as American Wigeon or hybrid) or the Little Bunting. Nice settled conditions and confirmation on the pager of the Buntings continued residence saw me head off back to Stiffkey.

Two hours and then 20 seconds of good views for me, courtesy of Oscar’s scope (sorry mate I did rather hog it!!)

Confirmation by the end of the day that the American Wigeon was indeed a hybrid, completely vindicated my decision

238 species NMYL further 4 miles on the bike.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Pipit and Rosefinch save the day!

I spent the morning getting wet (“they said it would be dry”!) and seeing very little as I walked around Holkham, sifting through flocks of tits. I just had Treecreeper, a few Siskin to show for my troubles, no sign of any X-bills. I then sifted through 10,000 freshly arrived Pink-Feet but couldn’t find anything amongst them, the pager nagged at me continually, as it kept informing me that an elusive Tawny Pipit at West Runton, whilst elusive was still showing. I had felt sure it wouldn’t hang around, by 1.30PM the frustration and patience were wearing thin and I decided to head off for it – I still expected it to disappear by the tiem I arrived, it’s an hours ride minimum, and actually quite hilly once you are on the Cromer to Holt ridge.

The biggest issue was that I had decided to carry my manfrotto pod and Leica scope, by the time I reached Weybourne the panier arm secured to the seat stem was swinging dangerously side to side, and this also combined to make going uphill extremely hard going.

Now a Common Rosefinch had also turned up at Beeston bump, so I had just had to keep going!
Two more hills and I managed to get to the Rosefinch with a few fearful moments, and several attempts to secure the panier.

On arriving at the Rosefinch, hot, sweaty and bothered, I was informed that the bird had disappeared off up the hillside. “Just what I need” I thought to myself. Most present had seen it, and were now chatting “birds”. I hauled the scope and pod up, it was now to return the favour from my efforts of carrying it! A quick scan of the hilltops gardens and I had a pale plain finch feeding on blackberries, I was pretty sure that was it. Mark Ward & Robin Abel whom are also year listing had also arrived, fortunately Mark had a zoom and this enabled us to nail it………COMMON ROSEFINCH, excellent…….. just then it took off and flew down and landed in the elderberries right in front of us.

An SOS call and the possibility of a Norfolk tick for Jacky, enabled me to lighten my load. Jax arrived at Beeston, took the scope and pod off me and I found a new burst of speed as I headed for the Tawny Pipit.

I actually arrived shortly before Jacky, and we were very lucky as almost straight away the TAWNY PIPIT showed, I couldn’t believe it as the pager had suggested we might be waiting a few hours.
We must have seen it as well as anyone all day, it walked “wagtail like” around on the bare areas between the stubble and fallow areas. The ride home seemed a breeze with no gear to carry and two more NMY ticks under the belt!

232 species NMYL 66 miles on the bike,

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The morning after the night before! 17/9/05

Yet again the weather had played it’s part, unfortunately this time it had chosen Friday. All day at work the pager updated the seawatching numbers from various parts of the coastline, Leach’s Petrels, Pomarine Skua, Long-tailed Skua, Sabines Gull, Sooty Shearwaters these would all be new………would any of these be passing tomorrow morning, the weather forecast suggested that it would probably be limited to the first hours of light if it was to continue

I set the alarm for 5am, I was away by 5:35. The Tawny Owls were very vociferous as I left the house, and another bird “kevicked” just a mile from the house. En route also produced a new Little Owl location, I have realised this year by cycling the lanes how under-recorded this species is in Norfolk.

I arrived at Sheringham at 640am, Oscar and Pete were already set up and had kindly transported my scope, tripod and fleece.

Anyway, over the next 3 hours we worked the sea pretty hard, along with another unfortunate group of birders whose work had prevented them witnessing Fridays spectacle.
The highlight for me came early on when 2 Skuas close inshore went past us; one clearly much heavier than the other - an Arctic, the bird was not a Bonxie, the jizz, size and flight action confirming a juvenile POMARINE SKUA.

If hadn’t been for yesterday we would probably have been satisfied with the haul of 60 Red-throated Diver, 500 Wigeon4, 500 Teal, 3 Arctic Tern, 6 Bonxie, 13 Arctic Skua, 1 Manx Shearwater, 2 Red-breasted Merganser, 10 Pintail, 150 Gannet, 5 Brent Geese & 1 Shag.

The sea flattened and around 11am we called it a day. I headed off for Cley, and Pete and Oscar decided to walk out to East Hills (this proved to be a very good decision, they met Rob Martin out there, whom had found an adult male Red-breasted Fly).

I did Daukes, and had a few waders, inclusive of Little Stint, but most obvious was the big arrival of wildfowl. A cup of tea and some of the infamous Arkwright chocolate cake refuelled the batteries, and with few options I decided to try another couple of hours sea-watching.

Occasional Red-throats were still passing, as was lines and groups of Scoter, it was one of these lines that became provider. I was on to a line of 20 Common Scoter, but there was a Grebe tagging along to the rear, I zoomed the scope up, the short neck and overall length of the bird discarded Great Crested, however it was not a “small grebe” the wing pattern was obviously similar to Great crested but lacking the amount of white you see on a flying Great Crested, but with white on the forewing and tailing edge, this combined with the dusky appearance of the neck sides I knew I was watching a RED-NECKED GREBE, a real bonus, although I guess I would have swapped it for an adult RB Fly!!

131 species

46 miles

229 species NMYL (I took Ruddy Shelduck off!!) Only 40 miles on the bike, but also, probably 10 miles of walking on the Blakeney Point shingle.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Spokes, Skuas, Sandpipers, Punctures & Phalaropes all in the day! 30/7/05

Friday night arrived and I was considering tomorrow’s options, a Pectoral Sandpiper had been at Titchwell earlier in the week, this was clearly the obvious target. But also luring my attentions had been a Red-necked Phalarope seen at Titchwell briefly on Friday – was Burnham Norton going to come up trumps again. After an evenings fishing on the Wensum Friday night with plenty of time to think, I was still a little undecided so I deicided to lie in and get up around 8am.

The pager spurred me into action whenit announced the Pec Sand was present at Cley so this really made the decision for me.

By 830 as was on board the “Marin” my legs punching away fuelled with the enthusiasm that the “Pec” was awaiting me. If I needed to find second gear, I soon did, as I rode and checked the pager it now announced that the Red-Necked Phalarope was also at Cley and both were available from Daukes Hide, I was out the seat and really going for it up Hunworth hill (yes there are hills in Norfolk – try cyling around the Holt ridge area!) when a sharp crack was heard, and then a whirring sound. The first thing I noticed was that the rear tyre felt like the brakes were half on, looking down I could see from the “wobble” that the rear was clearly warped. Stopping to inspect the damage I realised I spoke had sprung – shearing the rivet head. The wheel was now catching the brakes on each revolution, I decided to salck the brakes off and continue – the bike still worked, but it was effectively like constantly cycling up hill.

I eventually arrived at Cley 0945, it had taken 1hr & 15 mins, along way short of my expected 52 mins (my best time from home to Cley). Still as I walked to the hide I was assured both were still present, and so they were; RED-NECKED PHALAROPE & PECTORAL SANDPIPER, the Pec was a nice adult showing well at distance on Simmonds, whilst the Phalarope, a moulting adult, entertained pirouetting along the shallows of the island edges.

After absorbing these star birds for ¾ of an hour I headed down the east bank, and carefully sat studying the Terns and waders, .......couple of Greenshank,lots of Redshank, nice group of Dunlin, checked 'em twice but no Curlew Sand.......... Black-wits, 1 Spot shank, lots of Common and Sandwich Tern, 1 whimbrel all nice stuff but nothing to set the pulse going or add further to the list. I decided to seawatch for a while, I still needed Arctic Skua and this had to be a possibility didn't it? Despite there being a whole load of Terns feeding offshore – no skuas!

I walked down to the pool known as “sea pool” but this returned more Redshank and little else. As I headed back towards the East bank a small motor boat was speeding along offshore, even with my nake eye I could make out a line of birds following the boat, I raised my Leica’s – yes!! There it was an ARCTIC SKUA , the unmistakable dark sillouette twisting, turning and powering after an unfortunate tern, I scoped it to confirm the identity and ensure it was “just” an arctic.

I walked to North Scrape in the hope of a Wood Sandpiper – but the birds seen earlier in the day seemed to have departed – and no one had seen the Curlew Sandpipers of yesterday.

As I returned to my bike I was reminded that I had a bike to nurse home, however the pager reminded me again 2 Wood Sandpipers at Stiffke, I pondered the relatively short distance and it proved too much of a chance to throw away. A phone call home to Jacky confirmed that if the rear wheel completely failed she would bring up the old “all steel” heavyweight for me!!

The ride was hard work but I was soon at Stiffkey flood, a quick scan and I spied both WOOD SANDPIPERS, plus their near cousin a single Green Sandpiper through my scope. The Wood Sands were cracking birds with their heavily scalloped upperparts and gleaming white supercilia.

A pretty eventful day continued! En-route home I survived a spectacular blow out as warped rear went from 80 PSI to flat in about 5 seconds, I eventually arrived home at 4PM very tired considering the relatively short 62 Km covered.

216 NMYL and 42miles round trip

Monday, July 11, 2005

Once Bittern not so shy! Plus “ wet my lips” heard en route. 25/06/05

The generally quieter month of June has arrived and it’s time to try and fill some of the more obvious gaps on the list. Thus I headed for Titchwell knowing that for the first time in many years, apair of Bittern were feeding young – and this surely had to guarantee more success than the last attempt back on the day list in May, even more I had been told not to worry about arriving at any ungodly hour.

I left home at 0830 and the first nice surprise and real bonus was as I cycled the quiet lanes around Tatterford, at first I thought my ears may have deceived me, but as the bike ground to halt adjacent to a large field of Wheat, it started up again, this time the noise was louder, or more likely the bird had turned its head towards me…………”wet my lips, wet my lips, wet my lips,” BRILLIANT Quail I exalted to no one except myself!! I listened to the bird for a few more moments then headed on.

The forecast light rain developed into a heavy shower nr Docking, and I got a right soaking, I reached Titchwell at 11am, and met up with Oscar Campbell for lunch. Fully refreshed and into dry trousers and top, with the rain abating we headed off in search of Bittern.

We bumped into Paul Eeles who told us the sad news that “Sammy” the resident Black-winged Stilt for the past 12 years had disappeared and having not been seen for over a month one must assume that his days had finally reached there end – a real shame for a real star, he will certainly be missed on next years daylist!!

There was a reasonable selection of waders Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Knot, Bar-t Gowit, Black- t Godwit, and 11 Little Gulls, it was still a bit windy and despite being told the Bittern nest was close to the path we had no luck. We headed down to the sea as there was an onshore breeze, but apart from Fulmar, Common Scoter and the odd Gannet nothing new.

On returning to the reedbed we walked down with Paul Eeles, the assistant warden – his very sharp eyes suddenly reaped a big bonus……” Bittern” he yelled, sure enough one of the adults was flying over the reedbed. It decided to give prolonged scope views, by then landing on top of the reedbed, and we were able to scope it for 10 minutes. I was well chuffed and took a nice steady ride home.

208 NMYL and 56 miles round trip in just over 4.5 hrs