Ring-necked Parakeet

July 2011

9th & 10th July 2011 – Norfolk – 2 day trip  

Day 1 : Hertfordshire, The Brecks & North Norfolk

After a 6am pick up from South Kensington, my client and I headed up towards East Anglia, getting Ring-necked (Rose-ringed) Parakeet on the drive through London. Our first stop was an arable area near Sandon in Hertfordshire, where there had been reports of Common Quail recently. As we arrived at the site, a pair of Common Buzzard were circling over the fields. Virtually the first bird that we saw was Corn Bunting singing from a post right by where we had parked. A walk around the field margins produced a number of European Goldfinch, Common Whitethroat and a few more Corn Bunting as well as lots of Eurasian Skylark. A Red Kite was quartering over one of the fields and we later saw two circling together. Unfortunately the Quail had either moved on or was being very quiet so we didn’t see or hear it. On returning to the car, the Corn Bunting was again sitting up and we had excellent, if front-lit, views of it and also saw another bird, presumed to be the female with food. 

We then headed up to the Brecks and to Weeting Heath in Norfolk. The hides gave us great views of a family of Stone Curlew, Stock Dove and a pair of Mistle Thrush, whilst the woodland area held Chaffinch, lots of European Goldfinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker. Coal Tit, Blackcap and, after a short while, our target species at this site,Spotted Flycatcher.     

We then moved a few miles west into the fens and to the Lakenheath Fen RSPB Reserve. The wind had picked up by now and so large areas of the reserve were seemingly devoid of birds. However an area of small willows and reed and near the visitor Centre in a sheltered area was productive and we got Willow, Sedge and (Western)Reed Wablers here. A large raptor flew fairly low south being mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crow and it when it banked it showed a very pale underwing. When it got a little nearer we could see the head marking confirming it as Osprey. Apart from a couple of circuits to gain height it went straight though. Our continued passage around the reserve was fairly quiet but we did get Green Woodpecker and Common Kingfisher. The viewing screen at the western end of the reserve proved one of the better places with a family of Marsh Harrier, a singing, but unseen Cetti’s Warbler and good flight views of Great Bittern. The return leg along the river produced a Lesser Whitethroat and more Sedge and (Western)Reed Warblers and Reed Bunting. Common Cuckoo, Bearded Tit (Reedling) and Garden Warbler were heard and a reasonable view of a juvenile Hobby was obtained, whilst a Common Kestrel hunted in the fields on the Norfolk side of the river. The wetland areas held Common Tern, Great Crested and Little Grebes as well as Tufted Duck along with the myriad of Eurasian Coot, and a Grasshopper Warbler was heard “reeling” nearby but as is normal with this species, it remained hidden. 

After a quick lunch stop we headed up to Titchwell RSPB Reserve on the north Norfolk coast, stopping briefly at Hunstanton to admire the breeding Northern Fulmar colony and also getting a couple of distant Northern Gannet out in the Wash [the Wash is the name of that area of tidal sea]. Titchwell held the predicted species with a number of shorebirds starting to return to swell the numbers of breeding birds. These included a lot of Ruff, many still in summer plumage, Pied Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Ringed Plover and Eurasian Curlew, and “waterfowl” included Little Egret, Common Teal, Northern Shoveler and Common Pochard. The seashore held a large flock of c1000 Red Knot  with a couple of Bar-tailed Godwit with them and other birds seen on the reserve included Marsh Harrier, Common Linnet, Reed Bunting, Common Kingfisher, Pied Wagtail and Great Tit.     

We then headed towards our hotel stopping briefly in the Chosley area where we found a pair of Yellow Wagtail and Red-legged Partridge, but the apron around the drying barns was devoid of birds.  

After an early supper, during which there was a huge thunderstorm, we headed out to Roydon Common for the evening. We had good views of Woodlark and Yellowhammer on the edge of the common and then headed out into the middle for our evening vigil. Apart from the millions of midges and mosquitoes, which were extremely irritating, we did get good flight views of Eurasian Woodcock, and heard at last one European Nightjar and several Grey Partridge. There was also a Common Snipe “winnowing” and another one producing its “chip-chip chip” call. On the way back to the hotel, we saw one of the highlights of the trip, a Western European Hedgehog amble across the road in front of us. The day finished on a total of 103 species recorded (+1 hedgehog!).

 

Day 2: Roydon Common, Cley and the Brecks

An early start saw us back at Roydon Common the following morning to try and get Tree Pipit and Grey Partridge and giving the mozzies and midges a chance to have a second go at us. Despite the calmer conditions than the previous day, our target species remained elusive through we get excellent views of Yellowhammer, and also saw Common Kestrel, Woodlark, Eurasian Skylark, Blackcap,European Greenfinch, European Goldfinch, Green Woodpecker, a number of Common Linnet, heard a Common Stonechat and saw a group of three Roe Deer including a fawn. A few minutes scrutinising a pair of partridge in a distant field proved them to be Red-legged Partridge, rather than the hoped for Greys.     

After returning for breakfast we headed over to the famous Cley NWT Reserve in our quest for more shorebirds and wading birds. The reed-fringed path to the hides were alive with Sedge Warblers, sitting up and showing really well as well as a few more skulking (Western) Reed Warblers, whilst a group of locally breeding House Martin hawked insects overhead. The central scrapes held a similar array of waders as Titchwell had done the previous day; Pied Avocet, (Eurasian) Oystercatcher,Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Little Ringed Plover with a distinct dearth of smaller waders. The North Hide proved a lot better; despite the sun bring in our eyes. It held 10 Eurasian Spoonbill, and single Green Sandpiper, both target species,  a group of four 1st summer Little Gull,the first Common Gulls of the trip and we also had good flight views of Mediterranean Gull as well as the shorebird species that we’d already seen. The area around the beach car park was alive with Barn Swallow, Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) and Meadow Pipit, an almost dry sea pool held Pied and a single juvenile Yellow Wagtail  and the shingle ridges held a colourful display of flowering Yellow-horned Poppy and a Little Tern was seen over the sea along with several Sandwich Tern.     

We then headed along the renowned “East Bank”, to Arnold’s Marsh, adding a rather smart male Bearded Tit (Reedling) to our tally. The marsh held a good flock of Black-tailed Godwit, several Common Redshank and solitary Greenshank and (Common) Ringed Plover with a mixed flock of Eurasian Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit in the field behind and we heard a Whimbrel. A Wood Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper alighted briefly on the marsh but something spooked everything and we lost them.  Sadly, we never did find any of the Spotted Redshank that were supposed to be around that day.

As time was pressing on, I decided to drive back down to the Brecks Area and have one final go for Tree Pipit. I stopped at a suitable clearing between Lynford and Santon Downham where we had a walk around for an hour. The area was very quiet bird-wise save for a number of Yellowhammer and a singing (European) Robin (our first of the trip!), but needless to say, a distinct lack of Tree Pipit. This site was saved, though, by excellent views of Hobby and I also found a local speciality of moth here, Sharp Angled Carpet.

The drive back to London produced two more birds of note – a Little Owl flew across the road in front of us, and in Central London while we were waiting at some lights, we heard a Peregrine calling. The day total was 87 species which brought the trip total to 121 species recorded. This included 12 lifers and 3 sub-species lifers for my client.

The “Bird of the Trip” award for my client was shared between Hobby and Eurasian Spoonbill (despite him actually wanting the accolade to go to the Hedgehog, which constituted another “lifer”) and for me was a tie between the large, impressive flock of Red Knot and Northern Gannet, the latter which I never tire of seeing.

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17th July 2011- Thursley Common NNR & Wraysbury GP (½ day trip)

I met my clients, a family of three outside their hotel in South London at 6:15am. An hour later we were at our first site, Thursley Common National Nature Reserve in Surrey. This site is a rare example of lowland bog and comprises heathland with a large area of wet bog pools, the whole area being surrounded by a mixture of coniferous and deciduous woodland, and as such is a very important site, not only for birds but also for reptiles, invertebrates and bog plants. Unfortunately, on the day we went it was overcast and breezy – not at all conducive for the specialist species especially the butterflies and reptiles.

On leaving the car the coniferous belt that surrounds the car-park was alive with Blue and Coal Tits and Goldcrest was also heard. The Moat Pond held a selection of Mallard in various stages of immature and eclipse plumages, but nothing else. We then went onto the heathland and the acid bog area than makes up the northern part of the site. We soon heard the characteristically eponymous calls of the Common Stonechat and located a family of these (European) Robin-sized birds that sat up and gave excellent views.

After having to backtrack due to a severely flooded path, we left the bog area and its show of flowering Cotton Grass (which is actually a sedge!) and Bog Asphodel and went onto the drier heathland area. A flock of 32 Common Swift flew over already heading south on their return journey to Africa. We also found a Common Skylark that disappeared into the vegetation nearly as quickly as it had appeared and a family party of Common Whitethroat showed well in the Pines Island area. All round the Common we kept hearing Green Woodpecker and had had a couple of reasonable flight views. Continuing around to the heath-wood edge, a Hobby dashed through, giving all too brief, but good enough views to count whilst the various families of Green Woodpeckers continued to call to each other and a few Woodpigeons were seen and a Eurasian Jay flew through. Eventually the Green Woodpeckers gave up “hiding” and one perched out on a telegraph pole giving great views. We also had fleeting views of Great Spotted Woodpecker and heard a Common Nuthatch calling before we left and headed off to our second and last site of this half-day trip.

After a coffee stop we went to Wraysbury Gravel Pits in Berkshire. The Station Pit held Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck and Grey Heron and a Common Tern was fishing close inshore. The weather gods had clearly not read the script and soon it was raining heavily, but thankfully was more of a shower than a prolonged spell of rain. Once it had stopped we continued around the wooded and scrub areas adding Black-headed Gull, European Robin, Chiffchaff, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, a Common Buzzard, more Common Whitethroat and another Green Woodpecker, good views of Linnet (we had only had flyovers at Thursley) and to our list. In addition we also heard (Western) Reed Warbler, Eurasian Treecreeper and several Blackcap.

On the way back to the car the sun started to break through and with it some natural history interest with Gatekeeper butterfly and Banded Demoiselle dragonflies and at last my client saw his nemesis bird – Blackcap – a fine male out in the open. Apparently he had chased this species across three countries with all other guides declaring them “too difficult to try and see”. By now our trip total was a modest 48, but we made the 50 on the way back into Central London with the addition of Lesser Black-backed Gull and Common Kestrel.  Despite the weather every one thoroughly enjoyed their trip and there was plenty to see as well as the birds

The signature bird of the trip was declared by all to be Green Woodpecker - they seemed to be everywhere, whilst my client’s best bird was the long-sought after Blackcap. My bird of the trip goes to the enigmatic Stonechats.    

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30th July 2011 – Hertfordshire, the Brecks & the Fens

Bill picked-up his clients, a returning couple from South Africa, (see trip report of 18th June 2011) and headed north toward the Breckland area on the Suffolk/Norfolk border.

The first stop was the Sandon area, nr. Royston in Hertfordshire. On arrival at the site a Corn Bunting was sitting on a bush, only feet from the car and giving great views as it called and sang. On the other side of the road a Common Quail intermittently sang its characteristic “wet-.my-lips” song, but as usual for this species, it was deep within the tall vegetation of the field.  A walk along the field provided more Corn Buntings, and a Sedge Warbler which was undoubtedly a migrant bird passing through the area as this is far from typical habitat for this species. A few Common Skylark were seen, a dark-morph Common Buzzard flew over and there were several Brown Hare running around in the fields. A passing birder told up that he had seen a couple of Common Quail cross the path a few hundred yards down the road, but a quick look-see produced only a male Yellowhammer (not to be disregarded though, they are lovely birds), Blackbird and a few Wood Pigeon.

We then headed up to The Brecks on the Norfolk/Suffolk border and after a quick pit stop for coffee and a breakfast roll, arrived at out our next destination, the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Weeting Heath. The main field of the reserve was fairly quiet, but there were excellent views of a young Green Woodpecker foraging for ants near to one of the hides, a Spotted Flycatcher was living up to its name and fly-catching and kept briefly landing on the fence by the hide before dashing off after its next fly, and a few Stock Dove were feeding on the edge of a  large mixed flock of Rook and Eurasian Jackdaw,  but there was no sign of the Stone Curlews for which the reserve is famed. The woodland areas near the car park held European Robin and a flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Coal Tit, though only the former tit species gave good views and there were also Common Chaffinch and European Goldfinch present. Following a tip-off from the warden, a visit to the feeders outside the woodland hide gave the required good views of a family of Great Tit and Coal Tit and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard calling. From here, though, we did hear Stone Curlew calling and a look at the field across the road produced a sighting of two of these special birds.

Another short drive brought is to the RSPB reserve at Lakenheath Fen. There were numerous families of (Western) Reed and Sedge Warblers in the reed sections and after hearing a few, we eventually had reasonable views of Bearded Tit (Reedling),a couple of fly-past Common Kingfisher were seen and a Water Rail was heard giving its squealing call. Perhaps one of the best sights was a family of Marsh Harrier that were practising food passing where a bird drops a prey item and another bird takes it in mid-air. The walk back along the river to the information centre gave good views of Common Tern, Common Kestrel, and Great Crested and Little Grebes as well as a large flock of probably 80+ moulting Mute Swan and another excellent view of an immature Green Woodpecker foraging on the path, though the Common Crane that had been reported earlier in the day had evidently moved on to another field away from prying eyes.

As passerines seemed to be in short supply, we elected to go the WWT Welney Reserve after lunch. This proved a good plan – the Lady’s Fen area was full of Pied and Yellow Wagtails, whilst the roof of the centre was buzzing with Martins and Swallows. A lot of these kept landing on the roof allowing rare glimpses of the feathered tarsi [legs] and feet of the House Martin, many of which still had their browner immature plumage, as well as both Sand Martin (Bank Swallow) and Barn Swallow. Both the Martin species had been seen on their previous trip, but were deemed by the clients ”un-tickable” as their views were poor, so it was nice for them to be treated to such excellent views. Also three Pied Oystercatcher flew past calling. The view from the Swan Observatory added more shorebirds to the trip with Ruff, Pied Avocet, Northern Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit all showing, and a probable Common Greenshank was seen briefly before all the waders were spooked and it never returned with the rest of the waders. There were a flock of Black-headed Gull, many of which were still in juvenile plumage and an immature drake Eurasian Wigeon. The other hides produced yet more Pied and Yellow Wagtails and there were still more feeding on the path between the hides. We also saw Northern Shoveler, Common Teal, Common Shelduck,Little Ringed Plover, Common Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Meadow Pipit and an over-summering Whooper Swan whilst many of the hides contained Barn Swallownests, one of which was still active. We also had excellent views of several well-camouflaged Common Snipe feeding against the reeds,

The journey home, rather later than planned, added Herring Gull and Feral Pigeon (Rock Dove) giving a day total of 76 species recorded of which 15 were new birds for the clients.

The birds of the trip were given to the House Martins for the excellent views of their “furry” feet, the Stone Curlew, as Thick-knees are one of the client’s favourite groups and this was an addition to her list and for Bill it was the Yellow Wagtails for the sheers number (probably 30+) of this rapidly declining British bird.      

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Juvenile Marsh Harrier

Little Egret

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover

Sharp Angled Carpet Moth

Common Stonechat

Bog Asphodel in flower

Corn Bunting

Immature Green Woodpecker