Sub- header

Sub- header

Sunday, 31 January 2010

1 Hare, 100+ Fieldfares, 3 Rough-Legs & 25 Woodcock!!

A look around Mutford turned up a few more Fieldfare (around 10) & Redwing too (around 15) all fairly distant, but most photogenic though, was a sleepy Hare in a field. It woke up, "boxed" (it's not March yet, although Jenny fervently wishes it was!) and then ran off!
The fields near Covehithe were scoured and again the field, which you reach by taking the A12 to Wrentham, turn off towards Southwold and then take the left turn to Covehithe, 300 yards up here on the right, is the Fieldfare field. Today, it hosted some 70 Fieldfare all were seen fairly close to the road. I managed to get a few shots, but looking into the bright sun was far from ideal. back to the main Southwold road & taking the next turn to the right, looking around the farm with the Horse in the field, 1 Fieldfare was seen really close to the road. It was photographed through gaps in the hedge. Another Fieldfare was seen in a field further up. Nearer the bridge, a field hosted some 15 Fieldfares again looking directly into the sunlight! Why do 90% of Fieldfare flocks, flock in fields where you are looking directly into the sun??
At Southwold on the Golf Practise green, a flock of 9 Black- tailed Godwit were feeding at the back, they walked left and then flew left and over Southwold marsh before changing their minds, they turned west and flew over heading west.
At the Bailey Bridge, I could see just west on the River Blyth, a flock of 12 Dunlin that flew onto the south side of the riverbank and I managed to get some reasonably close shots of them.
walking back a very close Turnstone was seen feeding on some green turf, whilst overhead I heard "yapping" calls, I looked up and saw a flock of 19 White- fronted Geese flying directly overhead in a north- westerly direction. About 5 Redshank seen here also. Back at the Practise green, I managed to see 1 excellent Water Pipit for 10 minutes before it too flew east high over Southwold marsh. At Potters Bridge, 2 female Marsh harriers flew over the reedbed.
Back at the Fieldfare field, the 70 Fieldfare were showing well again and as the cloud briefly obscured the bright sun I managed to obtain a few reasonable shots.
Viewing Chedgrave marshes and joining the assembled throng (Andrew E, Rob W, Richard S, Roger C, Phil H & others) from the "Bun" (a raised area) at the edge of the woods giving an ideal view over the marshes to the west. I immediately saw the Rough- legged buzzard perched on a gate post. Also flying over the marshes was an excellent Short- eared Owl and an equally excellent ringtail Hen Harrier. The Rough-leg flew from his post and flew right and then left. At excatly the same time to the feft of that bird, another Rough- leg flew right and was joined by a third Rough- leg, so there were incredibly 3 Rough- legged buzzards flying around!!! Other observers having confirmed this afterwards also. Certainly a record number for the local area. The Short- eared Owl quartered the fields as did the female Hen Harrier which flew strongly right. About 3 female Marsh harriers were flying around also.
The Rough- legs all disappeared for twenty minutes, before I saw a single bird perched on a gate post below the distant church. A typically squat bird with small head, pale upper breast and dark rear belly, I let everybody know especially the newcomers who were keen to see it. As twilight descended, it flew off towards us and flew directly overhead, silhouetted beautifully against the rose- pink horizon. It will presumably roost somewhere in Waveney Forest. We witnessed the wonderful spectacle of mostly singleton but also sometimes a duo of Woodcock flying from over the forest and out onto the marsh, 25 Woodcock were counted in total, and I personally saw at least 18 of their number.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

A Round trip

Overnight, we had about 2 inches of snow and a white blanket covered the Lowestoft landscape. As we were walking to the car in front of the house I heard the familiar scraping "catch" call looked up at 10.20am and saw 2 Snipe flying due west and directly over the house and front garden.
First stop was a look around Mutford for Fieldfares, the first ones were seen 4 perched on telegraph wires and a Kestrel flew over as well.
A Field (7 Fieldfares), trees and field entrance revealed another 7 birds.
Benacre Broad was full of birds, 11 flying lapwings seen on the way down, but sadly no hard weather fowl could be seen on the Broad whatsoever. Loads of Gulls BH Gulls (c500), Common Gulls (c30)and 15 Herring Gulls were observed right in front of the hide.
In the small inlet to the right, Little Grebe, a fine drake Pintail, Teal and mallard seen.
In total around 4 Little Grebe seen, 4 Pintail (3 males and 1 female), 500+ Teal, around 100 Wigeon and 30 Pochard together with 9 Goldeneye over the far side, including 2 very smart males and 7 females. The ducks were disturbed by a female Marsh Harrier quartering the reeds just north of the Hide.
Travelling to Southwold around 60 Fieldfare were seen feeding very close to the road in a field south of the road. Very little seen at Southwold save for a BH Gull feeding on a small Sand Eel in the Harbour.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Redwing is back!

On Wednesday 27th January I spied the Redwing perched near the top of the tree, it had flown up here after a dog walker had disturbed it. With snow this evening (Friday 29th) I would expect to see a few more in the garden again. Time for a trip to the local supermarket for more cheap apples!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Oulton Broad

Early morning at 8.10 a Woodcock flew north over St. Nicholas Everitt Park and the Broad itself.
I also saw a Wren, a lucky survivor of the recent very cold spell of weather we have just had.

Black Kite Magic

I have just returned from a very enjoyable trip to South & Mid Wales, primarily to see family but with some birding thrown in for good measure!

On Thursday 21st January, Mum's feeder hosted a range of birds including a couple of Marsh Tits which regularly perched on the fence before using the feeders. Coal Tit, 2 Blue Tit and 3 dominant Great Tit would also use these feeders. A female Sparrowhawk flashed by, scaring all the small birds & she perched in the trees at the back for a while before flying off.  A Treecreeper scurried up the branch of a nearby tree. A Jay briefly visited feeding on the ground.
3 Blackbird, a male and 2 females were seeing off a lot of birds, like a playground bully seeing off Robin & Dunnock.
The walk down the hill to Llanddarog stream was initially very disappointing . But by the first stream I heard a harsh "Tit-like" call followed by "tear tear tear". Raising my bins I saw a black- capped very white-cheeked & bull-necked Tit with an extensive white panel on the wing, an excellent Willow Tit. It was perched in a bush but quickly flew off. Meanwhile a Treecreeper crept at the back of a bush, whilst a Buzzard flew overhead. Walking back past the road to the return uphill route past the bridge, a 100 Redwing flew out of a tree and over fields perching in other trees whilst a Buzzard also flew by.

On Friday 22nd January, as I walked down the hill I heard the chattering of a Nuthatch from the wood to the right. By the Bridges past LLanddarog stream, a Dipper flew west overhead calling a harsh"tszchik" call. It later flew east over the bridge and past me showing its bi-coloured white-brown underparts.
A rasping call from the dead weeds by the bridge, revealed an excellent Lesser Redpoll that flew up to a large bush where it perched briefly before flying off. A Raven flew east in the distance.

It took 1 1/2 hours to travel to the mid Wales site of Gigrin Farm, a Red Kite feeding station, with several very steep hills (10% gradient or more!) negotiated on the journey! Turning off, through a farm and paying the princely sum of £15 for a spot for the best photography spot from the Tower Hide, I walked over to the hides, 3 in a semi-circle and one raised up by around 30 foot, the aforementioned Tower Hide. I joined 2 other birder/ photographers and we overlooked a few fields bordered by large trees at the back. Just after 2 pm the tractor chugged over the field cuts of meat were shovelled out onto the field right in front of us. Initially it took some time for the raptors to take the bait, Red Kites were perched in trees at the back including a very white looking leucistic individual, a White Red Kite no less! Leucism stops the normal colouration of the pigmentation of the feathers, in this case the red feathers were mostly white. First up were 5 Buzzard, which flew down and started eating their afternoon meal. no sooner had they done so, when the Kites, eventually up to 200 Red Kites wheeled and circled overhead and they dived down to scoop up individual cuts of meat without landing.
I spotted the bird I had travelled to see, that resembled a Black- eared Kite. The Asiatic form of the ubiquitous Black Kite widespread on the continent. It was a slightly, smaller and darker more compact bird with more wedge shaped rather than forked tail, compared with the Red Kite. Its pale head contrasted with a chocolate brown area around the eye. It had pale cream tipped wing coverts proving it was an immature bird. It flew around for a while circling before snatching some meat. Fortunately, after 20  minutes it returned and this time with much better lighting, the cloudy skies having been lifted and being replaced by sunshine which lit the wheeling Red and Black Kites beautifully. The Black Kite scooped up some more meat and flew off once more. My attention switched to the Red Kites and several soared right over the Tower Hide! The Kites had several feeding spurts, during the hour and a half observation, I witnessed 3 such spurts when the gathered and circled over the field for some 10-15 minutes before most disappeared until the process was repeated some 15-20 minutes later!
A Raven, Rook and Grey Heron was also seen in the field.
Finally I met the owner of the Farm and he said when they first started feeding the Kites in the early 1980's they were only attracting 6 Red Kites! Now with around 200 present they have put out every day (365 days a year) a grand total of 80 kilo's weight of meat costing 60p a kilo therefore costing £48 daily, taken in that context the £15 charge doesn't seem quite so steep!
I was very pleased with the pictures I obtained of the Black Kite (see above.)

UPDATE 5/2/10 Dick Forsmann, a world authority on raptors; has seen the pictures and has pronounced the Kite cannot be a Black- eared Kite and is therefore a Black Kite, because the white "windows" by the carpal joints on the underwing are too small and not large enough for Black- eared Kite.

On Saturday 23rd January, during the local Llanddarog walk I heard several Redwings calling in the wood opposite Mum's house, one Redwing was seen perched in a tree. By the first bridge a Nuthatch fed at the base of a nearby tree near the river. A Buzzard was heard mewing too.
A very pleasant walk with the family along the Sustrans cycle track near Llannon revealed a Marsh Tit and Robin by the bird table and a Dipper flying away down a distant stream on the right.

My final walk down the hill on Sunday 24th January revealed a marvelous Red Fox in the field to right, which trotted along the field and briefly turned around to look at me! Carrying along the Llanddarog stream, it finally revealed 2 excellent Dipper feeding at the point where the stream diverted away from the road. 2 further Dipper seen at the Bridges, one right underneath the Bridge that sadly flew on approach and another singing Dipper that could not be seen and that also flew. By the trees and bushes by the second bridge, 2 calling Willow Tits were seen again and were photographed.
Back at Mum's feeders, the 2 Marsh Tits were joined by a feeding immature male Reed Bunting on the deck, brief visits by the Jay again and overflying Mistle Thrush, Redwings and Long-tailed Tits

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Winter Wonders!

On the first really nice sunny day for sometime, I decided to join my fellow Scilly (Jenny would call us silly birders!!!) birders John H & Andrew H on a very pleasant trip around east Norfolk.
On the journey we drove past 3 Fieldfares feeding on the grass by the side of the road near the turn off to Stokesby.
First up, was a stop at Cantley where overlooking the marshes here we saw a group of 4 excellent Taiga Bean Geese, although distant they are a fine elegant goose with long necks and orange on the bill. behind them was another group of 5. Throughout are stay here small groups of Bean Geese flew in and we counted at least 38 birds in total. Once they were disturbed by a Chinese Water deer feeding next to them.
Nearer the river was a small 35 strong flock of White- fronted Geese. Also seen was a Green Woodpecker flying by.
Driving to Norwich, we parked in Lower Clarence Road and were informed by Chris L (Justin L's brother) that the Waxwing was feeding on the apple tree viewable through an iron mesh compound but at the moment it was lower down in the tree and we needed to walk down to the Railway Station and view from the western most platform. As soon as we started walking, a shout went up and joining the assembled throng we could see the excellent Waxwing feeding voraciously near the top of the tree on one of the Apples. It showed for a while before hopping down again.
John's pager suddenly beeped informed us that a RN Grebe was at Whitlingham Lane Great Broad, being only 3 miles away that was our next port of call.

As soon as we arrived from the car, I could not miss the Great Northern Diver showing very well indeed so I dashed over to the edge of the Broad and fired off many shots as the bird even lifted itself up from the water and flapped its wings (see top photo!) It eventually swam further away.
We switched out attention onto first one and then 2 Redhead Smew swimming with ducks on the far side of the Broad just in front of the ice on the far side.
I was just starting to look at a female Goosander perched on the extreme right edge of an island north of the Broad when a shout of Red- Necked Grebe went up. We dashed over and I just caught the bird as it dived!
The chap who had originally re-spotted it was not entirely sure but I picked it up immediately as it re-surfaced and it was indeed the super Red- Necked Grebe. I called it out and directed everybody onto it. Slightly smaller and darker than Great Crested Grebe (around 10 were seen nearby) with a dark bill with yellow at the base. The bird frequently dived we followed it as it swam over to the far left of the broad before swimming back to the middle always keeping itself on the far side. The female Goosander was seen again too, this time swimming on the water.

Next up was Barton Broad, the car park was "choc-a-block" and as we walked the half mile from a path skirting the side of a field, the walking down the road and then finally treading gingerly over a very slippery boardwalk we joined a throng of birders at the viewpoint over the Broad.
3 superb male Smew were seen at the back. This trio of male Smew were very smart looking birds with their white plumage offset by black lines looking like cracks in ice.
Amongst some Pochard and Tufted Duck I spotted the fine male Ferruginous Duck. Its plumage was a fine rich purplish tinged chestnut with its yellow eye standing out and when it dived you could also see the white rear underparts too, another cracking bird on what was fast becoming one of my best winter's days birding ever! Amongst the ducks were 2 female Goldeneye and a very smart Goldeneye. Over to the right a female Goosander swam by.
Our last stop was between Horning/ Upper street and Ludham. As we drove by, we could see Chris scoping the Bewick's Swans standing in a sugar beet field. I finally managed to park up nearby and John, Andrew & I enjoyed the marvellous sight of some 170 wild Swans feeding amongst the beet crop, I counted 12 Whooper Swans  (including at least 1 immature) and their smaller daintier cousins, some 158 Bewick's Swans. Several Bewicks Swans also flew in during our stay here.  

The Last days?

On Friday & Saturday the Redwings were still in the garden with 3 & 2 seen on respective days.
Often they could be seen rooting around the leaf litter at the back of the garden, hopefully finding the dried meal worms I had put out for them.
On several occasions up to 2 Redwing would brave the gauntlet of 6 bossy Blackbirds and hop onto the lawn to feed off the Apples I had put especially.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Thrushes still here

There are still 3 Redwing left in the garden today, 2 were feeding on the apples very early morning today often chased off by the more aggressive Blackbirds, where the diminutive Redwings were outnumbered 6 to 2 (later 6 to 3) today!
A quick look in Hamilton Dock, early morning failed to reveal any rare Grebes, the only Grebe I saw was a Great Crested Grebe swimming to the middle of the channel.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Scandinavian Visitors

The Redwing tally in the garden was back up to 5 birds, I witnessed the wonderful sight of all 5 Redwing on the lawn feeding on the apples I had just put out. Earlier at 7.50am I had to dash out quickly and spray one of next door's cats with my high projectile water gun, it soon ran off. Apples are a great way to attract winter Thrushes into your garden, chat to your friendly greengrocers and they may give you their cast-offs or buy cheap value apples at a supermarket. I bought a pack of 7 value apples for 68p at a local supermarket, that's less than 10p each! If you're really lucky you might just attract a Fieldfare or a if your very, very lucky you may even see a flock of them. You can also strategically position the apples to maximize your chances of getting a good photographic shot!
Having the morning off work, I logged yet another new bird in the garden when a magnificent Fieldfare was seen at 10.15am by one of the apples, it was very timid and didn't stay long and I fired off just 2 photographic shots before it flew over the fence towards the Fallowfields area.
Other birds in the garden this morning included the Green Woodpecker, which rather precariously perched on the top twigs of the central tree. 3 House Sparrows (rarely seen in this garden), an adult male, 1st winter male and a female fed regularly on one of the fatball feeders. A Song Thrush also perched on a bush just outside the garden. 3 Chaffinches, all males fed on the seed I put out as did 5 Wood Pigeon & 1 Dunnock. A Collared Dove also briefly alighted into the garden. I make no apologies for posting yet more pictures of Redwings. They are my favourite common bird (Tawny Owl aside) and I have struggled to get any decent pictures of this species in the past, as they are usually ultra timid and shy and fly off before you can get anywhere near them.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

3 left!

Still 3 Redwing in the garden today, early morning one was feeding on the apples (fresh supplies have been put out!) and 1 was perched in the tree. Jenny saw 3 during the day. As the snow has virtually disappeared, I'll expect they'll be on their way very soon.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Still 5 Redwings

There are still 5 Redwings in the garden today. During the early morning, 3 were either regular flying over to the Holly bush or feeding on the apples on the lawn.
At lunchtime Jen told me there were all 5 of these dainty Thrushes feeding on the discarded apples. My strategy has worked (of putting out apples on the lawn in the hope of attracting some winter Thrushes, although we haven't been able to entice a Fieldfare into the garden yet, although they have been regular over-flyers during the recent cold spell) and I hope they stay until at least we get some better light, so I can photograph them in less murky conditions. Already I can truthfully say they have been one of my personal avian highlights of the year so far, super birds, and as the Brucie might say, my favourite!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Peregrine Surprise

In the garden this morning up to 2 Redwing were still present, they have a fast dainty hop when they run around the back of the garden, 1 would often chase another and 1 Redwing was also seen drinking water from the bird bath..
Late afternoon 4 Redwing were still in the garden and it was heartening to see one feeding from one of the apples I'd put out on the snow covered lawn. Again 1-3 Redwing would regularly fly over to the holly and feast on the berries. 10 Long-tailed Tit, a Wren, Greenfinch, 2 Blue Tit and 3 Great Tit were again feeding on supplies put out.
Meanwhile, mid morning on the hunt for a Peregrine found by Andrew E, who kindly text me, I was overlooking the River Waveney, at Asda staying in the car (a blizzard was raging outside!) I scoped an excellent immature male peregrine Falcon sitting on top of the upper grill of a series of the bottom four of grills on the left hand side. My first sighting of one in Lowestoft.
It had a dark brown cap & back & streaked belly with broad dark moustache, blue grey bill with dark tip and yellow feet.
It simply sat back on looking around nonchalently at the kamikaze Feral Pigeons flying all around it.
Braving the cold I got out & saw Roger C wisely scoping the Falcon from the comfort of his car & went over and picked out the Black- throated Diver on the River Waveney (showing it to Pete M also present) looking out far west, 3 Great Crested Grebes were also seen.
At Oulton Broad, the water was entirely frozen over, the gulls- Black- headed, Common & 1 Herring Gull stood in a few small groups. Overlooking the Mutford Lock railway Bridge from the Bridge I spied an immature Shag perched on its wooden foundations.
Overlooking from the Railway bridge over Lake Lothing looking east I could again see the Black- throated Diver which was living up to its name admirably. The 3 Great Crested Grebe were also still in evidence. A Common Seal was seen in the water grappling with a large flat fish a foot log, 9 inches wide with a a triangular point to its muzzle tip. The back was shark- grey and the underside was white. Does anybody know what species this is?
The Seal grappled with this fish for some twenty minutes or so. Elsewhere a total of 10 little Grebe and 5 singleton Lapwing were seen around the shore. 2 Ringed Plover and 2 Redshank seen also, but sadly no hard weather fowl whatsoever.
UPDATE: 11/1/10 The fish caught by the seal has been identified as a Flounder, many thanks to Colin J for his expert advice.

Two left!

Early morning the 2 faithful Redwings are back in the garden frequently flying close to the house to feed off the berries on the Holly bush. They are shy and the slightest noise sees them flying to the trees at the back of the garden.
Will post some extra pics later as I'm now off out looking for hard weather fowl around Lowestoft!

Saturday, 9 January 2010

And then there were two or was that five!

The 3 Redwing were still in the garden attracted as ever by the berries on the Holly bush and they were joined briefly by a Song Thrush. They still haven't looked at the apples! A Wren also spent some time in the garden as well as the usual Greenfinch, Blue Tit, 3 Blackbirds, 2 Dunnock and up to 3 Chaffinch.
A big flock of 20 Redwing flew over and perched in very distant trees bordering the far southern end of the Orchid meadow, up to 4  chuckling Fieldfares flew overhead and several others were heard but not seen.
As 3 Redwing flew south- west over the garden one of my 3 Redwings flew up high and joined them flying south- west way over Parkhill Hotel grounds.
At lunchtime at 12.15pm I was absolutely delighted to finally see a magnificent dumpy Woodcock flying around Fallowfields, a first seen from the garden. Just after this, the purple patch continued with a sighting of male House Sparrow (very much a rarity in this garden) perched in the middle tree at the back. In a subsequent investigation of Fallowfields, I saw the Woodcock flying circling the area and it dropped down and was able to see it running in the snow-covered ground near the Hotel grounds fence. As I walked back, leaving it, a sudden gust of wind must have spooked it as it flew over the fence.

Late afternoon update: The Redwing total has now increased to 5, as before 1 or 2 regularly fly to the Holly bush but increasingly the birds are foraging for food under bushes where this minimal or no snow cover. Obviously after worms and other goodies (no, not Bill Oddie!) Under the cover of darkness I will sprinkle this area liberally with meal worms.
2 further House Sparrows, both female have been seen on the fatball feeders making a grand total of 3 seen today because the bird seen earlier was a male. 2 Starlings who came in late afternoon to feed on the fat balls.

Friday, 8 January 2010

A Fresh Blanket of Snow

As the icy white grip of winter tightens its grip on the local landscape, and the snow was some 4 inches deep, more and more birds are visiting the garden desperate for food. The ones that visit ours are in luck as there is plenty of different bird food provided daily. A Redwing was again visiting the Holly tree feasting on the berries and often perching in the trees in the garden. Up to 3 Blackbird were also seen, although none of these Thrushes took advantages of the apples especially put out for them on the lawn. A Jay was seen in bushes just outside the garden and a charming group of around 10 Long- tailed Tits (the fatballs were a particular favourite) , 3 Great Tit, 1 Blue Tit and 1 Greenfinch provided a hive of activity and gratefully eating the food provided.
Ground feeders included 3 Chaffinch, 2 Dunnock and a Robin attracted by the wild bird seed and meal worms put out near the bird bath.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

More Winter Thrushes & please feed the birds

As I was replenishing the bird feeders in the garden this morning at 7.50am I heard the tell tale "psst" call of Redwings and a trio of these lovely small Scandinavian Thrushes flew up from the hedgerow borders and over the garden fence. I also heard the "chuk chuk chuk" call of 3 excellent Fieldfares flying overhead that flew low south west over the garden and towards Fallowfields. As I was filling up the one of sunflower holders, a Redwing flew and briefly perched in the tree above me before seeing me and flying off.
As I retreated to the house, 3 Dunnocks, 3 Great Tits, a Blue Tit, 3 Blackbirds and fed in the garden as did a Magpie briefly and a Song Thrush perched up in a bush just beyond the garden.
A Redwing then perched up in a tree, I took some pictures in poor light it was snowing! It then flew to the lawn where it stood momentarily before it flew to the berry laden holly near the house sadly out of view from the bedroom window.
Jenny later told me she saw 2 Redwings feeding on the berries on the holly this afternoon at 2.58pm.
Please, please don't forget to feed your garden birds; they desperately need all the food and water (unfrozen!) they can get in this hard weather. The food you put out, such as sunflower seeds, unsalted peanuts, wild bird mix, fatballs, fat, cake etc are vital to their survival. Put food out on different levels (on the ground, on a bird table and hanging from trees etc) and put out nestboxes for roost sites too.
You could save several birds lives and they will reward you with good views and hopefully good pics, if you are a keen photographer and the light is OK!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Winter Thrushes

During a quick whistle stop tour of Horsey & Waxham during my lunch break many winter Thrushes were seen. The harsh weather has forced them nearer to human habitation in order to seek food. Around 10 Fieldfare and 10 Redwing were in trees near west Somerton, 3 Song Thrushes were in a bush near the pub at west Somerton, 5 Redwing were in a bush opposite Alder farm. At Alder farm itself 5 Golden Plover and 40 Lapwing seen. Opposite Brograve Farm, a Chinese Water Deer fed in a field of winter wheat. About 10 Fieldfare seen in a nearby field.
7 Red- legged partridges were opposite the Barn at Waxham. 2 Marsh harriers were seen, interestingly both males one at Horsey & 1 at Waxham.
Travelling back through Repps with Bastwick some 40 Redwing and 15 Fieldfare could be seen feeding on berry laden bushes opposite the garage.
I also noticed most of Ormesby Broad was frozen over save for one area on the west side of the road which was crowded with wildfowl but sadly I had no time to stop, work beckons again!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Goodies galore!

Waking up this morning, with an inch of snow providing a wintry scene, it was only fitting that I should visit the flock of Snow Buntings on Kessingland North Beach. Parking at the end of Rider Haggard Lane I walked onto the beach and soon picked up the excellent flock of 50+ Snow Buntings which showed well and included several very white and very smart males. There was no sign initially of the Shore Lark, but I spied a lone Brent Goose which was amazingly not the usual dark- bellied form but the much rarer pale-bellied variety feeding on the distant dune near the cliff face.
Making my way quickly over there and being joined by Chris D, Chris alone managed a few shots before it was flushed, but it only flew 100 yards south and was feeding on the middle of the beach. Chris and I then crept up very carefully and the bird became very confiding showing down to just 3 feet at one point! We naturally took advantage and filled up our memory cards within our cameras with dozens of cracking shots! The Pale-bellied Brent Goose is of the race "hrota" the Greenland variety, I have only seen this scarely seen variety twice before (a flock of at Langham in North Norfolk and 3 at Benacre in the mid 1980's!).
We left the bird as it was obviously exhausted and was constantly feeding to regain its strength.
Bumping into Pete M and gang he said they had just seen the Shore Lark and we ventured over to the beach near the pool and had some good views of this bird, it was on its own and the Shore Lark fed by the beach adjacent to the pool, where we were eventually joined by Dick W, who was somewhat put out as he had failed to photograph the Goose, because it had been flushed by an out of control dog.

Whilst driving along the A12 approaching Pakefield by the Focus DIY store, I happened to glance down by a damp ditch by the side of the road and was amazed to see a Jack Snipe standing by the ditch side! I turned the car around and parked up and as I walked over to the ditch the Jack Snipe unfortunately took flight and flew over east over to the old Gunnery range.
At Asda overlooking the River Waveney, 2 Shags could be seen looking west and at Ness Point, 1 solitary Purple Sandpiper frequented the rocks 50 yards north of the Point along the seawall edge.

Taking the very long walk mid afternoon out to Haddiscoe Marshes, the snowed up frozen landscape was the perfect setting for a host of cracking raptors seen, (thanks for the tip off Andrew E and Robert W & thanks to James W for helping me find my wayward mobile!) first up were 2 female Marsh Harriers quartering the marshes. From a viewpoint 300 yards past the big Pylon to the right, a crowd of the great and good of Norfolk/ Suffolk birding, the aforementioned Andrew & Rob, Dave H, Baz H, Jeremy G and others scanned the distant fields to the north- east and our hoped for quarry, a magnificent Rough-legged Buzzard was eventually seen perched on a distant gate. It would make frequent short flights to the east of the gate landing in the field and presumably catching various prey. During its regular flights the white tail with dark terminal band noted and when it perched back on the gate facing us we noted the pale head and contrasting dark lower belly patch. Up to 2 excellent Short- eared Owls flapped languidly over the fields. These wonderful birds even crossed over each other in flight. A ringtail Hen Harrier flew east, sadly an all too rare sight these days and the newly arrived eagle-eyed Lee G quickly picked out a female Merlin that sat on a gate in the foreground. 2 Chinese Water Deer were also seen, 1 feeding in front of the gate and also 1 to the side too. Singleton Linnet and Snipe were also seen in flight. A Little Egret flew into a field beside a gate.
Several (3) skeins of 100 or so Pink- footed Geese flew east, one flock landed in distant fields. Up to 2 Barn Owls patrolled the ditches. The Ringtail was seen again flying strongly east late in the day and this excellent day concluded with a small Peregrine (presumably a male) mobbing a Short- eared Owl!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Whitlingham Wonders!

A day of mixed fortunes yet again.
An early morning Green Woodpecker perched up in one of the trees at the back of the garden framed by frosted and dusting of snow landscape was a good start.
On the journey along the Acle Straight just west of the "Cadillac Roadhouse" AKA Stracey Arms about 300 Lapwing and 100 Golden Plover huddled in the field to the north of the road.
A foray into Norfolk was initially spectacularly unsuccessful with the hoped for Ring- necked & Ferruginous Ducks well and truly dipped at the Wroxham Broad. More than a gaggle of Geese, nearer 300 Greylags continually calling and flying close in, a meagre 30 Tufted duck, 10 Pochard, A Jay rooting around in the wood and singleton Redwing & Fieldfare failed to lift the spirits. 
I then visited the Great Broad at Whitlingham Lane and saw just about a who's who of Norfolk/ Suffolk birders. Birder sightings included the ever sharp and helpful boys from Dereham who quickly pointed out a Black- necked Grebe by the posts on the opposite side of the broad. These boys, in my opinion, should be invited onto the Norfolk rarities committee. The Grebe was a super bird in black/ white winter plumage and red eye, but constantly diving.
On the far western side of the broad they also pointed out a redhead Smew seen briefly at the back of the broad near the reeds on the far bank and a smart redhead female Goosander seen more in the middle of the back of the Northern section of the Broad through Ian's scope, cheers Ian!
After they left seeking the Diver, I also picked out a brief sighting of a female Ruddy duck.
I then bumped into Robin C who just seen a Shag but it dived just as I raised my bins and it completely disappeared, this was to be my only dip here. 
Another rare sighting was Morris B accompanied by Roger C who told me they'd seen the Diver earlier by the yacht club end.
Walking over to the southern section of the Broad by the yacht club end, the far section was iced over but another excellent redhead Goosander hugged the reed fringed far bank diving frequently and disappearing for long periods. But the master of this game was the Diver who could not be seen and hadn't been seen for some time. It took me an hour and a half, before I saw the bird. Following up a report from a birder who had just seen it, 10 minutes earlier, on the Northern section of the Broad, I finally, at last, had a brief glimpse of the excellent immature Great Northern Diver.
A large bird with large steely grey upturned bill and obvious scalloping on its back providing proof of its age. 
It was seen at the far northern end diving between a pink buoy and in front of an isolated tree,the last of a stand of trees.
The Diver continued to be elusive showing only occasionally until later (after the sky had clouded over, darkening considerably) I viewed the Great Northern with Andrew H and it showed well in the middle of the Northern section of the broad. behavioural posture noted included a "crouching" very low in the water and on another occasion it caught a couple of fish and its neck was positively bulging with its prey, a fine bird indeed and always nice to see.


Friday, 1 January 2010

Woodcock & Diver

An early morning foray at Fallowfields led to me flushing a Woodcock near the Parkhill hotel fence half way down, it flew south at 9.15am.
A close Oystercatcher stood on the wooden jetty in Hamilton Dock, whilst a Rock pipit flew over. At Ness Point 20 Turnstone were seen but not the hoped for Purple Sands.
Looking from Asda, looking west up the River Waveney I saw the excellent Black- throated Diver, it's rear flank patch was really distinctive. Initially, it was diving frequently but then it became more settled as it started preening. If you'd like to see a picture of a Black- throated Diver look above this blog entry as this is the bird pictured above, although I'm sure most who read would know this anyway! A Grey Wagtail flew over the river and settled on the roof of a commercial building. Whilst 2 Egyptian Geese flew down the river.
At Carlton Marshes, a female Marsh Harrier quartered the fields, 10 Herons stood above a frozen dyke area,  a Barn owl perched on a gate and then flew and started actively hunting being instantly successful on it's first swoop down into the field where it caught and fed from it's prey a vole caught in a field, a male Yellowhammer also perched at the apex of a tree, a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed from a nearby tree.
Concluding a mixed day of fortunes on this, the first day of the year.