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.