Birdwatching...the new Rock 'n' Roll


BirdBeards on the run - the birding mission continues...

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In Search of Pecker

Posted by birdbeards2010 on February 2, 2013 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (3)

With time ticking away in the year of our Beard 2013, the 2013 THIRTEEN list was looking worryingly untouched or unticked. So, in order to try to stamp our authority on some of these elusive avian beauties, we turned our attention to Breckland and went forth in search of 'ole ladderback' - the aptly named Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Lynford Arboretum

With a nip in the air and the frost crunchy under our beards the BirdBeard 4 strapped ourselves in to the Laguna of love and hit the A11 hard and steady. Nye & Elsie discussed the advantages of waking in the night in a constantly irrational and erratic fashion, whilst Le Hatt and I queried our chances of hitching a ride on the Ladderback Express.

It's always rather joyous to wander around the arboreal splendour of Lynford and this occasion was no different. It was rather busy with birders and, at least at first, it always seems rather quiet bird-wise. However, once you get your eye in and your ear on the money the birds trickle down until they are almost plentiful. The new feeders, which look right posh, were busily visited by Nuthatches and Tits and we had a close check for anything tasty hanging around. Making our way down to the paddock there were plenty of Goldcrests messing around in the pines. A Marsh Tit gave itself up, which is always nice, but sign of any peckers, and no sign of Kevin Woods either.

The paddocks were dead. A couple of pigeons did good impressions of raptors, but no sign of Haws or Crossbills. Still the air was freshy and sappy the conversation scintillating and the BirdBeard Jrs seemed to be having a whale of a time sleeping, munching and making more sense than either of the seniors.

This was a surprise.

We were also lucky that we had got out of the Fine City that day...

We continued to strain our eyes and our ears, desperate to pick out a drumming Lesser Spot, but to no avail. Making our way round the lake and through the alders we added some Redwing, a Songthrush, Greenfinches and some very nice looking Siskins and a bonus Redpoll or two. The 2013 THIRTEEN list remained untouched, but our souls had been soothed, arsing around looking for the near impossible.

(in between times a wicked Fieldfare was the highlight of my RSPB Big Garden Watch - gorging itself on m stewed apple.)

Santon Downham

Hot on the heels of our first failure, we headed back out Thetford way to, for us, a new and exciting venue. With the Welsh Girl off doing the rugby thang in Cardiff, I had been left in charge of BirdBeard Jr for the weekend and was delighted that he decided to wake up at 2.15am and proceed to run me ragged around the house for the next 3 hours. It was with a weary head and only vaguely open eyes that I greeted Le Hatt at the appointed hour of 7.30am.

It turned out to be easy enough to find and first impressions were very favourable indeed, the Little Ouse gurgling its way through the heathy forest type landscape, making us want to get our Chubbing gear out and flick a bit of bread flake into  an eddy.

It's a shame we didn't put Scarlet Macaw on the list...

(BirdBeard Jr's 1st birthday cake, made by my immensely talented wife Nyegella Llanfairpwlchlllli.)

The birds lived up to the scenery with a female Bullfinch the first one of note to cross our sightlines. A pair of Nuthatches down near the river plus large numbers of Redwings got our blood pumping. We checked the mature trees along the river and meandered ultimately unsuccessfully along the narrow unpramfriendly riverside path, where Le Hatt was lucky enough to get a view of a Kingfisher, while I was digging the pram out of the mud.

Turning back the other way we joined a more solid path and I picked out 2 Little Grebes - the first I remember seeing on a river - before setting my eyes on something far more interesting. Pottering around on a raft of weed and reeds was a stunning Waterail, only my 3rd ever. We managed to creep nearer, getting great views, until Nye spooked it with some grunt-squealing. However, it soon reappeared and we drank in its beautiful colouration and markings. Absolutely lush. High fives all round.

As the rail made its way off into a hole in the bank, a pair of very pale Siskin joined the party, making our beards prickle with satisfaction.

We continued along the river untiil the path took us back into a mixture of breckland heath and stout pine forest. A pit stop for a nibble and some strong, sweet coffee turned up a load of Coal Tits, a male Bullfinch, a couple of Marsh Tits plus bonus Treecreepers.

We pushed on through the tree-lined path, which was reminiscent of Scotland and came back round to the mature little plantation by the road bridge. Here we scanned dutifully for 'ole ladderback' and had a chat and got some nice, friendly gen from a goatee-bearded birding dude.

Jr was asleep and had thrown a glove into the woods and then he was awake and bawling. A female Kestrel and a pair of Egyptian Geese, lost in search of a Sphinx, were added to the day's tally before we hurried back to the warmth of the car. Again no 2013 THIRTEEN listers, but a thoroughly enjoyable sesh and food for thoought for return trip to ambush Pecker.

BirdBeard Juniors on the run...on the RUN!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on January 7, 2013 at 3:50 PM Comments comments (0)

BirdBeard returned from his yuletide tour to join up for the first 2013 THIRTEEN session with Le Hatt. Not only was this a BirdBeards joint adventure, but we turned out a full team with the new additions to the world of mentalist birding, Aneurin Tomos & Elsie Rose - aka the BirdBeard Jrs.

With prams primed and ready to roll and time at a premium we decided to concentrate our efforts on an underwatched but very convenient little patch - Earlham Park/UEA. With some lovely mature woodland trails alongside marsh and river habitats we felt sure this was a reasonable bet for our session target, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Now this aint called Lesser Spotted for nothing. They are bloody well hard, innit.

As I left, I received a text from Le Hatt saying he was running 10 minutes late. Forty-five minutes later, as I watched a lovely flock of 15 Greenfinches feeding in an old oak, I got him and the nipper in my sights, trundling into the park.

We headed into the woods, me especially cursing the amount of dog walkers and the need for dogs to exist at all. Stinking shitty things. A few Tits zipped aboout and then we heard a clear tapping of wood. Listening more carefully this turned into a workman banging his spade on something. It then turned back into a pecker like drilling - although with quite long gaps between taps, if you get my drift. After some skillful off-road pram manoeuvering, I managed to get my sights on the culprit. Not our longed for Lesser but a nonetheless beautiful Nuthatch, which was soon accompanied by its partner in nut crime. Lovely to see.

We continued along the trail and up to the now fog encapsulated University Broad discussing the merits of various  Brussels Sprout cooking methods, accompanied by plenty of Longies. Great to be out on the run again and it was lovely to show the Junior Branch of BirdBeards just how beautiful not one but three Song Thrushes can be when piping away in full mimick mode. For a minute we thought we were onto a Marsh Warbler. Pah!

A New Year Near Miss for my 'Pecker?

Posted by birdbeards2010 on January 7, 2013 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Traditionally, on New Year's Eve at around midnight I reach the 7th stage of drunkeness, become maudlin and insist that everything and everyone is shite. So this year's sober affair made a refreshing change. A curry, a drop of nice champagne, a bit of crap telly and I was in bed by half ten.

BirdBeard Jr was eager to crack into 2013 and surfaced at his usual time of just after 4.00am. Once the sun had risen above the Cornish horizon, my first bird of the new year was a wind buffeted Herring Gull from the landing window of my sister Bib's house. By 9 o'clock it felt like I had already been up fro half of January and Nye needed a hand in nodding off. A stroll in the stiff Newquay air was in order and so we headed 'en perambulateur' towards the boating pond (brief home of a Lesser Scaup earlier in the year). By the zoo entrance a nice tit flock, including Longies, Blues & Greats were playfully flitting around the roadside copse. The high pitched cheeping of a Goldcrest was soon accompanied by its image, feeding on the ivy.

Further up the road, just past the viaduct I stopped to check out the tall cedars across the road. A few Chaffinches bounced about before the short sharp single 'choo' of a woodpecker caught my attention. It soon made itself seen, hopping and creeping from branch to branch, up and down the thick trunk. Having worked out this was definitely a pecker, I suddenly thought how small it looked. The sun made detection of plumage details difficult and without my binoculars, it really was a hard judgement to call. Working my best to get some kind of size comparison from the boughs and foliage, I definitely thought this could be a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - one of the mighty 2013 THIRTEEN! Surely not, on the first day of the year??!! Just then, it made its exit in an undulating flight, its fanned taill and shortish wings reminiscant of a large finch. Lesser or was it just me wanting it to be one? Could not make the call and didn't manage to get back there before we left for Bristol. A definite buzz to the start of the year though, added to by a cliffside Fulmar and a town centre hunting Peregrine. Tidy.

An ill wind indeed

Posted by birdbeards2010 on August 31, 2012 at 3:15 PM Comments comments (0)

The excitement of the Point Break squall had both I and Le Hatt scrabbling to get out of the Beardmobile and up onto the Waxy dunes. It did indeed look very tasty, with the surf and swell crashing bang into the beach and the wind blasting us and our scopes back towards the woods. A couple of Turnstone dropped onto the sand and a Kestrel hovered just off the dunes, but slowly and surely very little materialised. A single Gannet and a few terns and gulls were all that got the blood pumping. Around 20 mentalist Sanderling did brighten things up before the highlight of the watch turned out to be a couple of small flocks of 8-10 pretty Kittiwakes dancing above the waves. By the time our ears began ringing with gustiness it seemed clear that very little was moving and we needed a plan B.

Plan B didn't even break into song. Happisburgh was good for 6 Black Tailed Godwits, a few Wigeon and a wee against the muck stack - but nothing else.

Plan C was the ever barren stretch of Sea Palling bushes. Appalling.

Plan D turned out to be more pleasant. A cuppa in the Winterton cafe, bought by Le Hatt and served up by by far the prettiest bird of the day. We mooched around a silent Hermanus and then lounged on the beach to watch the odd Common Scoter, more Sanderlings and some noisy Sarnie Terns.

Spotty Pair Bring in the 150!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on August 30, 2012 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (0)

Having been woken at 2:30am by the small one, it was tough trying to get back to some zeds knowing I had a presh few hours out in deepest beet land once the sun was up. Eventually my mind stopped racing with images of floating Garganey and I dropped off until just before 6am, sorted the boy's bottle and the Welsh Girl's cuppa  and was out the door racing eastwards to the sounds of some early morning Toots.

It was a glorious misty-sunny early autumn morning as the new Beardmobile pulled up by Cantley Beet Factory and I emerged ready to do battle with the birds. A trio of Linnets chirruped their way into a nearby elder and I made my way through the dew, feeling slightly lost without the pram in my non-scoping hand.

As I wandered up to the riverbank my eye was caught by a bird flapping its way over and across the marshes. It looked slightly unusual and proved itself to be just that. With a shorter than usual curved bill, slighter build and no white on it a close study signalled Whimbrel -get in!

Further along the path I got into position for a check of the outreaching dead tree on one of the smaller pits, that Le Hatt had told me oft held that most gorgeous of creatures, the Kingfisher. And there it was, perched and warming itself in the first rays of sunlight - another new lister!

Several Cetti's called out and a Kestrel hunted overhead as I approached the main pits. I checked out a number of brown ducks, hoping to find a Garganey, but no luck and, if I'm honest, little judgement. As Rastamouse would say, brown ducks, man, they are crucial!

My time being relatively away from the birding scene became ruefully apparent as I excitedly haired round the bend at the first proper 'wader corner'. I flushed everything in sight and had to move on waderless, remembering that old chestnut - a stealthy birder defo sees more birds. Sheepishly making my way round, it was nice to see Sand Martins, several Swift and lots of Swallows still in attendance. Also evident were a massive number of Snipe and Lapwing, very encouraging for their numbers. A single Little Egret, plenty of Shoveler and a couple of Redshank were then joined by a cute pair of Little Grebe, my first for a wee while and always cute to watch. Just then I was told by the birding buddha to look up, so I did. There above me hawked a beautiful, glinting Hobby - lush.

With time ticking on and Mam obv requiring my help back at the ranch, I picked up a couple each of Green and Common Sandpipers - they are cool birds. Moving further round to the large back pool I scanned the variousavian shapes. An elegant, long-billed wader feeding furiuosly, up to its mottled belly. A quick reference to Collins and it was confirmed - an ecliptical Spotted Redshank - bloody lovely! It was kept company by a couple of Ruff and a Black Tailed Godwit, before being joing by another Spotty. No luck again with the elusive Little Ringed Plover, but the Spottys had brought up my Norfolk List 2012 150 and topped off a delightful, stress-busting sesh. Norfolk really cannot be beaten on misty mornings like these.

BirdBeard is back and chasing Le Hatt

Posted by birdbeards2010 on August 28, 2012 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Well bloody Nora! I can't quite believe how long it has been since I posted a blog on this once burningly hot and up to date site. With BirdBeard Jr now pretty much able to hold a pair of bins independently and also allowing me more than a smidgeon of that old thing called sleep, the time for my ornithological resurrection is now!

With fatherhood has come much joy and with that joy my yearning to see birds has once again come to the fore. Nye is now able to happily be pushed around a rough track for short periods of time and I am able to knock up a bottle of baby milk without moving from my scope and so we have managed to leave the Welsh Girl in peace a few times now and start to notch a few more Norfolk lookers onto the list, creeping very very slowly up on the other new dad, the indomitable Le Hatt. Now, I missed out on a fair few good twitchables during Jr's early months and so there is a huge amount of work to do in order to make this year's contest a respectable battle, but me and the boy are up for it - as, I'm sure are Le Hatt and his gorgeous little Elsie (BirdBeards are now officially 4!)

Whilst Le Hatt has been ripping into the likes of Glossy Ibis, White Stork & White Winged Black Tern Nye and I have feasted our eyes on a few less glam but equally delicious feathered types. After being out of the game during those crazy zombified days of newborn sleep deprivation and trying to work out what the hell to do as a parent, the subtle prettiness of a well preened House Sparrow takes on a whole new appeal. A certain freshness has returned to my birding.

An early summer return to Strumps provided excellent close ups of some very smart Cetti's and Reed Warblers, before the flooded paths proved too much for even BirdBeard Jrs off-road buggying. Some family time out at Winterton then saw the turn of the terns, both Sandwich and Little. A very wet and hurried man and boy whizz around Cantley Beet Pools required hot pistol type wader IDing, with a proper good roll call of Wood Sandpiper, Knot & Curlew Sandpiper. A trip with the Teddington (formerly Tooting) Popular Birding Front to a thankfully quiet and un-annoying RSPB Titchwell gave up a pucker group of 9 Spoonbills. Beating a retreat to Waxy dunes proved very fruitful with Eider, a single Velvet Scoter anda first ever Sooty Shearwater hitting that list like some kind of fuel injected sort of thing. During an unexpectedly enjoyable donut, snail ride and chips Yarbo day out I managed to hook up with a juvenile Mediterranean Gull, weaving its way in an out of the delightfully inappropriate t-shirts. Then today a good power walk around Buckenham in search of an Osprey gave up 3 new Norfolk Listers: a family of 5 Yellow Wagtails, a single Green Sandpiper and a gorgerama Hobby, hunting the array of dragons...oh, and that was it wasn't it an LRP?!

So, we're all back up to date and the new BirdBeard - mobile (a classy Ford Focus Zetec!) is revved up and ready for a lot more avian action. Bring it!

Double Garden Raptor Hit!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on June 26, 2012 at 4:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Just took the baby out for a look at the garden and heard an almighty kerfuffle. Directly above us a Peregrine was mobbing a Buzzard. After a hell of a scrap the Buzzard retreated over the Crem and the Peregrine (one of the Cathedral birds? I live in NR2 with the spire within view) chilled out high up with the Swifts (2 of whom are nesting next door). 2 fine new raptor garden ticks for me and the boy. It's gonna be a good day!

BirdBeards back on the block!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on June 19, 2012 at 12:25 PM Comments comments (1)

Well, it's been quite some time since the bearded duo have blogged and so a brief note on what's been going down Norfolk List stylee:

Le Hatt has birded hard and fast and taken a ridiculous lead of 35 species (including corkers such as Woodchat Shrike and White-Winged Black Tern, the boy has commitment) ; 167 to BirdBeard's 132.

I have done bugger all birding.


So, it was very nice to add a couple of new warbling ticks to my paltry page of birds. A jaunt around the mighty Strump with Nye was thoroughly enjoyed and a pair of Reed Warblers allowed me unusually close the reeds. These were swiftly followed by a noisy little Cetti's Warbler, ever reliable on this reserve, among the alders.


This'll have to be a quicky (as I tell the wife!) (sorry) as bathtime is approaching. A joyfully warm day down at Buckenham Marshes saw me and the boy take in the following, which I give to you verbatim from my mobile notes:


Little Egret 2, Chinese Water Derr, Sedge Warbler, Skylark, Mute Swan + 4 cygnets, Cuckoo calling, Redshank, Shelduck, Lapwing, huge flock/brood Greylags, Oystercatcher, Grey Heron 4, Linnet, Kestrel, Peregrine mobbing Buzzard, Common Buzzard 3, big dragonflies.

A very tidy little haul. Not the target Hobby or Lesser Whitethroat, but hey it was just bloody nice to be birding again. Recent developments have further enhanced my views that work really is just a pain in the arse that a BirdBeard is forced to do.

Photoshoot special of the BirdBeards' special Stiffkey camping extravaganza to come sooner or later.


Over and out for now dudes.

It's only a bloody Pied Flycatcher!

Posted by birdbeards2010 on April 21, 2012 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Nye and I found a corking male Pied Flycatcher this morning in the Crem. Adrenalin buzz like no other. Full report later, dudes. Get the cluck in! Me and my boy, top bloody birders!

See below:

So, having undergone the horror of a gastroscopy on Thursday, which confirmed that I have a hiatus hernia and resultant 'angry' patch of oesophagus, the lining of which has been burnt away by the acid reflux, a tonic indeed was needed.

I was up at 6.30am getting back in the yoga zone, in an attempt to relieve my gastric symptoms. By 8.ooam Aneurin and I were off up to the Crem with targets of Whitethroat (not yet seen there) and Willow Warbler in mind.

A singing Blackcap at the entrance, before I'd even got my bins out, boded well for the sesh. Seconds later I had the male bird in my Bushnells, singing as melifluosly as was his wont. "Tidy!" I exclaimed to the boy before we headed along a different route to normal in search of a Chiff Chaff we could hear. Oh Lordy Lord I was on it today, the Chiff Chaff located and viewed almost instantly. We wandered round and through the memorial garden, heading towards our usual patch, near the back of St Thomas Road. Midway there we stopped to watch some lovely Goldfinches, a bonus Greenfinch and the usual and always cute Longies.

The sun was shining nicely as we rounded the corner and came off the tarmac track and up to the Yew tree hotspot. Lots of Tits darted around, some Dollys displaying nicely for each other. Then a bird a little way off in the big oak caught my eye. I don't know why, but it's size and manner just looked a bit out of the ordinary. It skitted around quickly from branch to branch for a while before I could get a proper look at it. Pied Flycatcher??!! I think the current phrase on da street is something akin to WTF?!

I made sure Nye was parked up safely and then manoeuvured myself into a better position to get absolutely surety that my eyes were working properly. There it was, not taking any notice of the ASBO squirrels, a stunning male Pied Flycatcher in all its summer plumed glory. Absolutely pristinely clean with the lovely white wing flashes and the double white dots prominent above its bill. It jumped around from branch to branch pecking at bugs and occasionally snapping at flying things. Bloody Nora! I high fived Nye, who was now fast asleep, and then moved the pram at little closer, enjoying further excellent views for another 15 minutes. I snapped off a few photos from my phone, but am still trying to spot something in the distant limbs of these pathetic shots. Never mind, I noted the names on the closest gravestones (too macabre to print here) and enjoyed this treat until the bird flew off into the ether.

Back home the Welsh Girl was met with a joyful pair of birders, Nye in his kangaroo hat and me bouncing around like one as I scrabbled to get my scope and camera before heading to try for a record shot. An hour of searching proved fruitless, except for a very friendly Goldcrest, so it will be back there tomorrow to see if the Black and White Beauty is hanging around. This is my best find to date. Cheers!

Of Kites and Cormorants

Posted by birdbeards2010 on March 7, 2012 at 4:10 AM Comments comments (0)

The miserably grey and wet morning was enlivened first by the sight of a flappy Cormorant cruising over Earlham Road and then by an extremely pleasing Red Kite expertly steering its way through the gale just past the Easton Roundabout. Only my 3rd Norfolk Kite and a new lister, this cheered me up no end, having felt pretty lousy with a stinking cold for the last few days.

At school, the rain brought out a load of feeding birds, all eager to get at the worms on the field: Common Gull (60), Black Headed Gull (30), Herring Gull (2) plus loads of Woodpigeons and Starling. Also joining them this week, the pait of Oystercatchers that have bred on site for the last 2 years. It is great watching them scurrying around and causing havoc right outside my classroom window. Tidy.