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Friday, 31 December 2010

Waxwings & Pinkfeet in the Mist

I was a passenger in car when we were driving through Oulton Broad at around 1.15pm and rather fortuitously a BINS message came through a minute before we were passing Oulton Broad North rail station and although sadly, we couldn't stop and look I did see at least 5 Waxwings perched in the berry tree by the platform. 2 Fieldfare flew across the road by the railway crossing the A146 at Beccles.
This evening, whilst replenishing the bird feeders in the back garden and in between the usual ear-splitting deafening screams of "neighbour's" children and fireworks next door at 9pm, I heard several Pink- footed Geese, probably around 5-6, not seen but they flew in a north-easterly direction, first heard over Parkhill hotel grounds and then over the Close and north-east, pity I couldn't go with them for some peace and quiet!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

A very cold Welsh Christmas break

I have just returned from a very enjoyable trip visiting my family in Fleet, Hampshire and Carmarthenshire, Wales.
Staying over with my cousins in Fleet, I woke up on Friday 24th Christmas Eve to the sound of a Fox not far from the garden barking at around 6.50am.
On my journey from here back to the M4 I was fortunate enough to see 3 separate Red Kites hunting for the food near the road, no doubt forced nearer to human habitation by the extreme cold weather. Even on the M4 near Reading I saw a further 4 Red Kites and incredibly a lone Waxwing flew over the carriageway from left to right in front of the car!
having safely arrived at Llanddarogg I had to park the car on the road as there was too much snow and ice to get the car onto Mum's drive.
With the intense cold and only the main roads passable, I concentrated on areas closest to my family's houses.
Going out early on Christmas day, the ground was carpeted by a thick blanket of snow and the temperature was very, very cold despite wrapping up snuggly the intense cold (the coldest I have witnessed in the UK with no wind) at -15 degrees celsius was stinging my eyes and lips especially. If you exhaled, your breathe froze to ice immediately upon contact to the surfaces of your spectacles or back of the camera!! Icicles hung from the guttering at LLL and the base of a tree by Cymisfael stream.
Not surprisingly birds were in very short supply, a Wren seen by the hedge near Mum's, had done well to survive the night. A Grey Heron twice flew off from the frozen stream and a Grey Wagtail seen here too. A Red Kite flew out of a tall tree in the wood opposite LLL.
The bird feeders at Mike & Su (opp. Mum's) was visited by a wide range of common birds, whilst Mum's feeder hosted up to 2 grateful Nuthatches.
At Llannon farm, at my brother's feeders Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail and Song Thrush seen plus 2 Red Kite perched in trees and flying around the sheep field.
A slight thaw had started by Boxing Day and 3 Nuthatch were seen in the trees and bushes around the stream area, whilst on the stream itself 2 main areas had thawed out and provided vital feeding opportunities for a reasonably confiding Dipper and a Pied Wagtail. Down by the bushes by Whitehall bridge, a calling Willow Tit briefly showed itself before flying off.
2 Nuthatch & Song Thrush were seen by the LLL feeders and a Treecreeper in the trees overhead.
Back at Llannon, Pied wagtail and Nuthatch again seen by the feeders plus 4 Raven flew by croaking!
By Monday 27th Dec, the thaw was in full flow and most of the Cymisfael stream was by now free flowing, the Dipper was still feeding but more difficult to pin down as it had a much wider choice of suitable feeding areas. A Fieldfare and Buzzard flew over as did another Buzzard by the Fox field and in the field behind LLL 2 Raven flew around.
2 Nuthatch again seen by the feeders.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Merry Christmas Everyone

I'm off to Wales over Christmas and should be back 27 or 28th December, (yes, I know the big Arctic/Scandinavian rarity will now turn up in Lowestoft!!!) wishing everyone the compliments of the season and a Happy, healthy and bird- filled 2011!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Pale bellies and Laplands

Arriving at 10.30am at Hamilton Dock, I had just missed the Iceland Gull posing nicely on the near wall side of Hamilton Dock (having been told by Dick W and OFB who just bought himself a very nice Canon 7D), beyond the fence and had to contend myself with brief flight views before it disappeared. On the near beach 2 Purple Sandpiper and an aggressive Ringed Plover chasing off the 5 Turnstone were also seen. A Rock Pipit flew over here.
Parking at the Herbert Barnes car park by the Breydon South wall, I walked the long hike south- west past the farm, noting several reasonably close Dunlin on the estuary and more distant Wigeon and Curlew, meeting a well wrapped up Keith D on this bitterly cold day and in the field just in from the path, I counted an excellent flock of some 67 Pale- bellied Brent Geese and 2 immature Dark- bellied Brent Geese on the northern fringe of the flock. After a wwhile they all took to flight and landed well back in the field behind this field. By the grey windmill, a small rectangular area of field was flattened and had a lot of bird seed on it being eaten by a solitary Skylark. After a few minutes 3 excellent Lapland Buntings flew in and started feeding, one of them was a male bird. walking back I saw an excellent Jack Snipe take off and fly north & I gave directions first to Rene (Listen carefully, I will only say this once! & no, not the one from "Allo Allo !!) and then Phil H.

Arctic Snap

Venturing out early morning on Saturday 18th, it was a little bit nippy with 4 inches of snow on the ground and the thermometer reading  -7C. I arrived at Leathes Ham at Normanston Park in the hope of seeing yesterday's Fudge duck, sadly the water had completely iced over and on the second pool a small area of water was just visable but packed by a load of duck including Wigeon and a male Pintail but no Ferruginous Duck, a pity.
Walking over to the bridge overlooking Lake Lothing amongst a group of Tufted Duck was a female Scaup, a later look from here in the company of Andrew E also revealed a female Goldeneye flying in and a distant female Red- breasted Merganser. A kingfisher shot past it flying right.
At Hamilton Dock, initially no sign of the Gull but looking out to sea from the old Coastguards area revealed a movement of north of some 20 Red- throated Divers and a Velvet Scoter fflying south.
Back at Hamilton Dock, the newly arrived Andrew E and Chris D were looking down on the "beach" area and in my haste to reach them I almost fell over on the treacherous ice.
The 1st winter Iceland Gull was swimming in the water just off the beeach before standing on the beach edge only to take to flight and fly off when Andrew threw some bread out. The Iceland flew over to the distant sandy beach/ spit where it was in the company of other Gulls including an adult Caspian Gull brilliantly picked out by Andrew. The Caspian showed a slightly darker grey back (Common Gull grey back coloured) white head with a small black eye, longer more attenuated bill and slightly longer pale white rather than pink legs. It also showed a bulging white breast as it stood on the beach.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Showy Iceland & Purple Sand

Arriving bright and early at Ness Point, following a look around the Gunton estate for non- existant Waxwings, there was no repeat of yesterday as the Iceland wasn't there. However there was 1 very close Purple sandpiper feeding on the seaweed encrusted shelf of old seawall a metre away from the "compass." At times the waves brought it even closer, so the bird was seen down to a foot away! The very bright glare of the sun made photography a little difficult as half the bird was bathed in bright sunlight whilst the other was shrouded in dark shadow.
Another Purple Sandpiper stood on rocks just several metres north away too. An adult winter Mediterranean Gull decided to fly around and over our heads too.

Back at Hamilton Dock, the 1st winter Iceland Gull was in the north-east corner seen swimming around all the rubbish and detritus but it was lured towards us by the judicious throwing of bread by Dick. The bird showed really well just metres away from us and flew around for a time before eventually settling on a light on the harbour wall. It then flew over us and perched on the northern edge wall of the dock and we were able to get some pictures of it here too. A Rock Pipit flew over here too.
Birders included Dick W, OFB and we were joined by Rob Wils (the photographer).
meanwhile also in the corner up to 5 and a Purple Sandpiper perched on the tyre whilst another was seen on the rocks half way along the north wall of the dock.
One sharp eyed observer spied a Pink- footed Goose way over on the far side by the rock and pipes just down from the sheds but the Goose soon walked out of sight! 

A very pleasant afternoon tour of Ellough revealed a Hare lying low in the field and another Hare was doing exactly the same in the field just west along the Mutford to Hulver road, where a stunning male Bullfinch flew in only to be scared off by a truck driving past seconds later. Back along the road from Oakes Farm back to the main road, 2 Bullfinces, a male and female flew and perched very briefly, finally a look in this field revealed 5 Red- legged Partridge.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Iceland at Ness Point & Island Mere Goodies

Last Thursday a House Sparrow was feeding from the fat ball feeders in the garden.
Today, I ventured out to Ness Point and was delighted to find the 1st winter Iceland Gull standing on the post at the end of the "finger." The Iceland Gull regular took flying sorties and even once caught a Spratt once or twice from the sea and seemed to have difficulty eating it at first. The bird would always return to its regular perch before it eventually flew onto the sea drifted south a little and then flew over our heads and inland.
An adult Mediterranean Gull was also seen flying around too. It was nice to see Andrew E, Perry F oh, and we saw Chris D too.
At Minsmere I bought the 2009 Suffolk Bird report and was delighted to find two of my shots published, including the Black- throated Diver catching a fish on Oulton Broad in February 2009 and the Ortolan Bunting at Corton in September 2009. 
I was however, somewhat perplexed to see my name against the Golden Eagle record (I'd love to see one in Suffolk!) because I wasn't there and I didn't see it.
A look around the pond and the North beaches failed to reveal any hoped for waxwings, although several redwings seen including 2 perched in a bush, a fine male Bullfinch (a British one and sadly not a Northern) just eluded the camera lens as it perched up briefly on a bush by the path to the north hide.
I spent some time in the Island Mere hide having first spied 3 Redpolls on top of the alder trees and heard a few "bugles" sure enough on the partially icy Mere were 28 fine Bewick's Swans. A redhead Smew swam out briefly from the right hand end and the intense glare of the sun. Whilst a Snipe was seen on the cut reed area.
Up to 3 female Marsh Harriers quartered the reeds including one coming close to the left hand end of the hide (I, of course was on the extreme right hand end). Walking back, peering through the alders I saw the excellent ringtail Hen Harrier flying over the reeds near the alders and walking back to the hide I witnessed 7 Bewick's Swans flying over. Very graceful and elegant!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Hamilton Dock Iceland Gull

Hearing of an Iceland Gull that had been found by Danny P last Tuesday, (who runs an excellent site entitled Danny's Digiscoping).
I belatedly arrived at the Dock on Saturday morning 4th December at around 11.20am having had to work first thing at Gorleston Library, I had difficulty parking but finally reached the car park compound and was kindly let in by Andrew E.
Ricky F, OFB, Robert Wil were present and Richard W just leaving. The Gull was swimming around the far end of the pontoons and most disappointingly flew off at the moment I set my camera up and over to the area just east of the pontoon jetty.
OFB went down onto the pontoon so I decided to head in a different direction over to the eastern area of the compound and sure enough the excellent 1st winter Iceland Gull was forced out from there and started swimming into the middle off the channel where I was able to fire off some long range shots.
A fine dainty gull, with black eye, bill and very pale white plumage with pale buff- grey marking on the mantle and upperwing coverts the outer flight and feathers and tail were cream- white. It continued to swim out and then started to head back towards the pontoon again before a Herring Gull went for it and it flew west into Waveney dock and out of sight.

On Sunday, 5th I arrived earlier at around 10am (having had the very pleasant diversion of photographing a Green Woodpecker first seen on the top of a Fallowfields bush that then flew and perched for a few minutes near the top of one of my trees in the back garden before being disturbed by my neighbours)  but the Gull had already been and gone so I decided to go for the Scaup at Oulton Broad, initially I couldn't see it but as I walked back I picked her up by the Caldecott Road end very, very close to the Badger building site in exactly the same area that the female Goosander had been on the 15th November. Have a look on Monday, Peter!
The female Greater Scaup was loosely associating with 3 male Tufted Ducks, several Coot and 1 female Scaup-like Tufted Duck with a trace of white near the base of the bill.
A Redwing also flew over calling.
The group started to swim east and I carefully walked down to the end of the fishing jetty and was reasonably close to the group of duck, the female Scaup spending most of her time at the back of them before she swam north over to the Wherry side of the Broad.
3 Little Grebes were seen on Lake Lothing by the Mutford Lock bridge.
Back at Hamilton Dock, I saw Jon E (& later John H) and he said the Iceland Gull was on the brick-lined area just beneath the 3 huts and it then flew onto the beach where it stood for 10 minutes before it was again disturbed by a Herring Gull and it swam due east to the very corner of the dock before it encouragingly swam close to the dock side towards us and was getting quite close when infuriatingly another Herring Gull disturbed it and she flew past us over Hamilton Dock and then past again, albeit distantly, before flying back into Waveney Dock.
A Kingfisher flew in and hovered  close by, but sadly right against the light before flying off west. Finally a female Eider was seen on the water near the far beach swimming west.
It was good to see a returning Jon E, & good to see Matthew D, Dick W and Dave H too, oh & I saw Chris D also (taking care not to get in his way!!)
I will add pictures of the Iceland Gull and the Scaup tomorrow.

"Learned" Plovers & disgraceful antics

Having to visit Great Yarmouth College of F.E. Thursday 2nd December, which was carpeted with a blanket of snow, to promote the Library,
I struggled over the road with a weighty box of books and console games and was disgracefully snowballed by groups of 2 and 5 male students at both campuses, (one of which hit the mark stung my head and gave me a headache all afternoon) which stopped only when I confronted them and they ran off! No comment.
A much nicer experience was seeing 12 Lapwing and 2 Golden Plover on the field by the college.
They were very confiding but sadly I didn't have my camera with me today. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Siberian Blast

Strong east/ north- east winds coming straight from Siberia, gave very unpleasant sub- zero conditions today. Several trees had been uprooted in the walk since my last visit. A look in Arnold's walk today revealed no birds whatsoever, although Blue & Long- tailed Tits were heard. Little was seen.
Lound water was birdless too.

At the weekend, on Saturday 29th November, a walk around Fallowfields revealed just a Green Woodpecker and a flock of 20 Wood Pigeon flying off from the back garden of a house.
On Sunday 30th November the female Velvet scoter was again at Filby broad albeit right over on the far side.