The unsound approach

30th May

Happisburgh (AL)

An hour and a half on the cliffs produced a Hobby, Whinchat and 20 Whitethroats.


(RMa, DB)

Early update - no sign of either shrike or warbler on Hills this morning...


29th May

Sea Area Humber (JG, RMa)

An early finish in Surveyland saw JG getting the jump on RMa and hitting hills 30mins early - fast enough to bag a cracking female RBS in the first proper bushes. As DIMW would say, "a promising sign...". Clearly the easterlies over the north sea were doing the business despite the rain over the continent. After half an hour she was fully trousered by a breathless Rob, and we cracked on with working the rest of the hills for the big one. Unfortunatly lashing rain and high norwesters made it hard work, and we needed to use all the bramble-tastic Macpaths to kick out the hidden Pied Flies, Ring Ousel, Garden Warbler and handfull of Willows. Good thing about spring is that the rares sing for you - otherwise we stood no chance of locating the Marsh Warbler chortling from deep cover. Despite spending most of the day trying to kick it out, we managed nothing better than flight views. The song was very fast and chattery for Marsh, giving us cause for worry initially, but intensive at-home analysis, thanks to Remembird, confirmed that nothing rarer was involved. Actually, no thanks to Remembird - the bastard batteries ran out just as it started singing properly, so all I managed was this lousy recording: warbler east hills 29.05.mp3

You have to strain your ears -and check out the highly effective pishing during the second half...


East Hill Shrike - hopefully she'll get it on with that drake over at Wells Woods...


28th May

St Abb's Head (AL, IS)

All my best laid plans laid to waste, high winds boats precluded boats to the Farnes, a pity cause I had already written and emailed my description for Collared Flycatcher in advance I was that excited. In an effort to show Isabelle some concillatory seabirds we did St Abb's, one Puffin doesn't make a summer. Nothing in the bushes, drove home past losts of habo, a phone call to Piner the previous day confirmed that there were no birds around. What a difference a day makes; I drove home unbeknownst to the arrival and even had time to look at some nice orchids. ass.

Common Murres on the Abb's, (left) Northern Marsh Orchid, Druridge, (right) Green-winged Orchid, Muston Meadows, Vale of Belvoir (Leics)


25th May

Hills (RMa), Binks, Point (AL, JG)

A delayed start to affairs, led to the decision to leave Rob to run for the Hills and James and Alex to work the Binks - an endless stretch of sand and mud that lies north of Warham and goes on and on into international waters; scene of a Buff-breat for Rob and James the year before, a hard slog today was rewarded with a fine drake Little Stint. The Pines held just a Spotfly and a Whitethroat, Rob had to bust a move leaving J & A to contemplate their fate. No news from anywhere, no sign of any arrival of migrants. So the Point then. Again. We had one Willow Warbler at the Watch House, 2 Wheatears on Yankee, a SpotFly at  the Plantation and a Whitethroat and a Sedgie in the Sueda. Three years ago RMo, RMa & AL did the Point on a similar date for 2 Willow Warblers, 2 Spot Flys and a fine 1st summer RBF. Today the heavens opened and for the 2nd trek in a row we got soaked for nothing. Is stamp-collecting any good?     


The Binks, bring your passport.

Little Stint & Sanderling

SpotFly near the Plantation

more evidence for convergent phenotypes, a young Ted Eales on the Point, no prizes for pointing out who this looks like.


23rd May (RMa)

Afternoon lazing around marshes getting a tan. Buckenham provided some attractive distractions in the form of a sparkling WooSa, and 2 drake Gargar. Rush Hill was heaving with Ringo, with a few Dunlin and a Greenshank fly over. Pleasant enough, until a 1st summer Bonaparte's Gull  stained the view by dragging its wings across my viewfield. It did please the other geezer in the hide when I pointed it out, as it was his 42nd visit without 'success', after having tried '30-40 times for the American Wigeon at Buckenham' earlier this year. I left him the Samaritans number and exited promptly.

21st-22nd May (RMa)

CBC at Tilbury Power Station, a delightful experience with singing 1st yr Black Redstart and  Peregrine picking off the FPs one by one.

19th May

Waxham, Winterton (AL, IS)

Brief afternoon perambulation incorporated a detour for a literally blinding (Allwood lost an eye) Alpine Swift, cruising the dunes at eye level, fortuitously I was able to do the beast justice using a naff handheld digital camera with 3x optical zoom.

Alp Swift (AL) video here




17th May

The Broads (AL)

Whitlingham, Rollesby, Ormesby, Rush Hill, Hickling and Breydon all done in a couple of hours in a quest for WWB using subjective interpretation of speed limits. Lots of hirundines on the go but nothing of any note, a couple of Sandwich dropped in to keep the Commons company on Breydon. When it came to the crunch, darkness beat the tide and I couldn't nail a rare Calidrid...  

This pair of Common Terns were engaged in some sort of Sterna foreplay* for over ten minutes without any actual attempt at copulation. Typically the kid-listers tried to get too close...


* Mark Baynes, Punkbirder sperm competition correspondent commented as follows: "there is evidence from other sp. that mounting alone reduces the females propensity to remate - although not sure whether Sterna engage in polyandrous matings to make this behaviour adaptive sexual conflict. They think that dry mounting is a tactic that males use to effectively disable the females interest in  solicitation etc. It has been shown that dry mounting where no ejaculate is  transferred seriously reduces another males chances of copulating successfully  with that particular female - this is a real advantage considering males have a finite budget and may need to keep some in reserve in a promiscuous mating system (sperm prudence). It is essentially rape and probably has a psychological impact."


early May

Speyside (RMo)

Whilst working up north Rich got in on the Parrotbill action (no questions about this one) along with Dotterel and the regular dross... 

Parrot Crossbill (RMo)


14th May

North-central sea-fret ridgeline (JG)

Osprey over, clipping the pines. No more passerines.

A11 (RMa)

Another Osprey, this time heading north towards the Little Ouse over the Lakenheath turning off the A11 as I made my way back from the office. Grate.

13th May

Saltmarsh, Blakeney, Blakeney saltmarsh (JG, AL, RMa)

Big effort, no reward in the end. Plenty of migrants, including Redwing, Tree Pipit, Whinchat, Garden Warbler, Lesser 'throat, etc., but no bee'ter, r'umpe', or Colander Larks. Closer to death through constant soaking in the afternoon than at any time apart from that other time.

12th May


This was the scene at Rush Hills at 1805 on the 9/05: arctica Dunlin and tundrae Ringed Plovers the pick of the show. With Guernsey responsible for 2/3 of the WP highlights on netfugl I think its time to re-take Norfolk birding from the kids.


8th May

Norwich (RMa)

Rob lucks-in with Osprey from-the-car over Bluebell Road, AL dips on ENV office window-tick opportunity by virtue of still being sat marking in his living room (which looks a bit like this...) 


5th May

Eastern England (AL, IS)

5 Red Kites near Stamford and abundant Pasqueflowers at Barnack Hills and Holes.

Pulsatilla vulgaris and proud warden



3rd May

Whitlingham Lane (AL)

male Marsh Harrier east mid afternoon, naff-all else.


2nd May

Breydon, Rush Hill (JG)

Successfully sold Lees a dummy and proceeded straight to Breydon in the hope of picking up north-bound Gull-billed Terns and Broad-billed Sands. Unfortunately the heat haze was shocking, the terns were sleepy and the waders refused to budge off the unscopable bank, despite the best efforts of a Hobby. Decided to have a go at Rush Hill, which turned out to be a good idea. As I got to the Hickling edge of the woods, a Blackbird gave a squeaky "raptor-in-flight" alarm call, so I took the cue and looked up, and there was a Black Kite! About 50m above my head, it was drifting slowly east. I ditched scope and legged it over the bridge for some non tree-impeded viewing, fumbling with my camera bag the whole way. I watched it twist its way steadily along the wooded strip, and for a moment it looked like it would come around, but while I was messing with my lens cap it drifted back south and was lost over the trees. You just can't enjoy rares these days if you don't get a pic. Not exactly a mega-exciting find - probably just the north coast bird relocating up the head wind - but it's nice to get involved in these influxes. Promising collection of waders on the Hill scrape, including the expected Barwits, all paying no attention to the geezer in amongst them waving a big flymo about.  


Marston STW, Lincs (AL)

Having been convinced by James that I should stay at home and mark 110 undergraduate practical reports in favour of going birding "it'll be crap", I duly took the Black Kite, Rush Hills call a couple of hours later. Still, 35 reports down I had to make a fast return from Norwich to the homeland in the evening to vote YES for my mother to be village prime minister or something similar. Called in at Marston and caught up with Derek & Shelia Brooks (of outrageous inland Lincs Yellow-billed Cuckoo amongst other finds fame) whom I hadn't seen in at least four years along with Andy Chick and Dave Roberts. The drake Garganey was still down Mill Lane and the fine Wood Sand shared the floods with 1 Common Sand, 1 Blackwit, a Greenshank and an unseasonable number of Snipe. Water levels look good for Tems if anyone keeps watching.... 




30th April

North Norfolk (RMa)

On his way back from Lincs, Rob bumped into a Milan noir near the Burnhams... it was briefly over a field with this horse.

Black Kite just before it was eaten by an Oystercatcher


North Norfolk (AL, JG)

Just to grip off Rob we did the "Wells area 51", some Meds over the Saltmarsh were 'nice', but after 2 hours we had seen only 1 Yellow Wagtail and 8 Swallows. AL phoned up RMa to tell him that ***** **** ***** is the crappest place in Britain; RMa suggested they stop looking in bushes whereupon AL flushed a Corncrake, an event well received by the two Common Cranes that choose that moment to fly by. Back on the mainland we tried going birding again but hurricane force winds and king size apathy at the lack of drift meant that the only things we saw were two Common Cranes at Cley, Salthouse, Weybourne and Sheringham.... A Merlin also choose to fly over the car at Cromer, Tiger Merlin not ruled out.  


Sorry Rob...


Obliging minutus at Salthouse:


29th April

North Norfolk (RMo, JG, AL)

In a 'staggering' convergence of reality, dreams and stochasticity, JG, AL and RMo all independently came within 5km of an Egyptian Vulture near Wells without knowing about it; can someone buy us a pager? Whilst not knowing, AL has lunch with IS in the Red Lion and glances out of the window to see a Red Kite; had he been seated opposite the lady he might have noticed 5 Cranes. Meanwhile Rich saw a Whinchat and James saw harriers of multiple species and found some Spoonbills at Burnham Norton. 

field (of view) of dreams in Holkam Park.


28th April

North Norfolk (AL, RMa)

Ram-raid on the Iron Road delivers the long-staying Little Gull and a male White Wagtail; a pairwise comparison of Gramborough and 'the other' hill produced 1 versus 3 Greenland Wheatears. With migration in full-swing all roads lead to Blakeney Point where after 5 hours we had seen 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Chiffchaff and seven Wheatears. Will to live please.


anyone got an mtDNA-ometer?


earlier in the week.....

team members finally got around to going for Guernsey Chiffchaff at UEA. Surprisingly seems like a real species - different song and everything. Big up Dave G. (photo JG)


25th April

North Norfolk (DB, MH)

Special opens his 2007 UK account with a Red-foot whilst engaged in survey work.


24th April

Norwich (JG, AL)

AL had an Oyke calling from the Gloucester St living room (that is AL not the Oyke) and JG had Cuckoo whilst on his way onto campus. Rumour reaches us from the kidz that the far corner of campus is better than Holme.


22nd April

Cromer & Rush Hills late pm only (AL)

Failed to take heed of what I wrote on the rare-ometer so only extracated myself from bed well past midday by which time the kid-listers were rejoicing in their semi(species). Cromer was pleasant enough, 7+ Ring Ouzels shot between buckthorn and gorse and assorted summer fayre included Common Whitethroats and a couple of Greenland Wheatears. Rush Hills was slow, Common Terns were well in and a Whimbrel dropped by but no ibis.

Rouzel (AL)


20th April

Strumpshaw Fen (AL, IS)

Reed Warbler, noisy Bittern, 2 rat day (Water & Brown)


16th April

Wells (JG, RMa)

Some obvious changeover from Saturday – the previous dozen Chiffers now replaced by a score of Willows. There was also a small arrival of Song Thrushes, though we couldn’t find any Rousel. Amongst the Willows we found this scruffy “fulvescens-type” Chiffchaff:


Though there’s too much green fringing on the wings / tail and rump to call it a tristis-type, it is probably too plain grey and buff to be a standard scandi abietinus. Unfortuntely it didn’t make a noise, but we reckon the song would’ve been pretty funky.


15th April

Horsey (AL, LS)

A brief perambulation produced 3 Wheatears and an Adder.


14th April

North Norfolk Coast (JG, RM, AL)

Started the day with a small bang with Norwich Wheatear nailed from the car by the airport and smattering of Swallows on the way north. A Lesserthroat sang at Warham and a sojourn over to the land-sea interface produced a significant fall of Phyloscs but nothing to write home about. A Yellow Wagtail passed over along with a Redpoll but the mist held and the fall never appeared. Burnham Norton was packed (see below) but failed to deliver, Holme GC was even less inspring, House Martins at Ringstead sealed the big day that never was....


RM & JG adopt Dukes of Hazard style techniques to make up for lack of space to park.... 


11th April

UEA Campus (AL)

Overnight arrival of Willow Warblers, Sedge Warblers (c. 4) and Blackcaps, no Rouzel in brief search. Isn't spring brilliant.


10th April

Cotswold Water Park (RDM)

Another afternoon looking through sh*t. These Red-crested Pochards were crap.


Whitlingham (AL)

Fast Lane visit produced no "proper" migrants, rubbish. Had possible Chaeropus ecaudatus from the car.