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Sunday, 12 September 2010

"K"racking King Eider

After a disappointing look around Kessingland beach and Benacre Pits where the only birds seen were 3 Wheatear, around the sluice area plus 5 Meadow Pipits, 10 Pied Wagtails, 2 Skylark and 2 Little Grbe on the pit. There was no Lap Bunting & the waders at the pool on the North Beach had been flushed by a dog and I scoped some waders flying off, so no chance of seeing the hoped for Little Stint.
A small Copper butterfly on the beach played very "hard to get" and escaped the hoped for obligatory photograph. 2 singleton Sky Lark flew up from my feet. It was especially disappointing to get a message at 12 noon to say a King Eider had been seen off Kessingland that morning. An hour and a half of looking at Kessingland & Benacre revealed nothing.

All this was turned on its head when I received a BINS message to say a King Eider had been seen off the Minsmere North Wall late afternoon and I received a lift from OFB. We headed for Dunwich National Trust cliff and as we entered we saw birders running across the road to the northern cliff area. Parking in a small car park, I ran across the heather and saw a few birders non the cliff scoping the bird, I quickly set up my scope and saw the bird, a cracking eclipse plumaged 1st summer drake King Eider, complete with orange knob at base of the bill bill, dark back with distinctive black scapular "sails" and paler breast. 
6 Pintail also flew south over the sea.
I also noticed that the bird was drifting initially south (then later north) therefore staying in the same area the whole time and incredibly it was close inshore. I was keen to get pictures but I was confronted by a  fairly steep cliff but I carefully made my way down without losing my footing and I ran across the beach to reach the throng of birders including Nick B, Jon E, Andrew E, Rob Wil & Rob Win amongst others. Steve P, Dick W & Ali R also arrived. I rattled other many shots before realising that I needed to plus the exposure by at least 1 1/2 or all the way as advised by pro photographers present to make out any colouration on the plumage and avoid silhouette shots only. The bird drifted and preened and then finally fell asleep. The sun came out briefly illuminating the bird proving better for photography. A splendid addition to my Suffolk list, the bird being an addition to the Suffolk list. Making my way back (to avoid the steep cliff climb) up some steps through the confusing and seemingly exitless Cliff House caravan park, I saw and photographed an immature Wood Pigeon. 
This is the 4th King Eider I have seen following sighting off Scolt Head, Titchwell in Norfolk and an adult male in stunning plumage on the Ythan estuary near Aberdeen in Scotland.

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