Di Stagg's Bird watching HINTS

Birding Banter


Birding Banter 6: Thursday, 27th June –

Lesley, Ginny, Rose and I sat as usual in the sun in the window of Le Bouchon Bistro sipping coffee and some of us devouring toast.
The theme of the session was Garden Birds.
My latest Handout is on ‘The Tit Family’ (not all garden birds, but we covered them all) and with previous Handouts on ‘Blackbirds and Thrushes’, and ‘Pigeons and Doves’ we had already made a start on this subject. (See DI’S HANDOUT LINK on this Website to download and print them off for yourself)
The Blackbird, Song Thrush, Woodpigeons and Collared-Doves are mainly residents in our garden – though there is some movement as they commute further south at times, and we get some European migrants arrive, especially in the autumn and winter. Of the new List, we can see Great Tits, Bluetits, Coal Tits and Long-Tailed Tits in an average garden environment, and many of them nest there, either in the hedge, bushes or our nest boxes. To this we need to add the favourite Robin, House Sparrow (if you're lucky – I’m not); two shy birds: tiny Wren and little grey-headed Dunnock (used to be called Hedge Sparrow – but it’s not a sparrow at all). Of the Finches, we see the Chaffinch, Greenfinch and, getting really common, the handsome Goldfinch. Summer IS SUMMER when the Swallows (long double tails), House Martins (short tails) and Swifts (fluttering and soaring high, like scythes) scream above our heads.
To this, depending on the size of our garden, its situation and nearness to the countryside, and whether we have a feeding station or two, we could have other visitors. Starlings, once so common, are occasional visitors to the bird table, together with Great Spotted Woodpecker after the fat. You might see a Green Woodpecker, but not on the table, he prefers the worms in your lawn. With the finches might come fawn and yellow Siskins in winter. Not so popular are visits from black-and-white thieving Magpies, a blue flash of a shy Jay, a cocky and clever Jackdaw (the smallest crow, grey with black head – see my BIG BLACK BIRD HANDOUT), and maybe worst of all, the lightning strike of a striped Sparrowhawk on one of your little birds or fat pigeons, which it then sits and plucks in the middle of your lawn or on a tree stump nearby, before flying off with the victim.
Now, there maybe other birds... occasional invasion in the winter of Black-Headed Gulls after bread, a Nuthatch spiralling up the trunk of a tree, shy Blackcap in the thick ivy and bramble patch, and, in my garden, families of yellow-headed Goldcrests in my conifers (the tiniest of all British birds), but in the main, this is the bulk of Garden Birds we need to learn. Learning their songs and (even more difficult) their calls is a matter of practice over the years and familiarity. Especially as they don't usually sing throughout the year – the Robin is an exception, but even he changes his song.
And I'm not including you lucky people who live by water. You need to look in my HANDOUT SWANS AND GEESE, and some of the future ones on DUCKS and on LONG LEGS AND LONG NECKS.
So, we had a long discussion on most of these birds and why not to stop feeding them in the summer – many fledglings die of starvation in our pristine gardens, devoid of caterpillars. I played a few of the easiest birdsongs to recognise. The morning slipped by very pleasantly and hopefully my ‘pupils’ went away with more knowledge than when they came.
Next Birding Saturday is 12th July, 10.00 am, at my house for Fairhaven Wood and Water Gardens
Next Birding Banter is Friday, 25th  July at 11.00 am. Bijou Bottles.
August will be different: an on-going survey... for everyone to do at home. So come to this next Banter to see how to do it!


Birding Banter: Friday 23rd May.

Sadly I had coffee on my own this month, as no one turned up to join me.

After a while, I went down the Hoveton Railway Bridge Boardwalk to listen to the blackcaps, chiffchaff and song thrush.

Birding Banter 4: Thursday, 24th April 2014

Mary, Ginnie, Ann and I again sat in the sun in the window of Le Bouchon Bistro. Four Birding Banters and everyone sunny. I wish we were so constantly lucky with our Birding Saturdays!
I talked about my last – lone – visit to Hautbois and the Mistle Thrushes (See below). I had been curious about the beautiful song of a mystery bird, as I had not heard Mistle Thrushes sing before: I had seen them in the grounds for some years but always feeding. But this is the excitement of the breeding season – the males of the species all brag about it... no change there, then! However, the impending storm and dark dreary day should have told me: they are known as Storm Thrushes, for they love to sing in impending bad weather. I can’t think why...
My latest handout was on Little Blackbirds (as opposed to BIG black birds: the Corvids – Crows, Rooks etc) and Thrushes, which was an appropriate coincidence. See the link on this website if you wish to download it. The Blackbird, Song and Mistle Thrush, are our residents in this family, joined in Norfolk briefly by the Ring Ouzel (a black bird with a white bib) as it passes through on its way to the uplands – mountain and moors. The Fieldfare and Redwing have left us now and won’t be back till October. Again I entertained the clientele with birdsong from my IPad. I also talked about the warblers that are joining us as we speak. Chiffchaff and Blackcap are already singing away. Willow and Garden Warbler should be arriving any moment. I have heard a number of Cetti’s (pronounced Chetty’s) Warblers as many are now resident in Norfolk; a little bird with a very loud magnificent song and long pauses between each phrase. I have some nesting in Ludham, where I do a regular bird-count. They are difficult to see, yet a singing male chased a female right in front of me the other day, and another on the opposite side of the road, flew very agitatedly along the centre of the hedge, wings flapping. A rustle in the grass below and a stoat popped his head up and regarded me: he then crossed to my side of the road and trotted away from me, eventually disappearing into another hedge. It was obvious that the Cetti had a nest low down in the undergrowth and the stoat fancied a quick supper. Whether it was successful I don't know, but the Cetti still singing there a few days later seems a good sign.
Next Birding Saturday is 10th May, 10.00 am, at my house and the next Birding Banter is Friday, 23rd May at 11.00 am.

Birding update
Corrie, Mary, Ginnie and I sat in the sun in the window of Le Bouchon Bistro on Friday, 21st March, for our third Birding Banter.

Corrie and I reported on the Cley visit (see this website) and the excitement of about 1500 Brent Geese, spoonbill and avocets, and a brooding curlew.
I spoke about my recent visit to Sculthorpe and possible sighting of a rare Willow Tit.
Then I went through my latest handout on Swans and Geese – see my Handouts, downloadable from this website page. White, grey and so-called black birds. Many of them are Winter birds only, so we compared the Whooper and Bewick Swans to our familiar all-year-round Mute Swan (and why it’s called mute, because, yes it does make noises – and the sound of the wings as they fly over are hauntingly beautiful. Many of the Geese are winter migrants, flying north for summer, so discussed them too, and compared them to our resident Greylags and Canada Geese.
I played them (and the other customers) the different honking calls the swans and geese make. In all we had a good morning. I finished with a large selection of my personal books and favourite Apps I use – another Handout! See Bibliography.
My main aim is to bring the fun of Birdwatching to people both with and without any experience at all, but with an interest to go ‘out of the garden’ and find out what else is out there. We certainly did that at Cley. So if that is you, come and join us! Slow leisurely walking – otherwise we miss the birds – so we will fit round your abilities. Please let me know beforehand if you are coming and need special accommodation for your ‘problems’.
You will find more new handouts on our website: www.u3awroxham.co.uk They are HINTS of what to look for and don't replace Identification books. They also include strange facts and folklore on the birds I talk about, and their country names.
I will be posting the dates for APRIL And MAY SHORTLY. These are the prime nesting times, so wonderful for birdsong, and the males are so busy communicating to each other, that they are not nearly so shy of us. Woodland Walks.

Birding-Banter 2: Friday, February 21st 11.00 am at the Le Bouchon Bistro, Bijou Bottles:

Birdwatching Hints 1&2 and Environments 1

A different small group of us met at Le Bouchon Bistro today, Friday, 21st Feb, for the second Birding Banter. Again, it was fun. Two of us stayed on to lunch there. Please realise that my main aim is to bring the fun of Birdwatching to people without experience but with an interest to go ‘out of the garden’! With apologies to the more experienced birders (wow – I can do with their help) I'm presuming most people have little or no skills in this sphere. So don't say, ‘I don't know anything about birds so it’s no use me joining you’, well YOU ARE THE ONES I AM LOOKING FOR! – so just come and find out!

We discussed the two easy handouts I have made of General Hints on Birdwatching, also talked about swans and geese (this handout is to come). then we went on to look at different Coastline Environments and which birds live there. We talked about Migration and who comes from where. Bird migration is akin to EasyJet hols for birds: some like the UK in the summer sun; others prefer winter skiing (Seen ducks on an iced-up pond? There’s a laugh!) We also looked at some Bird books for plumage for those birds with strange names: scoters, bearded tits...
You will find some new handouts on our website: www.u3awroxham.co.uk . ‘Birdwatching Hints Part 2’; ‘Environments 1’; also the start of the ‘Birdwatching Index’ with the contents of Sheets completed and the next three to come.
Saturday 8th March – next, Bird-Watching trip to Cley. Meeting outside my house to fill cars: note new time9.30 am. Please be prepared to stay for lunch / snack at the bird centre, there. It is a NWT site. If you belong, bring your card to get in free. Otherwise, their website says £5.00. The lovely Centre has a shop and lovely food in its cafe – not to mention the fabulous full-length window to look over the marshes, and a board saying what has been seen recently at Cley. Because of the centre, we will go whatever the weather: we can birdwatch from there if necessary. It will be interesting to see how the site is faring after the floods and helicopter disaster. I hope the boardwalks are repaired, though whether any of the hides are rebuilt by then, I don't know. Please, bring appropriate clothing and boots to change into. I intend to make a short visit up the lane to the shingle sea bank to look for seabirds (there may be a car park charge. The East Bank is a possibility to walk, too (free).

If you would like to do your homework, have a very pleasant 20 mins listening to the 7 short Audio tapes on the development of Norfolk Wildlife Trust Cley site on their website (google it). There are two short but lovely videos there, too. http://www.norfolkwildlifetrust.org.uk/cley (stick and paste into Google if this link doesn’t work).

Please can you telephone me as before if you intend to join us: 01603-784214. Meet outside my house. Bring water to drink. Come and enjoy!

Birding-Banter 1: Friday, January 24th 11.00 am at the Le Bouchon Bistro, Bijou Bottles.:

Pigeons and Doves / Crow family.


Lesley Hayes, Mary Freeman and Di Stagg met at Le Bouchon Bistro Friday, 24th January. We discussed the handouts I made for Quick Identification Guides to ‘Pigeons and Doves’, and ‘Corvids: Big Black Birds?’, and general ‘Hints on Birdwatching 1’. It went very well and the other customers put up with my playing the occasional bird song! Two of us stayed on to lunch there.  

Saturday 8th February – 10.30 am: next Bird-Watching trip. I intend to go to Ludham Bridge (where I do a bird-count for the BTO), after which I have arranged to visit the How Hill Estate, river and woodland areas. Depending on weather, it could be very interesting. Please, bring appropriate clothing and boots to change into. The nature reserve paths are closed in the winter but the woodland paths to the water gardens might be muddy underneath. However, it is a lovely opportunity to visit the estate.

Please can you telephone me as before if you intend to join us: 01603-784214. Meet outside my house. Bring water to drink and possibly a snack.

If anyone is interested, I counted 300+ Pink-footed Geese at Ludham Bridge last Friday afternoon (24th Jan). Park in lay-by, Horning side of Ludham Bridge. Geese are in the far distance the other side of the road at the moment. North – or left facing the bridge. You will need binoculars, because they blend in well with the fields. Beware of very fast dangerous road. There are also some 200 lapwing on the right, in with the sheep, mainly along the line of the molehills. They also blend in!

I do hope some of you managed to join in the Garden Birdwatch this weekend, despite the bad weather.’