Records, records, records…

Yes it’s that time of year again when last years records need to be submitted to the SOS/BTO. If you have any outstanding records or queries you need answered before submission please get in touch or get cracking on the recording system!

Your deadline is 3rd February please. If you enter any records for 2013 after this date they will probably not be included in the submission.

If you miss the Continue reading

Disaster Averted

I arrived at Lodge car park at around 8:20pm and set off to do the Nightjar survey organised by the Ashdown Bird Group that evening. I had only walked a short way when I saw what I initially thought was a helium balloon sailing across the sky, I watched it start to descend and cross in front of me and with binoculars I studied it in more detail. I then realised that it had what looked like a light or flame under it. Not a balloon then but one of these Chinese lanterns.

Chinese Lantern

Chinese Lantern collected off the Forest

It started to fall quite quickly out of the sky and out of my view. I walked further down the hill so I could get a view back towards Old Lodge nature reserve. I picked up the lantern again as it casually dropped in to the field just short of Old Lodge drive. Concerned it was still alight I walked quickly across and down to the dividing fence line to get a better look. It didn’t seem to be burning and I hoped it had gone out. I had no signal on my mobile so I couldn’t call for help so I decided to try to get in to the field.

I walked back up the fence line and found a cattle gate but unfortunately I couldn’t get it open. I thought about jumping over but there was plenty of barbed wire along the fence so I decided against it. I walked back up the hill and managed to cut through the Old Lodge drive, walked down the road and eventually found a gate I could climb over. I did so and walked down to the lantern… Thankfully it was out! I picked it up as I wasn’t going to just leave it there and took it back to my car.

Had I not seen it or that it had not gone out and I couldn’t get there, it could have turned in to a massive Forest fire. Releasing these lanterns is so dangerous because they can travel for miles, alight, and then end up destroying somewhere like Ashdown Forest. Need I mention the fire at a recycling centre not so long ago?

I could’ve called the police or the fire service but the disaster was averted and there was no way the police could’ve tracked where the lantern came from. It is now languishing in my dustbin, and cause no harm to anything, not even as litter!

Park Corner & Arlington Reservoir – 4th May

Although the trip had technically been cancelled due to lack of interest some of us decided to go any way. Sue, Shaun, Peter, Bob and Judy met at Park Corner near Laughton just before 9:30am. The weather was overcast, cool (10c) and breezy. We walked down and around to the information boards in the little shelter and noted how quiet it was. A walk down across the main heathland scrub produced Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Mistle Thush, Blackbird, Wren, Robin and Chaffinch. Some seen but most heard. We then did a series of circuits around the bottom end of the reserve; eventually a Nightingale did sing but it was obvious the cold weather was keeping it quiet. We also ticked off Garden Warbler (that a lucky two actually managed to see) and Bullfinch. Overhead were some Geese, a Common Buzzard and flock of Herring Gulls. Moving back towards the cars we walked around the pond adding Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Woodpigeon and Carrion Crow.

We moved on to Arlington reservoir, arriving at midday, and parked in the main car park. Our target species was Lesser Whitethroat, which we achieved mostly. A couple of returning birders informed us that it was at the end of the bushes no more than 100 yards from the car park, so we walked down and instantly heard that distinctive rattling warble and quiet sub-song. The bird was quite mobile, moving quickly to other bushes or flying across to adjacent trees and bushes. We all heard it and some of us managed to get a glimpse as it continually moved around.

And then it started to rain. So we headed back to the cars and had lunch, 12:30 at this point. We set out again, despite it still raining at around 1pm, fortunately about half-an-hour later it stopped raining. We walked clock-wise around the reservoir stopping at the hide, also along the dam and a few other places on the route around. It was incredibly windy on the dam and now quite a cold wind too (north easterly I believe). To sumarise our walk we had: Mallard, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Common Sandpiper, commic Tern (prob. Arctic Tern), Swallow, House Martin, Reed Warbler (heard only), Linnet, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Woodpigeon, Jay, Magpie, Rook, Crow, Jackdaw, Starling, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Skylark (heard only), Blackcap (heard only), Chiffchaff (heard only), Whitethroat, Pied Wagtail, prob. White Wagtail and Kestrel.

The Wagtails and Common Sandpipers were along the dam wall, in the wind it was almost impossible to keep still or a telescope still well enough to get views to do proper identification. Annoying as White Wagtail was reported by someone else that day. We were back listening to the Lesser Whitethroat again by about 2:15pm when it started to rain again. At this point we decided to pack up and head for home.

Norfolk Trip Report – Last Day

Brambling [female]This is it, our final day. The last day everyone pretty much does their own thing before heading home and this trip was no exception. For the purposes of this trip report I shall take you through what we did but I will mention that Sue and Bob went to Salthouse again and then to Cley and Holkham Fresh Marsh; Dick, Dot, Martin and Carol spent the afternoon walking out to see the seals on Blakeney Point; Continue reading

Norfolk Trip Report – Day 3

TurnstoneThe third day of our trip. At sun rise it was a glorious start to the day but by 7:15am the sea fog rolled in. Strangely by 9am the fog had rolled out again revealing the sunshine. We all met down in the car park after breakfast and headed out to our first destination – Salthouse.

At Salthouse we expected to see Snow Buntings. Every year so far they have been pretty easy to find. This year however Continue reading

Norfolk Trip Report – Day 2

SnowdropsAfter a nights sleep and an excellent breakfast we set off for Titchwell Marshes (RSPB). West Runton is between 5-10 miles further east so the journey took about an hour.

The weather wasn’t bad, dry with patchy cloud and hardly any wind to really speak of. For our Norfolk trips this is almost tropical! It had been agreed that we would head out to the sea straight away and then work back to the Continue reading

Norfolk Trip Report – Day 1

Black-bellied DipperWe all met up for breakfast at the Little Chef just outside Mildenhall early on a dreary, wet and generally miserable morning. Not the greatest of starts especially with the uncertainty surrounding the hotel.

Traffic had been kind to most of us as we sat and planned the days’ events. We left Mildenhall around 10am and headed for our first destination – Thetford for the Black-bellied Dipper (continental Continue reading


Singing male Woodlarks have been reported on the Forest. These birds are early breeders and they can start even earlier, sometimes with snow still on the ground.

Other early breeders include Tawny Owl, Crossbill and some raptors. Nesting early can sometimes be beneficial, it can allow for multiple broods or larger species’ nestlings fledging at the optimal time when food is most plentiful. In recent years early nesting has been more successful as wet Spring and Summer months are killers.


Well unfortunately the Pheasant Hotel isn’t going to be finished in time so we have been relocated by the kind people at the Pheasant to the Links Hotel. The Links Hotel is primarily for golfers looking to stay in and around the local golf courses, it even has it’s own 9 hole course!

The Links Hotel website doesn’t seem to work very well so here are a few details… Their address is Sandy Lane, Cromer, Norfolk NR27 9QH. Link to a working map HERE. Telephone 01263 838383 for any enquiries.

If any one is unsure on how to get there say so on Thursday morning and we’ll sort it out.

ABG Norfolk Trip 2013

Doesn’t time fly! Our Norfolk trip this year had to be postponed until the Pheasant Hotel re-opens after renovations by the new owners, Kelling Estates. At one point it looked like the trip would be cancelled as there was a breakdown in communications between ourselves and the new manager of the hotel.

With (hopefully!) these problems all resolved below is a suggested programme of events, comments always welcome!

Thursday Meet Little Chef, Mildenhall, 9.30 a.m. for breakfast (yes, the Little Chef is still open)
Then, to Lynford Arboretum (hawfinches). Parking free.
Hickling Broad (cranes, hen harriers, marsh harriers, etc.) Park in main car park and walk up.
Friday Titchwell – all day, starting with a sea watch. Snack lunch at the centre, then to the Fen Hide for bittern, harriers, etc. Parking free for RSPB members.
Saturday Salthouse for snow buntings, etc., Cley in the afternoon. OR Holkham, if you prefer. (Parking is now 6 pounds)
Sunday Kelling Water Meadows, then whatever people would like to do on their journeys home.

It should be a good trip this year, plenty of birds are around as the bad weather at the beginning of the year has kept many things in place. Numbers of wildfowl will be down slightly as January is normally the peak. There have also been movements of sea-going species, sadly many being affected by the horrific oil-type leak.