A bit of a twite

This afternoon I decided to head over to Blakeney as there has been a small flock of twite there in recent days. Twite are one of the species my Dad used to call “LBJs” – little brown jobs! I am fine with some of the small passerines, such as linnet and siskin, but really not at all confident with birds like twite, as I don’t see them very often…probably because I don’t know them when I do see them, if you see what I mean!

Only a little way into my walk a small flock of about twenty LBJs flew around near me and then landed in some stubbly grass…and totally disappeared! I knew with absolute certainty that they were there, but could I see them? Not a glimpse. So I spent about half an hour watching the spot – possibly to the bemusement of passers by, I don’t know – and finally got some glimpses through the vegetation, before they all took off and landed much further away!

And were they twite? I think they may have been. What little I did see seemed to correlate, but I couldn’t identify them positively either on the ground or in flight, so they’re staying as unidentified little brown jobs I’m afraid. Maybe another day…..

After that I decided to chance my luck by heading just down the road to Cley to see if I could get better views of the rare long-billed dowitcher which I saw, briefly and at quite a distance, in January. It’s great that it had now been around for many weeks, which gives me a chance for another look. I parked by the East Bank and headed north towards the beach. There were plenty of ducks and waders around, including quite a few ruff, one of which was already showing signs of upcoming summer plumage – the bird had a very noticeable white head promising a handsome “ruff” in a few weeks time.

a ruff in full summer plumage, seen in Finland in 2017

Suddenly – as often happens here – most of the birds took flight as a marsh harrier passed over. When they settled a small wader – about the size of a redshank – landed in the shallow water immediately in front of where I was on the bank: the dowitcher! A huge spot of luck. The two or three of us who just happened to be in the right spot exchanged surprised looks and got our cameras going. The bird stayed around for a good fifteen minutes or so, giving me a chance not only to get some reasonable photographs, even in the rather poor light, but to also look at it carefully through the telescope so that I can really get to know the identification. Finally another passing raptor put everything up and off it went to pastures new.

long-billed dowitcher at Cley – I love the facial markings

Rather than heading straight home I thought I would see if my luck might hold by taking a quick detour to Letheringsett, where there had been sightings of a couple of hawfinches. Brenda and I didn’t manage to see any at Lynford Arboretum the other day, so this was a chance to fix that. There were several birdwatchers there when I arrived, but no hawfinch had been seen for the last hour or so. But my luck did hold, as after only five minutes or so one decided to perch, for a minute or so, at the very top of a bare tree, giving me some excellent views through the ‘scope. They are really lovely birds and I hope I can see more – and maybe even get a decent photo or two – at some point this year.

Brenda writes: “It was an admin day today so I didn’t get a chance to go out but there was one moth in the trap, a common plume. Plumes, like the light brown apple that was hanging around in our dining room for a couple of days, are micro moths. This would lead you to the conclusion that they are very tiny – and indeed many of them are, so tiny that the field guide magnifies them so that they are easier to identify – but some, like the small magpie for example, are quite big, whilst some macro moths are very small. All very confusing! To quote the field guide, “Current taxonomic thinking considers most micro-moth families to be more primitive than macro-moths.” Primitive or not, some of them are wonderful, and I particularly love plumes with their pencil thin wings. The field guide says the common plume flies from September to May.”

common plume

New species for February 4th:
Birds: hawfinch
Moths: common plume

Birds = 116
Moths = 3
Wildflowers = 14