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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Suffolk's Finest

Getting some great advice & directions from Rob W, I decided to go all out to see all the North Suffolk rarities today. First up, were the roosting Alpine Swifts at 6.30am still on the red- brick block of flats, which I was able to point out to Andrew E.

As the sun was rising I decided to go straight to Westleton Heath and parked half way between the Roman road and the car park and walked south along the track where I joined a 50 strong throng of birders at 7.20am looking south-east over the heath and fields. Initially it appeared the Falcon hadn't been seen and a perched Great Grey Shrike seen perched high up on a silver birch raised our spirits a little. The "loola loola" song of up to 3 Wood Larks revealed 3 of these fine birds in flight. A shout then went up that a "kestrel" was flying and perched on a distant post. Initially the gloomy weather revealed only a shape and it wasn't identifiable at this stage.
It flew over to a stick bush near a hide in the distance. A slim bird which appeared slumped as it's wings appeared quite long compared with the body and tail. The sun started to peek through the cloud and the bird's plumage showed an all grey head, contrasting with a striking russet brick red upperparts, a tail with obvious tail band and slightly longer central tail feathers. The slim grey secondary- covert bars could only just be made out when the bird was at rest but in flight they could be seen more clearly. Also when the bird flew it showed slim pointed wings with very pale whitish underparts on the underwings and a russet brown chest. It perched up and would occasionally fly down presumably to feed on insects.
It was the excellent adult male Lesser Kestrel, a new British bird and suffolk tick for me. A striking and marvellous bird. My final view off it, was as it flew left behind bushes/ trees flying at around 3 feet off the ground. Looking left, the Great Grey Shrike was perched on top of a Silver Birch tree.
Also a Dartford Warbler flew left from some gorse over the heath and finally an excellent Stone Curlew was seen standing very well camouflaged against some bracken nearby.

Rob had advised that I should visit the Kessingland Sewage works around 10am if I wished to see the Pallid. So at around 10 I walked down to the Sewage beds, 3 Grey Wagtail flew from here and over my head flying east calling their metallic "tzchik" calls as they went.
I noted around the bushes area several mist nets had been put out but even more importantly, I could see the excellent Pallid Swift flying over the bushes and the sewage works right over my head albeit with a steady drizzle of rain.
The bird showed a cream throat and shorter stubbier wings than a Common Swift, see for yourself with the enclosed pic! It spent around 20 minutes flying around before with the onset of heavy rain, when it flew strongly south at 10.30am. Today was certainly becoming a rare Swift-fest for North- east Suffolk! Colin C (a trained ringer) checked the nets at the site and found and freed a Chiff- Chaff trapped in the mist netting.

After a lunch break during yet more rain, I went out after dodging the showers again, early afternoon and walked along the South Lowestoft promenade. Initially around the Victoria hotel, 2 Alpine Swifts flew up and down patrolling the beach and promenade from here to the Claremont Pier and back showing very well at times. Later with cloud and cold rolling in, they finally split and we lost one from view. The other bird was also lost for around 20 minutes before we saw it flying along Kirkley cliff and especially the Rectory road area where at times it showed very well indeed!
I finally walked over to Claremont Pier and took some pictures of the nesting Kittiwakes.
A fantastic day, one of the finest I have spent in Suffolk!

Roosting Swifts

After driving back from Ebbsfleet, yesterday afternoon, I was blissfully unaware of the host of rarities in North Suffolk until appropriately enough we were driving near Minsmere when I heard the statement that a very rare bird a Lesser Kestrel (!!) had been found on Sunday at Minsmere and the dulcet tones of Colin J was saying that twitchers were travelling as far as Scandinavia to see it. Typical! The moment I leave the country, rarities flood in; notable examples in the past have included Great Spotted Cuckoo, White- spotted Bluethroat, Black Kites and a Killdeer on two separate occasions. I'd missed them all, I still need Killdeer as a lifer. However, a Lesser Kestrel was much rarer than any of  these. It was raining however, and the possibility of seeing a roosting pair of Alpine Swifts around the CEFAS labs and S. Lowestoft seafront was too good and opportunity to miss despite my exhausted state. Early evening (Monday 29 March) saw me walking around the CEFAS labs 3X to no avail, a kind birder walked up and informed me 2 were currently roosting below the right hand eaves at the very top of a red brick building block of flats, just 3 buildings south of the Victoria hotel. I could see the 2 birds hunched up together, one with a wing over the other in the top right hand corner of the building.
I was glad I was able to direct several birders onto them (very easy to miss!) including our regular Lowestoft birder correspondent Paul W.

Parisienne walkways

A trip to Paris last weekend revealed few birds, save for Firecrests, with one heard in the Park du Champ de Mars by the Eiffel tower and one showing very well in bushes by the central avenue in the Pere- Lachaise cemetary. This was however not a birding trip (no optical gear taken save for 1 camera with a standard lens) and Jenny & I visited the Eiffel tower (which replaced Khufu's (Cheops- Greek name), Great Pyramid as the tallest building in the world in 1889, the impressive Louvre museum (the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the most impressive collection of Egyptian antiquities; after those in the Cairo museum; are housed here), the equally impressive Notre Dam Cathedral complete with a Quasimodo! the Orangery, Les Invalides housing Napoleon Bonaparte's tomb, the Arc de Triomphe, Musee D'Orsay, Victor Hugo's house (author of "The Hunchback of Notre Dam" & "Les Miserables") and the aforementioned cemetary.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Oval

There were still up to 3 Black Redstarts on or just east of the Oval early yesterday (Wednesday 24th March) morning, including the stunning male and 2 females. They favoured the dilapidated wooden fence running just east of the Oval. We (Richard W) & I were even able to listen to the wonderful gravelly song of the male as he sang up the top of a building within the Oval. 3 Wheatear (2 males and 1 female) were still on the Oval aand the North Denes just north of the Oval although less confiding than the Redstarts.
Also today a female Blackbird is building a nest rigght outside the kitchen window in shrub neearby and she is making rergular return sorties with nesting material. 

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Not Swift enough!

I made the fatal mistake today of having my mobile phone switched off overnight, so I didn't receive the message about an Alpine Swift flying around St Peter's Court tower block at 6.58 am, Robert W very kindly phoned me on our home phone number at 7.20am but by the time I reached there at 7.27am I was 2 minutes too late & it had flown off, morale of the story always keep your phone switched on!
Compensation in the form of Wheatears and Black Redstarts 7 a-piece with 4 male Wheatears and 3 females and 1 stunning resplendent jet black male Black Redstart with white flashes on his wings and 6 females, were all confined in the south-east section off the Oval, an incredible number! Often the Wheatears & Black Redstarts would fly onto the grass fairly close to the wall, with the "Reddies" being more confiding and even one of their number a female Black Redstart; perched on the white cricket screen wheel very close to me, albeit as the light was fading. I phoned Robert W telling him what I'd just seen as I had seen him birding further north along the Denes.
We both enjoyed this amazing spectacle in the gathering gloom as mist and a little fog rolled in off the sea.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Another Fantastic Day!

Another try for the Penduline Tits today at Island Minsmere, instantly produced goodies when I bumped into Neville L and he told me there was a Bittern showing well. In a very packed hide, I made my way to the right most side on the ground level and saw Dick W.  The Bittern was amazingly, feeding right in front of the hide, just a few feet away carefully walking about and feeding first on the left hand side on the water channel and then the right. Amazing views and the bird would walk slowly freeze and then stab the water and gulp a small fish down giving stunning views and I took around 300 pictures! I'll try post some pics later. This very confiding Bittern then flew off left and fed a little further back before it eventually flew off right.
Several Snipe were seen as well as 2 courting Great Crested Grebes on the mere & 2 calling Mediterranean Gulls heard overhead but only 1 seen, an adult.
Suddenly, the guy next to me in the hide yelled out that he had a Penduline Tit, it was noon and it was quite distant (to the right of the hide by some prominent reed mace just to the right and in front of a line of Poplar trees) but it was indeed one, a male Penduline Tit with black mask voraciously pecking at the reed mace and the white seeds were floating up in the air. it then moved down the reed mace and then up again before it flew off high to the left at 12.05pm.
The Jack Snipe was seen in a short iris laden area, where occasionally you could see it's head and then back as it bobbed up and down, a larger Snipe with much longer bill was close by for a good comparison.
Several Bearded Tits including 2 adults and 6 immature birds perched in reeds and 1 immature foraged at the very bottom of the reeds looking down from the hide. Several 3 female Marsh harriers quartered the reedbeds.

Driving up to Frostenden, what must have been a Chiff- Chaff flew in right front of the car and right.
My next plan was to look for the Red Kite which had been hanging around the Somerleyton area, but a message stating Andrew E had found a Goosander made me revise my plans and I ended taking the Lound road. Parking near Bunker's hill, I looked south over the water and immediately saw a female Redhead Goosander swimming low in the water and then diving and swimming towards me and thee area to the right. Roger C joined me as the female Goosander swam left and walking onto the shore line to preen (on the bank behind were 2 Oystercatchers) and look around for a while before having another swim around and than swimming far away.
A look around the Somerleyton & Herringfleet area for the Kite was initially unsuccessful but near Kitty's Farm entrance, I looked west and the excellent Red Kite was flying high in the sky over a large field at 4.30pm, it had no wing tags and flew around high up in the sky and then down and towards some trees where it disappeared from view.
A look at Corton MOD as the sun was setting revealed several flocks of Starlings c100 and c80 on the ground and flying north. Finally a Curlew and 2 Oystercatcher flew south over the sea.

Mediocre Minsmere (Again!)

On Friday the 19th March, an afternoon visit to Minsmere Island Mere promised much with potential goodies on offer including Penduline Tits, Jack Snipe & Redhead Smew. I didn't see any of them. 
Compensation came in the form of a flying Bittern flying left and wheeling round right into the reeds just 30 feet from the hide, sadly my camera wasn't set up due to the crowded hide.
2 overflying adult Mediterranean Gulls calling flew over and left.
At the field entering Minsmere I counted 41 Fieldfare and 8 Redwing. 12 were also on telegraph wires at Wrentham and the layby field near Kessingland levels 12 Redwing and 8 Fieldfare seen perched atop some distant trees.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Peregrine & Rough- leg

A quick lunchtime visit to Fritton woods, with sunny weather and 12C temperatures I was hopeful of finding some Adders, but my efforts were in vain. A stunning lemon yellow Brimstone butterfly lightened the gloom. However, the birds more than made up for it, with a female Peregrine flying over the forest near the marsh and even better was a superb immature Rough- legged Buzzard seen at 12.55pm flying north over the pinewoods near the electricity pylons it flew over shaking itself in mid air. The white tail with black terminal band was obvious as were the pale underparts save for the black carpal patches and dark black rear belly. It then flew north and sadly out of sight. Siskins were heard, 1 was seen.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Ashby Church

A look around Ashby & Somerleyton this afternoon revealed a singing male Yellowhammer on overhead wires near Lily's farm plus Hare near the gate and 2 Hares seen in adjacent fields near Ashby woods. At Ashby Church, 2 varieties of Snowdrop seen and another Yellowhammer calling it's contact call from a hedge.

Saturday, 13 March 2010


A small flock of gulls were flying over the garden early this morning at 9.30am including a Common Gull, a long overdue new record for the garden! Several Snowdrops are flowering in the garden at the moment.
At Ness Point, 6 Turnstone were seen and 2 Purple Sandpiper on the rocks by the northern end of Ness Point. Looking out to sea, I was pleased to see 1 Red- throated Diver flying north. Earlier in the day an ace birder had seen over 400+ flying past!
At Hamilton Dock, all I saw was a Great Crested Grebe.
At a local churchyard following a tip off from Colin J, I was pleased to see 3 different varieties of Snowdrop flowering nicely. 

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Little Ormesby

A quick visit yesterday (Tuesday 9 March) to Little Ormesby Broad reached via the boardwalk at Filby, before work revealed the Slavonian Grebe on the very far right of the Broad, seen nearer the Pub jetty. It was so far away it was barely a speck even through the telescope. A female Goldeneye was also seen. 3 pairs of Great crested Grebe also seen coming into their spring finery. Both Siskin and Redpoll were heard in the alder trees but not seen.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Fantastic Day!

The superlatives were flying thick and fast today, a gloriously sunny day and what a complete contrast to the previous Sunday when it rained all day. 
After an extremely hectic week at work and a particularly stressful Saturday dealing with a complete power cut (no power for 3 & 1/2 hours!!!), alarms ringing in the house (when the power was restored!) and we are still without central heating (the boiler kept tripping the electric circuit). The weekend has begun to feel very Dickensian, with us huddled around like Oliver Twist an open fire, trying to keep warm with our winter woolies, so what better than to visit to an old style open sewage works!! Not only renowned for the smell but for their ability to attract lot of flies and insects (due to the malodorous fumes no doubt!) and in their turn these attract birds, particularly Wagtails in some numbers.
A brief stop at Lansdowne rd, Pakefield revealed 6 Redwing in the usual berry tree. 
Walking down to the Kessingland Sewage works, I stopped to check the first sewage bed and the usual 5 (4 male) Reed Buntings were feeding, as were the familiar Pied Wagtails but I was delighteed to find a resplendant male White Wagtail. The White Wagtail "alba" is the continental version of our Pied "yarelli" wagtail. The 'White' is a smart neat bird, with clean white flanks (compared with sooty black flanks on the Pied) complete with pale grey back, with a sharp division between black crown/ nape (on the male, the female's crown mantle merged from black to the light grey colour)  and the light grey mantle, its neat black bib on it's breast was also noted. I walked slightly further back and climbed up a grassy knoll carefully and was amazed to see the birds feeding on the beds totally unperturbed and oblivious to my presence close by. I took full advantage by taking shot after shot, although it wasn't easy focusing through 2 lots of plastic covered fence panels. The male White Wagtail fed quite close by, although it was almost always on the move and rarely stopped. Hopefully, this is a sign of spring just round the corner after a particularly, especially in recent times, hard winter and bitterly cold weekend! A search for the very elusive Firecrest was initially unsuccessful, all I initially saw was a charm of Goldfinch.
However retracing my steps by a bare tree growing up out from an ever green bush by the bank out popped the Firecrest showing fairly well but very active high up in the tree. I spotted a visiting birder and told him about the White Wagtail. No sooner had I shown him, when I spotted another clean male White Wagtail right at the northern perimeter of the sewage bed and he spotted a female White Wagtail on the far western sewage bed, so 3 White Wagtails (2 males and 1 female) in all, fantastic! We walked over to the Firecrest bush and as if on cue,  it popped out showing very well indeed. We then heard the call of another Firecrest nearby and we noted this bird was ringed. It flew over the track but we picked it up again and then spotted another different unringed Firecrest further south along the bank! A Grey Wagtail was also seen feeding on the far sewage bed.

A trip to Sotterley is always a pleasure and even more so with the beautiful dazzling white display of Snowdrops albeit the double drop variety. At the Church even more Snowdrops (Double drops again) were in flower, and a Coal Tit seen high up in a tree. A calling "pitchou" revealed a Marsh Tit nearby, the high pitched calls of Sisken could be heard contrasting with the "mew" call of a Buzzard I couldn't initially see. 2 Red- legged Partridges flew in and ran around the entrance gate. Whilst over distant trees, I could see 3 Buzzard flying south low over the trees.
As I walked back, I heard the mournful "peu" call of an unseen Bullfinch and near the entrance I heard the distinctive "chatter" of a Nuthatch which refused to show itself!

Later on in the afternoon, I walked down to the "bump" overlooking Haddiscoe marshes and immediately saw 2 distant Short- eared Owls flying over distant fields, I eventually counted 3 of these wonderful birds. I spotted the excellent Rough- legged buzzard, a "Buteo" with a pale head and dark black underbelly, perched on a distant gatepost. It flew down  to feed on prey nearby showing its white tail with black terminal band, before eventually returning to it's "perch." Chinese Water Deer could be seen wherever one looked and I counted 12 seen in total.
Around 6 Hare seen also.
The Rough- leg suddenly took to flight and started to fly straight towards us. On the closer edge of the field, just the other side off the reeds, it suddenly hovered  (a really impressive sight) and swooped down on some prey, possibly a Hare. As it spent some 50 minutes feeding off it (head constantly up & then down, ad infinitum), whilst a Hare ran up to it! (maybe the newly widowed "mate" of the unfortunate victim???)
Up to 4 Carrion Crow harried it continuously and the Rough- leg would frequently flap or "arch' its wings to scare them. Even the female Marsh Harriers, a pair (both female) got in the act with 1 flying over and sitting nearby. Just before dusk the bird flew right and flew onto the ground again.