Field Trips in 2018

Annual Bird Count : 6th January 2018

Here are excepts from participant teams about the day.

Norfolk N Chance:
It’s that day of the year when rarity status goes out of the window and every bird, Peregrine or Pipit, Coot or Kite, has even status. Every bird counts, and we want them all by the end of the day. Our strategy was to start from Dereham and bird the string of pits between Bittering and Lyng taking in any good habitats and its birds along the way.
Ian’s instructions were to just stand by the sewage works gates in Dereham. Sure enough, it brought us 38 species in half an hour which included 2 Little Egret, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers and a surprise 120 Pinkfeet flying North overhead. Other birds were picked up on the way to Bittering pit, which disappointingly had only Mute Swan. Overhead though
were 5 Shelduck, 4 Lapwing, Greylag Geese, Skylark and a Meadow Pipit. Turning the corner to the Poplar pit brought us Teal, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Duck and Wigeon. Then on to Creaking Gate pit where we had Siskin, Coal Tit and Pochard. Rawhall pit had Shoveler and Egyptian Goose. We donned our wellies for a quick stomp around the School pit and accidently flushed 14 Snipe one of which could possibly have been a Jack but after deliberation was not counted. There was a showy Chiffchaff in the hedge but no Little Owl at its usual haunt.
Chris picked up a Nuthatch at Hoe Common and despite Ian’s directions to look at the curly branch poking up in the air it took me some time to locate it. His directions for the Treecreeper however were spot on. It showed brilliant on a sunlit area of bright green moss. While walking back to the car a Tawny Owl flew along the hedgerow and almost immediately a Woodcock flew up which I missed, still stunned after seeing the Tawny. Our hopes of getting Canada Goose and Great Crested Grebe were fulfilled along with Coot and a squealing Water Rail at Swanton Morley. A pair of Bullfinches added colour to the day as we left towards Bylaugh. We had a tip off Stonechats were to be had from the delightful St Marys churchyard. We had to resort to using scopes to find them, much kudos to the team who also found them on the day! No Little Owl for us in the two likely trees nearby. Goldcrests were in the churchyard along with another Chiffchaff. The nearby sewage works never fails to produce a Chiffchaff on the birdrace and today was no exception with yet another on the fence.
It was now two o’clock and we were aware of some glaring omissions in our list but with a brief look at Three Bridges Farm Ian picked up a Kingfisher on the opposite side of the lake, it shone like a green blue jewel in the grey murk of the afternoon. We didn’t even have to get out of the car, nor for the Sparrowhawk flying up from a driveway a minute away. A dash up to the top end of Sparham Pools got us our Reed Bunting but nothing else we needed. The road between Lenwade and Hockering often has Golden Plover and there they were forty of them. We were doing well now, even had time for a trip to Norwich for Peregrine. “Well they’re normally here on the big pointy thing”, I said to Ian and Chris but couldn’t see them. Suddenly a monster of a bird powered out from behind the spire. Got to be Lady Ga Ga (ringed as GA) we agreed and were off. I couldn’t resist another peek from the car window as it cruised effortlessly around the spire.
Chris suggested we check perhaps for a Red Kite going to roost as they are often seen over the A47 in the Honingham area. We waited, got bored, then drove in a loop around the village with a false alarm that proved to be a distant Buzzard. “This one isn’t” shouted Ian. Red Kite in the bag then, but time was running out, maybe just enough to get a Barn Owl on the way back to
Lenwade. We never saw one, but were delighted to have seen 81 species in the Wensum Valley recording area on the day.
Paul, Ian and Chris

Barry’s Boys:
We decided to go somewhere different this year and explore the area to the west of the WVBS reporting area to see what we could find. Starting bright and early at Syderstone Common we meandered south via West Rudham, Broomsthorpe, Doughton to Raynham Hall. As we stopped by the church a bird with brilliant white tail bar flew up into the mature trees. Scanning quickly we found a lovely male Hawfinch drinking from what must have been a little pool in the fork of a branch. What a find, and it just goes to show that birding is more about Lady Luck than much else. We wasted far too much time here, so rather than meandering further south towards Castle Acre we went down the main road, and as we turned in towards West Lexham a small flock of finches flew up into a tree by the road. We anchored up pretty smartly and soon realised we had a mixed bag of Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Redpolls. Closer examination revealed one very white Redpoll, which could have been an “Arctic” variety or a Mealy, but before we had chance to scrutinise it in detail another car came along and frightened them away! Murphy’s Law being applicable this time!
Barry, Alan and Ian.

All Star Lasses:
I enjoyed the bird race very much whether or not our team won. It was a fun day ,being outdoors to see and hear all we could travelling round most of the Wensum (Thanks to Sarah for chauffeuring us). I especially enjoyed seeing all the Buzzard’s and Bullfinches-and a lucky sight of a Red Kite in Sculthorpe! Then a much appreciated cuppa and cake back at the hall – thanks to all who helped. Look forward to the next one!

Ann, Sarah and Lin

 

Kingfishers:
A before-dawn rise on a cold frosty morning, joining with likeminded birding friends to reprise the“Kingfisher” team for our winter bird count “twitch” (tick and run!).
Off to a good start, visiting local hotspots, soon numbers were climbing , managed to spot a skein of Pink-footed Geese flying over westerly , Redpoll feeding in Alders, flushed Bernie’s Little Owl which flew off into hiding.
Highlight of the day was a Peregrine falcon dashing over the lake at West Raynham and a Fokker Dr1 tri decker in red colours of the Red Baron flying east over Lenwade, unfortunately not a tick but an interesting sight never the less. Considering the team name, the most elusive bird was a Kingfisher, many reported sightings from other birders but not for us!
As Light was fading we made our way back to base to collate our findings, keeping a look out for a partridge, plenty of pheasants though.
Well done to the winning team and thank you to all involved to make a very interesting and eventful day.

Paul and co

 

The MillStreeters:
65 species or bust!
6.30am alarm bleeping and flashing! – what’s happening? – oh, the Bird Count – I must be mad, being woken up in what feels like the middle of the night on a cold January Sunday morning.
By 7am I’m feeling much better and more enthusiastic after downing a mug of tea.
7.50am Charles and Fran Neale arrive wondering what has happened to us as Carole and I were supposed to be at their house by 7.45am. I explain the difficulties of getting two 70+ year olds moving in the morning.
By 8am we were at our first site scanning over the surrounding area for whatever species we could find. Charles noticed a large skein of geese flying west; scoping them confirms they are Pink-feet – a good start to the day.
A walk round Sparham Pools and to the barn nearby produces a good number of species – wildfowl, thrushes, finches, buntings. We then decide to go looking for Grey Partridge – Charles and Fran had seen one the previous day – no luck but we did happen upon a Barn Owl perched by a barn! – a real bonus.
As we go past the fishing pits at Lyng Easthaugh I think I can see a grebe so we check it out – we find two Little Egrets and eventually a Great Crested Grebe. We move off, pause by a field with thrushes, Pied Wagtails and Stock Dove but no Meadow Pips!
After a loo stop (essential during an eight hour birding stint at our age) we try two stake-outs for Little Owl. Nothing at the first site but at the second site we are successful. Onward to our regular Kingfisher site. It was there yesterday – but not today! We have another site up our sleeve.
Next stop Bylaugh Sewage Works, a good site for Grey Wagtail. After scanning through the numerous Pied Wags Fran calls, “There it is, over the white sign!” Well
spotted Fran. We try the churchyard next and meet up with Phil, Alan and Josh. We exchange pleasantries and they depart shortly afterwards. No Kingfisher in the ditch and we fail to locate the Little Grebe on the river but Charles hears a Nuthatch calling. Shortly afterwards it flies overhead, it is always a tricky species to find. Later we find out that there was a Stonechat on the meadow below the church. Some you win, some you lose.
We moved on to the Worthing area – a lone Lapwing with Fieldfares was added to the list. We searched for Little Grebe – no luck but there’s still a chance elsewhere. It was time to have a bite of lunch as we can’t survive eight hours without food. As we were munching our way through our sandwiches a Sparrowhawk appears over the woodland in front of us – well spotted Charles.
After lunch we try the Broom Green to Great Ryburgh road as we haven’t seen any large gulls yet and there are some pig units to check out. Moving along the road I notice a gamebird feeder with possible partridge species feeding under it – let’s check them out as they may be Grey Partridge. Through the scope we can see that they are Red-legs which we have already seen. Charles tries the field to the side of us looking for Golden Plover so I join him. I can see partridges on the other side of the field and so can Charles – “I’ve got some Grey Partridges”, Charles calls. I check them out – yes they are, well spotted again Charles.
We progress towards a possible Little Grebe site but stop in our tracks when Carole notices a large flock of birds on a field to our left. A quick reverse to get a better view – Lapwing but what are those birds on the furthest edge of the flock? Golden Plover – excellent, well spotted Carole.
Our Little Grebe site draws a blank so we have a quick look at Great Ryburgh – no joy so we move on quickly to Bintree Mill but no luck there either. We are running out of time so make a dash for Great Witchingham Village Hall where a cup of tea and a piece of cake beckons. Charles decides to divert to Whitwell Common to see if a Tawny is calling. We stop, listen but nothing calling but worth a try.
We arrive at the hall with ten minutes to spare having had a thoroughly enjoyable day together. Did we get 65 species? At the log call we tot up our sightings – 66 species, 2 better than last year – well done team! Put our names down for next year when our target will be 67 species or bust!

Alwyn, Carole, Fran and Charles

 

The Threesome:

For me the highlights of the day were:
The Peregrine at Norwich Cathedral. We arrived in the Cathedral grounds around 7.40am and watched the pair of peregrines flying about and resting on the spire and platform. It was a wonderful sight watching them so closely. Then at 7.55am they both flew off, presumably for their breakfast. “No! How could they do this to us?!”. Our luck changed as by 7.59am they both flew back again and landed in their favourite site. “Yes!” ,our first luck of the day. Off to our next site.
Next, was the Chiffchaff. We had been to Bylaugh Church the previous week to see if we could locate this overwintering bird. We had found it easily then. However, it was a different story this time. We searched and searched but to no avail. We were trying to locate a little egret at the same site overlooking the water meadows. We were just about to give up when we synchronised and shouted “Chiff chaff”. Yay, within a minute or so we located it. Now that was good field work.
Lastly, was the Stonechat. We had travelled to Guist Bridge and the surrounding area because the previous week we had seen a huge flock of water fowl together with the Stonechat. This was not going to be easy as the ducks had all disappeared, presumably back to Pensthorpe just up the road. We concentrated on finding the Stonechat. It was not easy, especially as it was late in the afternoon. We were certainly lucky because up he popped and gave us long views.
So, all in all, we had a very productive day.
I think we lived up to our team name, the three of us, three special birds and we also worked as a good team.

Lucy, Glenn and Alan

 

WVBS Bird Race (and NarVOS Winter Count):
As I was clearly not on a WVBS team why am I writing this note? Well, the NarVOS Winter Count coincided with the Race. There is a considerable overlap between the two societies’ recording areas and I was covering the eastern NarVOS area where this overlap exists. What a cracking day for birding. Apart from a couple of records in my garden (not in WVBS) I was at Castle Acre, with the moon reflected in the river, as 3 Little Egrets put in an appearance and a Barn Owl quartered the watermeadows – a good start. Winter thrushes, which seem to be in short-supply, offered up Redwing at Lexham and Fieldfare at Worthing. The rivers, Nar and Wensum were both in full spate, with flooding in some areas; possibly the reason for no sightings of the NarVOS emblem, Grey Wagtail. The gravel pits around Bittering yielded both
Geese (Greylag, Egyptian but not Canada) and Duck (Tufted, Gadwall, Wigeon and Teal). My most frequent raptor was Kestrel, though for NarVOS as whole, it was Marsh Harrier.
The great thing about these count events is, for me, the chance to explore new bits of the county; another piece of woodland, a new body of water, a previously unseen water-meadow. It was good, also, to bump into two WVBS teams pounding round the patch, chasing (as was I) those ‘expected species’ which has so far not been spotted.
Having contributed my sightings to the NarVOS count, the provisional total is 93 (though we still have a couple of teams to report) and I know the WVBS total was 91 – very close and lots of fun! I don’t know what totals WVBS has recorded in the past few years but for NarVOS, having been well above 100 species, one would have to ask, what has changed this year? Review, analyse and debate.
Ian Black

And finally, a note from Lin, who kindly organised the event

The Teams in winning order were: –

1st – Norfolk N Chance 81 2nd – A Threesome 76 3rd – Hawkeye 74 The Millstreeters 66 Kingfishers 65 Barry’s Boys 65 The Norwich Girls 65 No-eyed Deer 65 All Star Lasses 58

My thanks to all for entering this year. Well done to the trophy winners with new and youngest member, Chris, joining Ian and Paul. Personal thanks to Sarah for her first ever WVBS bird count, great spotting and superb driving. The overall number of bird species seen was 92. In competition on the same day were the Narvos bird club and they phoned in at the end of the day with a winning total of 93. They claim this was a low total for their area in the Nar Valley.

Special thanks to the catering team for a sterling job.

 

Courtyard Farm, Ringstead, and Holkham Marshes.  Co-ordinator  Phil Borley                    28th January 2018

Reporter: Lin Pateman.

Up extra early to open birthday cards and presents before setting off , the leader was in triumphant mood for birding. After the very mixed weather conditions recently, mostly grey and damp, we set off on a dry, cold day. Three Barn Owls were seen en-route from home to Thornham harbour, the Twite flock were in hiding! Phil had a lovely sight of a Kingfisher along the channel and Lin had two Rock Pipits the other side; a Curlew wandered up beside us, head down, until it looked up in surprise and flew off calling cheerfully: A rare encounter.
Meeting the group of 21 proved a little drawn out as some drove up to the farm, however we soon gathered with excellent views of Tree Sparrows on the hedges not too distant from us. Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings were present too. We walked the permissive paths at the farm, scanning the hedges and through lovely weedy fields whilst enjoying good views of Skylark, Common Buzzard, Goldfinch, Brambling, Fieldfare, Kestrel , Dunnock, Chaffinch, Red-legged Partridge, Carrion Crow ,Pheasant, Egyptian Goose, Collared Dove, Curlew, Greylag Goose, Robin, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull and two green tagged Marsh Harriers, although we were unable to catch the letters on them. Sadly no Corn Buntings to be seen!
At Holkham village car park we gathered for lunch and then a search for Hawfinch which had been seen in a large Yew tree just inside the park gate. Here we added Nuthatch flitting around the Lime and Sweet Chestnut trees, a speeding Sparrowhawk and hovering Kestrel. Excellent views were had of a Coal Tit tantalising us with movements around the Yew tree; no Hawfinch to be seen!
Along Lady Anne’s drive we saw Coot, Lapwing, Grey heron,Starling, Jackdaw, Shelduck, Marsh Harrier, two Red Kites, Brent Geese, Cormorant, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Mute Swans, Jay, Mistlethrush, Moorhen and excellent views of a Great White Egret and Common Snipe taking flight. We marvelled at finding two very close Grey Partridges and then enjoyed watching five on the way back.
Some of the group ventured out to find the Shorelarks in the bay and missed out on afternoon tea; namely Phil’s chocolate birthday cake, at the car-boot café! Birding first.
A smaller group ventured out to the perimeter roads of the park and watched Red Kites circling and gathering in the stunning sunset sky. They came in droves , first twenty and thirty, then forty. We counted 72 in all. Beside us in the hedge we added Goldcrest feeding in the fading light.
Another great day out with WVBS with around 55 species seen.

 

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