This evening, whilst replenishing the bird feeders in the back garden and in between the usual ear-splitting deafening screams of "neighbour's" children and fireworks next door at 9pm, I heard several Pink- footed Geese, probably around 5-6, not seen but they flew in a north-easterly direction, first heard over Parkhill hotel grounds and then over the Close and north-east, pity I couldn't go with them for some peace and quiet!
Friday, 31 December 2010
I was a passenger in car when we were driving through Oulton Broad at around 1.15pm and rather fortuitously a BINS message came through a minute before we were passing Oulton Broad North rail station and although sadly, we couldn't stop and look I did see at least 5 Waxwings perched in the berry tree by the platform. 2 Fieldfare flew across the road by the railway crossing the A146 at Beccles.
Thursday, 30 December 2010
I have just returned from a very enjoyable trip visiting my family in Fleet, Hampshire and Carmarthenshire, Wales.
Staying over with my cousins in Fleet, I woke up on Friday 24th Christmas Eve to the sound of a Fox not far from the garden barking at around 6.50am.
On my journey from here back to the M4 I was fortunate enough to see 3 separate Red Kites hunting for the food near the road, no doubt forced nearer to human habitation by the extreme cold weather. Even on the M4 near Reading I saw a further 4 Red Kites and incredibly a lone Waxwing flew over the carriageway from left to right in front of the car!
having safely arrived at Llanddarogg I had to park the car on the road as there was too much snow and ice to get the car onto Mum's drive.
With the intense cold and only the main roads passable, I concentrated on areas closest to my family's houses.
Going out early on Christmas day, the ground was carpeted by a thick blanket of snow and the temperature was very, very cold despite wrapping up snuggly the intense cold (the coldest I have witnessed in the UK with no wind) at -15 degrees celsius was stinging my eyes and lips especially. If you exhaled, your breathe froze to ice immediately upon contact to the surfaces of your spectacles or back of the camera!! Icicles hung from the guttering at LLL and the base of a tree by Cymisfael stream.
Not surprisingly birds were in very short supply, a Wren seen by the hedge near Mum's, had done well to survive the night. A Grey Heron twice flew off from the frozen stream and a Grey Wagtail seen here too. A Red Kite flew out of a tall tree in the wood opposite LLL.
The bird feeders at Mike & Su (opp. Mum's) was visited by a wide range of common birds, whilst Mum's feeder hosted up to 2 grateful Nuthatches.
At Llannon farm, at my brother's feeders Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail and Song Thrush seen plus 2 Red Kite perched in trees and flying around the sheep field.
A slight thaw had started by Boxing Day and 3 Nuthatch were seen in the trees and bushes around the stream area, whilst on the stream itself 2 main areas had thawed out and provided vital feeding opportunities for a reasonably confiding Dipper and a Pied Wagtail. Down by the bushes by Whitehall bridge, a calling Willow Tit briefly showed itself before flying off.
2 Nuthatch & Song Thrush were seen by the LLL feeders and a Treecreeper in the trees overhead.
Back at Llannon, Pied wagtail and Nuthatch again seen by the feeders plus 4 Raven flew by croaking!
By Monday 27th Dec, the thaw was in full flow and most of the Cymisfael stream was by now free flowing, the Dipper was still feeding but more difficult to pin down as it had a much wider choice of suitable feeding areas. A Fieldfare and Buzzard flew over as did another Buzzard by the Fox field and in the field behind LLL 2 Raven flew around.
2 Nuthatch again seen by the feeders.
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
I'm off to Wales over Christmas and should be back 27 or 28th December, (yes, I know the big Arctic/Scandinavian rarity will now turn up in Lowestoft!!!) wishing everyone the compliments of the season and a Happy, healthy and bird- filled 2011!
Sunday, 19 December 2010
Arriving at 10.30am at Hamilton Dock, I had just missed the Iceland Gull posing nicely on the near wall side of Hamilton Dock (having been told by Dick W and OFB who just bought himself a very nice Canon 7D), beyond the fence and had to contend myself with brief flight views before it disappeared. On the near beach 2 Purple Sandpiper and an aggressive Ringed Plover chasing off the 5 Turnstone were also seen. A Rock Pipit flew over here.
Parking at the Herbert Barnes car park by the Breydon South wall, I walked the long hike south- west past the farm, noting several reasonably close Dunlin on the estuary and more distant Wigeon and Curlew, meeting a well wrapped up Keith D on this bitterly cold day and in the field just in from the path, I counted an excellent flock of some 67 Pale- bellied Brent Geese and 2 immature Dark- bellied Brent Geese on the northern fringe of the flock. After a wwhile they all took to flight and landed well back in the field behind this field. By the grey windmill, a small rectangular area of field was flattened and had a lot of bird seed on it being eaten by a solitary Skylark. After a few minutes 3 excellent Lapland Buntings flew in and started feeding, one of them was a male bird. walking back I saw an excellent Jack Snipe take off and fly north & I gave directions first to Rene (Listen carefully, I will only say this once! & no, not the one from "Allo Allo !!) and then Phil H.
Venturing out early morning on Saturday 18th, it was a little bit nippy with 4 inches of snow on the ground and the thermometer reading -7C. I arrived at Leathes Ham at Normanston Park in the hope of seeing yesterday's Fudge duck, sadly the water had completely iced over and on the second pool a small area of water was just visable but packed by a load of duck including Wigeon and a male Pintail but no Ferruginous Duck, a pity.
Walking over to the bridge overlooking Lake Lothing amongst a group of Tufted Duck was a female Scaup, a later look from here in the company of Andrew E also revealed a female Goldeneye flying in and a distant female Red- breasted Merganser. A kingfisher shot past it flying right.
At Hamilton Dock, initially no sign of the Gull but looking out to sea from the old Coastguards area revealed a movement of north of some 20 Red- throated Divers and a Velvet Scoter fflying south.
Back at Hamilton Dock, the newly arrived Andrew E and Chris D were looking down on the "beach" area and in my haste to reach them I almost fell over on the treacherous ice.
The 1st winter Iceland Gull was swimming in the water just off the beeach before standing on the beach edge only to take to flight and fly off when Andrew threw some bread out. The Iceland flew over to the distant sandy beach/ spit where it was in the company of other Gulls including an adult Caspian Gull brilliantly picked out by Andrew. The Caspian showed a slightly darker grey back (Common Gull grey back coloured) white head with a small black eye, longer more attenuated bill and slightly longer pale white rather than pink legs. It also showed a bulging white breast as it stood on the beach.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
Arriving bright and early at Ness Point, following a look around the Gunton estate for non- existant Waxwings, there was no repeat of yesterday as the Iceland wasn't there. However there was 1 very close Purple sandpiper feeding on the seaweed encrusted shelf of old seawall a metre away from the "compass." At times the waves brought it even closer, so the bird was seen down to a foot away! The very bright glare of the sun made photography a little difficult as half the bird was bathed in bright sunlight whilst the other was shrouded in dark shadow.
Another Purple Sandpiper stood on rocks just several metres north away too. An adult winter Mediterranean Gull decided to fly around and over our heads too.
Back at Hamilton Dock, the 1st winter Iceland Gull was in the north-east corner seen swimming around all the rubbish and detritus but it was lured towards us by the judicious throwing of bread by Dick. The bird showed really well just metres away from us and flew around for a time before eventually settling on a light on the harbour wall. It then flew over us and perched on the northern edge wall of the dock and we were able to get some pictures of it here too. A Rock Pipit flew over here too.
Birders included Dick W, OFB and we were joined by Rob Wils (the photographer).
meanwhile also in the corner up to 5 and a Purple Sandpiper perched on the tyre whilst another was seen on the rocks half way along the north wall of the dock.
One sharp eyed observer spied a Pink- footed Goose way over on the far side by the rock and pipes just down from the sheds but the Goose soon walked out of sight!
A very pleasant afternoon tour of Ellough revealed a Hare lying low in the field and another Hare was doing exactly the same in the field just west along the Mutford to Hulver road, where a stunning male Bullfinch flew in only to be scared off by a truck driving past seconds later. Back along the road from Oakes Farm back to the main road, 2 Bullfinces, a male and female flew and perched very briefly, finally a look in this field revealed 5 Red- legged Partridge.
Saturday, 11 December 2010
Last Thursday a House Sparrow was feeding from the fat ball feeders in the garden.
Today, I ventured out to Ness Point and was delighted to find the 1st winter Iceland Gull standing on the post at the end of the "finger." The Iceland Gull regular took flying sorties and even once caught a Spratt once or twice from the sea and seemed to have difficulty eating it at first. The bird would always return to its regular perch before it eventually flew onto the sea drifted south a little and then flew over our heads and inland.
An adult Mediterranean Gull was also seen flying around too. It was nice to see Andrew E, Perry F oh, and we saw Chris D too.
At Minsmere I bought the 2009 Suffolk Bird report and was delighted to find two of my shots published, including the Black- throated Diver catching a fish on Oulton Broad in February 2009 and the Ortolan Bunting at Corton in September 2009.
I was however, somewhat perplexed to see my name against the Golden Eagle record (I'd love to see one in Suffolk!) because I wasn't there and I didn't see it.
A look around the pond and the North beaches failed to reveal any hoped for waxwings, although several redwings seen including 2 perched in a bush, a fine male Bullfinch (a British one and sadly not a Northern) just eluded the camera lens as it perched up briefly on a bush by the path to the north hide.
I spent some time in the Island Mere hide having first spied 3 Redpolls on top of the alder trees and heard a few "bugles" sure enough on the partially icy Mere were 28 fine Bewick's Swans. A redhead Smew swam out briefly from the right hand end and the intense glare of the sun. Whilst a Snipe was seen on the cut reed area.
Up to 3 female Marsh Harriers quartered the reeds including one coming close to the left hand end of the hide (I, of course was on the extreme right hand end). Walking back, peering through the alders I saw the excellent ringtail Hen Harrier flying over the reeds near the alders and walking back to the hide I witnessed 7 Bewick's Swans flying over. Very graceful and elegant!
Sunday, 5 December 2010
Hearing of an Iceland Gull that had been found by Danny P last Tuesday, (who runs an excellent site entitled Danny's Digiscoping).
I belatedly arrived at the Dock on Saturday morning 4th December at around 11.20am having had to work first thing at Gorleston Library, I had difficulty parking but finally reached the car park compound and was kindly let in by Andrew E.
Ricky F, OFB, Robert Wil were present and Richard W just leaving. The Gull was swimming around the far end of the pontoons and most disappointingly flew off at the moment I set my camera up and over to the area just east of the pontoon jetty.
OFB went down onto the pontoon so I decided to head in a different direction over to the eastern area of the compound and sure enough the excellent 1st winter Iceland Gull was forced out from there and started swimming into the middle off the channel where I was able to fire off some long range shots.
A fine dainty gull, with black eye, bill and very pale white plumage with pale buff- grey marking on the mantle and upperwing coverts the outer flight and feathers and tail were cream- white. It continued to swim out and then started to head back towards the pontoon again before a Herring Gull went for it and it flew west into Waveney dock and out of sight.
On Sunday, 5th I arrived earlier at around 10am (having had the very pleasant diversion of photographing a Green Woodpecker first seen on the top of a Fallowfields bush that then flew and perched for a few minutes near the top of one of my trees in the back garden before being disturbed by my neighbours) but the Gull had already been and gone so I decided to go for the Scaup at Oulton Broad, initially I couldn't see it but as I walked back I picked her up by the Caldecott Road end very, very close to the Badger building site in exactly the same area that the female Goosander had been on the 15th November. Have a look on Monday, Peter!
The female Greater Scaup was loosely associating with 3 male Tufted Ducks, several Coot and 1 female Scaup-like Tufted Duck with a trace of white near the base of the bill.
A Redwing also flew over calling.
The group started to swim east and I carefully walked down to the end of the fishing jetty and was reasonably close to the group of duck, the female Scaup spending most of her time at the back of them before she swam north over to the Wherry side of the Broad.
3 Little Grebes were seen on Lake Lothing by the Mutford Lock bridge.
Back at Hamilton Dock, I saw Jon E (& later John H) and he said the Iceland Gull was on the brick-lined area just beneath the 3 huts and it then flew onto the beach where it stood for 10 minutes before it was again disturbed by a Herring Gull and it swam due east to the very corner of the dock before it encouragingly swam close to the dock side towards us and was getting quite close when infuriatingly another Herring Gull disturbed it and she flew past us over Hamilton Dock and then past again, albeit distantly, before flying back into Waveney Dock.
A Kingfisher flew in and hovered close by, but sadly right against the light before flying off west. Finally a female Eider was seen on the water near the far beach swimming west.
It was good to see a returning Jon E, & good to see Matthew D, Dick W and Dave H too, oh & I saw Chris D also (taking care not to get in his way!!)
I will add pictures of the Iceland Gull and the Scaup tomorrow.
Having to visit Great Yarmouth College of F.E. Thursday 2nd December, which was carpeted with a blanket of snow, to promote the Library,
I struggled over the road with a weighty box of books and console games and was disgracefully snowballed by groups of 2 and 5 male students at both campuses, (one of which hit the mark stung my head and gave me a headache all afternoon) which stopped only when I confronted them and they ran off! No comment.
A much nicer experience was seeing 12 Lapwing and 2 Golden Plover on the field by the college.
They were very confiding but sadly I didn't have my camera with me today.
Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Strong east/ north- east winds coming straight from Siberia, gave very unpleasant sub- zero conditions today. Several trees had been uprooted in the walk since my last visit. A look in Arnold's walk today revealed no birds whatsoever, although Blue & Long- tailed Tits were heard. Little was seen.
Lound water was birdless too.
At the weekend, on Saturday 29th November, a walk around Fallowfields revealed just a Green Woodpecker and a flock of 20 Wood Pigeon flying off from the back garden of a house.
On Sunday 30th November the female Velvet scoter was again at Filby broad albeit right over on the far side.
Friday, 26 November 2010
Yesterday, Thursday 25th November, at 8.30am I had a quick look along Yarmouth road and the junction with Harris Avenue and was delighted to first hear the beautiful trilling call of Waxwings and then see 6 of their number. They were initially seen in the large tree and they promptly flew down to the smaller berry laden tree. The Waxwings gorged themselves for several minutes before returning to the safety of the larger tree. A large lorry that drove past spooked them and they flew west over the houses of Harris Avenue.
Calling in at Filby Broad briefly at lunchtime (after a work visit to Martham Library) I saw the female Velvet Scoter and the male Goldeneye, again over the western end of Filby Broad. The female Scoter was frequently diving for food.
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
A very early start yesterday morning, Tuesday 23rd November, as I had to be at Martham Primary School at 9am sharp for some Library work, I called in at Filby Broad in Norfolk at 8.15am and almost immediately spotted the very strikingly plumaged female Velvet Scoter that has been there a while. Looking from the roadside, she was on the western side of the Broad, near a very fine male Goldeneye.
The Velvet Scoter was dark brown in plumage with a very striking white facial cheek patch, the white area was the in shape of a vertical figure of 8. She constantly dived, initially the white wing clip couldn't be seen at all but after she rose and flapped her wings the white in the wings were seen fully and then the white wwing clip was seen at rest afterwards too.
A quick return visit at lunchtime, she was nearer the road having swum much further left, first seen through the bushes she was swimming back to the middle of the Broad, a fine bird.
Sunday, 21 November 2010
A miserable weekend, including thick fog Saturday 20th morning and evening meant my birdwatching forays were limited to Saturday afternoon (& Sunday afernoon) where a visit to Ness Point revealed up to 5 Purple Sandpipers feeding on the rocks just north of Ness Point, a group of 4 were initially seen then 3 flew and roosted on the rocks on the northern corner of the Point, whilst 2 were still feeding 100 yards further north, 3 and 2 make 5!
A Rock Pipit was seen earlier briefly on the roof at Hamilton Dock, whilst a Robin perched on the seawall. A passage of birds on the near horizon included 2 Red- throated Divers south and an interesting dumpy auk also flying south but too far away to call conclusively, sadly.
around 700+ Starling flew onto the rocks near the finger and then flew and settled on the lower rung of the old Gas Works chattering incessantly!
After the showers on Sunday 21st,a totally blank day as there was no sign of the Turtle Dove or indeed the Waxwings along Harris Avenue & I walked around Fallowfields hoping for Woodcock or Bullfinch but saw nowt.
Monday, 15 November 2010
Today is my birthday, so taking a day off work, I headed out first thing to Oulton Broad to try and see the female Goosander. This was easy as soon as I parked my car I was walking along the path following the edge of the broad when half way to the yacht club, I could see the excellent female Goosander over the far side being watched through binoculars by a yellow fluorescant-coated Badger employee who should have been working! Only joking!
The female Goosander spent most of her time over the far side but one time she swam half way over and then flew towards the yacht club spending a few minutes here before hastily swimming further back to the far side.
Driving along Beccles road just before the junction of Hollow Grove Way, I couldn't fail to see a nice flock of 32 Waxwing perched in a tree, parking in HGW, the flock then flew towards HGW and were in the tall bushes and trees by Daffodil Walk, before some of their number flew back to trees along HGW. They then flew back to the original tree along Beccles road and waiting patiently I was able to snap a few pics (at 2/3 compensation) of the Waxwings as they flew to the closest Rowan tree eating berries from the tree.
Several remained on the largest tree and flew around in mid air presumably flycatching when one close bird did this I managed to secure a lovely flight shot. Something I'd been after for some time.
Finally a large lorry spooked the flock and they eventually flew towards HGW again.
I decided to try my luck with the King Eider (not seen one before on my birthday!) which was now moulting into very nice 2nd year plumage. First stop Dunwich coastguards no luck. Having seen birders with tripods on Dunwich NNT cliff I decided to go over there.
As is always the case, when I arrived they were packing up. I asked them if they had seen it.
Yes, was the reply, it was with Scoter they said and is a bit distant but It'll be Ok in the telescope.
Try as I might I just couldn't see it or the Scoter. All I could see were flocks of Great Crested Grebes, there must have been around 100 out there.
I went back to the car and one of the "gents" was still there asked me if I had seen it, I said no, he didn't bother to walk the 5 steps necessary to show me, try as I might I just couldn't see it (or the Scoter for that matter) perhaps it had flown off?
However, I did see 2 female Pintail fly north.
I then picked up a duck far, far south almost at Sizewell, it looked King Eider- like to me with what looked like sails on its back but it was very distant I wasn't totally sure.
Malcolm F came along and said that he too had been on Minsmere beach and struggled to see it recently (he had seen it well earlier up to lunchtime) By this time my bird was just a dot on the horizon and totally indistinguishable.
Malcolm advised me to try Sizewell. I drove down to Sizewell and walking north along the beach just past the rigs, I looked by the tall northern most post (which had Cormorants on it) and there swimming just behind it, just to the north, barely 300 yards out was the fine male King Eider.
The 2nd year King Eider was now looking very handsome indeed, he now sported a pale grey head, extensive orange (bordered by black) at the base of the red bill. It had a black back, white rear flank patch, with the black scapular feathers erect like a triangular sails, and a light chestnut buff belly. It was swimming left and I reached down to get my camera to get a record a shot of it, took my eye off him for a second or too and next time I looked he'd completely disappeared. I assume he had flew off north?
Brucie bonuses at Blythbugh estuary by the A12 included 21 Avocet, a Ruff, 100+ Pintail (with 70 of them being males, plus 30 Shelduck, 12o Redshank and so on.
Sunday, 14 November 2010
Whilst replenishing the bird feeders first thing this morning, I heard the "Chirrup" call of a Sky Lark flying low and south- east over the garden. My first actual sighting of this species in or over the garden having only previously heard their wonderful song in the spring and summer.
A look around Gunton wood, revealed Bullfinches calling from the SWT section, Song Thrush on the wooden fence, 3 Goldcrests, 7 British Long- tailed tits and an obliging Dunnock but no Pallas' or Firecrest. A female Sparrowhawk that flew in and perched in the wood gave a female Blackbird, a fright nearby but she escaped unmolested.
On arriving home at 3pm after doing the food shopping, a Grey squirrel was cheekily feeding off the fat balls at the back of the garden (meant for the birds and NOT Grey Squirrels!). It had to contort its body quite a lot to reach them.
The recent BBC4 documentary "Twitchers" portrayed twitchers and twitching in a very poor light indeed. It certainly captured the more extreme elements of behaviour and machismo actions of the participants in this male dominated hobby. I, for one, would like to see more women birding.
The editing of the comments by Lee Evans in particular portrayed him in a poor light. Although he's obsessive about his hobby (by definition all twitchers and year listers are, this is not meant as a criticism, everyone to his/her own), he's OK in my book as he takes great pains to get everybody onto the bird. I can testify to that, when we were looking for a Lanceolated Warbler at Sheringham one autumn Lee refound the bird and gave very clear directions of where it was, it was extremely difficult to see and I probably wouldn't have seen it without his help.
He has also compiled and published several books on rare bird sightings in the UK. He also runs several websites on current rare birds sightings (with pictures of them and clear directions of how to find the site) and local wildlife in his local area, all freely accessible & all highly commendable.
That said, I thought the documentary was very, very badly made, badly edited and the filming of the rare birds was very poor indeed. Much of the film appeared to be poorly shot through a telescope showing heavy vignetting at the edges.
They didn't even mention the species of bird one of the twitcher's travelled to Ireland to see. Was it a Cedar Waxwing? Also the twitcher who twitched a rare gull, had ticked it, but admitted he hadn't seen everything on it. Surely he can't tick it then??
But I wish I had been there at South Shields when the Eastern Crowned Warbler turned up.
Above all the film didn't show to the layperson, any of the participants motivation for twitching (other than ticking them off on list, surely it's more than that??) where was their passion or enjoyment for birds? Emotions such as admiring the bird's beauty, and being passionate about bird and wildlife conservation?
I know Lee is particularly passionate about birds and wildlife and this didn't come through in the documentary (Lee is particularly critically vociferous of the cull of the Ruddy ducks for example). All it showed were the twitchers racing to see the birds, literally a minute's viewing (poor editing?) and then, them rushing off onto the next rarity.
Birding or indeed twitching is so much more than that, where one can admire the beautiful plumage of our avian friends, observe and record/note down the bird's distinctive identification features, watch their behaviour, listen to the bird's call & song and so on?
As well as the social aspect of birding/ twitching too. I, always enjoy a social natter with friends (especially those I haven't seen for a while) that's why they are always mentioned in my blog reports.
In particular I feel one has to give something back, for example local campaigning for the preservation of wild areas (eg. at present I am fighting a losing battle trying to save the Orchid meadow at Fallowfields or being part of a number of people who campaigned to save Arnold's Walk in it's current form, without which there would have been no recent sightings of Red- flanked Bluetail or Radde's Warbler) and being a member of at least the RSPB and your local wildlife trust.
There was no mention of fieldcraft, making notes or descriptions of birds or learning your birds by going through a birding "apprenticeship" these are essential in becoming a good birder. Sadly though, these traits seem less prevalent anyway these days.
I can only assume this film was intended as a psychological profile of those it portrayed and twitching in general, if so, why didn't they have comments from a psychologist, commenting about man's hunter gatherer collecting instinct and so on.
Saturday, 13 November 2010
After a hectic week, and working until very late the previous evening, with a talk at Lingwood, I was finally out at 10am, late for me, and saw Jeremy G at the top of Flycatcher alley. There was no sign of the Pallas' so we decided to check Sparrow's Nest. walking past the restaurant, we looked at a group of 7 Long- tailed Tits in the tall trees at the top back, the ones looked at were all normal ones but Jeremy shouted "I've got a white- headed one!" at that instant all 7 Long- tailed Tits flew back and away towards the ravine or Belle Vue Park. I rang Rob & Andrew to let them know the news.
I didn't see this individual except in flight (so obviously couldn't count it, but well done Jeremy!)
A look at the top of the Sparrow's nest revealed up to 30 normal Long-tails, a briefly confiding male Blackcap, a fine Treecreeper (a rare sight in the Parks these days) and a Chiff- chaff and several Siskin heard and a Brambling heard too, flying over.
Arnold's walk revealed up to 100 long- tails, plus Rob Wil and Andrew E amongst other birders.
Retracing my steps following a call from Rob stating the warbler had been seen again, I walked back along Flycatcher alley, very briefly saw the Pallas' warbler in flight (a small olive-green warbler with yellow supercilia and wing- bars, white underparts) fly to the sycamores just east of the Pines on the Northern end of the bank behind the Oval. It disappeared after that. Walking further north along the North Denes, having seen Chris M, Peter N, Roy & Ruth H. OFB shouted "They're here!' and I ran back 30 yards and a group of Long- tailed Tits flew over the Pallas' area and into bushes along the bank and they included one then another absolutely stunning 2 white- headed Northern Long- Tailed Tits, absolutely stunning birds. One perched up well at the top of a hawthorne bush with a couple of normal Long- tails and stood out like a white beacon. before sadly, it flew a fair way north last seen fling over Links' road.
A female Kestrel flew past several times and perched at the end of the shelter belt briefly.
A female Sparrowhawk whizzed along the cliff.
Further searching revealed up to 5 Chiff- Chaff and several 3 Goldcrest and around 5 reasonably confiding Jays and behind the southern end of the Oval along the bank what may have been the Pallas' again, it was a small warbler (not Chiff or crest) flying very quickly at the back.
I briefly saw a grey warbler with a wing- bar in a tree, but too brief to specifically ID.
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
Driving back from London on Tuesday 9th November morning, after seeing the excellent Irish dance extravaganza, "Lord of the Dance" at Wembley Arena with Michael Flatley in the title role giving an amazing and spectacular performance in his return to the role, just past Glemham hall on the A12 a Stoat (brown with a black tip to the tail clearly noted) darted across the road from right to left in front of the car and into cover.
Having to cover a colleague at Caister Library, today, Wednesday 10th November, I popped in for 10 minutes at lunchtime to view the Waxwings at Great Yarmouth perched on the large tree near the Mountain Ashes (opposite Pasta Foods factory) , 50 birds were seen with Richard W, and they fed briefly on the berries on the trees before cloud and rain intervened.
Sunday, 7 November 2010
A late morning foray to Link's Hill was too late to catch up with Snow Buntings seen earlier as the senses were assaulted by the very annoying sight and sound of a "whinning" radio controlled toy car was being "driven" around the grassy area by Warren House Wood. Noisy toy car = No birds.
But did see some tall Mushrooms (which I photo'd) on the North Denes, near Links rd car park, which I'll subsequently be able to ID next week when I get the field guide for my birthday!
Jenny & I then drove to Kessingland North Beach, Jenny elected to stay in the car being put off with the strong northerly breeze and brief rain shower.
I walked over to the Kessingland Shore Pools seeing Rob Wil, Andrew E and later on Chris D.
We first saw a single Snow Bunting around the Dunes and then Andrew E saw a flock of birds fly over a distant sand dune, they then flew south and flew past us, they turned out to be 22 Snow Buntings.
Chris called us over and we saw the sad sight of a recently dead carcass of a Great Skua, its tail had separated from the body.
A more welcome sight were 4 calling Shore Larks that flew north along the beach and past us, they appeared to settle near the shore pools but later investigation failed to turn them up.
Meanwhile walking along the beach, the flock of Snow Buntings settled near me and were actively feeding, a birder walking his dog along the beach (was it Paul R?) kept his distance but considerately pushed the birds to within 20 feet of me and I took a few pics, albeit in poor light.
Finally, I thought I had seen 3 possible Mergansers flying north seen briefly through the bins I quickly swapped to my scope (set up on the steps going up the hill) but a dog crashed into the tripod and although the tripod and scope were OK it cost me a further view of the birds, that now remain unrecorded by me at least!
Saturday, 6 November 2010
Saturday morning, I joined a small throng of birders including Chris M, Peter N and regular correspondent Paul W hoping for a sighting of the long staying (since Tuesday) Richard's Pipit in the field directly behind Covehithe Church. Initially our chances of seeing the bird didn't appear to be high, as no sign had been seen of it all morning, but at 10.35am it flew up from the middle of the field, typically a large long-tailed pipit which called an explosive rasping "shreep" and it flew south-east. I lost it behind the tale hedge bordering the eastern perimeter of Covehithe Church.
We met Jon E and others who decided to take the inland footpath, while we plumped for the seaward one. Phoning John H, who I could see across the field and by the metal gate on the inland path, we told him the updated news about the Pipit.
Taking the seaward path, winding south down to Covehithe Broad (or more accurately I should describe it as the remnants of it as much of the former path had fallen on the beach/ into the sea below due to erosion) we inadvertantly flushed it from the path, just 100 yards south of the end of Covehithe Church road.
It flew into a field and showed very well here for a couple of minutes (where I took a few pics) before unfortunately a Sky Lark flushed it and the Richard's Pipit flew back to the coastal path. It then proceeded to show well here often running up and down the path then changing tack and running across into the thicker grass either side of the path and even appearing by the edge of the field at one point.
A typical Richard's Pipit with large size and longer tail, clearly marking out as different from Meadow Pipit. It had a long more "dagger" thrush- like bill, pale lores, prominent a black sub- moustachial stripe, buff streaked upper breast but clean white underparts. I did not see the very long rear hind claw but another observer remarked on seeing it. This rarity from Siberia is a regular late autumn visitor to the east coast but we rarely see it in the Lowestoft area.
Suddenly, I saw 2 birds fly into the dead weeds at the very edge of the cliff, initially I thought they were Siskin, they were completely obscured to me by weeds in the foreground but when another observer said they were Redpoll, I moved round (they called a rasping sound) and could clearly see they were indeed Redpoll, and Mealy Redpoll to boot (a visitor from Scandinavia), one was a pale grey- white colour, an adult; and the other more obscured bird was grey-brown; a first winter.
They fed for a couple of minutes and I took a few pics at close range of the sdult and the immature before they flew due west.
Dark clouds and rain was our cue to leave, leaving Jon E still diligently trying to get the shots of the bird. especially as BINS and Rob Wil had texted me saying a Sibe Chiff- Chaff was showing well in Sparrow's Nest found by Andrew E.
Arriving at Sparrow's Nest, 2 birders (inc. Paul) at the top of Bowling Green said the birds hadn't been seen since 11.35. I decided to do my usual walk around, little was seen in Arnold's Walk save for a Starling try to throw me off the scent with a pitch perfect rendition of the Sibe Chiff- Chaff's "lost chick" call!
I located the tit flock at the top of the steps behind the restaurant and after seeing a reasonably confiding Jay and a Goldcrest by the aforementioned steps, I searched through the 50 or so Long- tailed Tits, including several Blue and Great Tits too. High up in a Beech tree, I spotted the excellent Siberian Chiff- Chaff (at about 12.35pm) it had very grey plumage, whitish supercilia, dark legs and bill and it followed the tit flock moving first west and then south among the trees bordering the Ravine.
I lost it to view but had brief views of a fine male Brambling facing me, but high up in the Beech tree.
On Tuesday 2nd November and before work foray at Corton ORT revealed a couple of Goldcrests and just east of the copse of trees, I heard the distinctive trilling of a Waxwing which flew east overhead.
On driving to Martham Library, I had a lovely flock of Waxwings fly and circle overhead over the car as I waited at the Haven Bridge traffic lights, the most pleasant wait I have had for the lights (I almost said something else but didn't want to be misconstrued!!!)
Arriving at Martham Library, an excellent flock of around 160 Pink- footed Geese flew north west overhead.
At lunchtime, 44 Waxwing seen in the usual spot at Great Yarmouth all by the Rowan trees.
On Friday 5 November, I heard one call by the King's centre, Great Yarmouth as I was walking into a meeting.
At lunchtime Friday, there must have been around 100 birds, a flock of 60 by the houses and Rowan trees opposite Pasta foods making lightening raids onto the trees, plus around 40 just west of there flying in the sky, perching on roof aerials and generally flying around.
Sunday, 31 October 2010
A weekend of contrasts, a glorious sunny day on saturday and wet and miserable on Sunday.
Saturday morning I spent looking for Waxwings in Lowestoft I found and saw none.
But I had to work at Great Yarmouth Library in the afternoon and saw the usual flock of waxwings there, but now numbering just 16 Waxwings on the aerials. One regularly flew out catching insects in mid-air and nthen returning to it's perch and they all flew and briefly alighted on the middle Mountain Ash for a minute or so (I was viewing from the car park and was the only observer there) before flying back and then off south- west again just after 4pm.
Sunday, shopping at Lowestoft Asda I looked across at the Grain silo and the fine Peregrine was sitting on an air viaduct 3/4 of the way up the tower. It sat with his back to us and would occasionally look about showing it's yellow cere on the blue bill and piercing eyes and soot black crown. Nice to see again. It must have been impressive because even Jenny came and had a look! Lets hope it can find a mate.
A high pitched call revealed a fine Kingfisher flying past eastwards over the very long "Silver Sturgeon" boat and finally a Dunlin was heard too.
Friday, 29 October 2010
Lunchtime saw me driving down Southtown road, Great Yarmouth and just before the western end on the southern side, I could see around 47 Waxwing perched in a large tree in the linear park. Parking again at Lidl's, 3 photographers were very close to the Mountain Ash trees. One of their number was Perry F who had I not spoken to or seen for for years, (first seen, but not to talk to, after a long absence at the River Warbler at Thorpe Haddiscoe in the summer) so it was good to catch up.
Being autumnal birds they were heading for Mountain Ash or Rowan trees packed with orange berries at this time of the year (rather than Cotoneater/ Pyrancantha bushes that berry in the winter), in particular they were attracted to 3 berry laden Mountain Ash trees bordering the back of a line of some houses opposite the Three Bears Hotel and the Cobholm and Lichfield Community Play centre.
Sadly the Waxwings, around 18 or so or sometimes a group of up 47, spent most of their time flying around and over us in the murky half light , we were also treated to a cacophany of trilling calls as they flew over, they only settled briefly on the Mountain Ash's to voraciously feed and then fly up to the aerials or away. It was patently clear to me, and a newly arrived Peter C, that the photographers were far to close to the trees that the Waxwings wanted to feed in and a strategic retreat would have allowed the Waxwings time to feed from the trees for a period.
Some of the photographers were having none of it despite me mentioning it would be best to fall back a little way. Perhaps they thought all Waxwings were confiding, these obviously weren't.
What was the point in photographing them in such abysmal light anyway? Fieldcraft and the interests of the bird seems to be lacking with some of today's bird photographers.
After very belatedly hearing of Waxwings at Great Yarmouth, just after 5pm on Thursday 28th October, I made my way over to the Pasteur road opposite the Pasta foods factory and parked in Lidl's car park. I saw a small flock of approx 17 birds seen for a second, possibly waxwings disappear behind the roofs of some houses. The lovely trilling sound of a single Waxwing flying around, I viewed the bird flying around before it flew high in a south- westerly direction.
Seeing a friend at the Library on Friday, he told me about an experience that a very well respected member (and finder of several rarities) of the Yarmouth Bird club was subjected to. He, too, was watching the Waxwings from Lidl car park and he was approached by Lidl's manager to say that he had complaints from people in the houses saying they had seen a person looking through people's windows with binoculars. Of course, he wasn't, he was just looking at the Waxwings feeding either on the Mountain Ash berries or perched on the aerials.
When he had explained what he was looking at, the embarrassed Lidl's manager apologised and bore a hasty retreat.
Birding around housing estates and looking especially for waxwings can be a hazardous pursuit.
It reminded me of a time when I was looking at Waxwings at Tottenham on a housing estate in London and I had rude words shouted at me by teenagers in the neighbourhood.
Sunday, 24 October 2010
During an early morning visit (8.40am) I met some people along Arnold's walk by the top path today who said it had been showing well but they hadn't seen it for 20 minutes.
It wasn't until about 11am when OFB kindly gave me call to say he had just heard the Bluetail call. I had briefly ventured down half way along the path to look in the very top of the sycamores having heard the rasping call of a Brambling, initially all I could see were Chaffinches but then I saw the welcome sight of a pale orange breast of a Brambling right neat the middle top of a Sycamore, but it then flew left.
I joined OFB at the usual spot by the top path looking in an area of dead Alexander plants.
walking away a few yards I heard the distinctive trill of a Waxwing flying over but I could not see the bird. Back at the dead Alexander area, the fine Red- flanked Bluetail hopped up on an Alexander stem I was able to obtain a few shots, albeit in very poor light using ISO 3400 on the lowest aperture I could use of F6.3 not brilliant! It then spent time along the ground, often obscured by vegetation in the foreground before it perched up again albeit partially obscured.
I had to leave at 12 noon to take jenny to an Apple Day celebration at Gressenhall Workhouse Museum.
Driving along the Acle straight we saw 16 Pink- footed Geese flying north- east.
On Saturday 23rd October, was a really frustrating day trying to photograph the Red- flanked Bluetail in Arnold's Walk. A mid morning shift 10.30 to 1pm revealed just a 15 second view high in Sycamore viewed half way up on the diagonal path running up towards Arnold's walk. I was forced to go home and clean up after my tripod fell over in vegetation and picking it up, my hands and the tripod were covering in fresh dog excrement, urrrghhh! Absolutely disgusting.
Washing my hands and tripod in the puddle at the bottom, I then had to go home and get everything, hands and tripod thoroughly bleached.
At about 1.40pm I arrived at Potter's Bridge near Southwold and taking the path just north of the bridge just 10 yards east of the road I spotted a magnificent Rough- legged Buzzard flying north over the marshes. It performed beautifully hovering and then perching for five minutes in atree showing a cream- white head and upper breast and a very dark- brownish belly, a striking bird which indicates it is an immature bird. It then flew north over the fields.
My cue to leave, returning to Arnold's Walk I spent the next 2 1/2 hours not seeing the Bluetail at all, only to be told the bird had been showing well near the area of the top path for the whole period of my absence.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
On Tuesday 19th October, a morning working at Martham Library meant I was able to take a half hour lunch break down the southern valley on Winterton Dunes. especial thanks to Peter C (for letting me know the bird was still there) and Tim H (for calling the bird in).
Walking down at around 1pm. seeing a Robin and a female Reed Bunting raised hopes.
A small crowd including Ricky F and Dave J was waiting expectantly in front of the small copse along the seaward side of Hermaness camp along the restaurant area.
Birds flitting around included 2 Chiff- Chaffs and high above a berry ladden Hawthorn bush in some Sycamores, I picked out the fabulous Pallas' Warbler.
I shouted out Pallas' warbler to alert the other observers and they soon joined me in watching this eastern stunner.
This eastern gem was a real jewel of a bird but to me seemed quite a worn individual (an adult?) albeit with thick yellow supercilia, 2 wingbars, yellow rump and silky white underparts. It flew around and was also soon hovering hunting for flies. After a few minutes it flew back deeper into the foliage and it was my time to go (time 1.30pm)
Monday, 18 October 2010
Arriving at Arnold's Walk, Lowestoft I was hoping to connect with yesterday's incredible sighting of a Red- flanked Bluetail by Robert Win, first seen in Sparrow's Nest and then rediscovered by Robert Wil in Arnold's walk. Seeing Robert Win already there half way down the path leading to the apple tree at the bottom, after few minutes Robert said he had just seen it. Walking further up the path, I saw a Robin-like bird with a blue tail, the excellent female/ 1st winter Red- flanked Bluetail fly across and down into the undergrowth. After 2 1/2 hours, where we were joined by the Winterton illuminati of Peter C and friend and nice to see Chris M and his dog too and regular correspondent Paul W, we were "treated" to long periods without seeing the bird interspersed with brief flight only views. The bird finally settled down into an area at the base of a sycamore where it was occasionally seen around some dead Alexander plants and it perched for a couple of minutes on one just a foot of the ground providing me with virtual exclusive pics of the bird (except for Andrew's modernist "blurtail"(his words not mine) pic, one for Tate Modern!)
I then travelled south to Southwold to the Camping site adjacent to the harbour road. Walking through the site to the far north- west corner by the toilet block, I met Chris D and followers and we first spotted the 2 excellent "Caudata" Northern race Long- tailed Tits with completely white heads and maybe a slightly longer tail making them very attractive birds indeed, flitting around the bushes on the western edge of a field north of the campsite, they were then around the toilet block and then round some buildings in trees before transferring to the hedgerow bordering the harbour road but often Chris was ahead of me, but I got my best shot against a green background, when one bird was fairly low down.
To my mind the high pitched call may have been a fraction higher pitched than "our" Long- tailed Tit but otherwise the calls were identical and lovely birds to see.
Next stop Sizewell, where parking opposite the Vulcan Arms, I logically (geddit?) walked into a field with bushes along the western end bordering the entrance road to Sizewell Nuclear Power station with heavy Police security present.
Eric P updated me that the bird had been seen recently but I had to wait twenty minutes before it showed briefly in a small bush right in front of us giving brief almost sub-liminal glimpses of part of its body; first the head with thick yellow supercilia, then the body with wing bars and white underparts and then the tail and lemon- yellow rump.
The bird was later seen aat the top of a Hawthorn and Sycamore tree where it was seen flitting about several times briefly.
Next stop Minsmere Island Mere where Gerald G held court in the hide with Paul W.
We saw Bitterns, probably 2 fly in and out of the left- hand end of the mere around the reedy edge.
Later on I spotted the excellent Great white Egret fly up from the right down a channel showing its large size and dagger like yellow bill.
The ever alert Paul spotted an excellent ringtail Hen Harrier and thanks to Gerald I was able to obtain 1 or 2 good shots as she flew past the hide. Female Marsh harrier seen here to. walking back to the car I saw a Red Deer on the hill.
walking down to the Red Deer rut watch point on Westleton Heath, 2 Curlew flew up and from the fence looking due south, several Red Deer could be seen including a fine Stag with an impessive set of antlers nonchalently sitting on the ground of the highest hill field.
1 or 2 other Stags were seen. The "mooed" frequently.
Just returned from another very enjoyable trip to Scilly with a crack team of birders including John H, Winterton Tim, Andrew H & his girlfriend Tina & Neil M. Sadly, Terry T was again absent this year hope he can make it next year?
We are indebted yet again to the herculain efforts of John driving us down there and back, thanks John.
No sooner had we arrived than we were chasing off to the Garrison just below Star Castle hotel on the cliffs overlooking the rocks where a wonderful Black- eared Wheatear had taken up residence. 350 present made the bird nervous and flighty but on a return visit days later had the bird showing down to 30 feet and even resting and dozing on a rock!
More Scillies to follow.
To totally misquote Winston Churchill "Never in the field of Lowestoft birding has so much been missed, so many rare birds by so few (ie. me!!)
This is because I have been away again (why do so many megas turn up when I am away??) to the Isles of Scilly, an enjoyable trip with 2 lifers (more of that later).
Anyway many congratulations to the hardened patch workers Robert's Wil & Win and Andrew E who fully deserve to turn up these birds as they are out every day looking for birds. A request next time lads, can you find them when I'm not away, please?
So apologies to anyone who has checked this site to hear of tales being regaled about such megas as Isabelline Wheatear at the nets posts, Red- flanked Bluetail in the parks, Radde's warbler in Yarmouth cemetary and Pallas' warblers at Kessingland.
Backed up by Great Grey Shrikes, Shore Larks & Yellow- browed Warblers. I can tell you nothing.
I take solace in another misquoted Churchillian quote "We shall find them (ie rare birds) on the Lowestoft beaches, we shall find them on the landing grounds, in the fields, in the streets, in the hills, in the air, we will find them everywhere, we shall never surrender!!"
I'm now off out to start looking! Wish me luck!!
Saturday, 2 October 2010
A pleasant stroll around the Lowestoft North Denes area today, where I saw 4 Chiff- Chaff behind the Oval and a further 8 in bushes on the slope on the northern section near Links Rd. Meeting Chris M, we made our way through Warren House Wood seeing a male Great Spotted Woodpecker here. Walking up to Gunton Warren, we heard "chuckling" and a fine male Ring Ouzel flew out of a bush and into a large green bush. A further "chuckling" revealed a female Ring Ouzel feeding on berries on a bush but partially obscured before she flew out. Both Ouzels then flew up to the big green bush and then flew down again, the female into a bare bush north of the bushy area, but very sadly she was flushed by the inevitable dog walker & before I could get any pics. Both Ring Ouzels flew together from the bushes on the beach and back up the slope again.
By the marram grass area on the beach just east of Link's rd, a Wheatear initially seen on the eastern edge of the sea wall was carefully stalked. Although initially flighty, by my judicious fieldcraft, I was able to sneak up and obtain a few pics. One is pictured alongside this post.
Walking back almost to the Oval, in the large elderflower bush I spied a female Blackcap eating elder berries. At the back of the Oval, a calling Pied Flycatcher gave me the slip, but I saw 2 immature Wood Pigeons feeding at the north side of the Oval. I also saw a male Muntjac Deer slip through, initially he stopped and looked at me before he headed north 2/3 of the way up the slope. At the top of Sparrows Nest, near the southern entrance, the constantly calling "hwet" (similar to Chiff Chaff but harder) revealed a fine Pied Flycatcher near the top of a sycamore. In Arnold's Walk, another calling Pied Flycatcher was seen briefly on the edge of the walk and the houses south from here. A Chiff- Chaff was also seen and a Red Admiral butterfly.
I spoke to a lady who had just seen a Clouded Yellow butterfly (her description of a yellow with a spot seen at rest and becoming orangey when it flew was spot on!) at Ness Point and it had flown into the grounds of Bird's Eye factory.
I finally saw a fine Small Copper butterfly near the "exhibit' at north end of the net posts by Whapload road.
Retracing my steps through Flycatcher alley, I was drawn to a male Blackcap, which was doing it's best to impersonate a Flycatcher, flycatching for insects in a sunny spot on the slope.
Thursday, 30 September 2010
Having just 45 minutes this morning before work, along at the entrance a female Blackcap was seen. The whole area was sodden wet and dank with grey skies that only brightened up at 8.40am just as I was leaving. There was further evidence of fly tipping, which is such a problem here with a double mattress recently dumped on the track (if this inconsiderate people take the time to dump it here they've walked 30 yards down the track to why can't they dispose of it properly at the Haddenham road refuse dump??) By the copse along the old rail track by the last southern sycamore, a calling Pied Flycatcher flew out and round the corner to the bare "HBuzzard" tree.
Checking Corton old sewage works, I was running out of time but saw a female Wheatear fly up to the fence and 6 Sky Lark fly out the stubble field north of the works. In the field just west of here, 3 Robins seen and 11 Siskin flew west.
Opposite Corton ex-MOD track, a heron stood sentinel in the field.
In the evening, a tractor was spraying the stubble fields disturbing several 4 Sky larks, & the female Wheatear was seen again on the sewage works and 6 turnstones on the groynes by the sea. Finally, a female Reed Bunting flew up from the track in the grass field and flew to the northern most hedge.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
Sadly, the star bird of the autumn (so far!) in Lowestoft, was a 1 day only bird, the RF Bluetail had departed, no sign this morning. 2 Brambling and 5 Siskin flew overthe field just east of Corton church. there were still 3 Robins in this hedge line.
At Great Yarmouth Cemetary in the south section, seeing both John H and Peter C also looking for migrants, we saw several Robins, Song Thrushes and 1 constantly calling Redstart which flew out of a group of bushes.
At Great Yarmouth Library, a Chiff- Chaff called in bushes behind the Library.
This evening in the garden I heard a Redstart call in the field at the back of the garden but sadly not seen.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
A look around Gunton Old Rail Track this morning before work revealed a male and female Blackcap in bushes at the bottom of the Pitch & Putt course by brambles. On the ORT, 2 Goldcrest heard, again many Song Thrush at least 30 and 30 Robin too, "takking" constantly. Another male Blackcap and a female Ring Ouzel flew north along the ORT.
Walking back at the bottom of Dip farm pitch and putt, I raised my bins and saw a fine male Ring Ouzel, fine bird with white crescent on it's breast, lemon- yellow bill and silvery wings perched and facing left on a large bramble bush voraciously eating blackberries. No sooner had I seen it than it flew off.
Arriving at Gorleston Library from the car park, I heard and saw a fine group of 10 calling Bramblings fly north.
A call from James B saw me at Corton lunchtime watching the row of trees, especially the sallows that I had looked at the previous evening for over 1/2 an hour!!! I had seen many Robins and there were still around 5 present but James picked up the excellent Red- flanked Bluetail and I saw this stunning bird which flew down to low branches and even the ground on the edge of Sallows bordering the edge of the green field just west of Corton Old Sewage works. Robin-like though smaller with cream throat, a little orange on the flanks (1st winter or female bird) and stunning blue tail. It showed very well on the edge of the tree line flitting about and perched on low branches. Other visitors, included Ricky F, James W & Andrew E. I visited later in the evening (straight after work), a small crowd was present including LGRE, Richard W, Dick & Ali R and Richard S and the Bluetail was still showing well on the edge of the trees favouring the lower tree branches and even flying out onto the grass on occasions. 10 Siskin flew over, whilst a Reed Warbler was seen in some tamarisk, Brambling also seen flying over.
As I walked back from the old sewage works back down the track to the road, a large grey warbler with white outer- tail feathers flew right into sycamore and brambles in perfect unison with a Song Thrush, a possible Barred Warbler but it disappeared from view and I couldn't wait as I had to return to work.
A 6pm trip to Gorleston Beacon Park, giving both James B & Rob Wil a lift and followed by LGRE, also driving a Corsa (!) chasing after Ian S's RT Pipit seen an hour earlier led to the usual dip, I've never seen any of his rarities (no inference on Ian's bird finding/ID abilities which are excellent, just on my luck on twitching his birds!)
At Martham Library calling Coal Tit heard.
Monday, 27 September 2010
The weekend's strong north/ north-west winds and incessant rain meant that I decided to do a brief seawatch before work from Baker's Score at Corton. In a 20 minute seawatch I saw 7 Gannets flying south (2 adults and 5 sub- adults), 2 Divers seen on the sea one indeterminate (too far out to conclusively say) and 1 Red- throated Diver, 2 Mediterranean Gulls (1 adult winter and 1 second winter) flew north and close in and over the cliff and the caravan park.
A Redstart flew away from the caravan park bush.
Leaving work as I drove down Lowestoft road at Gorleston, I saw a Wheatear perched on an advertising hoarding.
After work, I decided to check out Corton where the grassy field between the churchyard and the old sewage works sported up to 30 Song Thrushes on the grass as well as 2 Redwing. Most of the Song thrushes I saw here were a noticably a cold- grey brown appearance, I assume continental birds. Robins were everywhere, around 30 seen or heard (constantly "takking") in this area alone.
On the North Denes, Gunton Dunes revealed 2 and 3 meadow Pipits as well as 1 Reed Bunting which flew onto a bramble bush and perched briefly as well as a group of 5 Reed Buntings flushed by Rob Wil's dog! They flew up and over Warren House Wood.
With daylight at a premium and the light fading fast, I decided to drive to the top of the Oval.
A good decision, as walking down a calling Pied Flycatcher alighted momentarily on a bare tree before flying off. Looking on the Oval, a Redstart flew south from the NW corner.
Sunday, 26 September 2010
Arriving at Ness Point today at 9am, seeing Rob Win & Andrew E, I arrived just in time to watch a reasonably close immature Long- tailed Skua 1/2 way out (before the buoys) it flew north with a bouncy tern-like flight low over the water, at one point it broke away and flew high to harry a small group of Common terns flying south. It then carried on flying north. watched for around 2 minutes, it was typically a cold grey- brown appearance above with barring on upper rump and uppertail coverts showing a scaly effect. It's rear end was long and tapering and blunt central tail projection. Significantly it showed no white on the dark primaries, the secondaries were dark too. It had a darker brown head and underparts showed cold greyish areas with darker breast band and paler belly and throat. The undertail coverts were barred too. A great bird and good views too!
We were joined by OFB, Chris M and especially nice to see Neville S. Other birds seen during a two hour seawatch included a dark Arctic Skua with white wing flashes flying low over the water, a Purple Sandpiper, a group of 1 Knot and 1 Dunlin, a further group of 5 Dunlin, 6 singleton Red throated Divers, a group of 11 Common Scoter (2 males, 9 females), a single Common Scoter and a further 4 Common scoter, a cumultattive tally of 20 Gannets including a group of 5 flying very close past us (all the Gannets were immatures save for 3 sub- adults), 3 single auks, 2 single Mediterranean Gulls (1st winter and 2nd winter birds), 8 Little Gulls including a group of 3 (1 imm, 2 adults) and 5 (3 adults, 2 immatures). All these birds flew north.
Next stop was Hamilton Dock, where it was especially pleasing to see 2 female Common Eiders in the channel plus a Common Tern between Hamilton Dock and the harbour. OFB also saw a Cormorant in the dock, whilst I was pleased to see a Common Seal surface on 2 occasions before it disappeared.
A walk around the Oval, included 6 Long-tailed Tits in the Sycamores behind it. Amongst a group of Gulls including Black- headed (5), Herring (3), Lesser Black- backed (2), was the usual adult Yellow- Legged Gull. 5 Pied Wagtail were around the cricket practice area. Whilst on the seaward side of the Oval, dog walkers flushed a close Wheatear that alighted close to me for a split second before flying north. Work on this area of the North Denes to get it ready for a fixed caravan site has begun and has lead to the demolition of the old toilet/ shower block & sadly the removal of the large Tamarisk bushes by Tooke's old shop which was fenced off (repairs or demolition?)
Saturday, 25 September 2010
A Mega alert which I first found out by looking at BirdGuides and confirmed on Suffolk BINS at 1.15pm alerted me to the amazing news that incredibly an American "Empidonax" Flycatcher had been seen in the Plantation on Blakeney Point, North Norfolk. Empidonax Flycatchers are notoriously difficult to identify in the field. Ringing around most Premier League (or should that be the Ryman League) Lowestoft birders were following the fortunes of their beloved Lowestoft FC down at Stratford in Essex, where are your priorities boys??
Finally managing to give a lift to Ricky F, we made our way up to the Point, parking at the Cley Beach car park.
We then started at 3.40pm, what was the most arduous 3 miles walk I have ever undertaken, we were battling force 9 Northerly winds blasting right at us as we trudged along the seemingly never ending shingle ridge towards the tip of the point. The shingle made you feel you were taking a stride forward but slipping half a stride back! The weather threw everything at us from heavy rain, to "hard as nails" hail that stung your eyes incessantly, but doggedly we finally trudged our way dragging our bedraggled soaked carcasses to the Plantation after about an hour's walk!
It was good to see both Paul N & the Dereham boys in the near distance as we neared the Plantation and they gave us the thumb's up!
A group of around 70 birders were standing inland of the Plantation and I saw John H & Ian M briefly, Baz H very kindly said we needed to go on the left hand side of the group if we wanted to see the bird. It was also nice to see regular correspondent Paul W as well.
After 15 minutes a shout went up and I picked up the bird 4 foot of the ground perched on a branch just left of the main trunk of a Sycamore tree. A stunning bird, it had it's back to us showing a grey- green back with 2 white wing bars and thick creamy- white tertial edges were clearly discernable. It looked large headed and had a grey-green head and white complete eye-ring as it looked to the right.
I watched this stunning bird for 2 minutes before it flew back and out of sight.
After 20 minutes a shout went up where it had flown over to a smaller sycamore tree behind some Lupins. It was seen again just above the Lupins by the tree trunk but frustratingly some sycamore leaves in the foreground completely obscured bird at the angle I was and I didn't see it on this occasion, although I did see a shape fly down.
Finally at 6pm, another shout went up, it was just right of the sycamore in a bare bush. It then flew and perched right out on a horizontal branch in full view (very close to some fence posts within the plantation) for around 2 minutes, sadly the final 1/2 minutes was marred by some heavy rain. The bird was perched facing left and showed a yellowish wash on the breast and white belly with a white throat and also with a noticable darker greyish left breast side. Again an absolute stunner of a bird!
With these features, some are calling it a "probable" Yellow- bellied Flycatcher. I don't think Willow or Alder Flycatcher, should be ruled out, the pictures I have seen tonight on the web and my observation make me lean towards this latter pair. Whether it will be ever specifically identified I don't know, trapping it is the only answer but the weather conditions and concern for the safety of the bird may rule this option out. I'm not sure, Whatever it is, it's a first for me and for Norfolk! Very sadly, I can show you no shots of the bird due to the poor weather conditions and brief views of the bird.
Other people at the twitch included LGRE as always selflessly shouting directions and getting people onto the bird, the Suffolk contingent included Matthew D, Craig F, Nick A & Roy M.
By now, I was beginning to shiver (the effects of being soaked through and the strong wind) and Rick and I decided to leave. On the way back I saw 1 and then a group of 3 Dunlin which called as they flew on the beach. As the light was beginning to fail, we encountered an injured Common Seal pup on the beach which was manhandled by LGRE's friend & moved into cover. The Seal pup sadly had a bloody foot and the Seal rescue service were called.
Finally in the pitch black, after what seemed an eternity, but must have been around an hour I met Rick back at the car park and we drove back home.
Norfolk's now had a Red- breasted Nuthatch and an Empidonax Flycatcher but still no Red- eyed Vireo (my favourite bird (excluding the Owls), you know why!) Maybe I'll find one in Great Yarmouth Cemetary!
Friday, 24 September 2010
Lunchtime on Thursday 23rd September (1.15- 1.50pm) saw me belatedly visiting a local woodland area, with the recent warm and muggy summery weather in the hope of locating Adders basking (see the April 2010 posts) in the warm September sun. Sadly, the weather had deteriorated and grey clouds led to light rain.
In the end, I didn't leave the car park area, as I found a circle of 5 wonderful Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) mushrooms.
I have kept the location secret as they are in a publicly accessible site & I do not wish them to be collected.
A warning for those hoping to get a hallucinogenic high from them, they are not the so called magic mushrooms. These mushrooms could be poisonous if ingested and cause serious health problems!
They had red rounded tops with white speckles on them. They were under a big Pine tree but sadly the area they were in was literally soiled by dog excrement and 2 empty beer bottles & broken glass strewn about, absolutely vile and disgusting! Why can't some people respect their natural environment?
Choosing where I stood, very carefully I photographed several of the Fly Agarics, but badly cut my finger, probably on some broken glass as the blood was flowing profusely. I finally managed to stem the flow of blood and complete the photography. As I was about to leave, a confiding Common Frog leapt into view at the base of the tree and posed nicely for photo's. I then had to leave as my time was up!
CHECK OUT: The Wasp Spider pic added to the recent Wasp spider post.
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Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Monday the 20th August saw Jenny and I walking down to Benacre Broad on a balmy late summer's evening. Very little was seen from the hide save for 300+ Greylag Geese at the back and both Knot (winter plumage) and Common Sandpiper feeding on the Broad/ beach edge and Little Grebe on the Broad too. A walk back along the cliffs revealed a male Common Scoter close in on the sea, which sadly was constantly preening its bedraggled looking flight feathers which must have been oiled.
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Taking a trip up to Sheringham so Jenny could witness the impressive 1940's weekend, where many people are dressed in 1940's costume (the event is centered around the historic steam railway station and Sheringham High street) you'd think would limit my wildlife watching. Not a bit of it! as I saw an excellent Hobby on the drive up hawking over Rollesby Broad.
Ignoring the very tempting temptation to nip across to Cley NWT reserve, we came back via Horsey NT car park and I soon found 2 female Wasp Spiders very easily in the "meadow" and photographed them. These colourful spiders with yellow, black and white banded abdomens, are around 2 inches long (the larger females); have spread across from southern Europe and can be difficult to find (see yesterdays entry at Hen reedbeds reserve), unless you know exactly where they are. It also helps if other people have searched the area before you as was the case here at Horsey) and the disturbed grass is an easy pointer to where the Spiders were.
This evening up to 4 House martins were still flying over the house, so they've not gone yet, finally a Stock Dove flew south low over the garden.
Saturday, 18 September 2010
An early start at Winterton, had me meeting Peter C, having first heard a Coal Tit in his garden, we made our way onto the Dunes and in a dip close to the houses just north of Beach road and we soon saw the fine adult male Red- backed Shrike that showed quite well in bushes around here perching in a rosehip bushes and on top of a bramble bush. A fine bird with grey head, black mask and reddish brown back and a slight pink flush on its breast. Occasionally the Shrike would disappear amongst the brambles behaving more like a Warbler, before finally showing again and I managed to retrace my steps and crawl up the top of the ridge and take a few pics where the Shrike posed quite nicely for me, although I would have prefered to have been a little closer.
Meanwhile along Beach road, a Tree Sparrow showed well briefly amongst some House Sparrows. walking south along the Dunes, near the beach we saw lots of hirundines, swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins flew around both south and north. It reminded me that they were on the move the House Martins have left the nests under out house eaves (sad to see them disappear but all 3 nests were used and were very successful raising several broods and just 2 chicks were lost found dead on the drive during the summer) on Thursday 16th and just 2 House Martins were seen flying over the garden on Friday 17th We didn't see the hoped for Laplands, but a fine Hobby whizzed past and north and out of sight.
In the dunes, a Wheatear flew past us and south rounded off a fine early morning trip to Winterton today.
Later in the morning a look around the North Denes revealed nothing.
In the afternoon, I looked around the Hen reedbeds not seeing anything or the hoped for Wasp spiders so I took pics of Grasshoppers.
At Southwold harbour (where I saw several confiding young Starlings were moulting from their immature plumage to adult winter plumage) Dunwich beach car park, I couldn't see the hoped for King Eider, but there was a raft of 21 Common Scoter on the sea just south of Dunwich Beach car park. In the distance through my telescope looking south, I could see a crowd of birders standing on the cliff of Dunwich Beach car park and arriving at Dunwich NT, I joined the crowd including Roy M & saw the rather distant King Eider just south of their on the sea probably directly out from the entrance to Minsmere East hide.
On Blythburgh estuary, I saw a few waders, as well as the usual Redshank, Curlew & including 7 closer Knot (all winter plumage), many Dunlin and more distant singletons of both Avocet & Spotted Redshank.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Two female Garganey were seen at Leathes Ham early this morning at around 8.30am.
They were just in front of the island in the middle. Initially separated the two females joined each other on the water. Whether they are wild birds are not is debatable, i didn't see the legs to check for rings and the situation is clouded by the release of captive birds around the Flixton gravel pits area near Bungay. A Teal was seen also.
Monday, 13 September 2010
Hearing the distinctive calls of Greylag Geese had me leaping out of bed this morning and I was just in time to see the classic "V" formation of 35 Greylag Geese flying south- west over Fallowfields and the Parkhill Hotel grounds another new species seen from the present garden.
Sunday, 12 September 2010
After a disappointing look around Kessingland beach and Benacre Pits where the only birds seen were 3 Wheatear, around the sluice area plus 5 Meadow Pipits, 10 Pied Wagtails, 2 Skylark and 2 Little Grbe on the pit. There was no Lap Bunting & the waders at the pool on the North Beach had been flushed by a dog and I scoped some waders flying off, so no chance of seeing the hoped for Little Stint.
A small Copper butterfly on the beach played very "hard to get" and escaped the hoped for obligatory photograph. 2 singleton Sky Lark flew up from my feet. It was especially disappointing to get a message at 12 noon to say a King Eider had been seen off Kessingland that morning. An hour and a half of looking at Kessingland & Benacre revealed nothing.
All this was turned on its head when I received a BINS message to say a King Eider had been seen off the Minsmere North Wall late afternoon and I received a lift from OFB. We headed for Dunwich National Trust cliff and as we entered we saw birders running across the road to the northern cliff area. Parking in a small car park, I ran across the heather and saw a few birders non the cliff scoping the bird, I quickly set up my scope and saw the bird, a cracking eclipse plumaged 1st summer drake King Eider, complete with orange knob at base of the bill bill, dark back with distinctive black scapular "sails" and paler breast.
6 Pintail also flew south over the sea.
I also noticed that the bird was drifting initially south (then later north) therefore staying in the same area the whole time and incredibly it was close inshore. I was keen to get pictures but I was confronted by a fairly steep cliff but I carefully made my way down without losing my footing and I ran across the beach to reach the throng of birders including Nick B, Jon E, Andrew E, Rob Wil & Rob Win amongst others. Steve P, Dick W & Ali R also arrived. I rattled other many shots before realising that I needed to plus the exposure by at least 1 1/2 or all the way as advised by pro photographers present to make out any colouration on the plumage and avoid silhouette shots only. The bird drifted and preened and then finally fell asleep. The sun came out briefly illuminating the bird proving better for photography. A splendid addition to my Suffolk list, the bird being an addition to the Suffolk list. Making my way back (to avoid the steep cliff climb) up some steps through the confusing and seemingly exitless Cliff House caravan park, I saw and photographed an immature Wood Pigeon.
This is the 4th King Eider I have seen following sighting off Scolt Head, Titchwell in Norfolk and an adult male in stunning plumage on the Ythan estuary near Aberdeen in Scotland.
Saturday, 11 September 2010
Today I drove to Minsmere hoping the goodies that had been there most of the week would stay. The Wryneck was seen straight away at the North bushes feeding by a patch of bell heather at the back of the grassy area. A Redstart was also seen perched in a small tree here too.
Walking east down the path, just past the bend we looked south and saw the excellent immature Red- backed Shrike perched in a small triangular bush, it did several flying sorties and later on caught a beetle and flew back to the bush to devour it.
Walking along the beach, I saw 3 Whimbrel and a Bar- tailed Godwit flying south just south of the Public hide, I saw Matthew D photographing something and walking slowly and carefully up to him, he pointed out the 2 Lapland Buntings just in front of him barely 15 feet away! This is the sort of birding I really like; walking up to the birds seeing them instantly and even getting close to some for a chance of a spot of photography.
The birds were feeding around some small sea Cabbage and I was able to obtain several shots as the birds were most confiding, as is sometimes the case with this species.
walking to the sluice bushes, surely the Barred wouldn't be this easy? It wasn't.
After an hour looking, in the pleasant company of Chris M & Peter N, we didn't see it and I joined Roy H and his wife as we had a look within the Sluice bushes again no luck, but as Roy played a recording of the Barred warbler song at the back of the sluice bushes, we caught a glimpse of a large warbler (I didn't get any colouration or plumage on it) which flew over and into the bush just south of where we were needless to say we didn't see it again, it may have been the Barred Warbler?
My luck was running out, as a look on the east Scrape following a male Sparrowhawk whizzing through low and heading in a north- westerly direction "spooked" the birds and I failed to spot the Little Stint that had been showing earlier although we did see Avocet, 2 Common sandpiper and 4 winter- plumaged Knot that flew south. A walk back enabled us to see the Red- backed Shrike again and the Wryneck from the concessionary path running though the North bushes where I also saw a very tame pheasant, Rabbit, Speckled Wood and a Lesser Whitethroat.
In the garden late afternoon we heard and saw 2 Chiff- Chaffs, a female Common Darter rested on a towel on the washing line and later in the evening a Migrant Hawker briefly whizzed around the garden.
A walk around Corton new sewage works on Thursday 9th September after work revealed no migrants whatsoever. At Corton old Sewage works, a Redstart seen very briefly as was a calling Chiff- Chaff by the fence perimeter, a Pied Flycatcher seen for a split second fling around the base of a Pine.
A Snipe flew out of the field stubble and flew high west as I walked down the path to look out to sea. Whilst 2 flying Common Sandpipers flew north, stopping briefly to alight on one off the groynes.
Up to 32 House Martins flying over the garden perhaps their preparing to leave?
Tuesday 7th September
Just back from a week's holiday on the Greek island of Kefalonia, next door to Zakynthos (or Zante) and South of Corfu, it forms part of the Ionian islands. Kefalonia is perhaps best known for the novel and movie; Captain Corelli's Mandolin.
We experienced changeable weather conditions with strong north- west winds on the first 2 days and stormy weather and a rainstorm on the day, Saturday of our boat trip looking for Dolphins, needless to say we didn't see any. The rest of the week was fine and sunny.
On Wednesday 1st September, a trip to Old Scala revealed 2 fine Red- rumped swallows flying overhead and an Icterine Warbler flying to an Olive tree. An eastern Rock Grayling posed well on the rocks. At Katelios by the newly constructed harbour 3 Red- rumped Swallows flew over as did a House Martin. Around the bush a Hummingbird Hawk moth probed the flowers. Round the back of the village, 3 Two- tailed Pashas, stunning butterflies flew round a garden and a fig tree.
Finally locating the Katelios Turtle Conservation project group on Mounda Beach, I was able to witness them excavating a recently erupted Turtle nest. They found many opened egg cases (proof that the Turtles had broken out of the nest and hopefully reached the sea), sadly 4 dead baby Turtles and 1 hatchling which was still alive and it eventually made its way down to the sea.
On Thursday 2nd September, a trip to Avithos lake revealead a singing Cetti's warbler (heard only), 2 Silver washed Fritillaries flying around the fence-bushes and a few Clouded yellows, bathed in sunshine and 6 Brown Argos, Sooty Coppers by the short grass where I had parked the car.
At Sami, along the seafront as we were having lunch we counted 6 Two-tailed Pashas flying south past us. At the bushes area, a further 3 Two-tailed Pashas seen, plus a Sage Skipper and Lesser Purple Emperors. Whilst overhead a flock of 12 Alpine Swifts flew north.
At antisami beach, by the wasp traps (drink bottles filled with a small amount of Honey), they attracted 3 Two- tailed Pashas using the long probiscuses to drink the honey.
On Friday 3rd September, a trip to the capital Argostoli, included an early morning trip to the harbour, the fishermen were in harbour on the boars gutting the fish they had caught which in turn famously attracts Loggerhead turtles and we saw 2 full grown adults, 1 male (with a curled tail!) and a female. watching these Turtles at close range (within a few feet!) was the highlight of the holiday and it was wonderful to watch these glorious creatures swim so gracefully in the sea and break the surface to breathe and eat fish titbits. Both were seen together on several occasions.
A trip back to Mounda beach, Jenny went swimming and I looked around the watery outlet by the Marina Bay hotel and saw a very obliging Wall Lizard, 4 Southern skimmers and by the bushes on the beach, 5 Lang's Short- tailed Blue, 2 Long-tailed Blue, 3 Painted Ladies, a Skipper sp and a Marbled White flew briefly into a bush. Whilst a Spotted Flycatcher perched on top a bush briefly.
On Saturday 4th September, the boat trip revealed very little save for a Turtle in the harbour again and 2 Grey Herons. Afterwards a large eagle seen over distant mountains looked like a Golden Eagle.
On Sunday 5th September, a trip up to the highest point of the island Mount Einos, was so far the most productive birding of the trip, it revealed a Cirl Bunting flying over the road and a Wheatear by the circular concrete martello tower type constuction. Taking the track to the radar station revealed a further wheatear, a pair of striking Black- eared Wheatears and a male Stonechat. Travelling down I heard a Firecrest.
Back at Antisami, Jenny going swimming again, I saw a female Woodchat Shrike on a fence as we were driving in, Two-tailed Pashas again by the wasp traps and several Grasshoppers and a Lesser Purple Emperor. That night walking back to the Crystal Palace hotel at Scala, on the steps up to the hotel I saw a big Bush Cricket sp.
On Monday 6th September, looking from the balcony of the hotel, we saw up to 5 calling Crested larks, 2 Wheatear on a sand spoil. At the back field of Katelios, a Red- backed Shrike flew from the wire to distant bushes, an Olivaceous warbler flew into an olive tree. 2 Blue- headed Yellow wagtails flew out of the field and there were 2 Yellow- legged gulls in the harbour.
At Mounda beach, a Mediterranean Skipper, 2 Clouded Yellows, a Grasshopper sp on a back track and a Buzzard seen.
Back at Scala in the early evening, 2 separate Cory's shearwaters seen flying out to sea, 11 Yellow wagtails flew out of a field and a male Woodchat Shrike seen perched on top of a mound in a field. Walking back to the hotel, a fine Preying mantis was seen on one of the light posts by the path leading back to the hotel.
Our last day Tuesday 7th September, an early morning walk around the maquis around the hotel revealed 5 swallow flying past, then a female Sparrowhawk, a Hare that almost ran up to me before scampering off,
Sardinian warbler, Spotted flycatcher and a gunshot revealed 1 flying Chukar and I was sprayed by stones (I was being shot at!!!) walking away, a further gunshot revealed another flying Chukar, further stones spraying past me (shot again, pellets!!!) and a male Blue Rock Thrush that flew away. a female Red- backed Shrike perched on a distant bush. Crested Lark and Whinchat also seen.
Back at the hotel, a Bush Cricket sp seen on the door jamb, it was well photo'd!
Driving back to the airport near Katelios we saw a further Woodchat Shrike by the roadside.
Monday, 30 August 2010
With the winds still blowing from the north I had high hopes of goodies being seen past Ness Point. There were but as usual I didn't see them, too late I should have got their earlier than late morning. I had 2 Shelduck flying south and groups of 5, 15, 5 and 6 Common Scoter flying north.
Around 12 Teal settled on the sea before flying south another 8 Teal flew south and that's all I saw in a half hour seawatch.