Tag Archives: UK birds

Norfolk Broads and the Common Crane

Sometimes it is good to be out in the wild but not birding. I actually have two weekends of that in a row. This weekend just gone saw five old school friends and me on a boat on the Norfolk Broads (what could possibly go wrong?!) and this weekend coming I will be hill walking with two other friends in the Peak District. On both occasions, I am the only birder.

I could wax lyrical about the history of flooding and marshlands and navigation and… water and wetland generally in East Anglia, but tonight I just don’t have time. As many will know, the Norfolk Broads are flooded peat-works (excavated by the monasteries back in the Middle Ages) and joined by some of the major rivers.

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Historic wind drainage pump on the River Yare

The six of us chugged along in our hired boat doing a spot of fishing, playing various musical instruments, drinking beer, bird watching, sunbathing, drinking beer, playing poker, drinking beer and various other activities that may have also involved drinking beer.

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My pals armed with guitar, harmonica, and fishing rod and comedy captain’s cap of course

But a lot of the time we just enjoyed the expansive waterways, the expansive vegetation, and the even-more-expansive skies.

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Rookburgh St Mary Broad

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Distant rain and rainbow over the marshes

I obviously had my binoculars to hand most of the time, although trying to operate them in one hand whilst standing on a boat and drinking beer simultaneously with the other hand is not all that easy, so sometimes I lay down to do it more easily (you understand?) and was occasionally snapped naturally for a photo.

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Yours truly ready to pounce into birding action

We didn’t spot anything unusual, but by the end of the trip I made sure my friends could all identify a Cetti’s Warbler by its song. I think they struggled a little more with all the Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler, but were suitably impressed with the Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Kingfisher, and Short-eared Owl sightings. I didn’t have my camera, so no bird pics this time, just iPhone shots of landscapes and thirty-something-year-old men.

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One of the narrower waterways linking a flooded ‘broad’ with the river

One of the birds you might hope to see in this area is the Common Crane; made extinct but reintroduced to a couple of secret sites in East Anglia. However, it was only when back in London that I heard this bird was at Rainham Marshes – a huge London tick for me and many others, and a first ever site record.

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Common Crane (Grus grus)

This record shot was taken from up on the ridge of the Rainham landfill site and looking down several hundred meters on to Wennington Marsh towards the A13.

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X marks the spot

Not a bad weekend overall.

Wanstead Patchwork: Part II (Skylark Highway or Police Scrape Patch?)

After Saturday was spent gallivanting around in Kent and Essex trying to improve my year list, I realised my new patch list was not going up on its own, so I nipped out early on Sunday morning.

It was not exactly prolific birding to be honest; especially after the excitement of the Slavonian Grebe last weekend (it is still there by the way). But I did add four species to my UK year list (62 so far) and eight to my patch list (now at 43 – pretty poor, but that is with only about 3 hours birding on the patch so far this year), with…

  • Green Woodpecker
  • Dunnock
  • Skylark
  • Stock Dove

… all new for the year, and…

  • Chaffinch
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Kestrel
  • Goldfinch
  • Pied Wagtail

… new for the patch this year.

I must confess that I shamelessly exploit the excellent Twitter updates from Wanstead Birding to find out what has been seen where as I stroll around. Nick Croft’s Twitter tips had me on the hunt for Linnet on an area of gravelly grass known as the Police Scrape (see point X on the map below). I wandered around wondering how this uninspiring patch of land could be of use to any birds of interest when I saw a flock of small birds in the distance. I was sure they had to be Linnet, but closer inspection left me surprised but equally pleased to see seven Skylark (which close-up look nothing like Linnet – even when they are as blurry as in the picture below):

Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

I have to say, seeing Skylark on this scrubby playing field seemed a world away from the wonderful moment in the excellent Kingbird Highway when Kenn comes across the small population of Skylarks in the US on San Juan:

Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway, 1997, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Kenn Kaufman, Kingbird Highway, 1997, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

[Back to reality] I then promptly bumped into Nick and some of the other Wanstead birders who kindly pointed me in the direction of a pair of displaying Stock Doves.

I shall leave this rather dry update of my patch search with a photo of a Kestrel who I found on the edge of Bush Wood at the spot marked Y on the map below.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Thanks to Google Maps

Thanks to Google Maps