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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

Redpolls

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.

WARNING! THE ENVIRONMENT AGENCY HAS CLOSED THE PUBLIC FOOTPATH FROM HOIST COVERT WOODS THROUGH TO THE MILL, DINGLE HILLS & DINGLE FORT UNTIL 13 DECEMBER 2009. PRESUMABLY FOR FLOOD PROTECTION WORK.

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

Southwold

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.