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Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A real Bobby Dazzler!

A real "Bobby Dazzler!" as the antiques expert David Dickinson might have said, if he had seen today's star bird in Lowestoft, a magnificent Hoopoe. This resplendent bird, so evocative of the Mediterranean, was found by Rob M feeding along the cliff top fields adjacent to the old Corton Sewage works. The Hoopoe, named after its "hoopoo-poo" call is a really magnificent and striking bird, sporting a crest, and very eye-catching plumage; with it's orange-buff colouration, black and white barring on the wings and tail, it used it's long slightly down-curved bill to constantly pluck insects and leather jackets from the earth. Sometimes it would throw them into the air and deftly catch them within it's mandibles. Not only is it a real stunner to look at, but it's even showing off whilst feeding!
Initially, the Hoopoe was a very flighty bird, but it eventually settled down in the evening giving good and prolonged views in both it's favoured feeding areas, the fields immediately north and south of the sewage works. The bird has been been blown across the North Sea due to a combination of a high pressure weather system over the U.K and the associated easterly airflow.
I was fortunate enough to see the bird during my lunch break for just 30 minutes, as well as having more leisurely prolonged views in the early evening. I also saw a fine male Wheatear and a small group of 15 Sand Martins flying around the cliffs. During the brief lunchtime visit, 2 Swallows briefly associated with the Martins before flying inland. I'm sure this will the precursor of a flood of spring migrants flying into the country over the next week.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

The "Rattler!"

A dreary old morning had me confined to the house and garden and it concluded with another new bird seen from the garden today at 10.10am, a Mistle Thrush drew attention to itself by its rattling call and it flew towards the grounds of Parkhill hotel. The only common Thrush I need from the garden now is Fieldfare, its still a possibly especially in March/ April when they are on the move migrating north back to Scandinavia. I didn't manage a pic of the Mistle Thrush but hope you like one I took in February this year along Lansdowne road, South Lowestoft. 
Also feeding in the garden were a charming pair of Long- tailed Tits. I have been fortunate to have had a small feeding flock of around 8 Long-tails for much of the winter feeding on the peanuts and the fatballs. Judging by the recent RSPB Gardenwatch survey, Long-tailed Tits are an increasing sight in gardens (moving up the charts this year to no.10 most regularly spotted bird in gardens this year!) taking advantage of the recent run of mild winters (this winter excepted!) and the food put out for them.
A big thank you to everyone who has left such kind comments recently, its nice to know the blog is being read!

Friday, 27 March 2009

First Frogspawn of the "Spring!"

After a long week at work, it was really gratifying to see the first clump of frogspawn in our smaller garden pond. Whether, it will survive the return of winter over the next day or so, with gusty northerly winds, sleet and freezing temperatures forecast; remains to be seen.
The Marsh Marigolds are nicely in flower around our larger wildlife pond and provide a welcome splask of butter yellow to the area. As indicated in my previous post, bird activity has been very slow at present maybe because of the return of northerly winds and unsettled weather holding up early spring migrants.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Lowestoft Blues

As anybody will tell you, birding Lowestoft can be very hard work with often little reward.
Local patchwork can be very rewarding especially when you turn up top notch rarities on red letter days like Red- eyed Vireo and Collared Pratincole or even semi rarities like Pallas' Warbers, Yellow browed Warbler or Red- breasted Flycatcher or even notable migrants like Ring Ouzel & Black Redstart; sadly these days are all too rare.
Unfortunately, days like today are a very common occurence.
Today or rather this morning was one of those days when "nowt was about" on the rather desolate windswept North Denes, Netposts and Oval area. 
A singing Meadow Pipit by the netposts and Pied Wagtail were the only birds seen, a very paltry return.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Raven 0 White- winged Gulls 4

Already going on a mainly non- birding trip to Southwold with my partner Jenny, a diversion was necessary when we received a text to say that a Raven (a very rare bird in Suffolk) had been seen in a field near Covehithe church, needless to say it had flown 5 minutes before I arrived.
A trip to Southwold included 2 visits to the harbour, the second resulted in me seeing 4 white- winged gulls. Firstly, 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls flew over calling a distinctive "oww" call and they settled right in front of me. They were fine adults in full summer plumage with jet black hoods, white eye crescents and blood red bills with a yellow tip. 
Resting on a pier head on the Walberswick side of the harbour was a pale biscuit coloured juvenile/ 1st winter Glaucous Gull with a two- tone pink/black tipped bill. It had rings on both it's legs- green on the left with the letters "LE" in white written on and a plain smaller silver ring on it's right leg. This is the same bird that regularly visits Minsmere Scrape usually during the middle part of the day. An internet search has revealed this bird was ringed in Summer 2008 on Bear island (Bjornoya) Svalbard in the Norwegian territory of the Barents Sea, south of Spitsbergen and the Arctic pack ice. A fishing boat chugged into the harbour and all the Gulls on the pier head flew up and followed the boat. I then spotted a juvenile Glaucous Gull perched on the stern of the boat and I assumed, naturally, that it was the same bird I had already seen. But on checking my pictures at home, I realised it was another bird, because it was totally unringed!

Advance Colonists?

There has been an upswing in records of Penduline Tits this winter. I finally managed to see them myself yesterday (Saturday 21st) at Walberwick where 2 fine resplendant males fed on bulrushes.
Typically, the first sign of them was drifting fluff flew off the Reed Mace. It was a treat too, to hear their very high pitched whistling calls. Also present on the walk were a party of 5 "tpinging" Bearded Tits, another reedbed specialist. 3 female Marsh harriers quartered the reedbeds too.
I only managed distant shots as you will see shortly.
Today in the garden, I was treated to very confiding views of the female Green Woodpecker as she probed the lawn for food in the early morning.  
The Marsh Marigolds around the garden pond are flowering bringing an early splash of colour to the garden. The Chiff- Chaff was still singing regularly yesterday, too.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

A Symphony of Starlings

At around 5.40 we were treated to the wonderful sight of a large flock of Starlings that Bill Oddie once memorably called a "symphony of Starlings" flying repeatedly over the house and the immediate area.
There were around three thousand birds in the flock and they flew in a fairly tight formation in a rapidly changing shape, an incredible sight. The birds are in a pre-roost flock searching for a suitable roosting area such as a group of trees or within a reedbed. As they flew over the garden you could hear the collective "woosssh" sound of their flapping wings. One of their number even scored, cue the voice of a darts commentator, "one hundred and eighty!" when some Starling guano hit me full on the forehead! Finally at 6.10pm the flock flew off south-west.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Another New Garden Tick!

Frenzied excitement this morning at about 8.15am when I was about to step into the garden, I saw A Red- Legged Partridge (new garden tick!) running around under the bushes by the back fence. A quick retreat and dash upstairs to retrieve my camera was required and after the bird had fed for several minutes, it settled down and posed nicely and I was able to get some pics. 
For the last 2 days, we have been very pleasantly woken by the melodic song of a Robin singing his heart out perched on top of one of our trees.
Yesterday (Mon 14th) was also notable as I heard my first singing Chiff- Chaff of the year from our bedroom window, also the distant call of a Coal Tit and late at night the "kewick" call of a female Tawny Owl.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Lakenheath to the Rescue

A trip to the Brecks started badly as I arrived just slightly too late at a well known Breckland site, half an hour later than planned (due to 2 slow moving lorries on the outward journey) and I just missed (by 5 minutes) the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatch was seen however, another bird that has now virtually disappeared from the Lowestoft scene.
Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were a regular feature of Lowestoft birding, particularly on my local patch at Fisher Row, right up until the 1987 "Hurricane." I believe this led to their ultimate demise at this site and other local sites. The aftermath of the "Hurricane" either blew many dead trees over or the authorities decided to chop down dead trees for health and safety reasons. This sadly led to an extreme shortage of many suitable feeding and nesting sites of this species, hence their current rarity.
Despite a 3 and a half hour vigil in the company of Dick & Ali; old friends from Beccles, at the nearby Goshawk site, the Goshawks decided it was going to be a no-show day. Compensation came in the form of an Iceland Gull flying over with a small flock of Gulls, a fine male Crossbill perched on the top of a Pine, several Buzzards (including one very pale bird) and superlative views of an escaped American Red- tailed Hawk, slightly larger than Buzzard with autumn russet- coloured tail and very prominent bulging secondaries in flight. Finally we were treated to the gorgeous "loulaa- loulaa" song of several Wood Larks in display flight and a few resplendent Yellowhammers were on show too. Butterflies flying around on this warm Spring-like day included Brimstone and Red Admiral.
2 separate stops in the vicinity for the possibility of newly arrived Stone Curlews drew a blank also.
A visit to the new RSPB Lakenheath was a first for me and very impressive it was too!
The area by the car park hosted several Redwings passing through maybe feeding up before they continue their migration north to Scandinavia and the flighty but showy Great Grey Shrike. The Shrike was a very clean bird with prominent hooked bill, flitting from the shrubby area just west of the car park over to the bushes bordering the river. This bird saved the day for me as this was the first of my target species that I'd actually seen today! A two mile walk past various habitats including ageing Black Poplar plantations  and most impressively, what looked
like mature reedbeds, which had replaced carrot crop arable fields, created just 10 years ago. A Buzzard also flew over the fields here.
At another nearby site, our luck held out as we were treated to great views of target species no.4, a pair of elegant, majestic Cranes which even endulged in some courtship behaviour!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

New, but well overdue, Tick from garden!

Over the five years I have lived just off the Parkhill estate in North Lowestoft, I have added several significant sightings seen either in or from the garden. One glaring omission has been Common Pheasant which I've heard several times and even seen one sheltering in a nearby road on a shaded corner after a particularly blustery spell. This morning I heard the distinctive "double bark" and looking out I quickly picked out a fine male Pheasant of the "Ring-necked" form scampering for cover behind some gorse. Sorry no pics of this bird as I didn't see it again!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Wandering Egret

It has recently been confirmed that the Cattle Egret currently showing on the Suffolk/ Essex border at Nayland/ Bures area is the same bird that put in a prolonged visit to the Buckenham/ Strumpshaw area in East Norfolk. It is also thought that this was also the bird that had been seen at Matlaske in North Norfolk. Taking a trip across the border, I caught up with the bird a few weeks ago at Buckenham. Here are a few shots of the bird which spent the afternoon feeding mainly along the side of a recently ploughed field, sporting a distinct limp as it hunted for food.
Using my car as a mobile hide, I was able to carefully drive along the side of the road and was rewarding with very confiding views of this bird, hence the frame filling shots.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Diver Down

A very early, pre-work start at Oulton Broad today was bitterly cold and with a strong westerly breeze it felt as if winter was not quite ready to realise it's icy grip just yet. A female Siskin was heard and seen calling from a tree bordering Nicholas Everitt Park and 2 Egyptian Geese hissed at me as I walked past or was it their attempt at the "Sand dance?"
The Black throated Diver was at the Western end of the Broad and showing well, best viewable from the Yacht Club. This bird has been here since early February and maybe due to the increased boating activity have made the bird a little more wary than earlier in the year when it often gave stunning views down to 1 metre!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

First signs of Spring?

A day off work meant I was able to enjoy the glorious sunny weather with temperatures as high as 11 degrees celsius. It was lovely to wake up to the sound of a "laughing" Green Woodpecker and a female was eventually seen feeding in the field behind our house.
Whilst driving along Corton road in Lowestoft, I heard the distinctive trill of Waxwings (always keep you car windows open!), I stopped the car but at first I couldn't see them.
Seeing Nick working on the heath opposite I went over to have a chat and minutes later a flock of 28 Waxwings flew over us in a South- easterly direction.
A visit to Waveney Forest led to several sightings of small groups of 2-3 Siskins flying over.
Nearby at St. Olaves I walked out along the concrete road with Roy (from Beccles) and his wife and we eventually rewarded with views of 2 singleton Green Sandpipers flying along a dyke.
Even better amongst the sightings of Marsh Harriers, a male Stonechat perched on a signpost & we observed groups of Wigeon in the distant fields. We eventually had prolonged views of 2 Short- eared Owls, gloriously elegant birds flying with their languid hunting flight low over the fields, occasionally dropping down on some unfortunate prey. Short- eared Owls have become rarer locally recently so it was an especial treat to see this pair.