Saturday, November 29, 2014

The long road to Bamba

I am going back to Israel for a few days to bring my dog Bamba back to the UK. Since we moved to the UK a couple of months ago she stayed in Israel with good friends and was very happy, but my family and myself are really looking forward to reunite with her.
Left Norwich at 2 am, to take the 7 am ferry from Dover to Calais. Spent most of the trip seawatching - lots of Gannets and commoner gulls, but nothing of interest. Out of boredom I photographed some Gannets passing by:

And a distant Kittiwake:

Lots of birds on the mudflats south of Calais - big numbers of gulls, shorebirds and geese (too distant but should be Brent).
Now I am waiting in Paris for my flight to Israel, looking forward to some sunshine!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Settle for less

Difficult times. My ability to go birding is really limited nowadays with enormous workload and busy family life. So I need to make the best of the rather limited opportunities I have. Last week had a Ring Ouzel at UEA. Wednesday went out with Nick M. to Grimes Graves to look for the Great Grey Shrike there that didn't show. Pretty sure I heard a Hume's Warbler calling once from the woods there but it did not resurface. Just for the record, if one gets found there later on. Apart for that not much else - a couple of Stonechats, two Fieldfare. 
This morning quite nice ringing at UEA. Arrived just after they had released a rather greyish-looking Chiffchaff. Lots of tits but this Treecreeper was a real sweetheart:

Sorry about this crappy phone pic.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I love tits, big and small

Sorry about the title, but I knew the content is rather unsexy for my European readers so had to spice things up a bit to get you all to read this.
Anyway, yesterday I went ringing with the UEA ringing group at Horsford, just north of the city. Lovely site, and lots of birds in the general area. Ringing was pretty busy, and dominated by tits of course - blue, coal, great and marsh. Some other bits and pieces - some finches, Goldcrests etc. And I do love tits. They're charismatic and full of character.

Coal Tit

Marsh Tit

Great Spotted Woodpecker - what an amazing tail! The longest, tough tail feathers support the climb up trunks, and there is moss growing along the shafts.

Thanks to Dave, Phil and all the others.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

As good as it gets

Northerlies blowing here in Norfolk so I went out seawatching with Quentin at Cley this morning, and what a brilliant morning it was. We arrived (too) early and as soon as there was enough light to see somehting, we noticed that there are tons of birds out at sea. Pretty early I got on to the first Little Auk of the day going past west. Then we had another, and another... Lots of groups of two and threes. It was a pretty big day for Norfolk - we logged 66 until 12:00! The northerlies kept blowing all day and should blow all night too, so tomorrow there's a chance for even more - huge numbers in the NE today. What sweet birds they are! Few landed on the water close to shore, and a couple even flew inland - probably into Cley reserve...

Little Auk

But most were seen in conditions similar to this:

Until about 09:00 birds were going in both directions, but from then onwards there was heavy passage from west to east - constant stream of birds. Biggest numbers were Kittiwake (we estimated 1000 or more) and Gannet (about 800). Skuas never stopped passing through. Most were Great Skuas (250!) but a count of 80 Pomarine Skuas was impressive.

Great Skua 

Pomarine Skua - dark 1cy. I managed to screw up all of my pom shots.

There were also 3-4 Arctic Skuas, and 1-2 probable long-tails but they were too distant. Little Gulls went through in big numbers mainly during the first couple of hours - we ended up with a total of 400!

Other highlights included 1 Grey Phalarope, 2 Sooty and 4 Manx Shearwaters, 4 Med Gulls, 3 Black-throated Divers among the many red-throats, 7-8 Puffins among the hundreds of commoner auks, Shag, 4 Velvet Scoters and many other sea ducks - so much fun!

Common Eiders

Gannet - 1cy

Kittiwake - 1cy

We were inside the Beach Hide so were relatively protected and conditions were pretty good today. Nice double rainbow just before we left - this is a result of bad panoramic shot I took with my phone:

 Pretty surreal shot - Gannet and some Kittiwakes flying through the rainbow...

I have a confession - I had two lifers today! Can't remember when I last had two lifers in one day in the WP. They were Little Auk, and (embarrassing I know...) Great Skua. Somehow I managed to miss them in the past, despite spending many hours seawatching in the UK, Helgoland, Scandinavia etc.
Thanks to Quentin and all the other birders who shared with us this great morning.