Bird Watching News

Di Stagg's Bird watching HINTS

Birding Outings

U3A Birding Group Outing: 16th April, 2016 at Ludham

U3A Birding Group Outing: 2nd April, 2016 at Titchwell

5th March 2016


U3A Birding Outing: Saturday, 6th February 2016

– Local Recording of Hoveton Village:
Roy’s car park, river bank and Boardwalk under Railway Bridge,
up the Path west of the railway to the Station Tunnel and back to starting point.
Corrie & Richard Mould and Di Stagg.

The weather forecast: ‘Storm Imogen’, pouring rain and high winds: the reality, overcast but fair with a chilly wind.
Having sent out invitations for this local event (I had no car to travel further), I was told about the abominable weather forecast for the day. However, as is often the case in this part of Norfolk, north-east of Norwich, things were not nearly as bad as threatened. Yes, it was dreary and overcast, yes it was windy – see later comment – there was no rain. It remained dry throughout. Nevertheless the forecast kept people away and only Corrie and Richard met me at the jeweller’s. Thank you, Sheila for your apologies (I am not sure if being in Australia counts?)

First challenge was to track down the house sparrow communities in the car park. Despite the wind keeping the small birds low in the bushes, there were three groups and another two areas over the road in the bushes by the river. Quite refreshing to hear their lively cheeps and see little heads popping up and down.

We were clocking up robins, whose song was expanding from their winter twitter to the lengthier, more complicated breeding variation. We also heard a singing dunnock and wren: signs that spring is on the way.

Down on the river bank we could see five large communities: mute swans – at least 30 were by the road bridge, a few beside us; a gaggle of greylag geese joined them and a couple of mallard ducks joined about nine others, enjoying the new scrape formed from rain and river-flood by the bench seating area – a wonderful duck pond. I had challenged my companions to study just one bird for a few minutes from any of these species: it’s feather-patterning, personality and behaviour (known as jizz). One roof opposite was white with black-headed gulls and another was spotted with grey variations of Feral pigeons that roost in the girders under the railway bridge. It was amazing how they blended in with the roof-colouring.

Just past the railway bridge, Richard left us on the boardwalk and made for the Bouchon Cafe, where we would meet him later. Not before we all had a beautiful close encounter with a sociable robin singing softly to us from a branch level with our heads, just pointing out it was his territory and maybe we should move on. We took the hint.

The river, this side of the bridge was utterly empty, although, from the other side of the bridge, I had seen two moorhens here. A cormorant did fly over at this point but that was all to our left. We did have a strange experience nevertheless: a train had passed over the bridge earlier on, and I was aware another was approaching from the Norwich direction. Nothing odd in that – until Corrie said, ‘Listen to that wind!’ ‘Really?’ I replied, now believing I was listening to a plane. Corrie was absolutely right as this huge, invisible roar grew closer and closer and then passed above our heads. Yes, it was a massive windy gust, although luckily it was high above the trees, which sheltered us.

While listening to the robin, we had seen a large flock of small birds flitting through the trees to the right and giving a constant stream of contact calls. At that time they were moving fast, but when we came back up the sheltered path Richard had taken by the railway, we found we were amongst them. They were particularly attracted to the long yellow catkins. They were made up of mixed finches: mostly goldfinches, mixed with chaffinches, greenfinches and – a first on my 2016 list – a good sprinkling of Bramblings. These attractive birds look rather like glorified chaffinches. Their ‘wheeze’ call like a sore throat, contrasted beautifully with the pretty liquid tinkle of the goldfinches. In winter, mixed finch flocks often have a smaller tit flock following on nearby for safety. And true enough, the accompanying mixed tit flock of bluetits, great tits and coal tits flittered to the right of us beside them: classical behaviour for this time of the year. We could have stayed watching for longer, but Richard and a warm drink and snack were calling. In all, we celebrated a list of 21 species before visiting Bouchon and going home.

List:             In BOLD = of particular interest           BOLD + Italics = exciting rarity

sparrows      feral pigeons   woodpigeons    robin dunnock greylag geese mallard ducks mute swans

cormorant    moorhens       blackbirds    wren    chaffinch    goldfinch    greenfinch    bluetits

great tits     bramblings      black-headed    gulls    coal tit    collared doves

Di Stagg - Feb, 2016

Bird watching at Howe Hill 2015

U3A Wroxham Bird Watchers at Howe Hill May 2015

Canada Goose
Canada Goose
The River Thurne from Great Hautbois
View of the River Thurne
Song Thrush showing amazing camouflage
Song Thrush showing amazing camouflage


Hoveton, Wroxham and surrounding areas.

Challenge: during the month of August, to familiarise yourself with your local birdlife!

On-going in short spurts at different times of the day, maybe different places nearby, make a note of what you see and where you see it. Later, we will compare it to other times of the year.

August is a difficult month for birdwatching, as most birds are going through a moult – a troubling time for them, as during the short period they are losing wing and tail feathers, they are unable to fly and have to skulk away from predators. For the adults, a long period of nesting, lining it with feathers, rushing round looking for food has left them a tattered mess. They also need rest. The breeding plumage with its bright colours is no longer needed: they require a different uniform for autumn and winter to match their changing surroundings. Ducks are particularly difficult to recognise at this time: all the males look somewhat like female mallards! We call this ‘in eclipse’. Very few birds have a need to sing their full songs either. They still call to each other: many variations of ‘chirp, tweet, swee, pink-pink’, and tiny snatches of a sort of song – again, not easy to recognise.

However, with good observation, you may be able to find out quite a bit of the wildlife in your garden.

  • Make a simple plan of your garden – use a code for where you see what: * = blackbird; ^ = bluetit, etc. you may work out who lives where. Are they still nesting? It’s been a good year: some will definitely go for a second / third sitting. Where do they roost?
  • I am suggesting that 5 / 10 / 15 minutes can be quite useful.
  • Or note what is going on while you are gardening. They will be bolder then, as they can see where you are and what you are doing – not a threat. Please keep ALL POISONS TO A MINIMUM! Your bug=dinner!
  • An occasional half hour at different times of the day would be good. When is there nothing around (supposedly)? When is the main feed time/s? When is bath-time? Do they have a siesta?
  • This is not a fulltime commitment; maybe three or four times in the month. Unless you get inspired.
  • Why not extend your check to different areas in the villages – by the river; down a footpath; across a field, by a Broad, in a wood. Different birds to look at. What is likely to be seen where? Print out and use my handouts from the website for recognition.
  • If you wish and I'm around (not week of 8th-17th August), I will willingly come along for half an hour and help you recognise different species. 01603-784214 or Diana@Stagg.com
  • On Big Garden Watch, you can only count the largest number of birds you see at one time. This is slightly different. If you get to know your local birds, you will find that different areas of the garden have different members of the same species, so use your common sense. There will probably be few rare birds – this doesn’t matter at all. Every bird is important. Do any birds have rings on their legs? Colour?
  • Then birds in quantity: starlings, mixed finches, swifts screaming overheard, rooks above rookeries... Count 5 or 10; then ‘guestimate’ multiples of ten to make 100; then work out a rough idea... c.500 (about 500); 700+ (at least 700).
  • So you don't know what the bird is? An LBJ (Little Brown Job)? In your ‘special notebook’, do a quick sketch. You don't have to be an artist: oval for body oval for head. Make stick-legs in proportion to the body as you saw them. What shape was its beak – that helps a lot. What size was it? See my Handout: Birdwatching Hints 1 for a comparison size chart. Then using pointers, mark the colours you saw and where; mark spots / stripes etc. Where you saw it; what it was doing (the jizz); what time of day and what was the weather. Do you see it again? Using a simple birdbook, can you make a guess?
  • Don't forget to write down the date; place (your address); time of day; weather; what it was doing FD = feeding; FL = flying; etc

When you have finished, bring your results to the birdwatching session on the 13th September at Strumshaw, 10.00 am at my house. (+RSPB card if you have one); or the next Birding Banter on 26th Sept.

Why not extend your watch to BUTTERFLIES, as well. There are loads around and some are RARE!


Birdwatching outing 7, Saturday, 12th July, 2014

Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden & Boat Trip

Corrie & Richard Mould, Ann & Rob den Engelse, Diana, Ginny, Rose, Judith and Di Stagg met at Fairhaven Woodland and Water Garden in South Walsham at 10.30 a.m. The weather was just coming out sunny for a change, so I took a risk and left my jacket in the car. Within a little while, it was hot and we were grateful for some woodland shade after we got off the boat. It continued to get hotter and when we congregated at the restaurant at about one-thirty, most people were sitting in the shade. There was no wind, not even a breeze. Then, when we had finished out refreshments and were enjoying some relaxation, we all experienced a most strange phenomenon: the seating area was suddenly hit by a mini tornado. A fierce gale hit us: it tried to blow over the people on the chairs and the large table sunshades nearly took off or blew inside-out. The sturdy metal pole of one was bent completely in half across the table and broken off. We couldn't believe what we were seeing. And in about a minute or so, it was gone. The staff of the restaurant, who ran out to help rescue the sunshades, said later that from their position at the window, the tornado was entirely on the lawn area and the surrounding tall mature woodland trees remained motionless throughout! After it passed, the stillness returned instantly – there was no ‘wind dying down’ as with normal gusts of wind. It just stopped. I think, if the ruined umbrella wasn't still there, we would have wondered if we had made the whole thing up.  

Initially, we had walked steadily down to the little quay where the boat soon came in. To the right was a little barn that was in the process of being newly thatched. The (absent) thatchers were starting on the ridge and it was interesting to see the different processes. Eleven of us and our boatman boarded and took a 20-minute ride round the inner and outer South Walsham Broads. With the lovely weather it was very pleasant. After that we wandered through the water gardens crossing back and forth over the little bridges in the form of a square, looking and listening for birds, watching the butterflies, damsel and dragonflies and enjoying the flowers and trees. The water in the dykes was remarkably green and we looked in vain for swimming grass snakes and otters, also the kingfisher, all of which are resident.

I had explained to everyone that it was not a good month for seeing birds – not that they weren’t there, but that most of them had finished rearing their young and were beginning their moult. It is a dangerous time, for when they lose their wing and tail feathers, they cannot fly and have to skulk away from predators. Also those that still have young to look after, either in their nests or recently fledged, have no need to sing – they are busy feeding and taking their youngsters round the local feeding areas. It is a crash course for the little ones to gain ‘the vital knowledge’ before they move on to be on their own or with small adolescent flocks.

There was however a little birdsong – not that we saw the singers. A Mistle thrush’s rich music; three wrens with their fast trill at the end of the phrases; a chiffchaff, well-hidden in the greenery, gave us a bold commentary calling its name over and over before clearing its throat, pausing and starting all over again.

The most endearing birds were the six sets of Great Crested Grebes with their two or three piping chicks, fluffy grey and still with striped heads. Two herons were on the scene, perching comically on tree branches where they seem so out-of-place. Duck recognition at this time of moult is worse than ever: we say they are ‘in eclipse’. All the males look like tatty female mallards, whatever species they are. Only shape, beak and the blue or green flash on the side distinguish them. In a month or so they will be wearing their winter outfits. Smart but not so attractive (to the females or us) as their spring finery. A soul cormorant flew past to one of the posts and the six common terns delighted us with their amazing aerial acrobats as they skimmed the water or dipped out of the air for a fish and then fluttered away.

 The bird list (below) may not be as long as last time, but the visit and weather (even with the tornado!) made the day most pleasant.

Dates to Come:

  1. Birding Banter and coffee: Friday 25th July, 11.00 am at Le Bouchon Bistro, Bijou Bottles, Hoveton - opposite the station. This will be a special one to show you all how to do your own short bird survey (similar to the RSPB BIG BIRD WATCH). BECAUSE...
  2. AUGUST BIRDING WILL BE A BIRD SURVEY OF HOVETON & WROXHAM (and surrounding areas) And WILL BE A SERIES OF SMALL (1/2 HOUR) SURVEYS IN YOUR OWN GARDENS OR ANYWHERE NEARBY, at different times of the day, ON-GOING DURING THE MONTH. If you phone me on 01603-784214, if I'm around, I am willing to come to your home and give you a hand for ½-hour surveys if you wish. (Not the week: 8-17th Aug). And look out for the ‘Hummingbird Hawkmoth’ on your buddleia – I have two on mine. It’s like a tiny bird, hovering over the flower and sticking its long tongue deep into it.
  3. If I don't see you beforehand, bring your surveys to...

Our next Birdwatching Outing to be at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen on September 25th: – leaving mine at 10.00 a.m. (If you belong, bring your membership cards for free entry.) It is the start of the autumn migration season! An exciting time. Must look out for rarities that have got their routes wrong and arrived with a strong wind on the edges of the UK or are just passing through.

If you are going away, have a good break and keep birdwatching! It is time to start a personal ‘lifetime’ list. We have already seen a lot since January... (I can remind you what you have seen if you wish or look back through the lists on this page.

Bird list: please keep a copy of it, if you were there... If any of you saw more (numbers), or I've missed anything, please let me know and we will alter it!

Fairhaven Butterflies:

  1. Small White
  2. Large White
  3. Gatekeeper
  4. Tortoiseshell
  5. Peacock
  6. Meadow Brown
  7. Speckled Wood
  8. Azure Damselflies
  9. Some Hawkers – too fast to identify

TOTAL species: 9

Fairhaven Birds: Total – 15

  1. Black-headed gulls – 5
  2. Blackbirds – 2
  3. Common Terns – 6
  4. Collared Doves – 1
  5. Cormorant – 1
  6. Grey Herons – 2
  7. Great Crested Grebe – 6 adults / 10 chicks
  8. Kingfisher – 1
  9. Mallard – 25
  10. Buzzard – 1
  11. Moorhen – 1
  12. Robin – 1
  13. Swifts – 30
  14. Woodpigeons – 12
  15. Wrens – 4

TOTAL species: 15

Birdwatching Outing 6, Saturday, 14th June, 2014

Hickling Broad NWT Reserve and 2hr Boat trip

Corrie & Richard, sister Sue, Helen & John, Mary, Ginny, Diana, Rose and Di Stagg set off from Hoveton in three cars for Hickling NWT Centre. We met the Nutbrowns in the Carpark, where a Yellowhammer and Chiffchaff also greeted us. We collected our tickets to go on a two-hour boat trip. The weather was overcast with a steady breeze but brightened a little at midday. The only adverse conditions the weather caused was to keep the little birds out of sight and lack of sun held back what could have been a mass of butterflies & dragonflies. Nevertheless, we saw at least six swallowtails flitting by. The majority of the dragonflies were Black-tailed Skimmers (with lovely blue tails and black tips) and a Hawker.

And, surprise! Our particular boat was called Swallowtail. Very appropriate. Richard, our guide and boatman, was very helpful and knowledgeable. The main channel of the Hickling Broad, River Ant, was the home of the Mute Swan. At one time there was a very large flock (30 or so) of them, however Great Crested Grebes were relatively scarce – we only saw two pairs altogether... disturbing.

We listened for the ‘ping’ of the famous and elusive Bearded Tits, but these birds would have been deep in the reeds, feeding on invertebrates off the water at the bottom and away from the breeze. We could hear Reed Warblers down there with them, and a couple of Reed Buntings braved a low flight just above the feathery reed-heads before diving back into the stems.

A singing Skylark did however pop up from the reeds right in front of us: maybe not a bird people would expect to frequent reed beds... it sang but not much more than nine foot above them. Another was singing high up above the dry land... as expected. Two rusty-backed Kestrels were also right beside us, but they were more interested in the wildlife of the reeds than us.

Grey Herons were everywhere: flying low above us, their trailing crests fluttering in the breeze; flying past us, legs trailing, necks hunched back over their charcoal bodies; standing like statues at the edge of the water with intense stare, lethal dart and a fishy reward. The summer scream of Swifts, Swallows and athletic swallow-tailed Common Terns whirled above us.

There were Marsh Harriers all around us: some making their ‘V’-shapes in the distance; some flew overhead... with distinctive ‘flap, flap, flap, glide – ’ (The similar Buzzard flies with a steady flap and does not glide, except to soar on the thermals). At one time there were three in sight at the same time, so I have only counted 3, however there could have been a number of pairs and youngsters – it’s impossible to know as the birds cover a large territory, which could easily overlap. I believe a number of Harriers now breed on Hickling Marshes.

The two hides we visited in the boat, Swim Coots and Rush Hills Scrape, are outstanding. The first, Swim Coots, you can only see by boat. Other than Egyptian Geese and a dozen of their related Shelducks, Canada Geese and Greylags, we had the graceful Avocets sifting mud with their thin ‘upside-down’ curved bills, red-legged Redshanks (‘shank’s pony’?) and some 15 Lapwings giving an occasional sad ‘peewit’ cry – their other popular name. The ducks were more difficult as they had started their moult early. We call this look-alike phase ‘going into eclipse’, when the males all look like female Mallards. We definitely saw two Shoveler Ducks with wide beaks; some tiny Teals; and Mallards, of course. The highlight for us all, including boatman Richard, were two Common Cranes grazing on the weedy edge at the far end. A very rare and stunning sight. They are the same size as humans and so handsome with red hats and long grey plumes... a mixture between an Ostrich and a Grey Heron! This special flock roost near Horsey, but mostly graze in the fields. I hope my birders realise how privileged they were.

The second scrape, Rush Hills, gave us more excitement. A muddy puddle known by serious birders for its attraction for rarities and migration specials, it did not let us down. There were a number of the same species as on the first scrape, also two moulting Pochard ducks, but in addition, to the right, there was a flock of some sixty Godwits – the rarer Bar-Tailed, as opposed to Black-Tailed. They had flown in the night before and were mainly resting, heads under wings. The busy Redshank and less common, paler Greenshank showed up the Godwits’ large size; however, towering over them were two (yes when we scrutinised the photos we found another) Whimbrels – a smaller and rarer version of the Curlew. This again delighted Richard and I – the last I saw was at Salthouse a couple of years ago.

Then most of us were off the boat at Sound Plantation and climbing the 60-foot viewing tower. What a view at the top. The whole of Hickling Broad and far beyond. Well worth the puff! When I first did this boat trip, back in the ‘70s, they had built a series of precarious ladders and platforms to the top of the ‘tallest oaktree’ in the wood. Its reason was to observe the ‘secret’ Heronry in the trees nearby. Eventually, the tree died and the heronry is long gone, but treeless ladders were replaced by a strong circle of steps with resting platforms to the top and a magnificent and relatively easy-to-manage tower was created.

We had to drag ourselves away at this point and return with the boat to the reserve proper, as it was getting late. A quick hunt for more Swallowtail Butterflies (a few quick sightings – this area of Norfolk is the only place in the Country the native Swallowtails are found; though I hear a Continental and slightly different species has arrived in the south of England) and we said goodbye to Corrie and Richard. The rest of us returned via one of the two land hides, where we devoured our lunches, whilst observing another scrape at the edge of the vast reedbeds. We watched a Coot and young and a nesting Ringed Plover and finally had our last delight of the day. A Cuckoo flew right across the reedbed, fast and low, giving us a superb view of the low sweep of its wings. Then it was back for us, via the water-meadows and familiar Robin, Bluetit and Blackbird, to the cars.

What a day! We broke our species record by reaching 46 (list below) – an amazing number, as we didn't have time to check out the woodland birds, so it could have been even higher.


June Date: Birding Banter and coffee: 27th June. 11.00 am at Le Bouchon Bistro, Bijou Bottles, Hoveton - opposite the station (see report under Birding Banter Group)

Birdwatching Outing 7: This next Saturday, 12th July: venue Fairhaven Wood and Water Garden & boat trip – see E-mail... I need numbers URGENTLY!


Bird list: please keep a copy of it, if you were there... If any of you saw more (numbers), or I've missed anything, please let me know and we will alter it!


Hickling: Total – 46***! Wow! Brilliant especially as we did not spend time in the woodland, where we could have added a number more.

  1. Avocets** – 15 (good view: nesting, feeding flying)
  2. Bar-tailed Godwits*** – 60 (huge flock resting)
  3. Black-headed gulls – 15
  4. Blackbird – 1
  5. Bluetit – 1
  6. Canada Geese – 11
  7. Carrion Crow – 1
  8. Chaffinch – 2 (heard)
  9. Chiffchaff* – 2 (heard)
  10. Common Cranes – 2*** (remarkable: pair grazing)
  11. Common Terns – 5
  12. Coal Tit – 1
  13. Coot – 2 (one young – I would have expected more)
  14. Cuckoo*** – 1 (excellent sighting: fast in flight)
  15. Egyptian Geese* – 2
  16. Great Black-Backed Gulls – 6
  17. Great-Crested Grebe – 4 (numbers low)
  18. Greenshank* – 1 (we think...)
  19. Grey Heron – 6 (good views: fishing & flying)
  20. Greylag geese – 15
  21. Jackdaws – 6
  22. Kestrels* – 2 (good views – hovering)
  23. Lapwings (Common Plovers, or Peewits) – 15
  24. Mallard – 30+ (not counting many young)
  25. Marsh Harriers** – 3 (many sightings – could have been more pairs; couldn't tell)
  26. Mute Swans* – 30 (huge flock + nesting birds)
  27. Pheasants – 2
  28. Pied Wagtail – 1
  29. Pochard Ducks* – 2 (coming into ‘eclipse’ moult)
  30. Redshanks – 4 (could have been more)
  31. Reed Buntings* – 2 (low flight)
  32. Reed Warbler – 2 (heard)
  33. Ringed Plover – 1 (difficult to identify – very busy)
  34. Robin – 1
  35. Shelduck (ducks: related to the Egyptians) *– 12
  36. Shoveler (ducks)* – 4 (nearly in eclipse moult)
  37. Skylarks* – 2 (1  excellent sight singing low above reeds in front of us)
  38. Starlings – 20
  39. Swallows – 4
  40. Swifts – 30+
  41. Teal (Ducks)* – 20 (on bank, not easy to see)
  42. Tufted Duck – 1
  43. Whimbrel – 2*** (rare – like curlew – found 2nd in photo: excellent!)
  44. Woodpigeons – 12
  45. Wren – 2 (heard)
  46. Yellowhammer – 1 (heard)


NB: I count ‘heard’ birds if their song is distinctive and they are famously well-hidden in foliage.


Birdwatching Saturday: 10th May – Hautbois & Ludham

On Saturday, 10th May, I took Mary and Rose to Great Hautbois House at Coltishall, where we met Lesley. Hautbois is the Girlguiding Anglia Region Activity Centre and was full and very busy (climbing, abseiling, camping, etc.). The forecast was dreadful for the day, but I decided to go anyway, even if we ended up Birdwatching from the car. In fact we did start off in the car, watching for the nesting nuthatches, but they did not come. It wasn't raining at this time but threateningly dark. Before we got going, I took the group to meet the staff in the shop (where I work as a volunteer manager), and luckily that was when it decided to rain.
We sheltered there until it stopped – not very long, and then started off round the back of the house to the wooded area at the top of the obstacle course. This was where we watched a bedraggled blue tit, wet from the rain, that had taken up residence in a nest box and obviously had young to feed.
Out across Curlew campsite to the Anglia Region office and over the road to the Limepits Campsites. All the while, we were listening to birdsong as a tool to tell what was about. Many garden birds. In the woods, we heard a chiffchaff amongst other birds, and at last, as we drove away, the elusive nuthatch flew across the front of the car. The other highlight of the morning was a patch of nettles in the wood. By now the sun was out and this was a sunspot. The result was a number of newly hatched Speckled Wood Butterflies, a Red Admiral (both firsts for this year), a beautiful red beetle, 7 and 13 spot ladybirds (bishy-barney-bees!) and at least 20 or so newly-emerged ‘Large Red Demoselles’ which were so delicate and quite stunning.
Lesley went home from there as she lives nearby; we dropped Mary home as she was off to the theatre, and then Rose and I went on to Ludham Bridge where I do a birdcount for the BTO.
By this time, the sun was quite hot, although a strong, warm wind was getting stronger still. It didn't stop the skylark and rooks; seagulls and three Common Terns loved it. Welcome back, Terns: it’s summer! We logged a really successful set of species including two visits of a marsh harrier, a kestrel, mating swallows, and six house martins collecting mud from a bank for their nests. A heron was up to its neck in a dyke and easy to miss, so, surprisingly were the three nesting mute swans (how can you not see swans!) and the six or so marsh warblers, although their song gave them away. Noisy greylag geese flew in to join the cattle by the mill – what an idyllic rural scene. Before we popped into the cafe for a snack, I noted a Tortoiseshell Butterfly and Green-Veined White, and rescued a handsome large hairy caterpillar from the road. We think it was an Oak Eggar (which lives on hawthorn bushes!).
All this time, Rose had wanted me to find the Cetti’s Warblers (pron. Chetty’s) I had told her about that are nesting by the road in deep undergrowth. Not a sound. This is a rare little brown bird (except in the Broads) with the loudest voice you can imagine; it starts its song with ‘Chetty!’ then rattles on – after which there is a very long pause before it sings again. Usually you have just about given up waiting. Well, there we were sitting in the little garden of the cafe with our sandwiches and it sings right beside us! Then followed some detective work as its song made a trail to the road and back again. We followed it from the flood-dyke footpath. It went into thick shrubs that entirely hid an abandoned mill (drainage-pump) and stayed so long that I suggest it has a second nest there. In fact, it was commuting between its two wives! And in all this time (half-an-hour) we didn't get one glimpse of the bird itself!
What we did see, however, were the best views ever of two reed buntings; one windswept bunting clung onto two reed stalks just in front of us and watched us, quite unconcerned. And where were our cameras? In the car! We all looked at each other for some minutes, before it was eventually blown off its perch and into the air like a wind-blown piece of paper.
Lists below:
 Hautbois Estate: (17 birds)
Jackdaw, blackbird, chaffinch, blue tit, great tit, woodpigeon, starling, rooks, magpie, greylag geese, robin, wren, chiff-chaff, Mistle thrush, crow, long-tailed tits, nuthatch. Speckled-wood butterflies, red admiral, red beetle, Large Red Demoiselles, canefly, ladybirds, squirrel.
 Ludham Bridge: (27 birds)
Mallards, rooks, skylark, swallows, house martins, kestrel, cetti’s warbler, blackbird, greater-black-backed gull, common terns, blackcap, marsh harrier, grey heron, lapwings, oystercatcher, black-headed gulls, chaffinch, reed warblers, reed bunting, mute swan, goldfinches, moorhens and 3 chicks, greylags, crow, woodpigeon, magpie, shoveler duck. Also tortoiseshell butterfly, green-veined white butterfly, oak eggar caterpillar, rabbit.

The next Birding Banter Friday is on 23rd May, 11.00 am at Bijou Bottles.
The June Birding Saturday, 14th June, will be to Hickling NWT Reserve
(unless you belong to a Wildlife Trust, there will be a charge: parking free). You will need a picnic and waterproofs or suncream! There is little shelter except in the four hides which are far apart. Hopefully we will see the Norfolk Chaser Dragonflies and possibly some Swallowtail Butterflies (rarest in UK).

Birding Session: 12th April, 2014-04-15

I waited outside my house as arranged at 10.00 a.m., and then went down to the Roy’s River car park, until after 10.30 a.m. but no one came. There was a lot of birding activity around which I noted and I continued to the routine I had set up.
I spent some time down the boardwalk as Blackcaps were all around, and mating chaffinches. In all, 19 birds.
As I had booked for us to go to Great Hautbois estate, the Anglia Girlguiding Activity Centre, and then on to Patteson Lodge, Norfolk Girlguiding Activity Centre in Coltishall, I duly carried on with the event.

At Hautbois, I watched nuthatches feeding young and tried to identify the beautiful song of a bird that echoed all over the grounds. At this point of the time I was a little baffled as I found it very briefly just as it flew off. The weather came up cold with quite a strong chilly wind, but I walked down to the main river which was beautiful.

When I drove over the road to Patteson Lodge, by chance I caught up with my mystery bird – and its mate singing beautifully from the top of the huge beech trees. They were amazingly allusive to see, but their song was stunning. The sky was quite ominous by now – and that should have given me a clue... they were Mistle Thrushes – the Storm Thrush. I think it is the first time I've heard their full song, though you do see them occasionally on the ground. Taller and ‘thinner’ than Song Thrushes, they are very handsome birds with more and longer ‘speckles’ than their cousins. And yes, they are known for being particularly allusive to find in the trees. They are also known as ‘Impatient Secretarial Bosses’ as they hurry from one phrase to another when dictating (the Song Thrush repeats itself 3-4 times per phrase; the Blackbird (also a thrush) pauses between phrases for the secretary to catch up!). Their voice is even richer than a Blackbirds, extremely loud, carrying far away over the treetops: the first phrase had two trilling and dipping notes + a third higher question note.

I finished with a meal in the Rising Sun to warm up. It was a good day, but I could have done with company!

Hoveton Boardwalk: chaffinch mating, robin, woodpigeon, blackbird, song thrush, magpie, coaltit, wren, greenfinch, long-tailed-tit, mallard, greylag goose, feral pigeon, black-headed gull, mute swan, chiffchaff, black-cap, dunnock, bluetit.

Hautbois and Patteson Lodge: (cut short as cold wind) nesting nuthatch, great tit, woodpigeon (39 on grass), jackdaw, crow, rook, robin, pheasant, coot, moorhen, bluetit, blackbird, chaffinch, Canada goose, Mistle thrush.

BIRDING BANTER: THURSDAY 24TH APRIL, 11.00 am, Bijou Bottles, Hoveton, opposite Station.

BIRDING SATURDAY: SATURDAY 10TH MAY, 10.00 AM: I suggest a repeat of the venues I did today. The warblers should be home and singing. Cannot guarantee the Mistle Thrush!

Birding Dates for April & May

It has been a nightmare trying to sort this out as some were double-booked but now cancelled. Anyway, note April change of time and May change of day.

[The Birdwatching Saturdays are the second in the month and Banter on the 4th Friday of the month:– BUT I HAVE A PROBLEM: See below.


The Birding Saturday is Saturday 12th APRIL  AT 10.00am A little earlier: IT IS The top time for nesting Woodland Birds. I have arranged a quick visit to the Railway Bridge (POSSIBLY TOO EARLY FOR WARBLERS) – then I've got permission to go to  Girlguiding Anglia’s Great Hautbois House Activity Centre grounds Coltishall; and probably Girlguiding Norfolk’s Pattison Lodge grounds (opposite). So we will meet either at my House as usual or straight in the far Roys car park by the Staithe and Railway Bridge (as we did once before.) – As for all events, please phone or E-mail if you are coming. Saves waiting around ‘in case...’

The Birding Banter Session: NOT Friday 25th April (AS I Have A VICE-PRESIDENTS’ LUNCHEON). So I will go for Thursday 24TH APRIL, 11.00 AM at Bijou Bottles for anyone who is not away.


The Birding Saturday  is Saturday 10th of May. Venue to be decided. I SUGGEST A boardwalk warbler walk at the Railway Bridge, followed by Alderfen and Barton Broad Boardwalk (as the woods should be exciting).


The Birding Banter Session: Friday 23rd May at 11.00 am at Bijou Bottles.]

Birdwatching March 2014

Bird-Watching visits: 2nd Saturday in the month: 10.30 am outside my house

Birding Banter: 4th Friday in the month: 11.00 am at Le Bouchon Bistro.

Cley Beach & NWT Reserve

Corrie & Richard Mould, Sheila & Peter Milsted, Marion Andrews and Di Stagg set off from Hoveton in three cars for Cley NWT Centre to see how the Reserve had survived the double disasters of sea surge and helicopter crash at its north-east corner. The weather was overcast to start with but brightened up and the sun came out at last. It was windy, however, and at one time, standing on the bank by Beach Lane became quite chilly.

We started with a warming coffee at the centre and a look over the scrapes (pools) through the excellent viewing window. It seemed best to drive up to the Beach first, as that was free. A good move, as part way down the lane we came across a huge flock of geese. Some were greylag with their orange beaks, but the others were all Brent Geese; about 500 of them, many with black necks and bodies but some were pale-bellied Brent. They were right beside the road, all barking away with their croaky voices.  To the left of them, on higher ground, were 50 or so golden plovers, sitting still like dumpy triangles all facing into the wind, and a lone oystercatcher on the ridge, searching for insects in the grass. In the marshland, the other side of the bank beside us, we managed – with initial difficulty to focus on a nesting curlew, motionless with its beautiful curved bill absolutely still: eventually the scope brought a lovely clear view where you could see the amazing brown speckles that made it blend into surrounding scrub so perfectly. Up to the now-badly degraded shingly bank, but there was little on the sea, except for a few gulls, mainly because it was an offshore wind blowing seabirds over the horizon  A singing skylark high up, despite the wind, was not the only one we were to see and hear. Apparently there were about 100 of them on the shingle bank getting ready to migrate.

The Milsteds left us then to explore trains... (really?) and the rest of us returned to the Centre to get tickets for the Reserve boardwalk. Amazingly, rebuilding the three hides had only been finished this last Wednesday, so we must have been some of the first to enter them. The sun was shining as we started the boardwalk past a handsome pair of Mute Swans preening in the meadow. On the bridge, we could look down into crystal clear water, where a single moorhen scrubbed about in the reeds. And that was where we heard a Cetti’s Warbler call (pronounce ‘Chetty’ – and that is what it says; it is a tiny ball of brown and fawn fluff with a huge voice). And where was it? Oh, deep inside the hawthorn’s thick undergrowth. Not a chance of seeing it. Many never have... though I've been lucky sometimes. We listened for the ‘ping’ of the famous and elusive bearded tits as they had been seen in the reeds nearby, but the reeds were ‘singing’ in the wind and again the birds would have been deep in them away from the sharp breeze.

Further along, the meadows opened out again and showed us even more Brent Geese. These stunning birds had been continuously flying in from the sea to the west of us in skeins, groups and formations, 10, 20, 50 at a time. In the end there must have been well over 1,000, maybe 1500 of them. At one time, a marsh harrier (there were three around) flew over and every bird in the area took noisily to the skies; the Brents, lapwings and black-headed gulls, swirling in a stunning ‘murmuration’ display (as the lapwings had done last month over Ludham Marshes), before settling back down in the same place and blending into the environment again. The other very exciting sighting here, was a pure white spoonbill flapping past: it so nearly landed, but thought better of it.

The two hides we visited, other than more Brents and Greylags, gave us excellent views of the beautiful Avocets – black and white waders on stilts that wave their thin ‘upside-down’ curved bills side-to-side just under the water, the breeze fluffed up their feathers into beautiful fans. We saw two Shoveler Ducks with their wide beaks; some tiny green- and tan-headed Teal; many Shelduck in handsome white, green and brown plumage; and whistling Wigeon Ducks with red heads and (modern) golden streak hairstyle, sitting on a bank nearby.

We had to drag ourselves away at this point as it was getting late, however, having said goodbye to Corrie and Richard, Marion and I, returning home via Sheringham, paused at Salthouse by water-meadows covered in Greylag Geese; also our first Canada Geese and Magpies of the day. The Salthouse pond was full of swans, signets, mallards, and moorhens, watched by a single huge Great Black-backed Gull, and, later, we passed ploughed fields full of rooks and pheasants.

What a day! I think we arrived home very sleepy but healthy after a full day in the fresh air.

Dates to Come: Birding Banter and coffee: 21st March. 11.00 am at Le Bouchon Bistro, Bijou Bottles, Hoveton - opposite the station.
Birdwatching Outing 4: 12th April: venue later – height of the breeding season! Must see our Hoveton boardwalk to look for the summer warblers that will arrive during this month.

Bird list: please keep a copy of it, if you were there... If any of you saw more (numbers), or I've missed anything, please let me know and we will alter it!

Cley: Total - 34

  1. Avocets – 6
  2. Black-headed gulls – 30
  3. Blackbirds – 3
  4. Brent Geese – 1000+
  5. Carrion Crows – 4
  6. Cetti’s Warbler – 1 (heard)
  7. Chaffinch – 4
  8. Collared Doves – 2
  9. Coot – 20
  10. Curlew – 2
  11. Golden Plover – 50+
  12. Goldfinch – 1
  13. Great Black-Backed Gull – 4
  14. Greylag geese – 25+
  15. Jackdaws - 5
  16. Lapwings (Common Plovers, or Peewits) – 25
  17. Little Egrets – 2
  18. Mallard – 2
  19. Marsh Harriers – 3
  20. Moorhen – 1
  21. Mute Swans – 4
  22. Oystercatchers – 1
  23. Pheasants – 2
  24. Pochard Ducks – 2
  25. Reed Buntings (Reedlings) – 3
  26. Rooks – 50
  27. Shelduck – 16
  28. Shoveler – 4
  29. Skylarks – 6
  30. Spoonbill – 1
  31. Starlings – 10
  32. Teal Ducks – 4
  33. Wigeon – 12
  34. Woodpigeons – 12

Salthouse and en route: Total 25

  1. Black-headed gulls – 40
  2. Blackbirds – 3
  3. Brent Geese – 4
  4. Canada Geese – 8
  5. Carrion Crows – 8
  6. Collared Doves – 2
  7. Coot – 5
  8. Goldfinch - 3
  9. Great Black-Backed Gull – 2
  10. Greylag geese – 70+
  11. Jackdaws – 20
  12. Lapwings (Common Plovers, or Peewits) – 15
  13. Little Egrets – 1
  14. Magpies – 4
  15. Mallard – 50+
  16. Moorhen – 8
  17. Mute Swans – 8
  18. Pheasants – 35
  19. Rooks – 40+
  20. Shelduck – 4
  21. Shoveler - 2
  22. Starlings – 30
  23. Teal – 2
  24. Wigeon – 8
  25. Woodpigeons – 15


Avocet Cley Corrie 8Mar14
Brent Cley Corrie
Cley Scrape Corrie
Coot Corrie Cley
Swan Cley Corrie


Latest pictures of Bird Watching at Howe Hill 8th Feb 2014


Birdwatching outing 2, Saturday, 8th February, 2014

Corrie & Richard Mould and Di Stagg set off for Ludham Bridge on a morning that promised better weather than late. We paused in a muddy field gap with a good view of the Ludham Marshes below us and could make out a lot of activity by the mill: geese (were they the pink-footed I had seen a week ago or greylag?) and a family of Mute Swans.

Near the lay-by, west of Ludham Bridge, John and Helen Nutbrown were already set up with their telescope when we joined them. After a lot of deliberation we decided ALL the geese were greylag, the ones in the far distance were difficult to see with a fence in the way. However, there must have been some 60 of them, with a couple of Canada Geese with them. A quick but beautiful display of a singing skylark high up – despite the strong wind (how did it stay there?) was so evocative of our beautiful countryside – sorry, you missed it, John. It was followed by a stunning sight of some 1500 lapwing and a further 500 or so starlings taking to the sky – yes, they were in amongst the geese all time! They swirled in a stunning ‘murmuration’ display (those fantastic shapes that starlings can make in the air – I did not know that lapwing could do something similar) before settling back down in the same place and blending into the environment again. A few lapwing took off to flap gracefully over our heads to the south meadow, followed by some rooks towards a huge rookery across the south field. Two days before, I had seen some 200 black-headed gulls in the same area – now there were only a handful. Up on the bridge, we had a windswept view of tufted duck, gadwall and mallards and, as we struggled to keep a foothold in the gale, a cormorant flew over. We just had time to admire a rainbow against a black sky, before retreating to the cars just as the jagged edge of the cloud spattered rain on us.

Off to How Hill, by which time the sun was out again. There was little to see down by the river, except two solitary swans, and Di pestering the others to try and hear the soft squeaking of a water rail. Some passers-by reported a Marsh Harrier, but it didn't appear, so we made our way up hill and through the gate to the campsite field, surrounded by woodland. This provided us with some woodland birds: woodpigeons, blackbirds, blue and great tits, a magpie, and jay.

Then there it was, hunched up on a small branch of a shrub downhill of us. Was it a hobby? So difficult to say... until it flew right past us into the wood. No, definitely a male kestrel, with beautiful rusty wings and grey head. Corrie tracked it across the field where it landed on the thatched roof of a dry-shelter, and spoilt us by fluttering down to the ground and up again. We were entranced. It did not care about its human watchers. The wood provided surprisingly little except two robins and some stunning snowdrops in different varieties and an aconite. Where had the time gone? Late for lunch, we all made our way down the lane and back to the cars.

Dates to Come: Birding Banter and coffee: 21st February. 11.00 am at Le Bouchon bistro, Bijou Bottles, Hoveton - opposite the station.

Birdwatching Outing 3: 8th March: venue later – could be Cley. If so, we will leave earlier and probably stay for lunch at the centre.

Bird list: please keep a copy of it, if you were there... If any of you saw more (numbers), or I've missed anything, please let me know and we will alter it!

Ludham Bridge: Total - 14

  1. 1.       Mute Swans - 5
  2. 2.       Greylag geese – 60+
  3. 3.       Canada Geese – 2
  4. 4.       Lapwings (Common Plovers, or Peewits) – c.1500
  5. 5.       Starlings – c.500
  6. 6.       Rooks – c.10
  7. 7.       Skylark
  8. 8.       Black-headed gulls – c.5
  9. 9.       Herring gull
  10. 10.   Tufted duck – 8
  11. 11.   Gadwall – c. 8
  12. 12.   Mallard – 2
  13. 13.   Cormorants – 2
  14. 14.   Crow

How Hill: Total 11

  1. 1.       Woodpigeons – 5
  2. 2.       Blue Tits – c.4
  3. 3.       Great Tits – 4
  4. 4.       Mute Swans – 2
  5. 5.       Water Rail (heard)
  6. 6.       Blackbirds – 4
  7. 7.       Chaffinch – 2
  8. 8.       Male kestrel
  9. 9.       Robins – 2 (heard)
  10. 10.   Cormorant
  11. 11.   Crows – 2
  12. 12.   Magpie
  13. 13.   Jay



Bird Watching session, Saturday 11th January, 2014:


Lesley Hayes, Sheila and Peter Milstead, Corrie Mould & I met in the morning and went to Roys river car park.

It was sunny but the wind got colder as the day went on. We spent a good hour going from the railway bridge to nearly the end of the boardwalk (until a handsome grey heron blocked our way!). After returning to the car park, we moved on to the Barton Broad Boardwalk. Another pleasant walk, accompanied by an extremely tame robin, to the viewing platform – where I put up the telescope to see some of the birds in more detail.

Highlights on this walk were the treecreeper in the woodland, flotillas of tufted ducks, cormorants, pairing great-crested grebe and an elusive water rail that was creaking beside us. Thank you, Corrie for being our note-taker.

As we also have at least 4 more people interested, we have decided to meet monthly and possibly have a ‘birding banter’ over coffee in two weeks time – Date will be advised.

We will then aim at meeting for a bird watching session monthly.

Complete bird list:

Wroxham Railway Bridge and Boardwalk:

  1. 1.       Robin – 2 (started to sing territorial song – as compared to softer winter song)
  2. 2.       Feral Pigeons on bridge roost site – 14 (cooing softly)
  3. 3.       Wood Pigeons – 2 roosting, 6 in flight, 1 ‘singing’ (‘You bad girl, Sukie’ x3 ending with ‘You’).
  4. 4.       Mallards – 8 (+ 2 white escaped interbred farm ducks)
  5. 5.       Egyptian Geese – 2
  6. 6.       Greylag Geese – 25 (11 took to flooded bank and enjoyed paddling in rainwater and eating the grubs they disturbed)
  7. 7.       Blackbirds – 3
  8. 8.       Bluetits – 2 (+ others heard)
  9. 9.       Great tits – 3
  10. 10.   Coal tit – 1 heard.
  11. 11.   Black-headed Gulls – 12 on shed roof + a number in flight = 40+
  12. 12.   Grey Heron – 1 (flew into our end of river, sat on boardwalk, hunkered down, not in feeding mode)
  13. 13.   Swans – 3 (family) + 2 coming from road bridge)
  14. 14.   Wren – 2
  15. 15.   Magpies – 2 (yelling)
  16. 16.   Chaffinch – 1 male in breeding plumage
  17. 17.   Crow – 1

Barton Boardwalk:

  1. 1.       Blackbirds – 3 (in and near car park)
  2. 2.       Magpies – calling – 2
  3. 3.       Greenfinch – 1 in wood
  4. 4.       Treecreeper – 1 in wood (excellent view of it ascending three trees – could also see the white on it when it flew)
  5. 5.       Jackdaw – 1 heard above wood
  6. 6.       Long-tailed tits – 3 moving through bushes
  7. 7.       Coots – 20+ (numerous and mixing with tufted ducks)
  8. 8.       Great-Crested Grebe – At least 7 (three pairs, a number of them diving)
  9. 9.       Cormorants – 8 on floats and posts – 1 flew over.
  10. 10.   Swans  - 2
  11. 11.   Robins – 2 (one amazingly tame came within a foot of us)
  12. 12.   Black-headed gulls – 30+ (could have been others not identifiable)
  13. 13.   Tufted Ducks – 40+ in two main flotillas (males with white side patches; females brown-black)
  14. 14.   Water Rail – 1 (heard ‘creaking’ beside viewing platform where it lives; no sighting of it this time)
  15. 15.   Great Tits – 3 heard in car park area
  16. 16.   Crows – 3 (in field)
  17. 17.   Pheasant – 1 (on way home Beeston)

I make that a Total of about 27 different species seen or heard during the session. If anyone thinks I've missed any or am way out on the numbers, please let me know – then I will enter our count into my BTO Bird Track site. Note: I have to count ALL the birds seen at each site, including ones we saw earlier, so may have missed some out at the second site – so your input will be gratefully received.
I hope you enjoyed the session