23rd February 2014 - Horsey Mere, Winterton and Waveney Forest

The Sunday of the Norfolk weekend was spent more in the Broads area, slowly working the way home.  An early start (much to the dismay of the B&B owner) was on the books and we headed straight to Horsey Mere to try and catch sight of a Crane.  We couldn't see any but stopped to check out some Pink-footed Goose.  In the middle of this Stuart happened to get bored and spotted two Crane meandering along to our right.


Winterton-on-sea was our next stop and we ran into a delightful flock of Snow Bunting on the beach there.  I added Gannet to my list from a quick scan out to sea and we saw plenty of Skylark, including two running about in the car park!

A couple of failed attempts to see specific birds then followed and I'm going to try to forget about those.

The last call of the day was Waveney Forest.  The Parrot Crossbill had 'just been seen' but of course had chosen to fly off.  We wandered down to the mound but all there was were a few Mute Swan and a Buzzard.  We headed back to the car a bit dejected and started chatting to a couple who were also looking for the Parrot Crossbill.  Suddenly, a group of 15ish finches flew overhead and we stopped talking and chased after them.  Hallelujah, the Parrot Crossbill had arrived!  I have to say, they are noisy eaters, don't listen out for their call, just the noise of them cracking cones!  After watching them for a good while and adding Treecreeper to the list it was back to London and the pub quiz (which we won!).

Well, it was supposedly back to London, but as often happens, an alert came through.  It was for the Waxwing in Norwich town centre which hadn't been seen for a couple of days.  It was the wrong direction, should we go for it?  We did.

Trip list: 18
Year list: 117
Lifers of year list: 4

22nd February 2014 - Wolferton, Choseley Barns, Thornham Harbour, Edgefield

This weekend was time for another whistle stop tour of Norfolk.  On the way up the A149, I was battling with a hangover and not paying any attention but luckily Stuart was on the ball as he swerved off the main rd into the small road he recognised as being where the Golden Pheasant often was seen.  We had a slow drive around the triangle to no avail and then decided to take 5 minutes and sit in the lay by.  The Golden Pheasant was incredibly obliging and almost instantly wandered across the road.  Nice one.

Golden Pheasant

On to Choseley Barns in the hope of Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge.  Of course there were no Corn Bunting to be found and all three partridge we could see were Red-legged Partridge.  However there were loads of Yellowhammer and a flock of Brambling - certainly the most we'd ever seen together, although they rather paled in comparison to the 900 the gentleman at Otmoor was telling us he once had in his local forest.  That must have been a spectacle!  I then spotted a small head peaking out of the grass in a nearby field and happy days, it was a Grey Partridge.  As we headed off to our next destination we spotted a Marsh Harrier and stopped for a while to watch it glide gracefully along.


At Thornham Harbour we decided we weren't going to find the Twite we had come for and right we were.  We did get three additions to the year list though - Sanderling, Curlew and a lone Grey Plover.


We got to Edgefield late afternoon.  Parrot Crossbill had regularly been here for weeks, but where they there for any of the time we spent waiting for them?  Were they hell.  We did however pick up one Common Crossbill and a Nuthatch.

That blob is a Common Crossbill.

Trip list: 32
Year list: 111
Lifers of year list: 3

16th February 2014 - Otmoor

We had some time before we had to get home from Leamington so we headed down to Otmoor.  I always forget how big Otmoor is, choosing just to remember the path up to the feeders and back.  Ooops.

The first two sightings were a perched Kestrel trying to look like a Buzzard (and doing pretty well at it) and a pair of Bullfinch.  On the feeders were the usual species, with a welcome pair of Reed Bunting flying in and adding to the year list.  A Red Kite was seen in the distance over the trees and plenty of ducks including Pintail and Shoveler were on the pools.  Snipe were seen and an unexpected view of a Kingfisher was a bonus.

We set up camp with a great gentleman looking across over the reeds and stayed there until it was nearly dark and my feet were numb.  Plenty of great things were seen from here.  Over 1000 Golden Plover frequently were lifted into the sky with a similar number of Lapwing.  A Barn Owl flew towards us and showed off his hunting skills, soon to be joined by two more.  Both Little Grebe and Water Rail were very vocal but unfortunately not to be seen.  A great afternoon out all in all!

Trip list: 48
Year list: 104
Lifers of year list: 3

15th February 2014 - Brandon Marsh

Luckily the abysmal weather from the previous day had eased off a bit with just a few showers here and there.  We went back to Brandon Marsh, a site we hadn't been to in 2 or 3 years, as there had been a good few sightings there that we were keen to catch up with.  The walk down the first section of path was glorious, with the sun filtering through the trees and birds singing everywhere.  A lone Redwing hopped into a tree in front of us and a Song Thrush was spotted in the next tree along.  Then a Bullfinch flew out of a tree to the left, followed by another...and another..and another and so on and so forth until 7 had flown!  That's the most number of Bullfinch I'd ever seen together at once.  The Robin were all very friendly - to the boys.  Both Stuart and Tristan had Robin fly right up to their hand but they wouldn't come anywhere near me.  Thanks guys.

The path up to the Wright Hide was where we had been told the Lesser Redpoll had been sighted but we could only find Siskin.  There were three Treecreeper together however, which was the best thing ever.  I love Treecreeper.

After wandering around the rest of the reserve, we decided to have another quick walk along the Lesser Redpoll path.  A gentleman we had been speaking to earlier was there watching something and beckoned us over.  A group of Lesser Redpoll mixed in with the Siskin, excellent!

For some reason, despite seeing 40 species, I only took a photo of a Robin.

Trip list: 40
Year list: 95
Lifers of year list: 3

14th February 2014 - Draycote Water

The annual trip up to the Midlands for the Warwick University Real Ale Festival was upon us again and we headed up to Leamington.  The first full day we had there was dedicated to Draycote Water, a great reservoir near Rugby.  Unfortunately the weather wasn't anywhere near as dedicated as we were and the rain was so fierce it was painful.  Excellent.

We could barely see a few metres ahead let alone use optics for most of the walk, so it's impressive we got anything on the list at all, let alone 36 species.  A great year lister as we only have seen them in two other sites (Dungeness RSPB and Rutland Water) were Tree Sparrow, which have a dedicated feeder at the site.  Running back on the final stretch to the car I spotted the Great Northern Diver that had been around for a while, happily bobbing around in the torrential rain.    

Great Northern Diver

Trip list: 36
Year list: 92
Lifers of year list: 3

2nd February 2014 - Loch Leven, Mussleburgh and Innerleithen

The plan the day before we left was to pack as much in as possible.  This involved going to Loch Leven in the morning, Mussleburgh in the afternoon and then on to try and find a road South of Edinburgh we had once driven down and seen our first Red and Black Grouse - we vaguely knew it was South East.  Hmm.

As we had to drop Stuart's dad off at a set time, we only had a short while at Loch Leven, where we practically sprinted to the hide, had a 5 minute scan of the view and then sprinted back to the car.  I'd definitely like to spend a lot longer there at some point as it's lovely.  The quick visit came up with a decent 20 species, including Pink-footed Goose, a new one for the year list.  Stuart also saw a Red Squirrel but unfortunately I was lagging behind trying to find the Goldcrest I could hear and completely missed it.

After dropping Stuart's dad off, we headed to Mussleburgh.  Everyone should go to Musselburgh, I had an excellent afternoon there, despite not finding out they had lagoons filled with birds until we were leaving.  A Dipper on the River Esk filled the time as we waited at traffic lights to head up to the point.  The first exciting spot out to sea was a group of Long-tailed Duck.  We've only ever seen individual female Long-tailed Duck before, so a mixed group was absolutely amazing.  Plenty of Goldeneye were in the mouth of the river and large groups of Eider just a little further out.  A few Oystercatcher flew by making a racket and a couple of Red-breasted Merganser flew past, the second time I'd ever seen them.  The other side of the wall were a group of Turnstone and a group of Redshank.  The Turnstone were rather confiding but the Redshank flew off the second I even peeked over the wall!  

Credit goes to Stuart who found and IDed a lifer for us - Velvet Scoter.  We spent a lot longer than we meant to at Mussleburgh because we were busy admiring them.  Some Common Scoter joined them and then we really did have to tear ourselves away and head to find the mystery road.

After some googling and staring at a map, we determined that the B7007 becoming the B709 was the right road.  It was getting close to dusk so we headed down the road towards Innerleithen.  Within a short while we spotted a Grouse but unfortunately it was silhouetted and flew off immediately - no ID!  However round the corner were 3 Black Grouse happily on the hillside.  We didn't come across any Red Grouse, but also saw many Rook, a couple of Yellowhammer, a Buzzard and a Kestrel.

We had dinner at the lovely Pig'Halle in Perth, definitely recommended.


Trip list: 27
Year list: 88
Lifers of year list: 3

1st February 2014 - Loch of Kinnordy and Blairgowrie

Stuart's uncle lives in Scotland just south of the Cairngorms so we drove up (yes, from London, I don't want to talk about it) for a long lovely weekend.  The first full day we were there we went on a group expedition to Loch of Kinnordy, about half an hour away.  Five minutes into the drive I asked politely if we could stop as I'd spotted a flock of swans and I was desperate for Whooper.  The first one I settled my binoculars on was a Mute Swan - darnit!  However, as I scanned along I realised the flock was a mixed one with plenty of Whooper Swan further along.  Yay!  


We parked up at Loch of Kinnordy, went to the first hide and I instantly spotted my second ever Scaup.  I have no idea how I knew it was a Scaup as it was further away than my first one and I had a little trouble with that but never mind!  There were a lot of Goldeneye around, which are one of Stuart's favourite ducks although their dislocating neck action freaks me out a bit.  We saw our third Brambling for the year, which in our terms is pretty amazing as we very very rarely see Brambling.


Upon returning to the house, we mentioned we loved Dipper but had only ever seen 3.  Stuart's aunt then told us very exciting news - there were Dipper in the river in the village!  We went on the way to the pub, thinking it couldn't possibly be that easy, but within minutes there were two Dipper and we happily watched them for about 15 minutes until the rain started pouring down and it was time for beer.


Charlie, my favourite pub dog

Trip list: 28
Year list: 70
Lifers of year list: 2