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Sunday, 30 May 2010

Corsican Places

We have just returned from a successful holiday to Corsica. There were many avian and wildlife highlights. Top priority were the two endemic birds; Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Citril Finch which were seen on a track off the Col de Sorba Allepo Pine woods and were seen without too much difficulty. As I walked along a track an unfamiliar green-grey bird flew up from a puddle and perched in a nearby Pine, this was the Corsican Citril Finch and 200 yards along the track near a clearing, I tape lured (but only playing the calls 3X) a pair of excellent Corscian Nuthatches who flew in I first saw the female and then the male responded with harsh calls and soon settled unperturbed they fed in the Pines directly in front of me. A further 2 pairs of Corsican Nuthatch were seen further along the track plus a solitary male which showed well. The "chup" calls of Corsican Crossbills eventually revealed one of their number perched in a pine.
On the hill opposite the "Le Chalet" restaurant a Jay, a pale Buzzard seen perched plus 4 splendid Bee-eater flew overhead. Plants seen included a Pink Butterfly orchid and several Green- Winged Orchids, all just past their best.
The next day a trip up the picturesque Restonica Valley, recalled scenery of the High Alps or the Pyrenees. 5 Corsican Citril Finches flew off as wwe parked the car. A difficult hour and a half hike (with Water Pipit and several Lizards seen on the way up) up to the top up to 1,500 feet up in thin air and having to shin up metal ladders skirting a sheer drop of 36 foot cliff face and clinging on to metal chains eventually saw me walking over to the very scenic Lac De Milo with a backdrop of distant mountains and snow. Up to 40 very tame Alpine Chough flew in and virtually fed from my hand! Amazing!

Kessingland Top Trumps

Kessingland turned up trumps again on exactly the same spot where the Dotterel had been seen.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A Cheering Up Dotterel

Needing to be cheered up following the death of one of my musical heroes (see previous post),
I was able to take an hour and 3/4 off work late afternoon as I was working late this evening. 
Arriving at Kessingland Dunes just west of there and south of the caravan park and north of the sluice, I saw the excellent male Dotterel in long grass just off from the main track it soon ran into the short grass feeding before it once again ran off. 2 Wheatear and a Whinchat were also seen here to. A small group of birders were  here including Roy H & Jeremy.
I managed to obtain a few middling distance shots as the bird was not that obliging, the bird even flew a short way (not disturbed by us) but presumably flying to a better feeding area where it resumed its feeding straight away. It would characteristically run a short way feed and then turn back and run in a different direction! All too soon I had to leave it to allow enough time to get back to work for the evening shift.
The birds keep coming in what has been an exceptional Spring locally for rare and scarce migrants around the Lowestoft area.

Ronnie James Dio R.I.P.

A very sad day today when I heard the belated news that one of my musical heroes, Ronnie James Dio (ex- Rainbow, Dio, Heaven & Hell) finally succumbed to stomach cancer and died at 7.45am yesterday. I often play his music on the drive to a twitch.
Although, small in stature, Ronnie was a true giant of rock, one of rock's true gentlemen, with a very distinctive and almost operatic voice with an extremely diverse range. He crafted 3 exceptional classic rock albums in Rainbow "Rising", Black Sabbath's "Heaven & Hell & Dio's "Holy Diver" as well as making many other fine albums too.
My own memories of him are from the 10 concerts I was privileged enough to attend. 7 with Dio, 2 with Heaven & Hell and 1 with Deep Purple.
He always gave 110%, a true icon of cool (an overused word this days but totally valid here) and in concert it showcased his exceptional voice, his showmanship and rapport with the fans to the full. 
My first Dio concert was 1983's "The Last in Line" tour at Ipswich Gaumont, where I drove back from a fantastic show on my motorbike to Lowestoft, frozen solid one winter's evening with just a parking light for illuminating the road ahead as the main beam bulb had blown! 
I remember Ronnie's great showmanship in fighting Dragons as part of the impressive stage show at "The Sacred Heart" tour at Hammersmith Odeon a few years later and guesting with Deep Purple at the Royal Albert Hall recreating their Philharmonic album in 30 years on in 1999, all precious memories.
The hairs on the back of my neck, always stood up when he sang Rainbow classics such as "Man on the Silver Mountain" "Stargazer" or "Gates of Babylon" and my last memories were of the immense energy and dynamism he showed 3 years ago as he bestrode the stage on the "Heaven & Hell" tour at Wembley Arena, where again his vocal talents were undiminished, despite him approaching his mid- sixties. Hopes of him teaming up again with guitar legend (and in my opinion, best guitarist on the planet) Ritchie Blackmore (ex- Deep Purple, Rainbow) and recreating the legendary "Rainbow Rising" tour are now finally dashed.  A true legend, an exceptional, but modest talent who will be very sadly missed. His musical legacy lives on.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Corton Migrants

A text after work today saw me walking down the Corton ORT just after 4pm and meeting Andrew E, Rob W & Ricky F & our Chairman, we soon picked up a dull male Pied Flycatcher flitting about in the usual copse of trees it showed well briefly I managed to obtain a few shots. The constant "hueet" call softer and more urgent  than say Chiff- Chaff/ Willow W call eventually revealed a female Redstart that flew along a hedgerow running west from the copse on the west side of the rail track, it flew regularly and was first seen back on before flying away and then seen more distantly in a tree. Green Woodpecker was also seen flying away.
Back at the Copse, a Spotted Flycatcher was seen flitting around in the very top of some trees.
2 close Chiff- Chaff were also seen.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Closed for Business!

Taking TOIL yesterday, yesterday (Wedneesday 12 May) was a disappointing day looking for birds, dark clouds and a very cool moderate north- east wind didn't help matters. I started at Breydon Water at High tide and failed to see the hoped for Spoonbill, several smart Grey Plover and 5 sp Knot were seen though. Yarmouth Cemetary was disappointing, the only thing of note seen was a Muntjac Deer in the south section inn the S/W corner east of thee main path. 
Seeing my work colleague Peter C & I failed to see the Hoopoe at Corton Radar Lodge, so that may have gone.
We then looked for Orchids and saw 4 spikes of Early Purples at a local wood and nearby were 8 & 43 spikes of Green- Winged Orchids.
At Oulton Marshes walking down the path I saw a Stoat running towards me that dived into cover on the left as I reached for my camera. By the rail track a big notice had been put out saying footpath closed. This is due to the Broads Authority doing flood alleviation work and creating new wildlife habitat for SWT. But this is the third area I regularly visit that has been closed off in the past 6 months, first Walberswick Hoist Covert for 6 months, than Ness Point for several weeks and now this. Retracing my steps near the entrance hill path, I photographed just a couple of feet away, a very close singing male Blackcap.
At the end of Fisher Row, a big metal fence has been erected across the path, effectively barring any further progress. Scandalously, it is closed until 30 Sept! Why couldn't this work be done in the winter time? Walking back past the "Wildcat sighting" area I heard vaguely familiar high pitched calls from a tree just west of the path and was delighted to see a Treecreeper (a sadly uncommon sighting in Lowestoft these days) spiraling up a tree. It was seen several times and further calls indicated there were at least and 2 and maybe with a young family. My first sighting off this species at Fisher Row for many a year.
 

Monday, 10 May 2010

Hoopoe

Early morning revealed the usual Lesser Whitethroat down the Corton old rail track and 2 male Blackcaps at the copse.
Spring's purple patch continued on what must be one of the best spring's ever, if not the best locally. After work I drove straight to Radar Lodge at Corton, a Hoopoe had been seen there. Meeting birders there, the bird hadn't been seen for 45 minutes but we walked to the entrance road where it had been sighted last. It wasn't there and walking over to the eastern path by the cliff past the Lodge with the newly arrived Andrew E & Rob W, I spotted the excellent Hoopoe at the edge of a concrete path, no sooner had I spotted and alerted the others it flew west and over the fence and dropped down just beyond it and onto the field edge. walking back to the entrance road, we scoped the Hoopoe sitting by the field edge . It was asleep for a while, we could see the bird facing right with its long down curved bill orangey- buff plumage with black dotted crest and black and white barred wings. as always a really smart bird, much appreciated by all birders present. The Hoopoe woke up and then flew back over the fence and disappeared in log grass.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A Fine Day at Minsmere (the birds not the weather!)



Walking to the North Hide, I could see a singing Garden Warbler on a tree and reaching the North Hide, the excellent  ringtail Montagu's Harrier was seen flying south over the reedbed behind the West Hide. It then flew over the Scrape causing pandemonium with all the Gulls up in the air mobbing it and it flew north and disappeared behind the North wall.
Meanwhile a fine Wood Sandpiper was seen in the feeding in flooded grassy area east of the North hide and joined by a solitary Black- tailed Godwit. It was later joined by a Reeve. Way out over East Scrape, 2 Little Terns were seen and 2 Sanderling in summer plumage as well as 2 Common Sandpipers. Looking west of the hide, a group of 24 Black- tailed Godwits. 
Walking back, I saw another Garden warbler singing and from the West hide, Avocets were seen and around 5 Black- tailed Godwits were seen too. Up to 4 very smart male Ruffs seen almost in full breeding plumage (several black and chestnut combinations and one silver/grey black looking very similar to an sp Grey Plover). Whilst out the back, I saw a slim Harrier looking fly past I quickly legged it out of the hide and noticed the excellent Ringtail Montagu's Harrier flying languidly (almost like a Common Tern)  south over the reedbed and I walked to roughly halfway between west and south hides.
A slim bird with long tail looking almost like an oversize Falcon, brown above with three prominent primary tips and the facial pattern clearly seen of dark cheek patch contrasting with the whitish area behind the eye. It show a restricted white horseshoe shape rump, the wings showed barring below with dark brown pointed wing/ primary tips and thick dark brown trailing edge to the wings. The wings also showed on one wing a green tag on the other a yellow one. It flew back across and then distantly over the woods behind the Bittern hide and then flew towards me (albeit in dismally dull sky causing my photo's to be barely silhouette views) and then over the West hide causing all the Gulls to fly up. When I dashed into the Hide I couldn't believe it when nobody in the Hide had seen it!!
Walking back to the West Hide, the sun came out at last and the Wood Sandpiper was seen again on the North-east section of the Scrape but a biting east wind cut through the Hide (same area as before this time joined by a Reeve. The call of a 7 note whistle alerted me to a fine group of 5 Whimbrel flying north over the beach.
The Montagu's Harrier after a while briefly flew up from the grassy bank east of the Scrape and 100 yards north before flying down again into the reeds near the gorse in bloom. An overflying female Marsh Harrier briefly put the female Montagu's Harrier up again.
A singing Garden Warbler seen again and in a sunlit bushy area just south of the carpark pond, a Nightingale showed unbelievably well sitting on the ground, feeding behind some twigs near the ground, perched up in low branches and posing very nicely for the line of cameras and the very appreciative crowd that had assembled, needless to say I took full advantage with my camera.

At Westleton Heath, I saw our Chairman and RS, PN & CM all evidently on a bird race as I walked south off the car park I heard the purring of an excellent Turtle Dove sadly not seen. 
A pair of Stonechats seen then a Dartford Warbler perched briefly atop a bush before 1 flew into a bush in front of us. We heard the purring Turtle Dove again and whilst driving down the road to Dunwich NT just 200 yards down I counted 22 Red Deer sat down in a field close to the road and I sneaked up and took a few photos.
I hope to post a few photos soon from my new Canon 7D camera, but need to clear some of the pics on my computer hard drive first.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Stopover

On a wet and miserable day, one very smart looking Racing Feral Pigeon not looking too dissimilar to its wild ancestor the Rock Dove, but differing in having 3 heavy lines of black barring on its back; stopped over briefly this afternoon at 2.30pm in the rain this afternoon. It fed on the patio just outside the back door, both the Pigeon's legs had 3 sets of rings betraying its origins.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Caddis Fly Larvae

On the early evening of Wednesday the 5th May, Jenny & I noticed in the fish pond in the garden an inch long moving "stick" in the water. Fishing it out it was a curious amalgamation of bark wood shards and then I "twigged' (pun intended) what it was! It was a Caddis Fly larvae and you could see the head of the insect in the whole at the front end of it's protective shell.
On Thursday 6th May, an early morning look around Corton ORT revealed 4 Blackcaps (3 male, 1 female) seen singing and 1 singing Chiff- Chaff. Back in the garden, during the early evening of the 6th May we saw 2 Caddis Fly larvae in the fish pond including a second one with small shards of rock around its shell. Photographing them briefly out of the water, the insect would come out of it's sanctuary and the vulnerable maggot-like body was seen when it stretched right out from its protective shell. Both larvae were of course put back into the water after a couple of minutes.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Hit and Miss

On Monday 3rd May, a text from Rob W and reports that the Red- Rumped Swallow was still at Loompit (near Levington Marina by Trimley St. Martin) persuaded me to twitch this bird potentially a new Suffolk bird for me.
Having filled the car with its full complement of Passengers- the aforementioned Rob, James W and Andrew E- Ace spotters, we drove down to the site turning off the Felixstowe road to Trimley St Martin and taking first y rd on the left (before the garden nursery) and then x Lane to the site where we parked in a small car park just right of the road and before a farm. We then walked the 800 yards straight down to the lake just in from the estuary, walking along the path bordering the Loompit Lake on the right and the estuary on the left. The rather dejected birders we met here said it hadn't been seen for an hour but they hadn't banked on the ace birders in our party. Abruptly AE & JW exclaimed they had the Red- rump and after commiserating with their condition (sorry lads, couldn't resist it!) I spotted the excellent Red- rumped Swallow flying very close and away from us past the island just in front of us. It show a pinkish rump and very black forked tail and as it flew around again clockwise I noted the dark cap and pinky- buff underparts and black tail and undertail coverts. It flew around a further two times, giving excellent but brief views before the onset of a sudden vicious hailstorm and we had to seek shelter under the nearest trees. After 5 minutes we went back to our original position but the bird and the House Martins with it, around 10 House Martins and 15 Sand Martins had disappeared. After 20 minutes AE picked it up flying around a wooden fishing jetty were it was spotted several times flying around here in the company of Sand Martins and House Martins. 
It subsequently disappeared again and we had to settle looking at a Swallow and a pair of confiding Pochard. 
Other people met here were a rather dejected looking Dave H & Malcolm W who'd sadly just missed it by a few minutes and it was good to see regular Lowestoft Birding correspondent Paul W who had seen the bird, fortunately.
We then drove over to Minsmere walking along the North wall, we couldn't see any sign of the Montagu's Harrier, but we had better luck with the Temminck's Stint feeding unobtrusively along the island edge in front of post 6, at one point a Common Sandpiper was chasing it. Elsewhere up to 4 Black- tailed Godwits were seen. From North Hide we were unlucky to miss the Montagu's Harrier by just 1 minute it was still sitting on the North Scrape ridge but out of view. A fishing Heron right in front of the hide gave close views as did a pair of Gadwell feeding around the Mares tail, whilst a flock of 17 Black- tailed Godwit were seen along the north- west section of the scrape. Several Sandwich and Common terns were seen flying around too as well as Avocets and 1 fine summer plumaged Dunlin on the East Scrape. After 2 hours we left the hide learning later that the elusive Monty's flew 40 minutes later, it was disappointing to miss this bird.




Whitethroats & Mandarins!

First thing on Saturday 1st May on the North Denes, Whitethroats were very much in evidence seemingly singing from every bush near the Oval at least 20 were seen. A Willow warbler and female Blackcap were also seen at the base of the slope here to.
Later in the afternoon I took the walk out to Oulton marshes hoping to see a pair of Mandarin Ducks, seeing Richard W & the warden after a brief chat we walked over having first seen a pair of distant Shelducks and overlooking the newly constructed pit near the digger, we couldn't find them initially. However I spotted the pair of excellent Mandarin Ducks on the southern bank of a dyke running east to west, the both looked fairly sleepy initially but perked up when the pair of Shelducks flew past causing the Mandarins to take flight they did huge inverted "C" flight flying first south and then north finishing up roughly in the same spot.
Walking back we heard a calling Cuckoo near the railway line by Fisher Row but sadly couldn't spot it and a Garden Warbler showed fairly well singing in a bush lining the dry dyke just north of the horse stable and old "Snipe field" now planted as a plant nursery. Before I could photograph it, a family walking by flushed the bird flying over the path and out of sight sadly.