Archive for the 'birds' Category


Light and easy

Pallid Swifts within Norfolk during November are regular but always a little contentious. They are never easy to distinguish from Common Swifts. Even photographs can be a little confusing and it’s not too difficult to inadvertently change a common to a pallid during processing. Time must be taken to watch the birds in a variety of light from various positions. It’s only then that distinguishing features can be clinched such as the dark eye, the darker saddle and underbody, darker primaries and leading edge of the wing that contrast with paler coverts and secondaries, the paler head and throat and the slightly shallower tail fork as well as paler feather edgings on the flanks. The feature of a blunter wing tip on Pallid is not as easy to distinguish as literature states and in my opinion varies from bird to bird. I guess it is one of those features that is dependant on it’s attitude in the air.

A message from Ben today stating he had a Pallid hawking along the cliff top at Overstrand saw me make a diversion from the shops in Cromer to the cliffs above the golf course. The light was immaculate as it frequently is in Norfolk and we were looking north to watch the bird hawking in front of the cliffs. Although relatively distant the bird’s milky coloured plumage was immediately apparent. However it took a while for the bird to come closer so the other features could be seen but in the end the identity of the bird was unquestionable.

Today’s Swift was in the company of a white rumped hirundine. Shame it was only a House Martin!



Stealing the Show

We were waiting for the Stejneger’s Stonechat to come a little closer last week when this little chap decided to make an appearance. Not normally prone to dancing across sunlit meadows this Water Rail had obviously not read the books!


Closer Still

Did I say in an earlier post this month that I’d got as close as I’d ever been to a Merlin? Well on the last day of our Scillies tour this year … this happened.


Bar tailed

Another regular on the first trip to Scillies this October was a Bar tailed Godwit that could be found with some regularity either on Porthcressa or Porthloo Beach. H(sh)e had a friendly character and performed admirably for photographers.


The cat’s out of the bag

When you are amid a gathering of (mostly) silent birders you just cant help but let your mind wander. As a five year old I’d sit with my mum identifying birds visiting the threaded peanut shells hung in the garden. On Thursday morning, a couple of score years and more later, I found myself with my guests and a group of twitchers on a windswept Cornish headland. In the intervening period I’ve seen a lot of birds in the UK; 499 species to be exact.

The first warming rays of the sun were stretching my shadow towards sallows surrounded by brambles: this small patch of vegetation was the focus of everyone’s attention. We had spent the lat week on the Isles of Scilly and had returned to the mainland on the previous afternoons ferry. This was the last day of ‘The Isles of Scilly Birders tour’. We were calling at a few places in Cornwall before heading back to Norfolk. Hence our ‘bush-staring’ close to the village of Sennen.

Hidden within the bush was a Grey Catbird. A North American crepuscular bird …way …way out of its normal range. This was the second occurence of this species in Britain.

As the sun lit up the lime bark of the willows a dark thrush sized grey bird with a black cap and a rusty vent hopped up to become the landmark of my 500th British species.

Do you think we could use the ‘cat carrier’ we saw hung on the wall at the pub during our last night of the tour to take it back to the states? No? … well no need to get into a flap about it. Better nip this in the bud right now!





Shouty Siberian

Wherever you go amid the Isles of Scilly in October it’s likely you will hear the ‘tsoeest’ of Yellow-browed Warblers. We found this one skulking in bushes at Trenoweth … but we had others.


Wizard of a bird

The second trip to Scillies this Autumn meant a bit of a rejigging of sailing days to beat Storm ‘Callum’. Boats and planes after our revised sailing were being cancelled. We made it before the bad weather hit … by half a day. While the sun was still out on our first evening we were treated to an absolute stunner of a bird. A Merlin sitting on a wall having just fed. It showed well. Probably better than any perched Merlin I’ve seen in half a century of watching birds.

The next day, long after the Merlin had left, the prey item was examined. I suspected it to be a Meadow Pipit. There were a lot about. How wrong could I have been. It was a Jack Snipe!

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November 2018
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