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Friday, 25 December 2009

A Festive Treat

A Christmas Day visit "over the fence" on the Fallowfields site revealed an excellent Woodcock 9.45am that flew from the north-west corner over towards the the houses just north of the Parkhill hotel.
A great start to Christmas Day birding which was enhanced further with the calls of 2 Bullfinch coming from the Hotel grounds.
This afternoon a walk around Oulton Marshes/ Fisher Row revealed some excellent wetland habitat constructed parallel to the river. A Barn Owl quartered the fields north of the site. 42 Linnet flew to a bush just over the river. A Little Egret flew north over Peto's Marsh and landed briefly in the field before continuing its journey to the north- west.
A Barn Owl flew south over the marshes and 20 Goldfinch flew into a tree opposite the stables.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas Eve Local Patch Birding

The Christmas break started in fine style with me seeing several avian goodies around the local patch area today with quartets seen of both Woodcock & Firecrest! This afternoon, a walk around the Fallowfields waste ground just east of Parkhill hotel, revealed a brace of Woodcock, firstly one was flushed at 3.20pm in the middle of the area and it flew west towards Parkhill Hotel grounds. The second bird (& 4th of the day!) was flushed five minutes later close to the wall and simply flew over to the Hotel grounds. Finally, a Redwing flew from Parkhill hotel onto Fallowfields.

This morning, starting behind the Oval & the N. Denes and initially seeing very little save for the usual flock of Black- headed Gulls on Link's Rd car park. The flock was over 100 strong with 4 Common Gulls and 5 Herring Gulls. At first, Warren House Wood was disappointing but a second look revealed the hoarser call of a Firecrest roughly in the middle of the wood which betrayed the presence of 3 birds, but they were very, very elusive. After an hour I had only seen brief glimpses of shapes in the foliage and had it not been for the calls I wouldn't have been able to ID them at all.
Walking up the bank just south of the Wood, on a hunch it might be a good area to explore and no sooner was I peering down into the back garden of 100A Corton Road, than an excellent Woodcock at 10.05am flew up suddenly from the ground and flew over and down towards WH Wood.
Retracing my steps I then clambered up the bank to the old Toilet block bordering Link's Rd itself and again flushed another excellent Woodcock at 10.15am which flew low wheeling round over the green area and then again flying over and down into WH Wood.
In Sparrow's Nest at the top, near the steps a Firecrest (also 4th of the day!) showed very well briefly and in the trees and bushes at the top of the bowling green a Redwing perched up briefly.  
In Arnold's Walk, a Goldcrest, surprisingly a rare sight this autumn flew south over the path near the apple tree.
Back at the Oval on the grass in the south-west corner a female Green Woodpecker flew out and spent some time probing the lawn here.

Monday, 21 December 2009

A Surreal Experience!

I never thought I'd encounter wildlife whilst opening up the laptop computer and especially not during a cold snap in winter, but when I did so tonight, at 5.50pm, I encountered a 10 spot Ladybird perched on the keyboard, complete with yellow legs! I'll post a photo of it soon. The Ladybird was released unharmed into the conservatory.
UPDATE 6/1/10- The ladybird was seen again in the Lounge & having measured it and downloaded an ID chart of native & non native Ladybirds from the British ladybird Society website I can now correct my initial mis-identification the ladybird has a domed appearance, it is 8mm long and has 18 spots on its orange wings. It is the dreaded Harlequin, an invader from Asia and most unwelcome to these shores & our house!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Garden Visitors

With renewed snow overnight, the garden was a looking a picture carpeted with a blanket of 4 inches of snow. A lone Song Thrush (a bit of a garden rarity sadly these days) perched briefly in the left-hand tree before being chased off by 1 of 4 Blackbirds present. The Robin was feeding on the seed I'd just put out and this was also appreciated by a Dunnock and up to 4 Wood Pigeon. A Blue Tit also paid a quick visit but the 4 Great tits & Greenfinch preferred to use the seed feeder hanging from the tree.
A Magpie quickly took advantage of the bread put out on the bird table.
At 9.05am a small party of 4 Snipe flew low west over the garden and 1 peeled off and appeared to land in the corner of the garden nearest the conservatory. I failed to see the bird on the deck it must have flown off shortly afterwards, but it's footprints in the snow confirmed it had landed, albeit briefly.
This species has been much anticipated (especially in this hard weather) for the garden and is a very welcome garden tick).

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Minsmere Quest

A longer journey than usual to Minsmere in order to purchase the latest Suffolk Bird Report resulted in me having to park before the hill at Scolts Hall. Because all the snow and compacted ice provided no grip so ever going uphill. On the ensuing walk I heard the "peuuu" calls of at least 2 Bullfinch and on the feeders briefly was a fine Marsh Tit.
I was pleased to have 2 of my pictures published in the report the Wangford Waxwing (Dec 2008) and the 1st winter Glaucous Gull (Gorleston harbour March 2008 to view the pics go to those months reports from last year).
Having purchased the report, I saw the Marsh Tit all to briefly again and a charming picture of 2 Rabbits huddling together in the snow but sadly they parted when I got the camera out.
Having to take the road to eastbridge avoiding the entrance hill on the way back I was lucky enough to see 3 Bullfinches 2 magnificent males and a female fly from the roadside hedge as I drove by.
In Blythburgh village, a redwing fed by the side of the road until I stopped and it sadly flew. Slightly more obliging was a Marsh Tit that was seen in a small copse of trees opposite.
In the field opposite Pontins at Pakefield 4 Snipe could be seen amongst a few Lapwing there.

A Festive Feast!

Early morning in the garden was for once a hive of activity, the hard weather, 2cm of snow on the ground had pushed the birds into the garden with up to 5 Great Tit, 2 Blue Tit on the feeders, a Robin, brief visits by a Jay & Green Woodpecker that perched in the central tree of the garden.
A Dunnock, a Chaffinch and a Greenfinch were also present from time to time, but they were all flushed by a magnificent male Sparrowhawk who sat in the right tree for several minutes attracted by the melee.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Several hundred Geese & Plovers A-Flocking!

First of all apologies everyone for the lack of updates for the past 2 weeks.This is not because I've given up birding or indeed not seen anything (which is the case around lowestoft recently!) We've been without the internet, because of firstly problems with the line and then our router gave up the ghost.
On Tuesday 8th December I visited Horsey in my lunchbreak following work at Martham library, and I saw up to 500 Pink- footed Geese in the field opposite the windmill.
On Tuesday 15th December, back at Horsey again, most of the Geese were gone but there were 8 Pink- footed geese quite close to the road opposite the windmill. By carefully driving to the edge of the field using the car as a hide, I managed to get some OK pictures of them.
Incredibly, by Walnut farm at Waxham, I counted at least 400 golden Plover in the one field here together with 150 or so Lapwing. just north of there I saw an incredible 300+ Golden plover flying north, like a golden haze of birds in flight. So together with the ones still in the field I'd just seen well over 700+ Golden Plover!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Bark at the Moon!

On this clear almost full moonlit night from 10.20 to at least 10.30pm, we could clearly hear the shriek of the "vixen's scream" of a Fox from the back garden. The shriek of a vixen Red Fox was calling regularly and loudly from an area barely 200 yards away and I would say it was coming from the direction of Parkhill Hotel grounds. The shriek could be heard every 8 -10 seconds. I have only heard this shriek before called so regularly in summer at Fisher Row when the mother vixen Fox was calling her wandering cubs to her side in the woodland there. These calls to me, at this time of the year ie. December- February period clearly indicates that the local Foxes are in season and about to start their breeding season and maybe she is calling for her mate? 

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Pink- feet

Just before 10am 2 small skeins of Pink- footed geese flew south- west (c25) & noth-west (c15)
over Martham Library.

Monday, 30 November 2009

Hybrid Hoodie

A look at the sea this lunchtime from Baker's Score off Corton was very disappointing despite the long hoped for Northerly winds with absolutely nothing moving during the 15 minute observation.
As I was driving to work along the coast road between Corton & Hopton, I noticed a small group of Carrion Crows feeding near the roadside in the Corton M.O.D. field and one of them was a hybrid Hooded Crow X Carrion Crow which fed face on showing a black throat/ bib and dark grey breast the back was virtually black and I estimated that the bird was about 1/4 Hoodie, 3/4 Carrion Crow.
Pictured is a pure Hooded Crow from Lesvos.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Stately Cranes

Whilst working in Broadland today, I was fortunate to firstly hear and see around 35 Pink- footed geese flying over Martham Library in a "V" formation flying south west. I spent half of my lunchbreak looking for Cranes and was spectacularly successful when firstly,  I saw 3 flying south over Brograve Farm and then even better nearby I saw an incredible flock of 16 Cranes standing in a field, not far from the road.
I parked and watched them (being very careful to stay within my car) from the side of the track as they walked and fed but something spooked them and all 16 flew off in a south- westerly direction.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Ringing Recovery 3XA9

I've just had an E-mail back from Renaud F from Brussels in Belgium, who originally ringed the adult Mediterranean Gull I saw on the Link's road car park at Lowestoft on 15th November this year. The bird had a green ring on it's right leg with the white lettering 3XA9 on it.
This is the second time I have seen this bird, having previously seen it at the same site on 28 December 2007.
Renaud originally ringed the bird as a 3rd calendar year bird on 17th May 2004 at Noordelijk Insteedkdok, Oost-Vlaanderen, Belgium where apart from deviating to Calais (Aug 2004) and Antwerp (April 2006) it has commuted regularly between Noordelijk Insteedkdok (generally summer months) & Lowestoft (generally winter months).
The bird has now therefore reached the grand old age of 8 years old!
Ringing is vital in tracking the movements of birds, increasing our understanding of their movements and leading hopefully to better conservation of the species and the habitats they require.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Get well soon Ronnie

I was due to see Ronnie James Dio (legendary ex- singer of Rainbow) in concert at the HMV Forum (the old Town & Country Club) this coming Tuesday 24th November.
Ronnie James Dio is one of the best ever vocalists in rock, he always puts his heart and soul into his performance and I have been lucky enough to have seen him 10X live in concert, all great shows.
Sadly the concert, and indeed the whole tour, has been abruptly cancelled due to Ronnie being "hospitalised"
Get well soon Ronnie & very best wishes for a speedy recovery.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Lean Pickings

Having a day off work today, I started at Ness Point where 4 Purple Sandpipers fed, bathed and had forty winks on the rocks at the base of the "finger" that juts out to sea. Always nice to see, I was amazed to see 2 birdwatchers just walk past without even looking!
Even though there was a strong southerly breeze nothing was moving out to sea. Finally 5 Turnstones flew in.
In the parks, a Grey Wagtail was seen briefly perched on the main path in Arnold's walk before it flew down to the stream where it perched for a while on a rock. I then saw "chatty" Paul from Norwich (who wanted to see a Firecrest, should have been here last Sunday, Paul!) and we then made our way through Sparrow's Nest (1 Goldcrest seen) , Flycatcher Alley, N.Denes, Links rd car park, North Beach, Warren House Wood & Gunton Warren seeing just a few flocks of Long- tailed Tits, Blue & Great Tits, 2 Jays north of Warren House Wood. The Gull flock on the Links rd carpark comprised Black- headed gulls, Common & 2 Herring Gulls but nothing else.
Walking back past the Oval along Flycatcher Alley we spied through the wall a close female Green Woodpecker feeding amongst the tussocky grass.
Back in Sparrow's Nest, Goldcrests were heard and several Chaffinches were seen.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Fieldfare Overhead

An early morning Fieldfare overflying the front garden gave it's presence away by its distinctive "chackling" call, it was flying in a north- westerly direction.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Firecrest bonanza

The calm after yesterday's storm initially didn't seem too promising for migrants around Lowestoft today.
Little was seen at Ness Point, but there was a Purple Sandpiper feeding amongst the rocks just north of the point (on the seaweed encrusted wreck of the sea wall.
Checking the parks a lot of common birds were seen in Arnold's Walk, Great & Blue Tits, Robin etc.
At the top of Sparrow's Nest, in the holly by the steps leading down to the Museum, an excellent Firecrest was seen twice. I heard the melancholy call of a Bullfinch and a female settled & perched right at the top of one of the trees before flying west inland. A Jay was also seen.
More Firecrests were seen in Belle Vue Park along the northern path, half way between the bridge and the north- west entrance another Firecrest was seen in the holly bordering the ravine, 2 Goldcrests also flew in here and another Firecrest called in the Holm Oaks behind me.
Behind the Oval, another Jay was seen. Whilst walking past the north- west corner of the Oval and out onto the Denes, incredibly another Firecrest, the 4th of the day, flew into the bramble and remained faithful to this area.
Meanwhile, a chap flying a gyrocopter flew over. Then 3 calling dark- bellied immature Brent Geese flew over (1 had an odd looking bill were they the same 3 Brents seen on Breydon south wall earlier in the month?) and circled over the North Denes 4X,  looking as if they wanted to land, but dog walkers appeared to put them off and the Brents flew off south. 
A final check of the Links Road car park revealed around 70 Black- headed Gulls, 2 Common Gull and an adult winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull but suddenly the flock was flushed deliberately by a young boy, they all flew towards the sea. The adult Med was on the beach with 4 Black- headed Gulls, but again these were flushed by dog walkers.
Fortunately the gulls perched on the groynes, the adult Mediterranean Gull was ringed  on it's right leg with a green ring and the white letters 3XA9 and on the left a smaller silver ring. It was the same bird I had seen on Links road almost 2 years ago in Dec 2007.
This bird I knew from contacting the ringers, was a bird that had originally been ringed 9 years earlier in Belgium. The bird has been commuting between France/ Belgium and Lowestoft for the last few years and it was back again!
This bird then flew back to the Links road car park where it showed well.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Single Snow

Up with the Lark or should I say Bunting, this morning. There was sadly no sign of the Little Auk on the sea off Gunton Warren, although a nice adult Kittiwake perched on the end of the groyne. On Links Rd car park, Herring Gull, 2 Common Gulls and about 20 Black- headed Gulls were around the puddles. On the North Denes a tall clump of Mushrooms/ Toadstools were seen near the car park.
As I was walking back to the car park, a serving member of the Norfolk Rarities committee was trying to stalk something (not very successfully!) along the northern edge of the car park and from within 30 yards he flushed a single very white, probably male Snow Bunting which flew away north- east over the edge of the car park and out of sight over the eastern end of Links Road.
Very little at Ness Point this afternoon save for an obliging Herring Gull on the sea defence rocks south of the compass. 14 Turnstones were on the edge of Hamilton Dock too.


Saturday, 7 November 2009

Late Autumn Treat

Hearing of a couple of Shore Lark on Kessingland Beach this afternoon, I drove to the end of Rider Haggard Lane and walking right at the end I took the steps down the cliff and made my way north along the beach where I could see 4 people hopefully watching the birds, Ricky F & Carl B were nearer and literally had 12 Snow Buntings flying around their feet!
They were indeed watching the excellent Shore Larks, one bird was more brightly marked than the other. They feed on a dried muddy area for a while before some walkers pushed them onto the shingle reach nearby. 
I slowly crawled closer and could see Chris M & Peter N watching from further away, I managed to edge a little closer to the edge of the watery pool area and took a few pictures. The birds fed constantly and when 5 Pied Wagtails flew in they sat and crouched low in the shingle. As I was there the Snow Buntings flew in very close and fed from the water giving close views. 
I took more shots of the Shore Larks as Paul R strolled along with his dog and as I moved away carefully the birds were still feeding on the shingle ridge.
Paul informed that he had just spoken to Andrew E and the Little Auk was still on the sea off Links Rd, Lowestoft. John H had kindly sent me a text earlier to say there was one there, thanks John.
I drove swiftly to the Links road car park and after an initial scan I couldn't see any sign of the Little Auk, but I could see a little group of people on the beach gathered together by the second groyne north of Links road. Always a good sign of a good bird nearby.
Seeing Andrew E & Roger C amongst them it was obvious that the Little Auk was still there close on the sea just slightly left of the groyne. Although the light was fading fast I ran off a few shots of this excellent Arctic wanderer, no not Roger, the Little Auk!
The film ISO sadly had to be 1600 rather than my usual 400 (so there will be a lot of noise on the film) because of the fading light but some shots are better than none at all. 
A final late afternoon treat for the day!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Dusky Warbler

I caught up with the Dusky warbler this morning, found by Nick B earlier in the week.
It apparently ranges widely, but it seems to have settled down between Warren House Wood and the the Holm Oak copse just north of there. I saw it looking from the Pillbox towards the Birch & Sycamore trees just west of there. It was tacking regularly around 10.15am and showed briefly in the trees there where I managed this record shot. 
I had earlier seen a male Dartford singing from the top of the ridge in the usual area.
Brucie bonus was the calling of 3 Whooper Swans which I saw flying east over the warren.
A Firecrest was heard but not seen. Some Lesser Redpolls and a Siskin flew in off.
Later that day driving to Martham for a talk, as the light was fading I saw the usual Ormesby St. Margaret Wood Common Buzzard was having a very late fly around low over the fields just west of the main road.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Tawny Owls

Driving back from Walberswick village this evening, after I had given a talk to the Local History Group, I saw a Tawny Owl sitting in a tree (10.10pm) bordering the road back from the village highlighted in my headlights, it sat in a small clump of trees on the south side of the road bordering the pig fields. The Owl flew back as I drove by.
Also on the previous Wednesday 28th October evening I saw a Tawny Owl fly across the road at Somerleyton again (9.15pm) returning from a talk I had just given to a Ladies group at Loddon.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Radde's Warbler 0 Brent Geese 3

Early on Friday morning before work I joined a small throng of birders at the southern end of Arnold's Walk, hoping for a repeat showing from a Radde's Warbler that had been found the day before by local birder Robert Win. This is a rare bird from Central Asia & a super find and all credit to Robert who regularly works this patch and I know this is one of his favourite birds. They have a reputation of being very elusive and sadly for us latecomers, it lived up to it's reputation because we didn't see it!
At work, I had a very welcome interruption early on in my lunchbreak, to help Peter A use the Ancestry website. Peter is a well known & respected local birder who must hold the record for the most number of rare finds (just yesterday he'd seen a Richard's Pipit fly over at Breydon!) and maximum flock counts on Breydon Water and he has found many first ever records of various waders for Norfolk on his local patch.
Peter told me of some very confiding Brent Geese that he had just seen on the south side of Breydon water.
I decided to use the rest of my lunch break to have a quick half hour look for them. So taking the turn past the Rugby pitch, I parked at the small car park and walked right up to the southern shore of Breydon.  Just 200 yards north I could see all 3 immature Brent Geese feeding quite close by the water's edge and amongst the rocks. All three had 3 indistinct white wing bars and an almost incompltete white neck collar proving they were immature birds. They were very confiding and they then swam slowly left, 2 birds taking the lead and a third bird following then about 10 meters behind. This third bird had a different shaped bill with the tip of the upper mandible dropping at a sharp angle. Causing a sharp triangular bill shape, very odd compared to the usual delicate bill!
All three birds swam around the water's edge and fed amongst the seaweed encrusted rocks.
The whole period of observation was very neatly "shoe horned" into the final half hour of my lunchbreak and I was pleased with the photos that I obtained.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Dartford Delight

Having a rare morning Time off in lieu from work (because I am working this Saturday) I heard and saw a calling Siskin flew low over the house, sadly it didn't drop into the back garden as hoped.
On a local heath, a couple of calling Siskins also flew over and near the cleared area, I soon heard the distinctive scratchy "churr" of a male Dartford Warbler that would frequently forage in the undergrowth before perching high on the top of small bushes and small trees. It did a wide circuit around the area showing occasionally, it's distinctive call often revealing its presence. A lovely bird, but it would always frustratingly show looking directly into the sun. At the local stream, I heard the screech of a Water Rail and as I approached the stream a Water Rail ran off into the mass of Japanese knotweed, spooked by a father and daughter walking by.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Warren Lane Dip (Again!)

Warren Lane borders the golf course on the cliffs between Gorleston & Hopton is lined with bushes either side and is obviously a very good habitat to view migrants. I have twitched several birds here, but I continued my unenviable record of having seen absolutely nothing there, and on a brief lunchtime visit I missed out on both a Pallas' Warbler and 2 Yellow- browed Warblers. 
Warren Lane successes 0 (0%) and dips 7 (100%)

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Corton ORT was a little quieter today with 3 Lesser Redpolls seen briefly perched on the tree just west of the feeding station. It was sunnier and windier than yesterday. Green Woodpecker seen by the boardwalk with 2 Common Darters, both males by the pool and 10 Stock Dove on the fields just west of the path. Other observers seen hoping for a repeat of yesterday included Richard S, Peter N, the guy who found the Lound garden centre RB Shrike and one very, very lucky birder who had twitched the S. Shields Eastern Crowned Warbler. That had since disappeared, hopefully to be refound closer to home?
By the Old Sewage works, a worn Red Admiral showed well.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Alive with Birds!

A visit to my local patch around the Corton Old rail track area in the early afternoon (adjacent to the New Sewage works) was very productive, it was quite simply full of flocks of birds passing by. A fair south-east wind interspersed with a few light rain showers, kept the birds on the move. At the end of the stand of trees in the middle of the track a tree was full of at least 15 Chaffinches, Blue & Great Tits, screeching Jays, several Goldcrest and 1 calling Firecrest.
Walking past the feeding station area, 2 Bramblings flew from the Alder trees and perched high in a tall tree. Lots of Tits, Blue & Great were feeding on the seed maize provided. Waves of Long- tailed Tits were also flying past too. A female Sparrowhawk darted past, whilst an amazing flock of 18 Brambling flew past directly overhead heading south. Meeting Jeremy G we looked in the Sallow belt of trees with initially little success but as I made my sole way back to the feeding station, another wave of birds was travelling right through the far southern hedge just behind the feeding station. Mostly Tits, I then spotted a small warbler at 2.20pm which perched up briefly on a branch, it was the excellent Yellow- browed Warbler complete with thick cream supercilia and 2 cream wing bars before it too flew off right. Another Brambling perched up in the fence briefly too. In the rush to retrieve Jeremy, I unfortunately tore my trousers on the wire fence (!), but we saw the Yellow- browed Warbler fly calling to the Sallows but it was quickly lost too view.
The south-east wind was strengthening and rain started to fall so I decided to beat a hasty retreat and go home and for decency reasons change my trousers which were a little too aerated for my liking!! 
Back home, earlier in the day, I had witnessed a Jay fly into the garden and perch briefly on the garage roof and a Jackdaw perched in our middle tree.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Shingle Street Wheatear

Suffolk's Purple Patch continued with an appearance of the rare immature female Pied Wheatear on Shingle Street beach on Monday 19th October. Andrew E & I drove down to the site that afternoon and I was very impressed with the excellent habitat, an area I had never been to before (but I shall certainly visit again). Just south of the Martello tower, the immature female Pied Wheatear was seen perched on the fence just yards from it's admiring observers. It flew onto the beach and then flew down the central strip of the beach flying onto convenient perches such as bits of twig (just a foot of the ground) or Sea Kale.
It flew down to feed off insects on the beach even flying around in a figure of 8 to catch one particularly Houdini type insect! I decided to sit down carefully at one spot and my patience was eventually rewarded with views down to 18 feet at one point if even flew towards me and settled just 4 feet away, sadly totally obscured by Sea Kale.
I gave up taking pictures of the bird, when a certain well known bird photographer (the same one who had flushed the Ortolan back in September at Corton) started to walk up to the bird and push it further along the beach.
The bird showed it's characteristic long dagger shaped white outer tail feathers which were seen well when it fanned it's tail to balance in the brisk wind.

Minsmere Bluetail

My return from Scilly had me driving straight to Minsmere RSPB in the hope of seeing an immature 1st winter female Red- flanked Bluetail that had taken up temporary residence in the Sluice Bushes just south of the reserve. My walk down was briefly distracted by a doe Red Deer that was feeding exceptionally close in the woods by the track just west of the Reserve centre.
The bird was being seen occasionally flitting around deep in the Sluice bushes and my Scilly companion Andrew H (no aspertions on Andrew who is an excellent bloke and ace birder who has found Pallas' Warbler on Scilly in 2007.) and Carl B and his brother Barry (a rarer sighting than the Bluetail these days!) were also there. The Bluetail was exceptionally elusive flitting around on the floor, occasionally fling up to a perch for a milli- second before flying elsewhere.
However there was a 40 minute period where we were seeing it every 5 minutes albeit brief views and through the vegetation but the orange flanks, blue-tail, eye-ring and white throat were all collectively seen during these sightings.  
Standing on the outside of the bush on the western side for an hour I had one tantalising brief sighting where I just failed to get a close photograph it, it had already flown by the time I had pressed the shutter button!
Walking back elated, I saw a young Water Rail walking past a pool in the former Konik field and walking past the South Scrape a birder informed me a Glossy Ibis was with Lapwing on a distant island. Sure enough I saw it standing there facing right before it shortly after decided to promptly fly south at 5.30pm.

Mega Shrike!

On our return journey from Scilly, we had to drive past the village of Stanwell and the hot news was that a Brown Shrike, a species normally seen in Eastern Asia (I'd seen them in China way back in 1999) had taken up residence on Staines Moor next door to Heathrow Airport!
Dawn on Sunday 18th October saw us walking down the lane to the Common, where we viewed a scattering of bushes across a river. We saw a Franco there a well known local birder, so named because he looks just like the Spanish dictator! He was exceptionally helpful in putting us onto the bird which had just emerged out of roost of a particularly large bush and all we could see was it's face peering out of the Rosehips near the top of the bush. It then hopped up into view and started to feed flying from bush to bush giving good but mid- distance views. (Apologies for the poor image quality)
The bird looked very brown backed (much browner than on Red- backed Shrike), with a thick black face mask seen behind the eye, the primaries of the bird were an even darker brown
We also saw flocks of 5 plus 17 Ring- necked Parakeets flying overhead also coming out of roost.

Scilly 2009

I have just spent a week (Sat 10 to Sat 17 October) on Scilly. These are an archipelago of islands situated just south- west of Penzance in Cornwall. Their position in the Atlantic make them well situated to receive a multitude of migrants from Europe, Africa, Asia and even from America given the right weather conditions.
Sadly for migration enthusiasts, the weather was warm, sunny and positively balmy (people were even sunbathing on the beach in the hot sun) and with definitely no howling gales and weather fronts to push the birds over to Scilly.
Birders flock there usually during the middle 2 weeks of October in the hope of finding rare birds particularly rare vagrants blown off course and making landfall on these hallowed islands. 
The regular team of John H, Andrew H, Tim H were augmented by the very welcome return of JP and his friend Alan. Terry T, our usual cohort on this trip sadly had to miss this year due to work commitments. We hope to welcome Terry back next year.
Our trip got off to a good start with a siting of 2 Choughs flying over high seacliffs at the end of one off the Cornish valleys, a Clouded Yellow butterfly flying over the same field. A Snow Bunting seen at the edge of a field bordering the airfield also sealed the good start.
However, this year's Scilly was sadly devoid of mega- rarities the first time we had failed to see any on Scilly during my decade of observations there.
Highlights for me were not the birds but a fish; a magnificent young Basking Shark fishing just off shore off Tolman Point and a Cetacean; an equally resplendant Minke Whale that was breach feeding again just offshore off Deep Point. The balmy weather conditions was ideal for viewing these marine creatures.
Avian highlights were in very short supply indeed compared to the 9 previous years; but included a very obliging Radde's Warbler seen at close range, a Little Bunting, an immature Rose- coloured Starling, a Wryneck, 2 Yellow- browed Warblers, 3 Jack Snipe, a flock of 10 Whooper Swan which swam right in front of the hides at Porthellick Pool, a juvenile Arctic Tern, 4 distant Spoonbill in flight and a very confiding Pied Flycatcher.
Migrant butterflies and moths were completely non- existant with no Clouded Yellows or Hummingbird Hawk Moths or anything rarer in the Lepidoptera front seen at all, disappointing.
Worst part of the holiday was inadvertently flushing an excellent find; a bird that flew off, a pale sandy brown colour with a weird call, a probable Short- toed Lark that flew from the middle of a grassy field (I didn't see enough to clinch the ID) that flew down to the Dump Clump from the Penninis Farm trail I didn't see it again despite me frantically trying to relocate it!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

An Eruption of Beardies

Visiting Walberswick this morning (time off work for 50 hr week a few weeks ago), my plans were initially hampered because the Environment Agency had closed the footpath from Hoist Covert wood to Dingle Hill.
Choosing a non-restricted track, I finally managed to reach the reedbed and it was immediately apparent that there were a lot of Bearded Tits about, my intended quarry.
Pictures were more distant than I would have liked, because the closed footpaths by Hoist Covert Mill and Dingle Hills area are their most favoured areas.
There were some adults, including a few males, were seen but these were outnumbered by a myriad of immature birds. Some were even on the path ahead but soon flew to adjacent reeds calling their wonderful "tping, tping" call as they dispersed. They disappeared deep into the reedbed when fleeing a quartering female Marsh Harrier flew overhead and looking for a Bearded Tit snack.
Eruptive flocks of 8 to 40+ were seen literally everywhere in the reedbed, on the path and flying overhead, a wonderful sight!
Autumn is always a good time to look for Bearded Tits, or should I call them Bearded Reedling, especially if they have had a good breeding season, which evidently they have this year.
If you want to see Bearded Tits I would suggest going to Minsmere where they are currently showing well there.


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

First Geese of the Autumn

At around 3.45pm today, a skein of 30 Pink- footed Geese, flew in classic "V" formation flying North, calling their classic "ang-ank" calls as they passed over Martham Library in the direction of Heigham Holmes and the West Somerton/ Horsey area.

Monday, 5 October 2009


A visit to Southwold Town marshes on Sunday afternoon, looking over the marshes from the entrance to the Golf Club was ultimately unsuccessful as the hoped for Glossy Ibis had flown off 20 minutes earlier. Dick W & Roy H from Beccles were already there but had also just missed the bird.
No wonder since loads of walkers were crossing the marshes. A Cetti's Warbler sang it's explosive song from a nearby bush and calling a soft "tchik" it flew across the road showing it's distinctive rustic brown upperparts and paddle shaped tail as it dived deep into a bush right in front of us and out of sight.
A visit to Southwold Churchyard nearby was for once devoid of migrant birds. A very tame young Blackbird perched on a hedge nearby showed down to a foot. It appeared quite scruffy as the feathering on it's nape was almost bare and it sadly had 2 ticks attached like Limpits to the side of it's neck, 1 large one and 1 small one. Their size equates to the amount of blood they have sucked out of their unfortunate host and eventually they become so big that they fall off, severely and often fatally weakening the host. So I don't hold out much hope for this young Blackbird's prospects sadly. 

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Last in Line

Having to work yet again, (I've worked over 50 hours this week for the Norfolk Library Service), this Saturday, I cast regular envious glances of news on my mobile of the excellent seabird passage passing north off the North sea off Ness Point today.
Finally finishing work today at 4 by 4.20pm I had joined Andrew E and the chairman of the Lowestoft Bird Club, Derek B at Ness Point and we saw several Gannets, 21 flying North, (a mixture of adults and subadults and immatures) the biggest group a trio that flew by. 
4 Red- throated Divers flew past, 3 North and 1 South.
After Derek had left at around 4.40 the ever sharp Andrew spotted an excellent Great Skua, (colloqually known as Bonxie because of its habit of dive bombing intruders on their breeding grounds! of which I was a victim once on the remote island of Unst; one of the Shetland islands; when I tried to cross the edge of a colony of Bonxies in August, after they had finished breeding, This was in order to reach a viewpoint to look for "Albert", a rare Black- browed Albatross. I didn't make it as the Bonxies well and truly saw me off!) this Bonxie was typically bulky, broad-winged with white wing flashes and brown flying way out on the horizon flying north up above the horizon and then dipping below again and so on. 
This was the last, 36th Bonxie that Andrew had seen today at Ness Point and was pleased I'd seen the last of today's passage of Bonxies off Lowestoft Ness Point.

I fervently hope the title of this blog doesn't apply to the rarest bird I have ever seen.
Of grave concern regarding World Bird News, is the plight of the critically endangered Northern Bald Ibis, there are few colonies in the world and specifically there is a small group of just 4 individuals, which I believe are resident in Syria, I have been very lucky and extremely fortunate to have seen these wonderful birds myself in Morocco. I heard the very distressing news that an immature bird has been recently found shot on migration in Saudia Arabia.
We must not let this wonderful bird (or indeed any other species die out), without them the world would be a much poorer place.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Garden Birds

The first of the garden birds to make itself heard was the loud "kewick" call of a Tawny Owl that must have been in/ flying over the Close or the road opposite this morning at 12.30am.
Long-tailed Tits and Great Tits were in the garden around 8.30pm and the grey back was noted on a male Sparrowhawk that darted down the Close and swooped down the side of our next door neighbours sparking several Long-tailed Tit alarm calls.
In the late afternoon the "ticking" Robin was again in the garden.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Trio of Ibis' & Waveney Forest reprieve

A return visit to the RSPB Boyton Marshes reserve this afternoon in the hope of better Ibis shots, met with the same problem. Instead of 1 Glossy Ibis there were now 3. But they remained feeding the entire time on the right hand flash, always in the sunlight and despite them flying down to the western end of the flash and then feeding right in front of the gate only silhouetted images were obtained.
The picture seen beside this text was of the original bird taken on the 20th September.
An overflying female Marsh Harrier caught the attention of all 3 Ibis who abruptly stopped feeding and kept a vigilant eye on it as the Harrier flew over!
Also I am overjoyed to hear that the gravel pit extraction application (the online petition I signed to the Prime Minister and my letter to Michael Jackson, no not the late singer! He is the director of Planning at Norfolk County Council, I'm sure helped the cause!) has been rejected and Waveney Forest will remain a thrilling place (pun intended) for the many people and of the course the special wildlife that inhabit the area. Hurrah!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Ortolan Photoshoot!

Visiting Corton Old Sewage works track (early morning before work it wasn't initially on show, 20 House Martins flew south though) after work, I couldn't see the bird along the track, a pleasant diversion was a Grey wagtail calling and flying over in a westerly direction and I walked round to the south- east corner where I saw another birder. Apparently the Bunting had been sitting in the bush mid afternoon, but it hadn't been seen for several hours. Walking back along the path, another birder accidently flushed a bird which flew to the Sewage works fence, it was the Ortolan. It perched on the fence for 10 minutes before eventually flying down to the track 100 yards east of the old sewage bed and it fed intently from the side of the path. I and another birder slowly using our well honed fieldcraft techniques; we crouched and crawled like Army Commandos (!) and got within 12 feet of the bird via a roundabout route from the field to the North side. The Ortolan Bunting was very confiding and perfectly intent to carry on feeding and I fired shot after shot after shot (a perfect distance but a slight pity the bird was in the shade though) until I slowly crawled back. The bird still contently feeding and I was even able to show a newly arrived Dave W (who'd driven all the way up from Ipswich) exactly where it was. I'm very glad that I did so because literally a minute later (so Dave W recounted when he kindly phoned later to thank me), an inconsiderate car driver (not a birder or well known bird photographer!!) drove down the track and flushed the bird into the field.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Ortolan (Wheatear & Firecrest!)

Bright and early at 7.10am this morning, I was looking along the track 50 yards past Corton Old Sewage works, when I saw the excellent Ortolan Bunting along the path it flew to the field to the left then in the company of Meadow Pipits it flew again onto the path. As it flew it called a soft distinctive "quip" call. early morning about 60 Swallows flew North over the old Sewage plant. A Wheatear also hopped down the path, totally oblivious to me as it passed within 10 feet of me!
I then stalked the Ortolan very carefully down to about 18 feet and watched it as it fed by the side of the track on the edge of the field hopping in and out of the weedy edge of the field. I was then joined later by Clive N who managed to get a few shots of this lovely bird. After the bird hadn't been seen for a while we walked back but sadly the bird had been on the track all along and it flew calling once as it perched on the bushes behind the old sewage works.
I then walked down the Corton Old Rail Track and by the trees of the central track I heard the distinctive "wheezing" call of a Firecrest, I then very briefly saw it in the bushes to the right of the track before it quickly flitted out of view.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Highs & Lows

Sunday the 21st September was certainly a day of highs and lows. An early morning drive to the excellent RSPB Boyton Marshes reserve was quickly rewarded with good views of the immature Glossy Ibis (High no.1) . It was on the flash initially to the right of the path and Rob H & I took the well trodden path through the reeds and photographed the birds down to 40 feet the only problem was it was mostly silhouetted against the sun and the bright water. The Ibis fed on snails and at least 1 Frog. Initially it loosely associated with a pair of Mute Swans becoming more independent as it fed closer and closer. It then abruptly took flight and flew right over us grumbling a croak as it flew over. As we were watching the Ibis here, we heard the distinctive "chup chup" calls of Crossbills and 3 Crossbills flew North then finally a singleton Crossbill flew North also.
Sadly, the Ibis had settled at right at the back of the left hand flash but it soon flew over and fed closer to us in good light before it flew back to it's original feeding area.
On looking at my mobile phone, I realised I had missed a message about an Ortolan (Low no.1) seen at Corton. Driving straight back I reached the fields around the old Sewage works area and I was informed that it had been seen just 5 minutes ago, but it did not reappear (Low no.2) 
It had been flushed by a well known photographer who did at least have the decency to apologise for his indiscretion. Apology accepted.
Driving to Winterton I took a walk down the valley just 200 yards beyond (south) of Hermaness, a few Oak trees stood in a cluster by a few other trees and a big gorse bush.
Looking at the base of the Gorse bush the flitting shadows quickly revealed a superb split second view of an immature Red- breasted Flycatcher (High no.2). walking around the side of this clump by the main path, I decided to do my own thing and not follow the crowd but try and pick up the bird myself. I was seeing quick darting shapes of the bird, but it was also calling it's soft rattling "tchik-tchik-tchik-tchik" trill fairly regularly and I was soon regualrly able to pick out the bird through the foliage sometimes getting really good brief views and even some good pics too (High no.3). It flicked out into the open very occasionally preferring to show in the foliage of the tree. A Wheatear was seen near Winterton car park.
Having just returned home, I had a message from Rob W that the Ortolan was showing well down to 12 feet and I raced out of the door and parked by the old Sewage work and raced down the path and south along the cliff top path to roughly half way down the stubble field where a small crowd of 5 were watching the bird feeding in one of the 2 big furrows,
Rob W kindly let me have a good look through his scope and I finally saw this superb Ortolan Bunting (High no. 4) feeding and then hopping down the furrow before finally crossing left into some dense stubble, it didn't come out so presumably it had  gone to roost.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Ibis Magic

Following on from working this afternoon. I heard news of 3 Glossy Ibis at modern day Caister St. Edmund (Norfolk), this was particularly appealing to me, because of my great interest in both birds/ wildlife and history. Caister St. Edmund was the old Roman Fort site of Venta Icenorium which literally means City of the Iceni people, because following the Boudiccan revolt against Roman rule in the 7th century AD by Boudicca the Romans cracked down very hard on the native rebellious Celtic tribes including Boudicca's people the Iceni who lived in the area now called Norfolk & North Suffolk. They raised to the ground this city of the Iceni people and built a Roman fort in it's place.
History lesson over, I parked in the car park at the ancient site and joined Johnny B & Neil M in a search for the Ibis' which had been seen around the river just north west of the fort. Seeing other birders in this area including Lee G we were informed that had flow west a few hundred yards appearing to land neat the mill at Stoke Holy Cross.
Following Lee's car we drove west, parked just past the Mill and walked 1/2 a mile towards Dunston (following a positive sighting of one of the birds). Overlooking a cattle field with the river bordering the field edge, we suddenly saw an excellent Glossy Ibis flying up onto a heap of straw. A large heron-like bird with dark purple- brown plumage white flecking on the head and upper neck showing along down curved bill. It spent a bit of time asleep before preening and then jumping down in to the river and out of sight.
We heard a shout down the road and we walked a few hundred yards to witness the amazing sight of 3 Glossy Ibis (the one we had just been watching had flow in to join the initial 2 here) standing and feeding on the south side of the river in the company of a Grey Heron. One Ibis sported a yellow ring on it's right leg. After a few minutes all 3 Ibis one after another flew over to our side of the river but sadly out of sight.

Local patch

Friday morning (18 Sept) birding on my local patch (well earned time off from work after working several late nights) kicked off with a 1/2 hour seawatch off Ness Point. The wind was now blowing due East and I was rewarded with sighting of over 100 Gannets flying north in small groups.
At about 8.40am, I saw a small skua flying North way out to sea on virtually on the horizon.
It was slim bodied, with slim pointed wings and a "cold" grey-brown appearance it flew quickly North and sometimes bounced up and down almost tern-like flight, this was probably an immature Long- tailed Skua but sadly a little too far out to sea to say for certain.
Much easier to identify was a flock of 8 Common Scoter flying south.
A look around the Bird's Eye net posts revealed 4 Wheatears, always nice to see. It was nice to bump into Jack W (who I'd not seen for a while) just outside the Lighthouse cafe.
The Sparrow's Nest Park and Arnold's walk appeared devoid of migrants. I was pleased to see a Wheatear on the North Denes Oval and a Redstart which flew out of the bushes bordering the North wall to feed on the ground momentarily before darting back into the bushes.
Walking along the North Denes, a Redstart briefly flew out of a shelter bely feeding on the ground briefly before darting back into cover.
Without a doubt the highlight of the day was meeting Don & Gwen near Gunton Beach Dunes, although we didn't see many birds, an overflying lone Sparrowhawk being the sole avian highlight, the time whizzed by as we were entertained by Don's regular humourous quips and asides! 


An hour's seawatch off Corton Cliffs before work this morning (Thurs 17th) at last came alive with a close Great Northern Diver flying North at 8.15am. Five minutes later, an immature Pomarine Skua, initially close in flew out to sea and then settled on the water's surface.
Supporting cast included several Gannet flying North far out to sea.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009


Visiting Corton New sewage works area is always a delight and today was no exception. Late this afternoon, down at the far end of the path overlooking the north edge of a wood bathed in sunshine, I saw James B and together we admired 2 Redstarts that flitted in and out of view perching on bare branches and even feeding from the ploughed field from time to time. Walking back, we saw a Redstart fly into the bush near the metal style and back by the north path bordering the road another Redstart (4 Redstarts seen in total) briefly flew onto a post at very close range but quickly flew off again before I could photograph it!
A seawatch at Ness Point revealed few birds but a close brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise swimming North and surfacing just once just past the jetty at the tip. 

Yarmouth Cemetary

Yarmouth cemetary is like a green oasis in the heart of Yarmouth town being less than a mile from the sea, it is well situated to receive migrants. A lunchtime visit yesterday (Tuesday 15th) revealed few birds due to the gusty North- east wind conditions but I did see a Willow warbler and a calling Pied Flycatcher in some mature trees in the Churchyard area. As well as a few Song Thrushes, about 4 in total zipping from bush to tree.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

North-East Winds

Despite the promising North-east winds very few migrants were seen in Lowestoft this weekend.
At Corton New sewage works, seeing James B we spotted a Common Sandpiper walking rather incongrously on the left hand side of the entrance road to the plant. On the western edge of the works a Whinchat perched briefly on the wire fence before flying down to feed. Avian highlight of the weekend for me!
A trek around the Gunton Old rail track was enlivened by the company of other friends Chris M & Peter K, just as well as I saw no birds of note. Although the other Peter briefly saw a Pied Fly.
A seawatch in the afternoon a look at the weather conditions promised much but inevitably was a let down with an immature Kittiwake and Common Tern the only birds of note during an hours seawatch, with 2 very tame Turnstones running along the ledge in front of me, vying for my attention.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Greenfinch Health Warning

Sadly, I found another very sick looking Greenfinch in the garden today. This is the second bird I have found ailing in the garden (see my earlier blog Greenfinch R.I.P. posted on 6 Aug 2009).
The bird was an adult male looking very lethargic an allowing me a very close approach, it's plumage was scraggy looking puffed up and it appeared to be constantly gasping for air. Exactly the same symptoms I had witnessed in the earlier bird which also showed matted wet plumage around the face and the beak.
Being concerned I investigated on the internet and found out exactly what the problem is.
Looking on the excellent RSPB site they had a page on the Trichomonad parasite that is killing Greenfinches in gardens, apparently the parasite lives in the upper digestive tract of the bird progressively blocking it's oesophagus eventually killing the bird through starvation as the food it tries to digest cannot be swallowed/ digested. 
Nothing can be done sadly to cure the bird.
Apparently the only thing that could be done (according to the RSPB ) was to clear all the finch feeders, disinfect them, clear bird feeding surfaces and not feed the finches for 2 weeks. This is to discourage birds from feeding collectively and therefore pass on the parasite from the infected bird or it's saliva/ excreta to another host.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Rain stops play!

An after work visit in the early evening to the old Corton sewage works site revealed a young Spotted Flycatcher dashing all over the place in the windy conditions. Always nice to see, the Spotted Flycatcher is a declining summer visitor and now more often seen in the local area on migration. It used the same high hedge area that hosted so many Spotted Flycatchers, Pied Flycatchers & Redstarts during the spectacular fall of migrants in the area last September. 
The visit was abruptly curtailed by the sudden onslaught of a rain shower.
Pictured is one of those Spotted Flycatchers from exactly the same spot seen and photographed in September 2008.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

North Denes

A Garden Warbler was seen on a bush along the North Denes slope, whilst on the North Denes itself a Painted Lady flew by. These were the only migrants seen during an early evening walk around the area, yesterday.

Monday, 31 August 2009

B(l)ank Holiday Monday

A walk around the North Denes and the net posts today revealed zero migrant activity (same as the last 2 days for me!) and just the resident birds 5 House Sparrow, Linnet, Magpie and 2 young Pied Wagtails. Not even a Wheatear was seen.
Arnold's Walk was little better save for 3 Song Thrushes in the brambles and up to 4 Migrant Hawker dragonflies. Very disappointing, sadly any migrants seen here are quickly and regularly flushed by the myriad dog walkers which are seen here all the time.
Meanwhile in the garden 2 young Goldfinch and 2 adults are feeding regularly from the Niger seed feeder. The young Goldfinch is pale buff coloured with with black and white feathering looking like overlapping ovals on the undertail coverts.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Very confiding Kestrel

On a walk down to Horsey Beach from the Nelson's Head pub, 2/3 of the way along the track, a juvenile Kestrel posed down incredibly to just 1 foot as it hunted for food in the nearby field.
It would look intently from the fence posts and then fly into the field before flying back to a post. It must have been a recently fledged juvenile from the nest as it didn't seem to catch anything during the period of observation and it didn't hover once either, preferring short flights and then dropping down to the ground. It drew an appreciative crowd, as camera were whipped out and photo's taken of it, in the manner of papparazi photographing celebrities at a film premiere.
Also seen on the walk down was a fine male Emperor Dragonfly. 
On the beach 2 Grey Seals poked the head up out of the water just a few yards from the water's edge.

Daubenton Dip

Last night I attended a very well organised Bat & Moth Night held at the Eels Foot Inn at Ormesby St. Michael and a boat trip out onto the Broad to look for Daubenton's Bats.
The boat trip was preceded by an excellent slide talk about the 16 species of bat seen in the UK delivered by a very knowledgable bat expert.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn't playing ball and what should have been a lovely summer's evening felt more autumnal with a cold wind prevalent. This put paid to seeing very much, the only moths caught included 2 Herbaceous Hebrew Characters but the organisers had caught some moths earlier in true Blue Peter tradition and they showed us ones they'd caught earlier. These included Garden Tiger, Dark Arches and 3 others which I can't recall the names exactly but may have been called something like Dark Longshanks and a yellow moth called something like Yellow Canary Surprise and Brass beauty. Update, 1/9/09 The actual names of these moths were Dark Swordgrass, Canary shouldered Thorn and Burnished Brass, thanks to Peter C for supplying me with the correct names.
These moths have wonderfully evocative names because they were originally given their names by Victorian clergy.
An exciting boat trip armed with ultrasonic bat detectors which clicked when a bat was near revealed about 15 Pipistrelles in flight but I did not see any obvious Daubenton Bats, oh well I'll have to try again next year.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Southern Stunner!

Yesterday (Tuesday 25th in the afternoon) Jenny saw a wonderful male Southern Hawker Dragonfly, a stunning combination of blue and green markings on his abdomen, resting on one of our roses in the back garden. Here's a pic of a male I saw last September at the "New" Corton Sewage Works!

Birds, Beasts & ... Corfu

Paraphrasing the second book ("Birds, Beasts & Relatives") the follow up to his most famous book "My Family & Other Animals" in the wonderful trilogy of my hero, the late Gerald Durrell's account of his childhood experiences in the 1930's on the Greek island of Corfu... Jenny & I have just returned from a relaxing holiday on Corfu.
Gerald Durrell is a very heroic figure and much missed figure because he did so much to raise the plight of endangered species from around the world, he established Jersey Zoo (whose work included pioneering captive breeding programmes of endangered species to re-introduce back into the wild) and even rescue from extinction such species as the Pink Pigeon, the Mauritian Kestrel and others.
Our stay on this very green island coincided with a heatwave with average temperatures rising from 32C to a blistering 37C (and even touching 40c in the valleys!)
My quest was to seek out some of Gerald Durrell's old stomping grounds and share some of the wildlife spectacles he experienced seven decades earlier.
I was delighted to find Lake Scotini, a place Gerald visited as a boy and although there had been much development around it, including a quarry and a few houses nearby it was still there and I was delighted to see Balkan Green Lizards, a European Pond Turtle, Roesel's Bush Crickets, Scarlet & Ruddy Darters, Black-lined Skimmer, Cleopatra & Glider butterflies. Birds included a Lesser Grey Shrike and several Little Egrets, not bad for the heat of the summer.
I was also delighted to find Lake Gavrolimni nearby where several Marsh Frogs were seen near the waters edge. There must have been around 60 of their number around the muddy water's edge, as I approached they all hopped into the water and as I retreated they immediately hopped back out again, a very comical thing to see!
Nearby the chortling calls of 4 Bee-eaters heralded the wonderful sight of these rainbow coloured birds flying overhead. Nearby a restless Small Pearl- bordered Fritillary butterfly flew by.
A visit to Mount Pankrator enabled me to see such species such as Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrushes, Black- eared Wheatears but sadly no raptors were seen here. This was redeemed wonderfully later with a sighting of a magnificent adult Golden Eagle near Skipero.
Around our apartment confiding Erhard's Wall Lizards (especially those stranded briefly on the steps!) and at night up to 3 Turkish Geckos on the walls near the lights posed nicely for the camera whilst on a flowerbed by the local bakery, a Scarce Swallowtail also gave good views.
On a local beach at San Stephanos we were treated to a wonderful display of the white flowers of Sea Lilys or Sea daffodils.
On a visit to Corfu town, I witnessed the amazing spectacle of hundreds of Alpine Swifts swooping in groups feeding low over the roofs of the tall buildings here, an incredible sight! In a local park were commemorative statues to the Durrell brothers, Gerald & Lawrence.
Sadly, I never found the former childhood home of the Durrells now reputed sadly to be a ruin.
But on a visit to the White House at Kalami, the famous former home of Gerald's brother Lawrence, we saw 2 young Red- rumped Swallows which sat on wires whilst on a bush nearby several Long- tailed Blue butterflies and Lang's Short- tailed Blue butterfly were seen.
A visit to Peter's Biological garden revealed a colourful Hoopoe on the track ahead and a confiding bathing Icterine Warbler as well as 4 Clouded Yellow butterflies in a nearby field.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Meteor Shower

At about 10.15pm Jenny & I had a 15 minute look for the anticipated meteor shower. Most, so I am told, are smaller than a grain of sand. The sky was part covered with cloud but in the clear sections where we had an uninterrupted view of the stars, we saw 4 in 15 minutes, a white flash of light zipping across part of the sky and then disappearing, impressive! A crick in the neck led to a hasty retreat back indoors!

A "Poplar" Moth

Whilst at work at the Library today, John one of my work colleagues said casually "We've got one of those Hawk moths here" and I went outside and it was rather very precariously perched on the edge of the outside door jamb. I moved the Moth for its own safety, which was a very impressive Poplar Hawk Moth, onto the outside wall. This awakened it and it's wings started whirring and it flew up and away and safe! Poplar Hawk Moths are a common species which usually frequent Poplar & Sallow trees.
It was probably attracted to the outside wall of the Library by the white outside light which is on at night for security reasons. This is the second time I've seen this species of moth outside the Library, we had another exactly a year ago in the same spot!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Baird's Sandpiper

Hearing of a Baird's Sandpiper at Hickling, after work I paid an evening visit to Rush hills scrape which always a very pleasant walk. Parking at the church and following the footpath past agricultural fields and woods where I often encounter Marsh Tits, this evening they were calling their distinctive "pitchoo" calls. I walked to what must be the most badly designed hide you'll ever see. The open door is facing north so you always have to walk to the far side and then in. The hide is situated quite a way from the scrape so views are always distant. The birds that frequent the Scrape are mostly ducks and waders that feed in this productive area. Whilst inside you either have to stand tall (you need to be at least 5 foot 10 inches tall to view through the square holes (fortunately I am exactly 6 feet tall!) or crouch down and get severe neck ache looking through your scope!
Anyway, there were a lot of Lapwings on the Scrape, with 2 distinct lines of them at the back (of course!) of the Scrape, a few Ruff walked between them and hidden behind the furthest line were several Dunlin and the slightly smaller more elongated form of the excellent Baird's Sandpiper, shorter legs, and it was an adult bird with a uniform grey/ brown scaly pattern (recalling juvenile Curlew Sandpiper) and buff head and chest and slightly but noticeably shorter bills than the Dunlin. It gave the appearance of crouching near the ground with it's flattened oval shaped body. The Baird's Sandpiper is a native of North America and is a rare transatlantic visitor to these shores.
It spent much of its time feeding with 5 Dunlin usually behind some Lapwing but it's scaly back and noticably whiter underbelly meant it could be picked from the slightly larger and browner Dunlin (all in winter plumage) with some confidence even with a telescope with just 30X magnification. When a fellow birder kindly let me look through his Swarovski HD scope with 60X magnification it could easily be picked out.
It later flew to the far left hand corner of the Scrape right at the back where Little Ringed Plovers at least 2 were seen (but could only be picked out at this even further distance with the 60X scope).

Sunday, 9 August 2009


The Broad- leaved Helleborine is the last local orchid to flower in the year.  During a stroll through a Gunton Woods this evening,  I was delighted to count 14 plants at the usual spot. They have obviously had a good year as most had already flowered, flowering much earlier than last year. The plants were also a lot taller than the previous year, reflecting the excellent growing conditions this year (alternating conditions of sunny weather followed by downpours that we have experienced this summer).
Looking at the second picture, it clearly illustrates why the Broad- leaved Helleborine is so aptly named.

Hot & Sultry

It was a very hot sunny day today and first thing I walked along the Lowestoft North beach seawall. During my walk, I saw lots of Common Terns & several Turnstones plus 2 Dunlin in full summer plumage feeding on the rocks of the old seawall almost completely surrounded by the sea during this high tide. Between the groynes, a Common Seal fished. On the Oval, amongst the Gulls slept the tatty adult Yellow- legged Gull, which as usual was the first to fly off when the groundsmen entered the grounds.
A trip to Southwold with a diversion via the Wolsey bridge at the Hen reedbeds, was in order to try and see a rare Egret. Looking from the style I instantly spotted the excellent Great White Egret, a large white heron from the Mediterranean which sported an all yellow bill, obviously feeling at home on this hot sultry day (the temperature was around 27C) skulked in the far reeds by the pool before flying out over the pool and out of sight.
At Dunwich a very pleasant walk along the beach revealed several Common Blues and at least 1/2 a dozen Grayling butterflies. With several of them landing on the pebbles on the beach posing nicely for the camera!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Slippery customer

After a visit to the Lowestoft North Beach area yesterday evening, I resolved not to look there this morning as I had seen very little.
This was a big mistake as a Roseate Tern spent the early morning on the groynes there but as usual I missed it, this must be around the 12th time I have twitched one unsuccessfully in Lowestoft and not to mention the countless visits I spend trying to find one myself in this area in July & August. 
Some birders go in for year lists, I could never do this as I have rotten luck I usually miss a lot of birds this way & Roseate Tern is currently my bogey bird this year, I've even missed them at Minsmere this year where everyone else has seen them. Perhaps I should compile a list of birds dipped, I'm sure I'd be the undisputed winner here, last year in the Spring I tried to twitch Thrush Nightingale, Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Purple Heron, Temminck's Stint and missed them all I had about 8 successive unsuccessful trips to Minsmere for these birds, this must be some kind of record.
Back in the garden, 4 Painted Lady butterflies were on the Buddlea and at around 11am as I was attempting to hook the washing line onto it's hook, I heard something rustling underneath and I was just in time to see a Grass Snake slither out of sight.