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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! 

Seawatching

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

Redstarts!

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.