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Friday, 30 April 2010

Last day of April

The singing Lesser Whitethroat was heard again at the start of Corton Old Rail track. Near the copse, singing Blackcap and a Whitethroat was seen. Also in a still leafless tree at the northern end of the copse, a Lesser Whitethroat flitted through the branches feeding.

More Goodies!

Early on Thursday 29th April, I had a look at the old rail track at Corton and I immediately heard 2 Lesser Whitethroats, near the start by the bridge. There was no sign of the Wood Warbler at the copse, walking back I heard the Lesser Whitethroat again and I picked it up as it worked its way through a tree, it then flew across the track into a bush. 
Parking at the church, walking down the road I noticed an excellent male Ring Ouzel feeding near the rock laden incision in the field. Foundations for a track or building? It later flew east and over to the shelter belt when a bus drove by.

Mid- afternoon on Thursday, taking more TOIL from work, saw me down the Winterton valley, around 200 yards south of Hermaness. Immediately, I spotted a male Whinchat perched on a small tussock of heather and a female Wheatear nearby. Meeting Baz H and Dave H, we still hadn't found our quarry until Baz spotted it and looking in the mid part of the dunes, the excellent Woodchat Shrike perched on top of a small tree. It flew and then I walked down very carefully to the mid dunes where I saw it much closer but another birder flushed it. In a small bush just a few yards away, a female Ring Ouzel tried to hide but tantalizingly flew before I could photograph it as the aforementioned birder walked towards it yelling out "Ring Ouzel!" As she flew she was joined by a male Ring Ouzel and the 2 Ring Ouzels perched on top of a distant bush. They finally flew towards us and then flew south down the valley. Meanwhile the Woodchat Shrike was seen much closer and walking around a bush near the main path it was perched just 30 yards away and I managed to get a few shots before it flew down the the middle of the valley again. It perched on top of a tree and then flew down and caught a bumblebee and promptly gulped it down.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

A Day of Two Halves

First thing this morning, at Corton Old sewage works around 21 Sand Martins flew over and 2 female Wheatears were on the ploughed field.
After hearing of several birds seen later in the day, after work along the Corton Old rail track, hearing my first Lesser Whitethroat of the year, I bumped into regular correspondent Paul W. By the small copse of trees, the excellent Wood warbler sang its wonderful trilling song it flew from the upper branches of the leafless trees it then flew over to a Holm Oak. A large Phyllosc warbler with olive- green upperparts and clean white underparts with a lemon yellow breast. James B & Richard W had been watching the bird but they said it had been elusive.
It sang several times and showed well briefly near the top of the Holm Oak allowing me to fire off a few shots with the camera. It went missing for a while & following a call from James B I drove round to the Old Corton sewage works were a fine male Whinchat was perched on the mound within the old Sewage works compound. 7 Skylark were seen by the field near the church and a Whimbrel was heard flying over (but not seen).


Whilst attending a training course at County hall in Norwich, I took the opportunity to look for the Red Kite and it was still seen in the same area flying west towards a copse of trees at around 5pm.  An evening visit also yesterday (Tuesday 27th April) to Carlton Marshes via Marsh Lane & Burnt Hill Lane and across the railway track, having already heard a Cuckoo & Whitethroat and seen Willow Warbler and male Blackcap.
We walked along the dykes and heard and saw both Sedge Warblers and 1 Cetti's warbler and a Barn Owl perched on a bush. Several 3 Grasshopper warblers were heard reeling and 1 seen flitting around near the dyke and another also seen reeling from a bush.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Yellow Wagtails!

First thing this morning, I saw an incredible flock of 11 Yellow Wagtails ( including 7 males) on the North Denes Oval early morning. They were on the grass near the eastern wall. Before poking the camera lens through the slit in the wall, I took off the lens visor cover and put it on the ground next to me and in a moment of high comedy reminiscent of the "Goodies" and "The Benny Hill Show" a black Labrador dog picked the cover up in it's mouth running off with me in hot pursuit! Even I was laughing, but only after I had retrieved the cover. I managed to get a few shots of the Wagtails before a barking dog flushed all the birds off to the middle of the Oval.
A Common Seal was seen poking it's head out of the sea around 500 yards away from the beach.
Back on the North Denes I saw up to 6 Wheatears (4 males and 2 females) with 4 in one area near a pipe and 1 very obliging male Wheatear perched on the small tap wall and then I managed to crawl within 15 feet and fire off a few shots with the 7D camera. It was now 8.45am and time to leave for work.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Yet more Spring Migrants

On the North Denes Oval, looking in from the eastern end wall, I was pleasantly surprised to see a Whimbrel, plus a Pied Wagtail and there were 2 male Yellow Wagtails feeding close to the eastern wall and I fired off a few test shots with my new Canon EOS 7D camera.A barking dog flushed up into a Pine tree before it flew off. Seeing Andrew E also taking shots, I decided to walk along the sea wall and over to Gunton Warren where nothing was seen except some young lads who had flattened half of the Japanese Knotweed and unfortunately the area near the spring water pool which had been the domain of a Water Rail, they'd also started a fire on the beach but fortunately a rain shower had dowsed that too. Walking back along the North Denes, I was fortunate enough to see 6 Wheatear (3 males & 3 females) all perched around the remains of a wall. The inevitable dogs flushed them again (but not before I got a shot of 3 together) and they flew slightly west right in front of Don & Gwen M. Oh, a new record of number of dogs seen walked by 1 walker on the North Denes, the previous record was 8, the new record (with drum roll) is........11 Yes, eleven!!!

A text from Rob W stating that he had seen 2 close Short- eared Owls on Oulton Marshes diverted me away from Carlton Marshes my intended destination and I made a detour to Oulton Marshes instead. Taking the path right from the bottom of the hill, having crossed the railway track, I noticed Andrew E & Rob W on the river bank looking in my direction. Apparently there was a Short- eared Owl on the deck in the field somewhere between me and them. I soon spotted it sat in grass on the left hand end of a big green tussock (which was reasonably close to where I was standing) bordering a scattered line of reeds bordering a dyke behind it. The Short-eared Owl was looking in my direction and I could see its alert yellow eyes and small "ear tufts." A few trains going past didn't flush it, neither did the brief attentions of a Meadow Pipit and a male Reed Bunting. Several Swallows flew by also and finally walking back I heard a Cuckoo calling nearby but I failed to spot it. In a field to the north a Chinese Water Deer ran across the field.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

More Spring Migrants

First stop was Corton Cliffs & Old sewage works where I saw a Kestrel alight onto the field, 8 Wood Pigeon with a particularly amorous male wooing a female and 3 Sky Lark. As I walked to the cliffs first 2 and then a load of Sand Martin were flying around the cliffs and dropping onto the coastal path, I managed a few shots before first cyclists and then 3 walkers completely spooked them off. My cue to leave and walking around Corton Old rail track I saw a Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker by the copse of tree where a pair of Blackcap were also seen. By the bushes around the southern edge of the boardwalk I heard and then eventually saw a Whitethroat. A pair of Partridges flew off and disappeared before I could get my bins on them. A couple of Peacocks were seen and Primroses were nicely in flower further along the track and especially at Corton Churchyard.
Late this afternoon I checked the usual Early Purple Orchid site, there not in evidence whatsoever. Following the exceptionally harsh winter we have just endured, they will be very late this year flowering sometime in May, my guess would be early or even mid- May.
Sad news re: the garden nesting birds both the brooding female Blackbird (formerly on a nest outside the kitchen window) and the pair of Blue Tits (nesting in a nestbox  just outside the conservatory) both species have recently abandoned their nest, a pile of Blackbird feathers on the lawn told the story that one or both of next door's cats had been after them, lets hope she was able to escape?

Friday, 23 April 2010

Spring Migrants at last!

Spring migrants are finally trickling in despite the persistent light northerly winds. I visited Fisher Row this evening and the first bird I saw was a female Green Woodpecker (a resident bird) which flew into a tree. Looking down a dyke, I could see a Fox resting at the end. Just over the railway track, I heard the first of 4 reeling Grasshopper Warblers, 4 Blackcaps were heard also and 2 males were seen in the bushes, 7 Cetti's Warblers heard, 4 Willow Warblers heard singing as were 4 Chiff- Chaffs and one Willow Warbler showed just past the bowl. An excellent Cuckoo was heard from the direction of the western reed fringed end of Carlton Marshes.
Finally walking back, a Barn Owl flew around the marsh, it perched on a bush briefly & I could see it was a very pale individual, it was seen later flying over fields opposite the entrance track. Finally, looking into field opposite the entrance track, where I was trying to spot another singing Grasshopper Warbler I disturbed 3 formerly hidden Muntjac Deer which ran to the back off the field and then crossed the marsh to the north.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

'Owling Success

Yesterday (Thursday 22nd April) I had a quick look on the North Denes before work in the early  morning. Parking by the Links rd car park, I walked across the Denes and immediately saw a pair off Wheatears, male and female on the path ahead, some dog walkers considerately slowly pushed the birds a little towards me (I was crouched down behind the water tap wall provided for former campers) before they suddenly took fright of some other dogs and flew off left.
On the middle of the Oval was one White Wagtail, but workmen about to start work put paid to seeing any other birds. As I walked back across the North Denes, I noticed a male Wheatear perched on the step by a water tap wall and decided to stalk it very slowly (as I have noticed Wheatears in the past will often rest here for a while) my strategy paid off brilliantly as my slow approach paid dividends and I got within 3 metres of the bird, before another dog running by finally flushed it. It flew west onto the path joined by another male Wheatear, so 3 Wheatears seen in all (2 males and 1 female).
A BINS message (this is a Suffolk Rare bird text based information service to the mobile phones of subscribers brilliantly run by Roy Marsh & Lee Woods) stating that the LEO was back in the garden at Rendham near Saxmundham. I had tried to see this bird on Sunday but had missed it. I was keen to have another try as Owls are my favourite family of birds and also because the bird had been showing exceptionally well.
Resigning myself to not being able to twitch it until late afternoon, as I had a meeting to attend, I thought no more of it until after the meeting when I was able to take TOIL from work (with the kind permission of my boss- I'd actually run up about 11 hours that I needed to take!)

I rang Richard W and picked him up at Oulton Broad and drove once again down to the idyllic spot of Rendham village.
The sign was on the gate stating laconically "Owl in the garden" (the owners had given permission to BINS birders to enter the garden to see the bird in their absence). Looking across to the right of the garden we could see it was bordered by a stream that wound across to the west and the southerly perimeter of the site. Sitting out on a bush to the right off the garden, in full view just 10 metres away looking very sleepy indeed was the superb Long- eared Owl. An absolutely cracking bird with all fluffed up "ear- head" tufts sticking up! The bird would sometimes swivel it's head around to briefly look at us before going to sleep again. Sometimes it stretched it's legs to preen them too. We were viewing the Owl from the side & from the angle we were viewing the Owl; the Sun was harshly lighting up the bird.
The courteous and charming young couple who owned the property arrived home shortly afterwards and we were even treated to mugs of tea (an excellent cuppa!)  and a biscuit! Not to be out done, a calling Kingfisher flew east down the stream and past us!
The couple and a pro photographer suggested we could even photograph the bird from a different angle. We walked to next door's house where we were given permission to cross their drive very quietly (going behind the Owl, the Owl was very sensitive to any noise created behind it) past their shed and crossing the stream at the bottom of the garden, we slowly made our way through the nettles in a position overlooking the Owl face on from the north side of the stream. The light was much better here and I was able to take some better pictures on this side of the site. When someone inconsiderately let the gate slam it disturbed the sleepy Owl which woke up, showing it's piercing orange eyes as it looked around. A calling Cuckoo just east of here was my first of the year and a fitting end to a superb late afternoon!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

A Sunny Spring day

On the Denes Oval this morning behind the Oval were singing male Blackcap seen in a tree and a singing Willow Warbler also seen in atree. Within the Oval grounds itself were 2 White Wagtail, one constantly feeding on the Pitch & putt green and one on the Oval itself. 10 Linnet were on the Denes. 12 Turnstone were seen at Ness Point several and were moulting into their fine summer plumage. 3 Purple Sandpipers were roosting on the rocky finger at the northern end of Ness Point. News off a Long- eared Owl showing in a garden at Rendham near Saxmundham resulted in an unsuccessful twitch as the bird had been flushed by Rooks before we (a birder from Bradwell & I) arrived but we saw our first Orange Tip, a fine male flew past. The whole area was an idyllic location overlooking a wet water meadow with a copse of trees and looked an ideal setting for the LEO, pity it wasn't there.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Adders & Garganeys

At Lound by the overhead wires, 2 Swallows were seen perched. On this brilliantly sunny day I couldn't resist another visit to the usual woods. I found 5 male Adders in total, 4 in the usual spot, all were males. 1 even slithered up the bush to look at me and I stepped back when it's face was only a foot away from my face! I missed the great shot but was playing it safe! A lemon yellow Brimstone butterfly flew past the path here. 3 Grass Snakes were seen here also plus a Vivaporous Lizard. At the bottom by the end pylon, literally just north of it, I heard a slithering sound (often a really good way to see Adders is to listen for them moving and wait for them to come out by a sunny spot) and a male Adder wriggled across the path. This time, I decided to stay put and he slithered past barely 2 foot from me and I got the shot! A Willow Warbler was also heard in the silver birch. Whilst a confiding Chiff- Chaff sang from the lower branches of a Pine right by the now traditional Adder site.

Back at Bure Park, Great Yarmouth the male Garganey swam out of the reed area very close to me but I had just arrived and the camera wasn't set up. I walked round and saw both the male & female Garganey that swam past me and left. A family was walking round and even decided to feed the ducks (but not the shy wild Garganey that swam quickly away) so I went back to my original spot and both the male & female Garganey were just left of me (behind them was a fine summer plumaged Little Grebe) and a newly arrived Peter A kindly guided them over to me.I managed to get some nice photos. Firstly of the female swam which towards me and disappeared into the reeds and then the male swam my way before swimming left again.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Evening Surprise

With flights grounded across the whole country due to the Icelandic volcanic dust cloud over the UK & Europe it seemed if the birds were respecting the no fly zone too. Yesterday (Thursday 15 April) There were no Sand Martins over Corton Cliffs, the only birds seen were 7 Redwings which flew from the bushes west of the old Corton Sewage works. 19 Sky Larks were seen feeding on the grass north west of the Sewage works, a large "t" had been carved out the grass, an ominous sign of development?

This evening, a call from Roger C had me driving to Bure Park, Great Yarmouth and I parked and walked over to the stretch of water which initially only had Mallards and Tufted Ducks on it but first, a female Garganey and then a male Garganey swam out. They fed by the edge then swam out and when they upended showed no rings. They also took to flight when people got too close and were a very smart pair of diminutive ducks. They then swam to the far end before again venturing closer on the water before going back into the reeds. Roger C, Morris B, Peter C, John H and Phil H all arrived.

I drove to Ashby Church and saw Rob W, Andrew E, Justin W & Roger C and we looked down a hedge row, 2 fields south of Ashby Church, initially we couldn't see our quarry until late on Andrew E spotted it hop out a super male Ring Ouzel with silvery wings and white crescent on it's breast. It then dived back into the hedge and flew towards us on the other side of the hedge before flying up and briefly perched reasonably close showing the white gorget on it's breast and the silvery wings briefly before it flew down onto the field for a minute before it flew back and disappeared behind a large tree.
As we started to walk back the seven whistler call of a group of 4 plus 2, 6 Whimbrel in total flying directly overhead northwards concluded this evening's birds.

Monday, 12 April 2010

North-East Winds

Checking around the North Denes, the oval & net posts this evening absolutely nothing was seen. Whilst at Ness point on the "finger" 2 Purple Sandpipers were asleep on the tip of a seaweed encrusted rock oblivious to the choppy sea around them. I also noted up to 8 pieces of natural sponge a pale cream colour standing out against the greenery was also washed up onto the "finger" too.
In the garden today, I found a dead Wood Mouse floating on the water in the fish pond. It didn't have any marks on it so I assume it fell in and drowned. Meanwhile, the female Blackbird near the kitchen window is now sitting tight on her nest and not flying off when we put rubbish in the bins nearby, maybe a sign that she is incubating eggs?

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Lound Village Wryneck

After receiving a message from Rob W in the evening, I literally dived straight into the car and 10 minutes later I joined a select group of birders (Andrew E, Ricky F, Rob W & Roger C) overlooking the Lound Village Pound. After 10 minutes, I saw a bird fly up into the large tree to the south of it I looked up and saw the excellent Wryneck. As always cryptically plumaged, and a lovely bird that's always nice to see, it then flew further up the tree and crawled around the branch in true Woodpecker fashion, before it then flew west over road and behind the Village Maid pub.
Most of our number walked slowly round being careful not to flush it, when Rob W spotted it perched in a bush just south of the pub. I managed to obtain a few record shots in the 20 minutes of observation, before failing light forced it to fly west into the garden presumably to roost.

More Adders

Another look for Adders at the same site, revealed a female Adder slithering through the heather undergrowth at the same site I had seen them yesterday. Earlier I had seen another Viviparous Lizard. Down at the bottom, just before the pylon Jenny saw a large Grass Snake cross the path and then slightly north of the pylon, another female Adder was basking underneath some branches but she moved as I spotted and she settled under a log where I was able to show her to Jenny who had accompanied me this morning. Later the female Adder was seen behind the log & initially I saw her head on looking at me and she then retreated underneath the undergrowth. A Willow Warbler was heard here too and a Brimstone flew down the path too.
Looking at the site at the bottom by the small silver birches a group of Herpetological Society people were doing a reptile & amphibian survey all over the site so decided to leave them to it & retrace our steps.
I have included some more photos of one of yesterday's male Adders.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Addled with Success!

Another more prolonged look at a local heath/ wood was more successful with at least 14 Adders seen (6 males, 5 females and 3 immatures), 3 Grass Snakes (including 1 big beast of a Snake!) and 2 Viviparous Lizard- they were seen in 2 specific areas. This almost trebles my previous tally of 5 Adders seen ever! A pathetic total, now more respectable in double figures. The best areas to see the Adders were namely sunny spots of heather bushes and bracken. Taking the path down from the start of the site, down the sandy path at about half way down, the Snakes were encountered, they were not out in the open but would frequently rest under the heather in sunlit areas. By the far the best way to see them was to look 6-10 feet ahead taking care with small quiet movements and making sure one's shadow didn't fall on an area where the Snakes were. Another really good tip was to listen for the rustling of them slithering through the undergrowth and anticipate where they might show. A particularly good spot was just west of Pylon 97. A male Adder here seemed to be oblivious to my presence and would repeatedly return to a tiny clearing in the heather as well climbing up to around 2 and half feet of a heather bush nearby looking at me and even curling up and basking in the sun, sadly the foliage blocked what would have been a really good photo.
The male Adders were a striking black and white colour, the females had black zig- zags on brown bodies (the older females had a very bold black pattern) and the youngsters a small black wavy pattern on a brown body.
All 3 Grass Snakes were seen in this area including 1 beast of a Snake, the largest Natrix I've ever seen, almost Pythonesque!! 1 Viviparous Lizard was seen here to. Several Blackcaps and Chiff- Chaffs were seen here to. A lovely Brimstone flew along the path, several Peacocks were seen here too.
At the end of the path, I took the route north and by the small Silver birches I saw a couple of Adders, a male and a female just to the east of the path again by some heather bushes and retracing my steps I saw another Viviparous Lizard showing reasonably well.
Roger C then called and I was seen able to join him at Ashby Dell and we witnessed a displaying Buzzard flying up high then swooping down in display flight over a nearby wood. 
It was good to see John B, who I hadn't seen for a while and we swapped info about Orchid sites and then we got some news that a herd of Red Deer nearby. Taking the road to Somerleyton and parking just past the gatehouse (with 4 white pillars at the front- like a Greek temple) just north of Kitty's farm, we looked west and we could see 21 Red Deer grouped under the shade of an Oak tree. There were 2 seated stags amongst them.
Finally on arriving home, I heard my first Willow Warbler of the year singing from the grounds of the Parkhill Hotel.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Addled Again!

A lunchtime TOIL visit (for working late this evening) to a nearby wood and heath was warranted on this very sunny and warm spring day with temperatures rising to 15C.
Eventually reaching the Southern section of the woods, having heard 2 Chiff- Chaffs and noted 3 Peacock, 2 Comma & 1 Red Admiral butterflies fling around, I walked along the sandy path bordering the river and near the southern most red marked post on the west side at the base of a small birch tree, I saw an excellent young Adder at 12.20pm but it all too quickly slithered down below the bracken and out of sight. I still desperately want to get some pictures of Adders, though!
Further along, with a path leading west, an excellent Grass Snake at 12.30pm lounged on the left hand side of the path right out in the open. Compared with the Adder, this Snake was positively relaxed as it posed very nicely for photo's, even those taken just 10 inches away. A kamikaze Groundhopper (thanks to Nick B for the ID) perched on its body dicing with death, but was left alone by the Snake (although as NB points out the Snake is probably much more interested in larger prey items such as frogs etc) during the 25 minute period of observation. A Ladybird also crawled over its body too.
Especial thanks to ace Adder experts Nick B, Colin J & Andrew E for advice on where to look.
Also the Wood Pigeon is back on her twig nest behind the second air conditioning unit along the wall of the Opticians near Gorleston Library, first noticed by a colleague at work yesterday.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Bank Holiday Blues

At Kessingland sewage works late afternoon, 2 White wagtail, Grey wagtail and 3 male Reed Buntings seen on the sewage beds plus 2 Chiff- Chaff seen one was calling, the Pallid swift had disappeared.
At Ness Point, 9 Purple Sandpipers fed near to the compass I was hoping to take some pictures until a member of the public asked in a loud voice "Are they Dunlin?!' consequently all 9 Purple Sandpipers flew north.
I refound them on the defence rocks just north of the Point where 10 Purple Sandpipers were seen in total. At the Netposts 38 Linnet seen, Hamilton Dock, the Denes and the Oval were devoid of birds.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Kessingland Swift-fest continues

Walking down the lane to the Kessingland sewage works, this morning at around 9.30am, it was very noticeable there were a lot of birders. All no doubt hoping to see the star of the show. Initially checking the Sewage beds I saw just 1 male White Wagtail & a Grey Wagtail. There were several Reed Buntings feeding here too.
Walking over to the bushes area, more birders were here including John H & Dick W, looking up we saw the star bird giving us an aerial extravagansa, an excellent Pallid Show flying around often right over our heads. Slightly smaller than a Common Swift, with cream white throat brown plumage with scalloping on the undersides only seen in good light. For a while it was joined by a Swallow, my first of the year.
The 2 Robs & Andrew E arrived and on a nearby bush perched a magnificent male Bullfinch which flew off right.
Andrew G, Paul W and finally Roger C arrived and we spent an hour or so admiring the overflying Pallid Swift.
2 Grey wagtail and a Great- Spotted Woodpecker flew east over our heads. Finally we walked back to the Sewage beds where I counted at least 7 White Wagtails (4 males, 3 females) feeding on the beds in the company of 1 Grey wagtail, about 6 Pied wagtails & 3 Reed Buntings. In the bushes by the fence, we could hear the sub-song of a male Blackcap which flitted down and out of the bush. A Chiff- Chaff could be head singing too.
Meanwhile a pair of Blue Tits are regularly visiting the nestbox in the garden which I put up on early last year the west side of the garage wall, they were seen regularly visiting the box in the early afternoon.