Archive for the 'norfolk birds' Category


Some you win … some you lose

I’ve been working at Wild Ken Hill for around seven months now leading some of the ‘Big Picture’ tours. The tours cover the coastal marsh, the regenerative agricultural implementations on the estate and also the 1000 acre rewilding area. At WKH they are doing some amazing things which I passionately believe we should be doing.

I don’t take my camera with me on the walks as it’s quite a heavy beast of a thing and can be a little strength sapping when on foot all day.

Tania came with me last Saturday, as she sometimes does. About 2 hours into the morning tour we were just starting to climb the hill that is ‘Wild Ken Hill’ within the rewilding area when I saw something flitting half-way up one of the Scots Pines. I raised my binoculars expecting to see a Robin. In fact what I saw floored me. The red wasn’t on the breast but down the flanks of the bird and as it turned I saw an ivory white throat and a beautiful blue tail. It was a female/first winter type Red flanked Bluetail. I forget what I actually said … but it was something quite exclamatory! The bird flew down to a pile of scrubby removed Rhododendrons and promptly disappeared.

I think this is the second March record for Norfolk. None of the twelve guests with us were bird watchers and I had a timetable to observe. However, I explained the significance of the sighting and reluctantly left the area, with more than a single backward glance, to continue the tour. In the short time we had available to look on the afternoon tour it was nowhere to be seen.

The following day, on Sunday, we decided to see if we could see any of the Garganey that had been reported at Cley NWT over the preceding week. Garganey, our only summer visiting duck, are normally elusive; preferring the shelter of vegetation and reedbeds to open water. After waiting unsuccessfully in one hide most of the morning we decided to have lunch back at the centre and try the centre group of hides in the afternoon.

As we got to the hides friends Greg and Andrew were departing and announced they had seen a pair going up and down the drain close in front of them. Well, they weren’t wrong. The birds were ridiculously close. I had to take off the extender and reset the minimum focusing distance. In fact I could have easily have taken photos on a mobile phone.

Sometimes you win by taking the camera … sometimes you lose when you don’t.



This Little Owl popped up on a Farm Tour at Wild Ken Hill the other day. To me they always have that angry expression … as if they are shouting ‘WHAT?’


Where’s Wally?

Have a go. Where’s Wally?



Curlew numbers have declined dramatically over recent years. It is now classified as a red data species. The headstart scheme is a way of attempting to redress that trend. Taking eggs from nonviable locations on airfields and rearing to ‘release-age’ is putting more of these magnificent waders out on our marshes.

This flock I recently photographed at Wild Ken Hill contained ‘flagged and ringed’ birds that were part of the headstart scheme there. More power to their elbow! Click on the link to read their full story.


It’s all about Owls

I revisited the Short eared Owl site last week with one of my guests. We had to wait for a while but the marsh eventually gave up a few Short-eared Owls and a Barn Owl. One of the Shorties pushed up a rather alarmed Skylark as I pressed the shutter.


plastic owl

I had an exchange of emails with Liam Smith last week. Liam is an active cinematographer and works for NBIS. If you don’t know what NBIS is or does you can educate yourself here.

Liam had seen photographs of the Eagle Owl at Oulton St Margaret’s Churchyard and had convinced himself that they showed signs of something around the legs. This was more of an impression that anything else. To show Liam what the owl may have been wearing had it been an escapee I showed him a photo I took of a falcon I photographed at Horsey some years ago.

I had gone to Horsey to find a Rough legged Buzzard that was floating around the area. I did indeed find the buzzard at some distance, and it was being stooped upon by a large falcon which I couldn’t put a name to, not with any confidence anyway. As the falcon relieved itself of frustration and ceased its attack on the hapless buzzard it flew towards me and passed within a few metres before alighting on the wooden steps leading over the dunes. As it cruised past, I could hear tinkling! The bird was wearing jesses and a bell. It was a falconer’s bird.

I crept up on the bird and took the photo below photograph which clearly showed leather aylmeri with brass eyelets.

Liam later came back to me and said he could possibly see a similar eyelet in one of my photos of the eagle owl. I must admit I think he’s right. What I’d taken to be a hind claw looks to me the more I look at it like a brass eyelet. Kudos to him. As suspected by many the eagle owl is indeed most likely an escaped falconer’s bird.

We’ll just have to keep looking for that true vagrant. :0)


Craning a neck

A week or more ago I did a guided walk on Halvergate Marshes for the local authority. A lovely crowd of people assembled at Wickhampton Church (worth a visit for the medieval wall paintings) before we had an enjoyable few hours out on the marsh. We saw quite a lot but missing from the days bird list were Common Cranes. It wasn’t until I started to head home after lunch when I’d only gone a few miles that I saw a flock of twenty seven birds at the roadside … I couldn’t get them all in one shot! This is a good number for East Norfolk. I’ve rarely seen more within the county in a single group.

The UK still trails the continent on numbers though. I recall seeing around ten thousands coming into roost in Hungry within the Hortobagy National Park during a visit in October 2007. Closer to home in the Lac du Der region just to the East of Paris during early March 2015 in the last 2 hours of light I watched around twenty thousands of birds move North on gentle southerlies.

Cranes passing through the Lac Du Der region in France some years ago in Spring 2015

A Howl

Another shot of one of those amazing Short eared Owls that are gracing many of Norfolk’s marshes and dunes at the moment.



I’ve seen bold kestrels fly up to Barn Owls and steal their catch. Until yesterday I’ve never seen a Kestrel do the same thing with a Short-eared Owl.

It was as if the marsh was giving birth to owls. They just kept springing up. First one, then two. Three, four five and maybe a sixth. They offered superb photo opportunities. I followed one through the viewfinder of the camera and watched it swing in an arc down to the ground. It jumped as a vole lept forward in a desperate attempt for freedom. The shortie cut off the escape route. A kestrel swung down from above and took the vole from under the owls very nose! … but not without a bit of a fight.


Lincs or Essex

We were speaking to the ‘rellies’ in Australia today when the alert popped up. A red breasted Goose at Cley.

I’d been conscious of a couple of these arctic breeding geese being in both Essex and Lincolnshire this winter. I must admit as we were driving to Cley, shortly after hanging up the phone, I made the comment it was probably the Lincolnshire bird that had made the leap across The Wash. It wasn’t until I got to Cley friend Mark told us the Lincolnshire bird was still present. So this bird must have flown North from Essex.

These small colourful geese should be wintering around the Black Sea before returning to Arctic Russia. Occasionally they get wrapped up with other geese species and end up in the UK. The Cley bird was with a large flock of Dark bellied Brents and was quite obliging.

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Aug 2022


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