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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Great Northern again

On Saturday 30th January, the Great Northern Diver was again seen this side of the orange bouy at mid distance and it appeared to be heading closer, was it time to get the camera out? No! a passing boat heading south along Lake Lothing caused it to dive and the next time I saw it it was way in the distance beyond the orange bouy. 2 Little Grebe seen. The sun was shining directly in my eyes at Leathes Ham and there was nothing at Ness Point or Hamilton Dock when I looked.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Memories of "Ginge"

I was very saddened to hear of the death today of Bill F, affectionately known as "Ginge" (because of his former very fine head of red hair) from Great Yarmouth. He was a real Great Yarmouth character, a gentleman who I have known for close on 30 years. He was regularly seen around various Yarmouth haunts, particularly Breydon, Great Yarmouth Cemetery, Yarmouth seafront and around Winterton. He was an allrounder, perhaps better regarded for his great all round natural history knowledge, particularly insects and plants. He was well liked and he always liked to have a chat with you when you were fortunate enough to bump into him. I remember once he told me about a Red- backed Shrike, near Great Yarmouth Power station and I was pleasantly surprised to see the bird exactly where he described it. I also particularly enjoyed our chats at the Great Yarmouth Naturalists' Society, when I was lucky enough to be invited to give talks to, over the years. Yarmouth natural history has lost another of its great characters, R.I.P. "Ginge".

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

North- West Norfolk trip

On Sunday 24th January, following a tweet from John H, I joined both him and Tony S on a trip to Abbey farm, Flitcham for the Pallid H. What a wonderful farm this was, a true advert for a wildlife friendly farm, with tall hedges, winter wheat crops in fields and lots and lots of farmland birds, it was without doubt my best ever farmland birding. A veritable oasis! We arrived and joined around 40 or so birders scanning a large field where the Harrier was regularly seen. Initially, we saw 2 then 14 Bramblings perched in the hedgerow opposite. A female Hen Harrier, heavily streaked flew right low over the field. In the field itself around 120 Linnets , flying around in the field we were looking in. In a distant field by the hedgerow, perched in a small tree was one excellent Buzzard, it later flew and perched on the field. A second Buzzard flew right over the field. Amongst those Linnets was a lone Fieldfare, then 14 Fieldfares flew over, later on 6 Redwings flew by. Bullfinches heard are proved to be 2 smart male Bullfinches. 2 Kestrels also seen. A funny "chirrup" revealed a Tree Sparrow flying in and perching high in the bush. Around 6 Chaffinches were also seen, whilst looking right, a load of birds flew down from these bushes, 4 Bramblings were again seen and then an incredible tally of 14 Tree Sparrows. By the barn, a male Sparrowhawk flew low over the field. Another, a second female Hen Harrier flew right over the fields. Perched in the hedge by the barn was another Tree Sparrow, resplendent with its chestnut crown and black cheek patch. Finally at around 12.10pm, flying in from the left and across towards us, the excellent immature male Pallid Harrier, complete with slimmer build and wings with dark chocolate collar and orange- buff underparts flew low over the field and away over the hedge and then flew right above the horizon and then out of sight. Without doubt this is the best most prolific birding I have undertaken on farmland. Next stop was Tottenhill gravel Pits, driving down and then taking a road to the left we saw a large stretch of water viewable through the trees, walking over to the far right, we saw a close winter- plumaged Black- necked Grebe, it swam left and then finally flew a little way and then dived. The next bird that surfaced was a Great crested Grebe. Driving up to Old Hunstanton, we parked along the seafront by the lighthouse, along the cliff tops we saw around 4 Fulmars soaring over at cliff level height, we walked down to the very rocky beach, the cliffs were showed wonderful different coloured stripes of geological strata. Sitting on the cliffs were at least 6 pairs of Fulmars, 2 single bird and 1 group of 3. As we walked left along the beach for around 300 yards a group of around 40 people were surrounding the incredibly sad sight of the carcass of a dead young male Sperm Whale. A large being around 40 feet in length, we approached its tail first of all and the walking around the carcass, it was all too evident of the suffering that this poor noble creature had suffered with a gouge out of the body, reddened areas of the body and a pool of blood around the front and back of the body. It was incredibly sad. Around 40 people were surrounding it many taking selfies with it which wasn't something I would condone. The lower mandible of the Poor Whale had been sawed off for testing by the Cetacean Society. Walking further north, on a better note I was able to photograph the Fulmars on the cliffs. 2 of them were a particularly warring pair.

Oulton Marshes Owls

On Saturday 23rd January in the afternoon I looked down Oulton Marshes and as soon as I lifted my bins I could see an excellent Short- eared Owl quartering the fields of Camp's Heath marshes. It flew around the fields between the railway line and the river and then crossed the line to the field adjacent to the west. A second Short- eared Owl flew along the same field the other Owl had just vacated. By the gate seeing some other photographers we chatted and as we spoke a Short- eared Owl (probably one of the 2 seen earlier) flew over from the south and flew over the track and then north. Meanwhile a Barn owl flew around the fields near the barn and then a second Barn Owl flew over the East Camps Heath marshes and then finally a third Barn Owl flew onto there gate by the entrance track. At 4.10pm I was travelling along Oulton Road and roundabout and along hall Lane, I could see a Fox standing in the middle of the road barely metres away from the roundabout. I drove down stopped the car but the Fox strolled off along a north track by the houses.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Guillemot still a-cruisin'

On Tuesday 19th, at 8.40am the fine Guillemot was still on Lake Lothing seen around the Lowestoft Cruise club exactly as described by Jane, my thanks to the great directions given, The bird quickly swam south and out of sight behind the Cruise club jetty. I was able to see this bird as soon as I had taken a few steps south along the Lake Lothing shoreline, and able to get back to work in time too.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Arctic and American visitors

On Sunday 17th January, a very frosty, hoar frost morning with a very thin covering of snow too, first thing 2 Redwings added to the wintry seen by flying south right over the house and garden calling as they went. An early visit to Oulton Broad revealed that half the Broad was frozen over around by the causeway it was totally frozen, no birds seen although I did bump into Richard S. I then drove up to Great Yarmouth and no luck on Beaconsfield road recreation ground. However, I looked from Marine Parade by the Waterways and I spotted a large Gull soaring over the building that looked promising, its large size, biscuit coloured appearance and creamy- white primaries with a two tone pink/ black bill and black eye proved it was the excellent 1st winter Glaucous Gull. As always, a very fine looking bird, it soared over and then settled on the roof of a house opposite the Waterways. It was quite wary and only spent 5 minutes here before flying over to Yarmouth Crescent, it then flew back over the road over my head and then wheeled round and settled on another roof opposite the Waterways. It was again wary and only settled for 2 minutes before it flew off away over the road and then slowly soared and glided with very languid flaps of its wings and last seen flying over Yarmouth Hollywood cinema. Seen with Paul & Jane who joined me. Receiving a text from Rob Will stating that the 'legs was back on Glebe Marsh, within 20 minutes (thanks to the new road Beacon estate & Belton) I was pulling into the Burgh Castle car park. Minutes later I was joining Rob, and initially I saw the excellent Lesser Yellowlegs, a more slender slimmer and slightly smaller bird than Redshank- c30 seen here with obvious yellow legs, grey above and pearl white below and narrow attenuated rare end, this bird fed on the mud on the middle island proving this was Glebe Marsh in Watsonian Suffolk and in Lizardland! It walked left and then walked closer and flew into the muddy edge (when we were joined by a greatly relieved Ali R who had tried on 7 previous visits) on the closest part- even further into Lizardland! Trip to Oulton Broad and looking at Mutford Lock the Common Sandpiper was back feeding on the far edge near a post. On the Broad itself around 30 Greylag Geese seen. Nothing else of note disappointing the assembled crowd of Tony B, Andrew E, Paul & Jane F, Neville L Rob Will & Erin. Back at Mutford Lock the Common Sandpiper was seen feeding in the same place. A trip to Oulton Marshes I was just a little too late, another birder had just seen the SEO which had given a really good fly around on Camps Heath marsh around but sadly for me it had gone to ground and in the 10 minutes of daylight left I failed to see it or anything else for that matter.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Jumpy Goosander and Elusive Egret

On Saturday 16th January, a look first thing down on a very cold Oulton Broad, I saw the eclipse/ 1st winter redhead male Goosander swimming amongst the side arm of the broad by the boats just south of the causeway, I knew I could get some good shots of it keeping out of sight of the bird but unfortunately I hadn't reckoned on a dog sat on top of one of the boats which as I crawled closer barked loudly making me jump out of my skin (I didn't know it was there) and its barking flushed the Goosander (frustrating!) that flew out to the Broad so I had to be content with mid range shots as it fished amongst the Gulls. Walking around to Mutford Lock I searched high and low for a Common Sand but couldn't see one. However, a Kingfisher flew close in and even perched very close to me on the mooring ropes of the "Southern Belle" cruise ship (which had clearly seen better days!) albeit in very poor light, so pics aren't very good. By 10.30am I had travelled down to Sandy Lane at Iken, where I had just missed the Egret there that had been showing well in a field by a farm before a well known birder had unintentionally flushed it. In the 4 hours it took before it reappeared, I managed to see 2 Mistle Thrushes in a horse field and also take pictures of a feeding flock of c15 Curlews in a water logged grassy field close to the road. having teamed up with Dick, we had been scanning both ends of a cattle field, I walked down to rejoin Dick who had seen a distant Little Egret in a grassy field beyond some trees but a second Egret right of it was the excellent Cattle Egret, Dick did really well to get onto it and we saw its yellow bill clearly and the white gape jowel also seen, sadly it walked off left and then right and then out of view. Slightly later we then saw it fly to the edge of the cattle field the part I had been checking earlier. Dick and I saw it just beyond the Cattle and just beyond a wire fence in a field behind at mid distance. We retrieved our respective cameras and Dick fired off 2 shots and got good record shots, I didn't get any pics as a woman with bright blue coat pushed past and despite being requested not to get too close instantly flushed the bird (yet again frustrating!) that then flew off high and back to the distant fields which were out of view.