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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Sunny & Wet Weekend.

A weekend of contrasts, a glorious sunny day on saturday and wet and miserable on Sunday.
Saturday morning I spent looking for Waxwings in Lowestoft I found and saw none.
But I had to work at Great Yarmouth Library in the afternoon and saw the usual flock of waxwings there, but now numbering just 16 Waxwings on the aerials. One regularly flew out catching insects in mid-air and nthen returning to it's perch and they all flew and briefly alighted on the middle Mountain Ash for a minute or so (I was viewing from the car park and was the only observer there) before flying back and then off south- west again just after 4pm.
Sunday, shopping at Lowestoft Asda I looked across at the Grain silo and the fine Peregrine was sitting on an air viaduct 3/4 of the way up the tower. It sat with his back to us and would occasionally look about showing it's yellow cere on the blue bill and piercing eyes and soot black crown. Nice to see again. It must have been impressive because even Jenny came and had a look! Lets hope it can find a mate.
A high pitched call revealed a fine Kingfisher flying past eastwards over the very long "Silver Sturgeon" boat and finally a Dunlin was heard too.

Friday, 29 October 2010


Lunchtime saw me driving down Southtown road, Great Yarmouth and just before the western end on the southern side, I could see around 47 Waxwing perched in a large tree in the linear park. Parking again at Lidl's, 3 photographers were very close to the Mountain Ash trees. One of their number was Perry F who had I not spoken to or seen for for years, (first seen, but not to talk to, after a long absence at the River Warbler at Thorpe Haddiscoe in the summer) so it was good to catch up.
Being autumnal birds they were heading for Mountain Ash or Rowan trees packed with orange berries at this time of the year (rather than Cotoneater/ Pyrancantha bushes that berry in the winter), in particular they were attracted to 3 berry laden Mountain Ash trees bordering the back of a line of some houses opposite the Three Bears Hotel and the Cobholm and Lichfield Community Play centre.

Sadly the Waxwings, around 18 or so or sometimes a group of up 47, spent most of their time flying around and over us in the murky half light , we were also treated to a cacophany of trilling calls as they flew over, they only settled briefly on the Mountain Ash's to voraciously feed and then fly up to the aerials or away. It was patently clear to me, and a newly arrived Peter C, that the photographers were far to close to the trees that the Waxwings wanted to feed in and a strategic retreat would have allowed the Waxwings time to feed from the trees for a period.
Some of the photographers were having none of it despite me mentioning it would be best to fall back a little way. Perhaps they thought all Waxwings were confiding, these obviously weren't.
What was the point in photographing them in such abysmal light anyway? Fieldcraft and the interests of the bird seems to be lacking with some of today's bird photographers.

The Perils of Birding

After very belatedly hearing of Waxwings at Great Yarmouth, just after 5pm on Thursday 28th October, I made my way over to the Pasteur road opposite the Pasta foods factory and parked in Lidl's car park. I saw a small flock of approx 17 birds seen for a second, possibly waxwings disappear behind the roofs of some houses. The lovely trilling sound of a single Waxwing flying around, I viewed the bird flying around before it flew high in a south- westerly direction. 
Seeing a friend at the Library on Friday, he told me about an experience that a very well respected member (and finder of several rarities) of the Yarmouth Bird club was subjected to. He, too, was watching the Waxwings from Lidl car park and he was approached by Lidl's manager to say that he had complaints from people in the houses saying they had seen a person looking through people's windows with binoculars. Of course, he wasn't, he was just looking at the Waxwings feeding either on the Mountain Ash berries or perched on the aerials.
When he had explained what he was looking at, the embarrassed Lidl's manager apologised and bore a hasty retreat. 
Birding around housing estates and looking especially for waxwings can be a hazardous pursuit.
It reminded me of a time when I was looking at Waxwings at Tottenham  on a housing estate in London and I had rude words shouted at me by teenagers in the neighbourhood.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Bluetail Joy! (at last)

During an early morning visit (8.40am) I met some people along Arnold's walk by the top path today who said it had been showing well but they hadn't seen it for 20 minutes.
It wasn't until about 11am when OFB kindly gave me call to say he had just heard the Bluetail call. I had briefly ventured down half way along the path to look in the very top of the sycamores having heard the rasping call of a Brambling, initially all I could see were Chaffinches but then I saw the welcome sight of a pale orange breast of a Brambling right neat the middle top of a Sycamore, but it then flew left.
I joined OFB at the usual spot by the top path looking in an area of dead Alexander plants.
walking away a few yards I heard the distinctive trill of a Waxwing flying over but I could not see the bird. Back at the dead Alexander area, the fine Red- flanked Bluetail hopped up on an Alexander stem I was able to obtain a few shots, albeit in very poor light using ISO 3400 on the lowest aperture I could use of F6.3 not brilliant!  It then spent time along the ground, often obscured by vegetation in the foreground before it perched up again albeit partially obscured.
I had to leave at 12 noon to take jenny to an Apple Day celebration at Gressenhall Workhouse Museum.
Driving along the Acle straight we saw 16 Pink- footed Geese flying north- east.

Bluetail Blues and fine Rough-leg

On Saturday 23rd October, was a really frustrating day trying to photograph the Red- flanked Bluetail in Arnold's Walk. A mid morning shift 10.30 to 1pm revealed just a 15 second view high in Sycamore viewed half way up on the diagonal path running up towards Arnold's walk. I was forced to go home and clean up after my tripod fell over in vegetation and picking it up, my hands and the tripod were covering in fresh dog excrement, urrrghhh! Absolutely disgusting.
Washing my hands and tripod in the puddle at the bottom, I then had to go home and get everything, hands and tripod thoroughly bleached.
At about 1.40pm I arrived at Potter's Bridge near Southwold and taking the path just north of the bridge just 10 yards east of the road I spotted a magnificent Rough- legged Buzzard flying north over the marshes. It performed beautifully hovering and then perching for five minutes in atree showing a cream- white head and upper breast and a very dark- brownish belly, a striking bird which indicates it is an immature bird. It then flew north over the fields.
My cue to leave, returning to Arnold's Walk I spent the next 2 1/2 hours not seeing the Bluetail at all, only to be told the bird had been showing well near the area of the top path for the whole period of my absence.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Winterton Pallas'

On Tuesday 19th October, a morning working at Martham Library meant I was able to take a half hour lunch break down the southern valley on Winterton Dunes. especial thanks to Peter C (for letting me know the bird was still there) and Tim H (for calling the bird in).
Walking down at around 1pm. seeing a Robin and a female Reed Bunting raised hopes.
A small crowd including Ricky F and Dave J was waiting expectantly in front of the small copse along the seaward side of Hermaness camp along the restaurant area. 
Birds flitting around included 2 Chiff- Chaffs and high above a berry ladden Hawthorn bush in some Sycamores, I picked out the fabulous Pallas' Warbler.
I shouted out Pallas' warbler to alert the other observers and they soon joined me in watching this eastern stunner.
This eastern gem was a real jewel of a bird but to me seemed quite a worn individual (an adult?) albeit with thick yellow supercilia, 2 wingbars, yellow rump and silky white underparts. It flew around and was also soon hovering hunting for flies. After a few minutes it flew back deeper into the foliage and it was my time to go (time 1.30pm)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Elusive Bluetail, showy White-heads and sub-liminal Pallas'

Arriving at Arnold's Walk, Lowestoft I was hoping to connect with yesterday's incredible sighting of a Red- flanked Bluetail by Robert Win, first seen in Sparrow's Nest and then rediscovered by Robert Wil in Arnold's walk. Seeing Robert Win already there half way down the path leading to the apple tree at the bottom, after few minutes Robert said he had just seen it. Walking further up the path, I saw a Robin-like bird with a blue tail, the excellent female/ 1st winter Red- flanked Bluetail fly across and down into the undergrowth. After 2 1/2 hours, where we were joined by the Winterton illuminati of Peter C and friend and nice to see Chris M and his dog too and regular correspondent Paul W, we were "treated" to long periods without seeing the bird interspersed with brief flight only views. The bird finally settled down into an area at the base of a sycamore where it was occasionally seen around some dead Alexander plants and it perched for a couple of minutes on one just a foot of the ground providing me with virtual exclusive pics of the bird (except for Andrew's modernist "blurtail"(his words not mine) pic, one for Tate Modern!)
I then travelled south to Southwold to the Camping site adjacent to the harbour road. Walking through the site to the far north- west corner by the toilet block, I met Chris D and followers and we first spotted the 2 excellent "Caudata" Northern race Long- tailed Tits with completely white heads and maybe a slightly longer tail making them very attractive birds indeed, flitting around the bushes on the western edge of a field north of the campsite, they were then around the toilet block and then round some buildings in trees before transferring to the hedgerow bordering the harbour road but often Chris was ahead of me, but I got my best shot against a green background, when one bird was fairly low down.
To my mind the high pitched call may have been a fraction higher pitched than "our" Long- tailed Tit but otherwise the calls were identical and lovely birds to see.
Next stop Sizewell, where parking opposite the Vulcan Arms, I logically (geddit?) walked into a field with bushes along the western end bordering the entrance road to Sizewell Nuclear Power station with heavy Police security present.
Eric P updated me that the bird had been seen recently but I had to wait twenty minutes before it showed briefly in a small bush right in front of us giving brief almost sub-liminal glimpses of part of its body; first the head with thick yellow supercilia, then the body with wing bars and white underparts and then the tail and lemon- yellow rump.
The bird was later seen aat the top of a Hawthorn and Sycamore tree where it was seen flitting about several times briefly.
Next stop Minsmere Island Mere where Gerald G held court in the hide with Paul W.
We saw Bitterns, probably 2 fly in and out of the left- hand end of the mere around the reedy edge.
Later on I spotted the excellent Great white Egret fly up from the right down a channel showing its large size and dagger like yellow bill.
The ever alert Paul spotted an excellent ringtail Hen Harrier and thanks to Gerald I was able to obtain 1 or 2 good shots as she flew past the hide. Female Marsh harrier seen here to. walking back to the car I saw a Red Deer on the hill.
walking down to the Red Deer rut watch point on Westleton Heath, 2 Curlew flew up and from the fence looking due south, several Red Deer could be seen including a fine Stag with an impessive set of antlers nonchalently sitting on the ground of the highest hill field.
1 or 2 other Stags were seen. The "mooed" frequently. 

Scilly 2010

Just returned from another very enjoyable trip to Scilly with a crack team of birders including John H, Winterton Tim, Andrew H & his girlfriend Tina & Neil M. Sadly, Terry T was again absent this year hope he can make it next year?
We are indebted yet again to the herculain efforts of John driving us down there and back, thanks John.
No sooner had we arrived than we were chasing off to the Garrison just below Star Castle hotel on the cliffs overlooking the rocks where a wonderful Black- eared Wheatear had taken up residence. 350 present made the bird nervous and flighty but on a return visit days later had the bird showing down to 30 feet and even resting and dozing on a rock!
More Scillies to follow.

"Never in the field of Lowestoft birding..."

To totally misquote Winston Churchill "Never in the field of Lowestoft birding has so much been missed, so many rare birds by so few (ie. me!!)
This is because I have been away again (why do so many megas turn up when I am away??) to the Isles of Scilly, an enjoyable trip with 2 lifers (more of that later).
Anyway many congratulations to the hardened patch workers Robert's Wil & Win and Andrew E who fully deserve to turn up these birds as they are out every day looking for birds. A request next time lads, can you find them when I'm not away, please?
So apologies to anyone who has checked this site to hear of tales being regaled about such megas as Isabelline Wheatear at the nets posts, Red- flanked Bluetail in the parks, Radde's warbler in Yarmouth cemetary and Pallas' warblers at Kessingland.
Backed up by Great Grey Shrikes, Shore Larks & Yellow- browed Warblers. I can tell you nothing.
I take solace in another misquoted Churchillian quote "We shall find them (ie rare birds) on the Lowestoft  beaches, we shall find them on the landing grounds, in the fields, in the streets, in the hills, in the air, we will find them everywhere, we shall never surrender!!" 

I'm now off out to start looking! Wish me luck!!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Drift Migrants

A pleasant stroll around the Lowestoft North Denes area today, where I saw 4 Chiff- Chaff behind the Oval and a further 8 in bushes on the slope on the northern section near Links Rd. Meeting Chris M, we made our way through Warren House Wood seeing a male Great Spotted Woodpecker here. Walking up to Gunton Warren, we heard "chuckling" and a fine male Ring Ouzel flew out of a bush and into a large green bush. A further "chuckling" revealed a female Ring Ouzel feeding on berries on a bush but partially obscured before she flew out. Both Ouzels then flew up to the big green bush and then flew down again, the female into a bare bush north of the bushy area, but very sadly she was flushed by the inevitable dog walker & before I could get any pics. Both Ring Ouzels flew together from the bushes on the beach and back up the slope again.
By the marram grass area on the beach just east of Link's rd, a Wheatear initially seen on the eastern edge of the sea wall was carefully stalked.  Although initially flighty, by my judicious fieldcraft, I was able to sneak up and obtain a few pics. One is pictured alongside this post.
Walking back almost to the Oval, in the large elderflower bush I spied a female Blackcap eating elder berries. At the back of the Oval, a calling Pied Flycatcher gave me the slip, but I saw 2 immature Wood Pigeons feeding at the north side of the Oval. I also saw a male Muntjac Deer slip through, initially he stopped and looked at me before he headed north 2/3 of the way up the slope. At the top of Sparrows Nest, near the southern entrance, the constantly calling "hwet" (similar to Chiff Chaff but harder) revealed a fine Pied Flycatcher near the top of a sycamore. In Arnold's Walk, another calling Pied Flycatcher was seen briefly on the edge of the walk and the houses south from here. A Chiff- Chaff was also seen and a Red Admiral butterfly.
I spoke to a lady who had just seen a Clouded Yellow butterfly (her description of a yellow with a spot seen at rest and becoming orangey when it flew was spot on!) at Ness Point and it had flown into the grounds of Bird's Eye factory.
I finally saw a fine Small Copper butterfly near the "exhibit' at north end of the net posts by Whapload road.
Retracing my steps through Flycatcher alley, I was drawn to a male Blackcap, which was doing it's best to impersonate a Flycatcher, flycatching for insects in a sunny spot on the slope.