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Friday, 26 November 2010

Repeat Waxwings & Scoter

Yesterday, Thursday 25th November, at 8.30am I had a quick look along Yarmouth road and the junction with Harris Avenue and was delighted to first hear the beautiful trilling call of Waxwings and then see 6 of their number. They were initially seen in the large tree and they promptly flew down to the smaller berry laden tree. The Waxwings gorged themselves for several minutes before returning to the safety of the larger tree. A large lorry that drove past spooked them and they flew west over the houses of Harris Avenue.
Calling in at Filby Broad briefly at lunchtime (after a work visit to Martham Library) I saw the female Velvet Scoter and the male Goldeneye, again over the western end of Filby Broad. The female Scoter was frequently diving for food.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Filby Broad Velvet Scoter

A very early start yesterday morning, Tuesday 23rd November, as I had to be at Martham Primary School at 9am sharp for some Library work, I called in at Filby Broad in Norfolk at 8.15am and almost immediately spotted the very strikingly plumaged female Velvet Scoter that has been there a while. Looking from the roadside, she was on the western side of the Broad, near a very fine male Goldeneye.
The Velvet Scoter was dark brown in plumage with a very striking white facial cheek patch, the white area was the in shape of a vertical figure of 8. She constantly dived, initially the white wing clip couldn't be seen at all but after she rose and flapped her wings the white in the wings were seen fully and then the white wwing clip was seen at rest afterwards too.
A quick return visit at lunchtime, she was nearer the road having swum much further left, first seen through the bushes she was swimming back to the middle of the Broad, a fine bird. 

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Foggy & dank

A miserable weekend, including thick fog Saturday 20th morning and evening meant my birdwatching forays were limited to Saturday afternoon (& Sunday afernoon) where a visit to Ness Point revealed up to 5 Purple Sandpipers feeding on the rocks just north of Ness Point, a group of 4 were initially seen then 3 flew and roosted on the rocks on the northern corner of the Point, whilst 2 were still feeding 100 yards further north, 3 and 2 make 5!
A Rock Pipit was seen earlier briefly on the roof at Hamilton Dock, whilst a Robin perched on the seawall. A passage of birds on the near horizon included 2 Red- throated Divers south and an interesting dumpy auk also flying south but too far away to call conclusively, sadly.
around 700+ Starling flew onto the rocks near the finger and then flew and settled on the lower rung of the old Gas Works chattering incessantly!

After the showers on Sunday 21st,a totally blank day as there was no sign of the Turtle Dove or indeed the Waxwings along Harris Avenue & I walked around Fallowfields hoping for Woodcock or Bullfinch but saw nowt.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Goosander, more Waxwings & a regal King Eider

Today is my birthday, so taking a day off work, I headed out first thing to Oulton Broad to try and see the female Goosander. This was easy as soon as I parked my car I was walking along the path following the edge of the broad when half way to the yacht club, I could see the excellent female Goosander over the far side being watched through binoculars by a yellow fluorescant-coated Badger employee who should have been working! Only joking!
The female Goosander spent most of her time over the far side but one time she swam half way over and then flew towards the yacht club spending a few minutes here before hastily swimming further back to the far side.
Driving along Beccles road just before the junction of Hollow Grove Way, I couldn't fail to see a nice flock of 32 Waxwing perched in a tree, parking in HGW, the flock then flew towards HGW and were in the tall bushes and trees by Daffodil Walk, before some of their number flew back to trees along HGW. They then flew back to the original tree along Beccles road and waiting patiently I was able to snap a few pics (at 2/3 compensation) of the Waxwings as they flew to the closest Rowan tree eating berries from the tree. 
Several remained on the largest tree and flew around in mid air presumably flycatching when one close bird did this I managed to secure a lovely flight shot. Something I'd been after for some time.
Finally a large lorry spooked the flock and they eventually flew towards HGW again.

I decided to try my luck with the King Eider (not seen one before on my birthday!) which was now moulting into very nice 2nd year plumage. First stop Dunwich coastguards no luck. Having seen birders with tripods on Dunwich NNT cliff I decided to go over there.
As is always the case, when I arrived they were packing up. I asked them if they had seen it.
Yes, was the reply, it was with Scoter they said and is a bit distant but It'll be Ok in the telescope.
Try as I might I just couldn't see it or the Scoter. All I could see were flocks of Great Crested Grebes, there must have been around 100 out there.
I went back to the car and one of the "gents" was still there asked me if I had seen it, I said no, he didn't bother to walk the 5 steps necessary to show me, try as I might I just couldn't see it (or the Scoter for that matter) perhaps it had flown off? 
However, I did see 2 female Pintail fly north.
I then picked up a duck far, far south almost at Sizewell, it looked King Eider- like to me with what looked like sails on its back but it was very distant I wasn't totally sure.
Malcolm F came along and said that he too had been on Minsmere beach and struggled to see it recently (he had seen it well earlier up to lunchtime) By this time my bird was just a dot on the horizon and totally indistinguishable.
Malcolm advised me to try Sizewell. I drove down to Sizewell and walking north along the beach just past the rigs, I looked by the tall northern most post (which had Cormorants on it) and there swimming just behind it, just to the north, barely 300 yards out was the fine male King Eider.
The 2nd year King Eider was now looking very handsome indeed, he now sported a pale grey head, extensive orange (bordered by black) at the base of the red bill. It had a black back, white rear flank patch, with the black scapular feathers erect like a triangular sails, and a light chestnut buff belly. It was swimming left and I reached down to get my camera to get a record a shot of it, took my eye off him for a second or too and next time I looked he'd completely disappeared. I assume he had flew off north?
Brucie bonuses at Blythbugh estuary by the A12 included 21 Avocet, a Ruff, 100+ Pintail (with 70 of them being males, plus 30 Shelduck, 12o Redshank and so on. 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Lark ascending & "Twitchers" BBC4 documentary

Whilst replenishing the bird feeders first thing this morning, I heard the "Chirrup" call of a Sky Lark flying low and south- east over the garden. My first actual sighting of this species in or over the garden having only previously heard their wonderful song in the spring and summer.
A look around Gunton wood, revealed Bullfinches calling from the SWT section, Song Thrush on the wooden fence, 3 Goldcrests, 7 British Long- tailed tits and an obliging Dunnock but no Pallas' or Firecrest. A female Sparrowhawk that flew in and perched in the wood gave a female Blackbird, a fright nearby but she escaped unmolested.
On arriving home at 3pm after doing the food shopping, a Grey squirrel was cheekily feeding off the fat balls at the back of the garden (meant for the birds and NOT Grey Squirrels!). It had to contort its body quite a lot to reach them. 

The recent BBC4 documentary "Twitchers" portrayed twitchers and twitching in a very poor light indeed. It certainly captured the more extreme elements of behaviour and machismo actions of the participants in this male dominated hobby. I, for one, would like to see more women birding.
The editing of the comments by Lee Evans in particular portrayed him in a poor light. Although he's obsessive about his hobby (by definition all twitchers and year listers are, this is not meant as a criticism, everyone to his/her own), he's OK in my book as he takes great pains to get everybody onto the bird. I can testify to that, when we were looking for a Lanceolated Warbler at Sheringham one autumn Lee refound the bird and gave very clear directions of where it was, it was extremely difficult to see and I probably wouldn't have seen it without his help. 
He has also compiled and published several books on rare bird sightings in the UK. He also runs several websites on current rare birds sightings (with pictures of them and clear directions of how to find the site) and local wildlife in his local area, all freely accessible & all highly commendable.

That said, I thought the documentary was very, very badly made, badly edited and the filming of the rare birds was very poor indeed. Much of the film appeared to be poorly shot through a telescope showing heavy vignetting at the edges. 
They didn't even mention the species of bird one of the twitcher's travelled to Ireland to see. Was it a Cedar Waxwing? Also the twitcher who twitched a rare gull, had ticked it, but admitted he hadn't seen everything on it. Surely he can't tick it then??
But I wish I had been there at South Shields when the Eastern Crowned Warbler turned up.

Above all the film didn't show to the layperson, any of the participants motivation for twitching (other than ticking them off on list, surely it's more than that??) where was their passion or enjoyment for birds? Emotions such as admiring the bird's beauty, and being passionate about bird and wildlife conservation? 
I know Lee is particularly passionate about birds and wildlife and this didn't come through in the documentary (Lee is particularly critically vociferous of the cull of the Ruddy ducks for example). All it showed were the twitchers racing to see the birds, literally a minute's viewing (poor editing?) and then, them rushing off onto the next rarity. 
Birding or indeed twitching is so much more than that, where one can admire the beautiful plumage of our avian friends, observe and record/note down the bird's distinctive identification features, watch their behaviour, listen to the bird's call & song and so on?
As well as the social aspect of birding/ twitching too. I, always enjoy a social natter with friends (especially those I haven't seen for a while) that's why they are always mentioned in my blog reports.
In particular I feel one has to give something back, for example local campaigning for the preservation of wild areas (eg. at present I am fighting a losing battle trying to save the Orchid meadow at Fallowfields or being part of a number of people who campaigned to save Arnold's Walk in it's current form, without which there would have been no recent sightings of Red- flanked Bluetail or Radde's Warbler) and being a member of at least the RSPB and your local wildlife trust.
There was no mention of fieldcraft, making notes or descriptions of birds or learning your birds by going through a birding "apprenticeship" these are essential in becoming a good birder. Sadly though, these traits seem less prevalent anyway these days.

I can only assume this film was intended as a psychological profile of those it portrayed and twitching in general, if so, why didn't they have comments from a psychologist, commenting about man's hunter gatherer collecting instinct and so on.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Stunning Northern Long-tails & another sub-liminal Pallas'

After a hectic week, and working until very late the previous evening, with a talk at Lingwood, I was finally out at 10am, late for me, and saw Jeremy G at the top of Flycatcher alley. There was no sign of the Pallas' so we decided to check Sparrow's Nest. walking past the restaurant, we looked at a group of 7 Long- tailed Tits in the tall trees at the top back, the ones looked at were all normal ones but Jeremy shouted "I've got a white- headed one!" at that instant all 7 Long- tailed Tits flew back and away towards the ravine or Belle Vue Park. I rang Rob & Andrew to let them know the news.
I didn't see this individual except in flight (so obviously couldn't count it, but well done Jeremy!)
A look at the top of the Sparrow's nest revealed up to 30 normal Long-tails, a briefly confiding male Blackcap, a fine Treecreeper (a rare sight in the Parks these days) and a Chiff- chaff and several Siskin heard and a Brambling heard too, flying over.
Arnold's walk revealed up to 100 long- tails, plus Rob Wil and Andrew E amongst other birders.

Retracing my steps following a call from Rob stating the warbler had been seen again, I walked back along Flycatcher alley, very briefly saw the Pallas' warbler in flight (a small olive-green warbler with yellow supercilia and wing- bars, white underparts) fly to the sycamores just east of the Pines on the Northern end of the bank behind the Oval. It disappeared after that. Walking further north along the North Denes, having seen Chris M, Peter N, Roy & Ruth H. OFB shouted "They're here!' and I ran back 30 yards and a group of Long- tailed Tits flew over the Pallas' area and into bushes along the bank and they included one then another absolutely stunning 2 white- headed Northern Long- Tailed Tits, absolutely stunning birds. One perched up well at the top of a hawthorne bush with a couple of normal Long- tails and stood out like a white beacon. before sadly, it flew a fair way north last seen fling over Links' road.
A female Kestrel flew past several times and perched at the end of the shelter belt briefly.
A female Sparrowhawk whizzed along the cliff.
Further searching revealed up to 5 Chiff- Chaff and several 3 Goldcrest and around 5 reasonably confiding Jays and behind the southern end of the Oval along the bank what may have been the Pallas' again, it was a small warbler (not Chiff or crest) flying very quickly at the back.
I briefly saw a grey warbler with a wing- bar in a tree, but too brief to specifically ID.

Wood Pigeon RIP

A dead Wood Pigeon corpse was seen lying on the back right hand flower bed of the garden on Thursday 11th November morning, an examination of the carcass revealed no obvious signs of its recent demise, was it old age?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

50 Waxwings

Driving back from London on Tuesday 9th November morning, after seeing the excellent Irish dance extravaganza, "Lord of the Dance" at Wembley Arena with Michael Flatley in the title role giving an amazing and spectacular performance in his return to the role, just past Glemham hall on the A12 a Stoat (brown with a black tip to the tail clearly noted) darted across the road from right to left in front of the car and into cover.
Having to cover a colleague at Caister Library, today, Wednesday 10th November, I popped in for 10 minutes at lunchtime to view the Waxwings at Great Yarmouth perched on the large tree near the Mountain Ashes (opposite Pasta Foods factory) , 50 birds were seen with Richard W, and they fed briefly on the berries on the trees before cloud and rain intervened.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

An eventful trip to Kessingland North Beach

A late morning foray to Link's Hill was too late to catch up with Snow Buntings seen earlier as the senses were assaulted by the very annoying sight and sound of a "whinning" radio controlled toy car was being "driven" around the grassy area by Warren House Wood. Noisy toy car = No birds.
But did see some tall Mushrooms (which I photo'd) on the North Denes, near Links rd car park, which I'll subsequently be able to ID next week when I get the field guide for my birthday!
Jenny & I then drove to Kessingland North Beach, Jenny elected to stay in the car being put off with the strong northerly breeze and brief rain shower.
I walked over to the Kessingland Shore Pools seeing Rob Wil, Andrew E and later on Chris D.
We first saw a single Snow Bunting around the Dunes and then Andrew E saw a flock of birds fly over a distant sand dune, they then flew south and flew past us, they turned out to be 22 Snow Buntings. 
Chris called us over and we saw the sad sight of a recently dead carcass of a Great Skua, its tail had separated from the body.
A more welcome sight were 4 calling Shore Larks that flew north along the beach and past us, they appeared to settle near the shore pools but later investigation failed to turn them up.
Meanwhile walking along the beach, the flock of Snow Buntings settled near me and were actively feeding, a birder walking his dog along the beach (was it Paul R?) kept his distance but considerately pushed the birds to within 20 feet of me and I took a few pics, albeit in poor light.
Finally, I thought I had seen 3 possible Mergansers flying north seen briefly through the bins I quickly swapped to my scope (set up on the steps going up the hill) but a dog crashed into the tripod and although the tripod and scope were OK it cost me a further view of the birds, that now remain unrecorded by me at least!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Covehithe Cliffs magic!

Saturday morning, I joined a small throng of birders including Chris M, Peter N and regular correspondent Paul W hoping for a sighting of the long staying (since Tuesday) Richard's Pipit in the field directly behind Covehithe Church. Initially our chances of seeing the bird didn't appear to be high, as no sign had been seen of it all morning, but at 10.35am it flew up from the middle of the field, typically a large long-tailed pipit which called an explosive rasping "shreep" and it flew south-east. I lost it behind the tale hedge bordering the eastern perimeter of Covehithe Church.
We met Jon E and others who decided to take the inland footpath, while we plumped for the seaward one. Phoning John H, who I could see across the field and by the metal gate on the inland path, we told him the updated news about the Pipit.
Taking the seaward path, winding south down to Covehithe Broad (or more accurately I should describe it as the remnants of it as much of the former path had fallen on the beach/ into the sea below due to erosion) we inadvertantly flushed it from the path, just 100 yards south of the end of Covehithe Church road.
It flew into a field and showed very well here for a couple of minutes (where I took a few pics) before unfortunately a Sky Lark flushed it and the Richard's Pipit flew back to the coastal path. It then proceeded to show well here often running up and down the path then changing tack and running across into the thicker grass either side of the path and even appearing by the edge of the field at one point.
A typical Richard's Pipit with large size and longer tail, clearly marking out as different from Meadow Pipit. It had a long more "dagger" thrush- like bill, pale lores, prominent a black sub- moustachial stripe, buff streaked upper breast but clean white underparts. I did not see the very long rear hind claw but another observer remarked on seeing it. This rarity from Siberia is a regular late autumn visitor to the east coast but we rarely see it in the Lowestoft area.
Suddenly, I saw 2 birds fly into the dead weeds at the very edge of the cliff, initially I thought they were Siskin, they were completely obscured to me by weeds in the foreground but when another observer said they were Redpoll, I moved round (they called a rasping sound) and could clearly see they were indeed Redpoll, and Mealy Redpoll to boot (a visitor from Scandinavia), one was a pale grey- white colour, an adult; and the other more obscured bird was grey-brown; a first winter.
They fed for a couple of minutes and I took a few pics at close range of the sdult and the immature before they flew due west.

Dark clouds and rain was our cue to leave, leaving Jon E still diligently trying to get the shots of the bird. especially as BINS and Rob Wil had texted me saying a Sibe Chiff- Chaff was showing well in Sparrow's Nest found by Andrew E.
Arriving at Sparrow's Nest, 2 birders (inc. Paul) at the top of Bowling Green said the birds hadn't been seen since 11.35. I decided to do my usual walk around, little was seen in Arnold's Walk save for a Starling try to throw me off the scent with a pitch perfect rendition of the Sibe Chiff- Chaff's "lost chick" call!
I located the tit flock at the top of the steps behind the restaurant and after seeing a reasonably confiding Jay and a Goldcrest by the aforementioned steps, I searched through the 50 or so Long- tailed Tits, including several Blue and Great Tits too. High up in a Beech tree, I spotted the excellent Siberian Chiff- Chaff (at about 12.35pm) it had very grey plumage, whitish supercilia, dark legs and bill and it followed the tit flock moving first west and then south among the trees bordering the Ravine.
I lost it to view but had brief views of a fine male Brambling facing me, but high up in the Beech tree.

A Waxwing week!

On Tuesday 2nd November and before work foray at Corton ORT revealed a couple of Goldcrests and just east of the copse of trees, I heard the distinctive trilling of a Waxwing which flew east overhead.
On driving to Martham Library, I had a lovely flock of Waxwings fly and circle overhead over the car as I waited at the Haven Bridge traffic lights, the most pleasant wait I have had for the lights (I almost said something else but didn't want to be misconstrued!!!)
Arriving at Martham Library, an excellent flock of around 160 Pink- footed Geese flew north west overhead.
At lunchtime, 44 Waxwing seen in the usual spot at Great Yarmouth all by the Rowan trees.
On Friday 5 November, I heard one call by the King's centre, Great Yarmouth as I was walking into a meeting.
At lunchtime Friday, there must have been around 100 birds, a flock of 60 by the houses and Rowan trees opposite Pasta foods making lightening raids onto the trees, plus around 40 just west of there flying in the sky, perching on roof aerials and generally flying around.