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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!


Paul Woolnough said...

Nice to see you Pete.

Am sure Jenny and yourself enjoyed your break.

Able to get away early today 30 March. No chance of leaving off early next Tuesday, do not suppose it will matter! My governor happy! He did not know about the twitch.

Arrived at Westleton Heath and the lesser kestrel, initially on the ground, flew and landed on a post. At 445 the bird flew and I watched the bird fly along and into a pine tree and out of site.

With a great grey shrike bagged for the year, I headed off to Kessingland to see my second Suffolk pallid swift and Lizardland tick. Weather had now turned in and a posse of North Norfolk birders persuaded me to turn back as bird not seem for 1.5 to 2 hours. May the pallid swift stay till Friday!

Peter Ransome said...

Thanks Paul. Glad you saw the Lesser Kestrel! A great bird.
I saw it early morning (British, County tick) also with the Shrike (2010 tick) and then saw the Pallid Swift (Lizard land tick) over Kessingland Sewage works and reeds 10 to 10.30am then 3 pm seems to be it's favoured time here.
Spent the mid afternoon with the Alpine Swifts at Lowestoft.