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Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas everyone!

First of all I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy bird- filled 2012.
Thanks for reading this blog and all your comments which are much appreciated.

Looking over the Lake Lothing by parking at the Riverside road and walking across the waste ground that was formerly the Co-op canning factory, Paul and Jane & Andrew E were already there. The Peregrine Falcon was perched on the west side of the tower, whilst looking west 3 Shag were seen on the water. No sign of the diver that had presumably swam up the river west and out of sight. Parking the other side by the railway bridge I walked along to the Mutford Lock Bridge and by the jetty, directly underneath was a Little Grebe that dived as soon as it saw me, a Shag was perched at the end of the jetty that seemed settled until I got the camera out and it promptly flew away!
Just east of the railway line bridge, I could see the excellent immature Black- throated Diver relatively distantly that eventually swam left and out of sight.
A Kingfisher then flew left as awell.
On Leathes Ham, 22 Pintail (included 14 males and 8 females) looked resplendent as they upended and dived near the back.
This afternoon at Ness Point, a strong south wind revealed 28 Gannets (27 adults and 1 immature) all flying north over the sea in just a few minutes. There must have been a really good passage of these birds today. 2 Purple Sandpipers were on the defence rocks just north of Ness Point.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Great Christmas Eve birding

Arriving at Ranworth Broad, alarmingly I could see a boat going out to the far side of the Malthouse Broad where the all the birds were. I could see John H peering through his scope and leapt out and John H very kindly allowed me to have a look before the expected disturbance. There were a number of Pochard and Tufted Ducks and amongst them was the excellent female Ring- necked Duck. It was seen amongst the ducks occasionally disappearing down the inlet, but also seen swimming at the back of the flock in the middle and even asleep at times.
The female Ring- necked Duck showed a distinct peak to the middle crown, black and white band at the tip off the bill, Prominent white- eye ring (only viewable through John's scope) and pale area on the face. The flanks were brown being a distinctive lighter brown at the front (head end) and darker near the rear.
We were then joined by regular correspondent Paul W, Phil H and then Dave H and his wife and Baz H. Sharp- eyed Dave picked out the 2 Ferruginous Duck- type hybrids, one a male bird the other a female. They swam left of the green bouys at the very back of the broad. A Kingfisher flew across left and through the tree- lined marsh to our left. Siskins and Fieldfares were heard flying overhead but not seen.

Taking the route through Mill Lane Bradwell, I spied a flock of some 300 Pink- footed geese flying over the Browston/ Belton areea fling west. Taking the "New road" out of Bradwell, I parked in the layby left of the dual road and very carefully made my way across 4 lanes of traffic. I looked though the flock and saw the Ruddy Shelduck amongst some 60 Egyptian Geese. It walked back a few yards and was happy to continue feeding.
Whilst checking out a relatively birdless Lound, 5 Tufted Duck being the only highlight, I received a tweet from Andrew E and within 25 minutes I was looking over Lake Lothing from the railway bridge and way east on Lake Lothing behind the orange bouy was the excellent immature Black- throated Diver. Very brown looking on the head, with a distinct white wedge- shaped patch seen at the rear of the flanks. It spent most of the time feeding, diving
We were joined by Paul W, Paul and Jane and Neville S, it was really good to see everyone today.
The ever sharp Paul spotted a Sparrowhawk, a female bird fly onto the railway line track, just east of the bridge, it flew left and perched on the other track before flying left. I noted the distant Pigeons suddenly fly up and I said the Peregrine Falcon might bee about. Seconds later Andrew E said he had it and looking at the second window down on the right. It was perched on the extreme left tip of the ledge.
It stayed for 10 minutes before it eventually flew off. Meanwhile the Black- throated Diver was a little closer being this side of the oraange buoy. I then spotted a Kingfisher flying left of Lake Lothing and shouted it out. Finally a flock of 4 birds on the water proved to be 4 Shag, the outer 2 were browner immature birds, the inner two when they swam a little close proved to be 2 adult Shags.
meanwhile on Leathes Ham, I spotted around 15 male Pintails up ending and swimming on the water.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Spoonbill by the hide

Yesterday, Tuesday 20th December, whilst driving along the A12, just north of Hopton first a flock of c200 Pink- footed Geese and then 18 Pink- footed Geese flew west over the A12. As I drove over the Breydon Bridge, I looked west and I could see what looked like the Spoonbill on the marsh close to the hide. Parking at Great Yarmouth Asda carpark at 8.15am, I walked along the path and the Spoonbill, an immature bird was quite close to the hide and the path. The bird initially flew as I walked along the path, showing black-tips to the wings which proved together with the buff-black bill it was an immature. Initially, I couldn't find it and I assumed it was feeding down in one of the dykes. I walked west along the path scanning the dykes, no sign of it. Looking back the excellent immature Spoonbill was back in the same position quite close to the hide. I entered the hide and tried to getv a few good pics. It was asleep some of the time but woke and preened for a while before I had to leave at 8.40am to get to work for 9am. Yet another Asda bonus! I wasn't at all happy with the pictures I had taken, the light wasn't right (initially dark, but the rising sun had cast a bright pallor onto the bird, which even whilst darkening the exposure a notch hadn't helped either) and the distance showed up the limitations of the usually excellent Sigma lens I was using, something which should be remedied very soon! As I walked down the wet grass slope, I fell and skidded down the grass, no injuries and optics were OK too, good thing I had packed the camera and lens away.
Today, Wednesday 21st December as I was leaving Gorleston Library, 120 Pink-footed Geese flew over in a "V" formation, frequently calling and heading north.

Acle Strait Dip

Last Monday 12th December, I had a very brief lunchtime twitch to look for the 2 Ross' Geese, looking from the bridge from the Halvergate road I couldn't see a single Goose east of here. some people were looking north just east of the Stacey arms but time was pressing and there was no room for another vehicle to park, so I had a quick park at the next layby and saw 3 close Curlew that quickly moved on when I had set the camera up, just my luck. A very poor trip.
On Saturday 17th December, a trip to Oxford on the train from Paddington station revealed 13 Red kites seen, the first between Slough and Maidenhead and then many others until just before Oxford.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Presence

A dismal murky drizzly day today, so we decided to go and shop for special Christmas presents first up was some Norfolk made Elderberry & Clove cordial specially requested by Mum so we drove over to Langley Priory shop near Loddon and they had one bottle, job done! Last year's extensive shop has been much reduced and over half of it has been turned into a centre for the green welly brigade and is now Norfolk's only centre for playing polo! Driving back through Chedgrave to rejoin the A146, 8 Curlew flew right over the road. Next stop Southwold to visit the Adnams shop and look for wooden toys via the Drive, Reydon where we saw the 13 wonderful Waxwings trilling away merrily and all perched up in a Silver birch tree right near the junction. At times they were flighty, flying around in a circle before eventually landing back in the tree. If they were feeling very relaxed they flew down to the berry laden trees to devour the red berries. We watched these wonderful birds from within the car because it was starting to drizzle a little and in the very poor light we couldn't really appreciate their plumage as we normally would. In the Close near St Edmunds Churchyard we saw 15 Goldfinch twittering away in a tree and 2 Pied Wagtails were in the market place by the hideous green cone monstrosity masquerading as a Christmas tree.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Owls & raptors

This afternoon, a look around Lowestoft Hamilton Dock, Ness Point and the wind turbine revealed precisely nothing. A change of tack was required, so parking at the end of the road down to Fritton woods, I walked down the frosty path to the bung overlooking the fields and marshes over Haddiscoe island.
I had earlier popped into the town to visit The Works bargain bookshop hoping to find a copy of Collins Birds of Prey for Neville L who requested a copy, sadly I didn't find one but what I did find was "Collins Complete Guide to British Garden Wildlife" by Paul Sterry; a photographic guide to the birds, mammals, reptiles, insects and flora that are resident or visit gardens. A stunning photographic guide particularly strong on garden moths, I can't recommend this highly enough! A steal at just £4.99 and still 5 copies left in the Lowestoft store, they should have copies at the Great Yarmouth store too.

Scanning over Haddiscoe island from Fritton woods, the first thing I saw was a Peregrine Falcon perched on the end of a gatepost, a large individual probably a female.
Close by a female Marsh Harrier quartered the reedbed and later 2 female Marsh Harrier flew past a mill and perched up in some trees. I was delighted to see a fine Short- eared Owl patrolling the marshes fairly close in but over the other side of the river, it would effortlessly almost lazily flap its wings and then suddenly swoop down onto the ground after prey.
Every so often, I would pick this reasonably close bird up hunting just beyond the reedbed. In the far distance another second Short- eared owl was seen and then later whilst scanning I counted 1 then 2 and finally 3 Short- eared Owls flying over the marshes, a wonderful sight!
around c200 Pink- footed geese were on the marshes and I counted 8 Chinese Water Deer out of the marshes too. Whilst scanning along again, I saw a small brown Merlin perched on a post and another second Merlin on another gatepost and on a nearby gate a female Sparrowhawk seen too.
Suddenly, strident "tlueettt- wiit- wiit" calls revealed 2 excellent Green Sandpiper flying north closeby.
Up to 3 Little Egret seen flying around including one that settled in a marshy ditch just feet away that flew again south on investigation. As the light was going, the temperature was dropping a few degrees to just above freezing and my cue to depart. Driving back, I saw a female Kestrel fly across the road too, taking my tally of Falcon species to 3 for the day.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Western Sand; second lifer of 2011

Last Wednesday (30th November) I travelled down to London, to visit the O2 or as I prefer to call it, the Millenium Dome; at Greenwich to see my favourite band, Deep Purple playing together with a 38 piece orchestra. The concert was excellent with the Orchestra adding extra sound and especially swing on the jazzier numbers, the musicianship of the band was excellent as always, but Ian Gillan's vocals sounded a little tired half way through the set, well he is 65 years old! The only downer was the light show which seemed designed to give migraine suffers like myself problems, Strobe lighting and 6 strips of flashing light bars flashing blinding magnesium white light at you suspended from the ceiling just above the band ensured I spent a third of the time with my eyes shut!
I had a migraine that night and on the following friday night too, sadly missing a Xmas meal I was particularly looking forward to attending. A great shame.
On Thursday 1st December a walk through Greenwich park revealed separate fly overs of 2 pairs of Ring- necked Parakeets flying south, walking back a further 4 pairs of Ring- necked Parakeets flew over on several occasions, south over our heads.

On Saturday 3rd December, I picked up Ricky F and we headed up to North Norfolk,and near Weybourne just by the road on the south side of we spied around 300 Pink- footed Geese in the field.
At Cley we obtained permits, and we were glad to see Keith D and walked out together to the middle,ie. Daukes Hide.
The hide was reasonably full of birders, including Matthew D and I set up my scope and they were directing me to a group of Dunlin. Initially I couldn't see the bird that they were directing me to, it was an odd looking bird; short winged, very short billed (odd for a Western Sand surely??), very dumpy and pot-bellied but around the same size of Dunlin. I was confused! I think this bird was the unidentified wader, the odd looking Dunlin? It certainly wasn't the Western Sand. A bird then flew in, a much better candidaate, smaller than a Dunlin with a longish slightly down curved bill around half the size of a Dunlin bill , dark around the ear coverts contrasting with a lighter patch here too, rusty fringes on the back, with arrow heads on the scapulars, it was the excellent Western Sandpiper. The bird was often hunched up and would run quickly where it wanted to be and pick for food delicately on the ground. There was a flock of around 40 Dunlin with it, plus up to 10 Black- tailed Godwit too. This flock of small waders would frequently fly around and it flew very close on the edge of a spit right in front of us and showed well, around 15% smaller than the accompanying Dunlin, the buff spurs (ie white before and after) on the top flanks were a good ID pointer, the bird walked and fed delicately from the ground.
On our second visit to the hide, following lunch, we finally spied the unidentified wader, amongst a flock of Dunlin, like a Dunlin, same size and a very round, pot- bellied with short primaries and a very short bill. A Golden Plover flew past with a plaintive, mournful "teuu" call. 2 Ruff were seen at the back and then when some waders flew in the excellent Western Sandpiper was seen amongst the flock too. Over at Bishop hide, a Green- winged Teal swam behind a flock of c40 winter plumaged Black- tailed Godwit from Bishop Hide and between the island. The slightly larger size and white horizontal shoulder bar obvious when on view.
In the small grassy area, next to the car park, 2 extremely showy Lapwing posed for the cameras whilst on Cley Eye field around 2000 Golden Plover were seen perched together on the field occasionally flying up creating quite a spectacle!
A seawatch from Cley coastguards was amazingly good especially as we looked for just 20 minutes, the cold north-west wind limiting our seawatch today. At first a dark juvenile Gannet flew west, and then a family party of 5 Bewicks swans (2 adults and 3 grey immatures) then flew west. On the sea was a Guillemot, 60 Common Scoter all seemed to be females, 1 Red-throated Diver sat on the sea, whilst 2 singleton Goldeneye (both stunning males) flew west a mad dash onto the crown of the beach revealed a fine Little Auk flying west. Several 3 adults and 1 immature Kittiwake flew west and a few Auk, Guillemot flew west too.

On Sunday 4th December, a Green Woodpecker was seen on the garden lawn briefly from the lounge in the afternoon it was hopping back onto me along the lawn but had gone when I had retrieved the camera at 2.15pm.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Bewicks & bargain book

Whilst driving over the Breydon bridge at lunchtime, I could see 15 small Swans on the estuary, surely they were Bewicks? Sadly, I couldn't stop to check. This was confirmed when Ricky F tweeted to say there were 15 Bewicks Swans on Breydon Water. At lunchtime, I purchased a copy of the excellent Benny Genbol "Collins Birds of Prey" 2nd edition for just £6.99 at the The Works Bargain Bookstore in Great Yarmouth Market place, there are still 4 copies left (as of lunchtime today). It's a great book too, highly recommended.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mutford Lock Surprise

Whilst driving south over Mutford Lock bridge at Oulton Broad, I noticed what looked like 2 Shags on the wooden jetty close to the eastern side of the bridge on the Lake Lothing side. When I went to investigate on foot, there were indeed 2 immature Shags which stood on either side of the jetty, just 20 feet from the road bridge. Whilst ducking underneath the barrier, I unfortunately disturbed a few feral pigeons which flew off, causing the 2 Shags to initially shuffle back a couple of feet but before long they were settled enough to shuffle back to their original postions.
The immature Shag on the left was in clear view, with pale belly, and brownish upperparts and a small white throat. The other bird on the right was partially obscured and mostly had its back onto me. I managed a few pictures and then quietly left. At Lowestoft Asda, 3 calling Siskin flew over in a south- westerly direction.
Nothing else was seen here.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Autumn goes on and on...

An early morning start with the sun rays dispersing the fog and lifting the temperature from a chilly 4 degrees. I walked down to Mariners score checking the top garden and the steps and saw very little but Phil J kindly appeared at the top of steps and beckoned me over to an area at the top of the steps looking south in a run down overgrown garden at the back of the buildings adjoining Lowestoft Old High Street.. Joining a small throng of birders, I didn't have long to wait before the Hume's Leaf Warbler could be seen flitting around in distant Sycamores and then it flew into back of the "garden" where it hopped about in an elder bush. The bird was a little more olivey than the "Crop Shop" bird but still greysh with a buff super and wing bars and darker cap, it flew to ivy bordering the garden wall and showed well here for a couple of minutes before flying back into the Sycamores at the back and eventually out of sight. Steve and I checked a few other area then I walked back to the car and decided to have a look in Arnolds Walk where it was great to have a chat with Robert Win, at the back of the walk near the top a Holly tree I saw a fine chestnut capped female Blackcap.
I am usually delighted to encounter any sort of wildlife but I had an experience early afternoon, that I could have done without! Going into the loft to get the Christmas decorations down, and whilst I was doing this I rested my arm on a bin bag and felt a sharp piercing stinging pain in my arm, feeling I'd been impaled by something sharp, instinctively, I withdrew my arm and then something flopped onto the floor beside me, a Wasp, I'd been stung! I thought I had killed it but when went back up it was crawling around near the hatch and this time I made no mistake in dispatching it, lets hope there's not any more up there!

This afternoon I walked out to Oulton Marshes, taking the path right at the bottom of the hill and walking round by the raised flood defence wall, I looked out over the flooded fields and saw a fine group of 28 White- fronted Geese, just beyond the dyke.
A fine adult male bird with thick black belly bands, flapped his wings and they seemed to be keeping themselves separate from a flock of 29 Canada Geese. I checked each bird carefully checking there weren't any Greylag, Pink- foot or Tundra/ Taiga Beans amongst them. The group were a little wary walking back a little way when a noisy family walked past.
Whilst driving back east along Sands Lane, I reached the junction to Cotswold Drive and a group of what I thought were Starling flew across low and north over the road, but at least one of them was definitely a fine Waxwing showing pale pinky- buff colouration, crest and yellow band on the base of a tail.
Marvellous! sadly, I couldn't relocate the Waxwing. I suspect it was just 1 Waxwing amongst a small group of Starlings.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Hume's Leaf Warbler the third!

Looking at the three pics besides this post, you could be forgiven for thinking that you had logged onto Birding Beijing, an excellent blog run by my friend Terry T out in China (check out the link on the right hand side) the birds had a distinct South-east Asian even Chinese feel today with 2 glorious Hume's Leaf warblers (1 very showy individual) and a very confiding (morning only) male Mandarin at Leathes Ham on show today. A look at the Hume's Leaf Warbler behind crop shop, I had a brief chat with Chris M and Peter N who said the Hume's Leaf Warbler was flitting around in the walled garden. It was showing well in the bushes (It was among the brambles and perched nicely on a vertical stem) and the trees here, where I managed to get a few shots before it flew up into the tall trees where we were standing where it flitted around the large branches extending left of the tree and sometimes showing in pretty good light before it flew back to the alley, where it was seen by the far fence. Nice to see Paul & Jane, Jeremy G & Keith D here and Colin J (very briefly!). The warbler then flew right and I walked down the path to the entrance in the anticipation of seeing it in the bushes either side of the alley. Sure enough it appeared in the bush on the north side showing very well before Matt D walked past and flushed it!
Receiving a tweet stating there was a Mandarin at Leathes Ham, i was soon walking down the path and I met Justin L and his brother, who advised me to photograph it on its left hand side! I didn't know what they meant, but I saw the bird by the closest island, amazingly this stunningly colourful duck was standing on the nearside of the island, it was very close, albeit looking straight into very strong sunlight. The bird was facing left and looking resplendent. It even had a brief forty winks, before a couple with a dog walked to the edge and the dog splashed into the water and amazingly the ducks swam towards them and the male Mandarin woke up and swam towards them as they threw bread out. As the Mandarin swam over I saw its right hand side and I could see what Justin was on about, it was missing its right eye! It then thankfully turned around and it swam back and onto the island again.
Shopping at Asda, my Asda bonus this week, was a fine very late Common Tern that flew in at noon from the right (the harbour) and fished over on the far side of Lake Lothing 150 yards west of the Grain silo fishing in particular near the orange boat and it even settled on the far quay for 5 minutes. I watched it for around 20 minutes.
At Oulton Broad, a calling Pied Wagtail showed well on the thatched roof. I saw a family of 6 Egyptian geese on the water, 2 adults, 1 at the front and 1 at the back with the 4 juveniles in the centre. Also on the Broad was a Great Crested Grebe and 1 Cormorant.
Amazingly I received a tweet, stating there was a third Hume's Warbler in Lowestoft this time behind the Royal Falcon pub.
Twenty minutes later, I was walking to the back area of he pub at the top of the High Street and overlooking a rubbish strewn scrubby area (there was a bike frame suspended on some branches one side and old vacuum cleaner suspended on branches the other side!) the excellent third Hume's Leaf Warbler flitting around the base of some bramles bushes and then in some Sycamores to the left, initial impression of this bird was that it was a little greener in plumage albeit with dark cap, buff yellow super and wing bars and mucky underparts particularly on the breast. Some Long- tailed Tits joined it and unfortunately the bird flowed them south and out of sight.
Amongst the initial crowd was David W, Paul and Jane F, Jon E, regular correspondent Paul W and these were joined by OFB and Ricky F & Debbie. Ricky, Debbie and I toured the Scores until Andrew tweeted to us to say he had seen it in Mariners Score and I saw the Hume's Leaf Warbler briefly on the left side of a large Sycamore before it flew to a wall.
Back at Leathes Ham, sadly the Mandarin was missing but a pair of Wigeon were seen up very close but the light was even worse than before!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Hume's Leaf Warbler the second

Finally I managed to see the Hume's Leaf Warbler today before work between 7.40 - 8.40am, which has been showing well sporadically in the middle of Lowestoft. On Wednesday, early morning I had missed it as it had done a circuit have been seen by the big tree just south of Lowestoft registrars office and the bushes bordering the garden on the west side of Battery Green roundabout.
This morning, parking the car along the 1 hour free parking bay opposite the Police station, I walked through the narrow passageway just south of the new flats and east of the Crops hairdressing shop. The excellent Hume's Leaf Warbler was seen in a small Sycamore, half way down of which Steve Jones, the finder, said is it's favourite tree. the bird was then seen then by the bushes bordering the northern fence of the alleyway was flushed by a bag carrying passerby and it initially flew south before settling in a small walled garden area first flitting in high branches of a particularly tall tree before showing exceptionally well in bushes and around the ivy near the base of a tree, the only hindrances for photography was the poor light and foliage growing on the wall I was peering over, the bird was by now calling "chee-witt' frequently.
A big thankyou to Chris D for telling me he was shooting at ISO 800 which gave me the confidence to set my ISO to 1000 the next day with great results (see header).

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Birthday Bonus

Today was my birthday and for the first time in ages, I couldn't take the day off as I had to go to work for an important meeting at Norwich.
Perhaps this was entirely appropriate as I was hardly in the mood to celebrate my birthday this year.
Having started work at 7.30am I was able to finish at 2.30pm, and I was able to pop over to Corton woods for the last hour and a half of available light on this fine sunny day in the hope of seeing the Hume's Leaf Warbler again. When I arrived OFB, Peter from Norwich and a couple of other birders were staring into the trees on the southern side of the wood. I didn't need to ask the whereabouts of the bird because it was calling a distinctive "chee-wit" call from the tall trees at the edge of the wood.
We couldn't see it so I decided to take the path into the wood bordering the pond (passerines often congregate here especially when the sun is setting) and seeing Long- tailed Tits, I sifted through a small flock of said birds, 2 Goldcrests were also with them and flew across the path and west into the wood, when suddenly a small warbler flitted across, calling "che-wittt" the excellent Hume's Leaf Warbler. but I didn't see it again here as it soon melted into the wood.
I walked back to the crowd who were waiting to see it just outside the wood.
We then walked outside looking over to the western edge of the wood, as the sun was setting and throwing the last vestiges of sunlight onto these trees. No sign again, but returning to the pond area, along the path 30 yards just north of here and looking into 3 tall ivy clad trees the "chee-witt" call was heard twice but the bird wasn't seen again, although around 20 Long- tailed Tits and the 2 Goldcrest were present again.
I then checked a Sycamore tree just to the right of the path and there were 2 birds, both warblers flitting around. The first lower bird was a pale Chiff- Chaff so pale in fact that it looked suspiciously like an "abietinus race" bird from North/ North east Europe with subdued supercilium, dark cheeks and eye-stripe giving prominence to the white eye-ring with very dull pale flanks, duller pale olive- green above. This disappeared from view and I switched my attention to the other warbler.
This bird was smaller and constantly active, flitting and actively feeding on insects on the mid right hand side of the tree. The bird was constantly active and never completely on show, so I had to piece together bits of the bird seen amongst the sycamore leaves/foliage, mucky off white/ grey underparts were clearly and frequently seen, then the buffish wing bars, the lower very prominent and broad. Then on another occasion, the head was seen showing a darkish cap, broad buff- yellow supercilia and dark bill, then on another; the dark legs. It was of course the excellent Hume's Leaf Warbler.
Confident of the ID, I went to retrieve another birder down the track who was delighted to add this sighting to his life list when we returned.
The bird continued feeding now going to near the top of the sycamore, and after some ten minutes of observation it flew left and out of sight. It called once when it flew. I finally saw 2 Goldcrest very close, 1 sat in a bush for several minutes just feet away.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Hume's Leaf Warbler 1st for Lowestoft!

With the mild south- east winds continuing, I looked around Gunton woods and meadow first thing in the hope of finding some more eastern gems, but the highlight were the 3 Bullfinches seen and heard from the hedgerow, first the female flew out and then the male whilst another bird was calling from the hedge making 3.
Next stop was Link's road car park where around 30 Black- headed Gulls stood and 1 Common Gull sat. Whilst out to sea, a Grey Seal swam north between the 2nd and 3rd groynes south of the car park. Later it was seen swimming south between the 3rd and 4th groynes and it stuck its head up out from the water. each time I ran down to trying to get some pics it disappeared beneath the waves and stayed under water!
I walked up to Gunton warren and saw very little.
Driving down to Asda, as I walked to the assembled crowd, Paul W showed me his tweet on the phone "Hume's Warbler at Dip Farm" I turned straight round but got stuck by the bridge from 10.40am for twenty minutes as the Police stopped us as the Remembrance Sunday parade complete with drummers sea cadets and representatives from all the armed forced marched down the road and onto the cenotaph by the Pier. Without those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the two world wars and more recent conflicts none of us may have had the freedoms we enjoy today.
So half and hour later, I followed Paul & Jane's car as it turned off Yarmouth road and down Corton road where we parked opposite the shelter belt by Dip farm seeing Andrew, he said it had just flown across the road into the shelter belt. We walked across the road through the shelter belt and looked into the bushes just west of here bordering the Dip Farm Pitch and Putt golf course, a call from Rob Wil and the bird, which clearly looked like a Hume's Leaf Warbler as it was seen in a bush, a Buddlea (?) the bird was seen clearly, like a dull Yellow-browed with duller olive-grey back, darker crown and more buffy-yellow wingbars and supercilia and off white "muckier" underparts. This excellent bird then hopped down to the lower branches before darting up to the middle of the bush and then out into bushes left of there. The Hume's Leaf warbler called it's distinctive Greenish warbler/Pied Wagtail-like call "dsu-weet" call several times, confirmation clearly of it's identity and a great find & ID from Rob Wincup who fully deserves this fantastic find, well done Rob!
Lizard Cup winner for 2011?
The bird then flew over to bushes by the fence bordering the playing field before flying back north over to 3 trees where we saw it moving around at a frenetic pace, calling occasionally, I now only saw the movements of the bird, flitting into trees, always obscured by foliage and always restless and on the move.
Whilst exiting the shelter belt i witnessed the most disgraceful amount of rubbish I have ever seen, there must have been close on 500 different pieces of litter, beer cans, crisps packets etc, it looked like a mini rubbish dump, absolutely disgusting!)
Next stop, before joining Jenny at Southwold, was Asda where I saw Roy & Ruth H walking from the Lake Lothing side of the store who said it was just round the corner at the back of Asda store where a channel of water stretched west for 200 yards. Dick W was trying to get some shots of it, albeit at some distance away. The Red- throated Diver was seen at the end and then it swam right and back to the main channel, it flapped its wings on its haunches once but didn't give particularly close views this time. We finally saw it swimming west out into the main channel of Lake Lothing.
At Southwold, I looked on the marshes for SE Owls but failed to see any, there were several Blackbirds in the Churchyard and a smart and showy Pied wagtail in Church street.
Parking at Kessingland I walked along the beach and the grassy mounds hoping to reach a viewpoint over the levels where I was hoping to connect with SE Owls, I didn't but I was well compensated when I heard a vaguely familiar nasal "ung-unk" call and some largish long- winged Geese, 2 of them were flying south and directly over my head. They had brownish plumage with long dark neatly tapering long sleek wings, orange legs (noted as they flew directly overhead!) showing narrow white tip to the tail and darker brown head with a shortish bill darkish with an orange-tip.
They were 2 excellent Tundra Bean Geese, I had been looking at them as a birder and looking to ID them first and foremost and not a photographer, so I missed my chance for some excellent shots! They continued flying in a southerly directly and clipping over Kessingland levels and probably aiming for Benacre broad or nearby fields?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Eastern Gems & showy Diver

It was a very grey murky day, but my first stop was for the Red- throated Diver that Andrew had seen from Asda seen on the Lake Lothing adjoining the car park. As soon as I arrived, a Cormorant was drying its wings out on the nearby post and the excellent Red- throated Diver, still with a patch of brick-red, a narrow rusty rectangular patch on its throat, so therefore in transitional plumage and partially retaining this part of its summer garb, was seen half way out on the water.
The bird was still some way away but I obtained a few record shots and drove to the outskirts of Heathland holiday camp at Kessingland. Walking down 100 yards east along the long path to the entrance, I joined a group of birders including Paul & Jane, Chris M and Peter N and Chris D amongst others. Looking over in the direction of the camp I could see 3 wonderful Waxwings which would frequently fly and swoop up into the air to catch some insects in flight.
The Ybw was still not showing and I decided to walk east to the cliff to look out to sea. Not a lot was seen, so retracing my steps
I rejoined Paul and Jane and newly arrived OFB. Paul & Jane had seen the Ybw in my absence, and Paul did ever so well to pick it up in the left hand sycmore amongst the bushes in front of us and I was soon watching the excellent Yellow- browed Warbler which was showing occasionally amongst the foliage but was typically very active. It was seen a couple of times in the middle and the back of this sycamore before it too disappeared. In a far tree at the back, Paul had picked out all 14 Waxwings which were back.
The Waxwings flew from tree to tree occasionally flying up into the air and then down again catching insects. Before several Waxwings flew over our heads.

Returning to Asda car park, the Diver was now 30 yards east of the car park, and I walked across rough ground and was able to get some reasonable shots this time as the excellent Red- throated Diver gradually swam nearer and nearer. It even raised up on its haunches and flapped its wings giving me a wonderful photo opportunity see the result on the picture below the header! Its swimming accelerated when a small boat drove through heading west, doing me a favour as the Diver swam to almost 30 feet of where I was, it then started to swim quickly west for some 50 yards before turning and then slowly swimming east and heading to the middle of the water again.
After a brief interlude for lunch at home, I received a tweet stating that both Ybw and Pallas' had been seen on Maltsters score off the old High street Lowestoft. I parked just north of the Police station and joining Jane we walked/ ran up the score no one could be seen but Andrew was seen just north of here and we then ran up Cumberland Place and in a patch of waste ground the excellent Pallas' Warbler was seen very brieffly in the bush and then a sycamore at the bottom before it flew back into bushes between Cumberland Place/ Maltsters' Score and it was seen at the back and briefly on top of a bramble bush before it was seen in some bushes along Cumberland Place and a Sycamore where I was able to photograph it. As usual a real gem of a bird with striking long lemon- yellow supercilia, yellow central crown stripe and two thick yellow wing bars and lemon yellow rump.This was the first time I've been birding the Lowestoft scores, very historic lanes running down from the old High street to the old fishing village now almost completely disappeared. Sadly, like much of Lowestoft, these Scores which should be a source of historic pride for the local community, looked very run down with boarded up windows and litter and old beer cans littered about.
At Ness Point, in the yard by the Wind turbine, a female type Black Redstart flew onto a pile of wood planking. It then flew over the road and onto the roof of a building along the west of the road to the car park. A fine end to a fine birding day.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Sibe Chiff-Chaff

Taking the afternoon off today, because I had to work this evening. As I parked at 2.15pm, around 50 Linnets flew from the fields up to the trees. I then headed for the new Corton Sewage works, taking the route skirting the western and southern perimeter of the sewage works and then taking the boardwalk to the Sewage pool. As soon as I approached the Sallows, I heard the "hiiip" lost chick call of the excellent Siberian Chiff-Chaff as it flitted through the tops of the Sallows. It was a very grey looking bird with buffish supercilia, grey head mantle and back and whitish underparts with black legs. It flew to the southern edge of the Sallows and showed quite well although it was difficult to photograph. It then flew across the boardwalk and then eventually flew back to the Sallows and then over by the pool. The bird was constantly on the move flying from twig to twig and showed well.
At Links road car park, 2 adult Winter Mediterranean Gulls by the puddles then they flew off as a couple walked along the sea wall. Suddenly a group of 10 waders flew north along the seawall, amongst the 10 Turnstone were 2 Purple Sandpiper. They settled on the rocks of part of the old seawall seen on the beach just off the end of Links road.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

High Arctic Visitor

My first seawatch of the day, a brief one because I had to go to Norwich for work today, took place off Baker's score, Corton from 8.30 to 8.50am. A reasonable sea passage included skeins of 5, 4 and 4 Brent Geese flying south. A big group of 16 Common Scoter flying south all females save for 2 males who were first and third in the line as they flew low over the sea. 1 winter- plumaged Red- throated Diver was seen fairly close in on the sea. 2 Sky Larks flew south too. Sadly, on my journey to Norwich along the Acle straight, I saw the squashed corpse of a Barn Owl at the left side of the road.
My second seawatch of the day, was during my rather late lunch break, which I took on Gorleston Pier (after returning after attending a meeting in Norwich), a dead Robin was seen by the bushes at the start of the pier, but as soon as I had reached the end at 2.15pm, I looked down on the sea and barely 20 foot out, was an excellent Little Auk. I was really delighted to see it, the first one I have seen since November 2009. A superb gem of a bird, a visitor from the high Arctic with short black stubby bill, black upperparts and white underparts. No sooner had I seen it than it flew north a little way to the sea just beneath the sea defence rocks bordering the southern side of the Great Yarmouth outer harbour, showing short stubby wings it pitched down again in the sea for several minutes before flying due east and then north when it had cleared the end of the harbour, a wonderful sight (the Little Auk, not Yarmouth harbour!)
Groups of 39 and 5 Brent Geese flew south. Several Cormorants, 4 were seen out at sea on the water and flying about.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Brief Seawatch

A twenty minute seawatch from Baker's score Corton revealed 3 Meadow Pipit flying north, close in 28 Brent Geese south and 1 Guillemot north. Not really the Auk I was hoping for, but welcome nonetheless. I couldn't stay any longer as I had to be at Beccles very early to deliver my car for it's MOT.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Sea Passage

At Ness Point, an assembled team of birders already there included James B, Paul & Jane OFB, Roger W and others.
There was an impressive sea passage of birds flying north mainly duck and of those mainly Wigeon and Teal with groups of 18, 32, 24 of Wigeon and 16, 8 and 4 Teal flying north. Also flying past was a a respendent male Goldeneye and 1 female Goldeneye and 2 female Red- breasted Mergansers. Brent Geese also flew past 1 very close in flew north plus a further groups of 8 and 12 also north.
Eiders flew south including a glorious male and 5 females too.
Walking over to the finger 1 Purple Sandpiper seen amongst a group of 12 Turnstone plus 2 flew past going south so 3 Purple Sandpiper in all.
At Links road car park, amongst the Gulls was an old friend the adult winter Mediterranean Gull with green ring sporting the white letters 3XA9.
Walking north I checked warren House Wood and checking the hill behind it with the fence, I disturbed a Woodcock that flew into a fence and was momentarily dazed as it flapped around before it flew up and over the wood.
walking north along the beach, I saw further groups of 8 and 12 Brent Geese flying north and a large group of 32 Teal and 27 Wigeon going north. Nearing the seawall, 4 excellent Snow Bunting flew a short way south and walking along the sea wall, I spotted first 4 then another singleton Snow Buntings, totalling 5 in all feeding on the beach by the marram grass. Dog walkers were flushing them and they moved north briefly feeding before being flushed by them once again.
Finally, 2 singleton Curlew flew north.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Lunchbreak Pallas's

On Friday 4th November, at 12.20pm I took a short lunchbreak trip to Corton Old rail track hoping to see the Pallas's Warbler.
This bird had been really elusive during its stay but I was fortunate enough to see it 4X during my 45 minute stay and seeing it well on two occasions.
Seeing a group of birders including OFB, Steve P & Andrew G amongst others, all standing half way to the Dell, I joined them and no sooner had I done so than we started to hear Long- tailed Tits calling. The Tit flock came through and following it was a small warbler with short tail and silky white underparts. It then disappeared into bushes and called a soft "tsuiiee" call, it was the Pallas's Warbler. Around half an hour later, looking at the bushes bordering the east side of the old rail track bushes by the Dell, I serched through a flock of Long- tailed Tits flying right, a Chiff- Chaff was with them plus several Blue Tits. A shout went up from Steve P and the flock flew to the south end trees of the Dell in the middle of the track, the Pallas's Warbler flew across and I could see its bright olive upperparts and a riots of yellow wing- bars. It disappeared within a thickly foliaged Holm Oak.
Walking away from the group, I walked along the east side of the Dell and looked east peering into the shrub border and looking through to the back, I could clearly see the excellent Pallas's Warbler.
This Siberian gem always lifts the spirits and was desperately needed at this time. A glorious birds with olive green upperparts yellow supercilia and 2 yellow wing bars, it flitted around the back and I watched it for a minute before it flew a short way to the right.
Having to go back to the car to return to work at 1pm, I again saw the excellent Pallas's Warbler as it followed several Long- tailed tits which flew across the track (west path) which was 30 yards north of the Dell to the middle set of bushes. The Pallas's Warbler flew across and it perched on a branch in full view with the sunlight illuminated the bird wonderfully and the olive upperparts yellow supercilia and wing bars could be seen really well, albeit for just 10 seconds before it flew south.
Finally it was really good to see and have a quick chat with Tommy C an excellent field birder who I hadn't seen for several years.

South Wales

On a strictly family trip to South Wales recently, I saw a calling Nuthatch was in a tree opposite LL Lodge front door as I arrived and up to 2 Nuthatch seen around here all week. I did manage 2 visits down to Cymisfael stream and fields and saw the Dipper by the bridge which I was able to photograph as I sneaked up close to it. A Stonechat was also seen on a distant tree. A Nuthatch in a tree flew into a bush.
The second visit to Cymisfael stream after some heavy rain, revealed a torrent of water rushing along the stream and I wasn't surprised not to see any Dipper this time but the walk revealed 3 Fieldfare and around 10 Redwing too. Plus 5 spiralling Buzzards over the fields here and 2 Ravens too. A Red kite was seen circling over the fields by the Llanddarog turn off.
On a visit to Cefngoleu I was able to show my nephew a distant Red Kite, calling Nuthatch which was seen in a close tree and a very confiding Red Admiral seen on the patio in the back garden, which even flew onto Alfie's shoulder and leg!
Finally, on the return journey, 3 Red Kites flew over the east bound Reading services by the M4.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Redpoll over

A Redpoll flew due south directly over the house and garden at 12.10pm today, the bird's characteristic di-syllabic call was heard from the front garden drive but sadly it was not seen as it, I assumed, flew into the glaring light of the strong sun. New garden record.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

More Bonxies!

A look around Gunton SWT revealed 1 calling female Bullfinch which flew across into a big hedge. A Redwing were heard here too.
At Ness Point I saw the usual ringed Herring Gulls and 2 immatures. Seeing Danny P we walked north and onto the seawall and looked down on the rocky ruins of the old sewall and saw 1 feeding Purple Sandpiper. and a Rock Pipit. Back at the point, by the stack of wooden planks just south of the wind turbine, a female Black Redstart was seen. Whilst out to sea, up to 6 Bonxies seen flying around they were lingering but flying going mostly south but occasionally north too. 1 was only half way out and showed well as it flew south. The Bonxies would fly low over the sea then wheel up suddenly over the horizon showing off the broad brown wings and white flashes too but it was noticeable that most (but not all) of the Bonxies showed a lot more white on the underwing than the upperwing, immatures?
2 Gannet flew south and 2 groups of Brent Geese, 4 and 11 also flew south. Later on saw Andrew E and Rob Wil fresh from leading a party around the Lowestoft local patch and it was good to meet the Urban Birder, David Lindo and I was able to state what a fine blog/website he had and I shook hands with him too, great bloke!

Saturday, 22 October 2011


Kessingland sewage works failed to reveal the Dusky warbler that had been ringed late morning there. A Pied wagtail with a particularly white face was all that was seen there. It was good to see Robert Win, Robert Wil, OFB, Paul & Jane, Roy & Ruth H. There was quite a strong southerly wind blowing.
So elected to go to Ness Point. Birds were moving and a Guillemot was seen fling north. A Red- throated Diver south and an adult Mediterranean Gull flew close in south. However the stars of the show were the 1, then 2 Bonxies or Great Skuas flying first north and then south. One on the horizon and one a little closer showing broad brown plumage and wings and white flash on the wings. I then spotted a trio of Bonxies flying south on the horizon. 3 Chaffinches also flew in off.
Walking later along Gunton beach, a flock of first 9 and then 11 Brent Geese flew south very close in and low over the water.

Vagrant Emperor at the Library!

On Wednesday 19th October, I saw and heard a male Black Redstart singing briefly from the roof of the Doctor's building by Gorleston Library car park, it flew east over towards Pier Plain and out of sight.
Another discovery that day, my colleague and friend Peter C was looking at pictures to include in a report on activities run at Great Yarmouth Library with a colleague running through some pictures saved on the Library computer when she briefly passed by a pic of a very interesting Dragonfly! Peter said go back and when he did the picture that he saw was of a very intersting dragonfly indeed it was either Lesser or Vagrant Emperor!!!
On consulting the literature concluded it was a stunning male Vagrant Emperor!!!
Apparently on Saturday 4th October, Yarmouth Library was celebrating Older people's Day and one of the activities was in the garden and another one of my colleagues spotted a Dragonfly she thought was an Emperor perched on some Honeysuckle climbing the south facing wall of the adjacent Salvation Army building and she took a picture with the Library compact camera.
She said she thought it was dead and even poked it at which point it flew up high west and out of sight! Picture Published by kind permission of Caroline Fernandez

Monday, 17 October 2011

Landguard Booted & Corton Shrike

On Sunday 16th October, Ricky F rang and asked if I wanted a lift down to Landguard Point to see the Booted/ Sykes Warbler.
We were soon heading down there together with OFB.
At the Point itself, which was bathed in strong sunlight, we walked over to the southern side beyond the compound to be informed the bird had been caught and it would be processed and then shown to us briefly. A Pipit which had been seen on the ground was labelled by other either an OBP or a RTP, a group of birders walked slowly towards where it had last been seen and a Tree Pipit flew up calling "teez" as it flew east and out to sea. it would be processed and then shown to us briefly before being realised. Half an hour later, Nigel O, strolled out from the compound clutching a cream bag with the bird in it. He held the bird up, a superb Booted Warbler for a few minutes and I was able to obtain a few shots before it was released in the garden. It flew to the bush at the back, where it sat in the sunlight for five minutes, although it's head was obscured by branches. It then flew over the garden wall and showed well in the fir for 10 minutes or so before flying around the back.
The Booted then flew towards the tamarisk on the southern edge of the compound and flitted around near the top but frustratingly it was never in full view before it flew to another tamarisk just north again on the edge of the compound. The Booted Warbler showed near the top of the tamarisk on a bare branch on the extreme left hand end. It later flew back to the tamarisk on the southern corner and then showed well near the top of the tamarisk bush.

Back at Corton at 5.30pm I parked in the car park by the church, I met a couple of birders who I had seen last at the Sandhill Crane twitch on Sunday. I had arrived just too late and they were concerned that I had missed the bird. I had dipped the bird that night but I had seen it the next day, it was nice of them to ask.
I walked across the green and could see the excellent Great Grey Shrike perched on bare branches on top of the hedge, running parallel with and just west of the western perimeter fence. It then flew towards the old sewage works and perched on the fence flying down occasionally on the ground. It was really good to see Steve S and Dot here too.
As the sun was setting I had a last look at the Shrike which still perched on the fence and it appeared to go to roost by flying down into a large bush within the compound.

At 12.30am Monday morning a Tawny Owl hooted several times from a north westerly direction of the house somewhere just on the perimeter of thee Close.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Sparrow's Nest OBP

On this fateful day which will be indelibly edged in my memory forever, I started out at 7.30pm when I drove over to John H's house and we were under starters orders waiting for news of the Rufous- tailed Robin at Norfolk. However, there had been a clear night and all the migrants had left.
So visiting Corton old rail track I saw James B and we heard Ybw calling from the eastern hedge but it remained elusive. Around 15 excellent Redpoll called and flew over by the copse. By the plantation, 3 Redpolls perched up and we heard a further 2 ybw's but again they remained elusive. By Corton old sewage works field James & I saw Meadow Pipits and Sky Larks in the fields plus by the grassy field just south of Potters, 5 Wheatear. Walking back past Corton MOD I met a nice couple walking their dog and they gave a very good description of a Short- eared Owl that they had flushed yesterday by the cliff top and it had flown languidly out to sea. Seeing James B we were saw a female Falcon fly away from us and and over the sea we were mystified to its identity as it was too big for Merlin but appeared too small for Peregrine. Walking back past Broadlands Sands, we were fortunate enough to see Ricky F and as we were talking I spotted an excellent Black Redstart by the seaward fence it later flew inland.
Walking back along the Corton old rail track Ricky and I heard the Yellow- browed Warbler calling from the sallows and we soon had good views of this and another, second Yellow- browed Warbler next to it (along the belt of sallows running west from the copse)
I then had a "tweet" to say that an OBP had been seen in Sparrows Nest and after telling Ricky, I made my way to the Nest.
It was good to see Danny P and we took the southern path along the top ride with the circular path, we joined Chris M, Peter N and Robert Win. We looked north along the eastern top path and Robert Wil and Ricky were gesturing to say they had the bird. It then flew up to some trees within the grassy area contained within the circular path.
This bird proved extremely elusive in the afternoon and a pattern would emerge that it would no sooner be seen at the top of the nest and then 20- 30 minutes later it would be seen in the area ground/ trees just above the bowling green.
A shout went up at the bottom and we went down the southern steps to the path above the Bowling green, no sign.
I decided to walk back up the southern steps and shout went up that it was in the trees. I saw the bird fly up and then hop out onto a branch in full view bathed in the sunlight and I was treated to a rare 10 second view of the excellent Olive- backed Pipit in full view for me. It showed olive green plumage, a striking cream supercilia with an obvious supercilium drop at the end of the supercilia with a dark spot at the rear of the ear coverts, a cracking bird.
Back at the top of the nest I eventually saw a Firecrest near the very top of a tree drenched in the golden light of the setting sun.
Later on at 4.20pm it was seen in trees set back from the Bowling green but with the crowd of people I was in entirely the wrong position to see it either in the tree of the horizontal branch in a bush just off the ground.
It was good to see so many friends here, including the aforementioned people as well as Paul & Jane, John H again, Andrew E, OFB, regular correspondent Paul W, Matthew D. You are all a great bunch of people and it is a privilege to know you all.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Three Shrikes

On Thursday 13th Oct, at 1.15pm I pulled in the car park at Corton churchyard, Ricky F and OFB directed me to look south from Corton Old SW The excellent Great Grey Shrike was perched on top of a large bush on the hedge bordering the holiday caravan park.
It disappeared but minutes later I was watching a Great Grey Shrike along the hedge running parallel with the western edge of the old SW
10 minutes later our esteemed Chairman Derek B (in a very fetching pair of what looked like pyjama bottoms!!!) rang Ricky F to say they had caught it in a net and Colin was bringing over so we could have a quick look and photo's he did, one of our number was very vociferous in his opposition to the ringers.
Later a Yellow- browed Warbler was heard calling around the Farm opposite the Churchyard and car park and the hedge bordering this but it was not seen.
The day ended with a nasty sting in the tail when I missed an Isabelline Wheatear found on the caravan site just south of Tookes.

Shrike still there

On Thursday, I enjoyed watching the Woodchat again around the perimeter of the LR car park.
One vocal Chiff- Chaff also seen in Warren House Wood.

Ibis Gone

On Tuesday 11th Oct, I went to Minsmere hoping to see the Glossy Ibis, but it had gone.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Skua Passage

This morning before I work, I travelled to Links road, where the excellent immature Woodchat Shrike continued to show very well on the bushes bordering the western edge of the car park and the large bush just west of here. At 7.30am I was the only person there and I was able to get quite close (without disturbing the bird) to get some pics. Later on I was joined by Andrew E, Clive N and 2 others.

This evening from 5.30 to 6.10pm, I tried my luck with a seawatch for just 20 minutes from North Gunton Cliff and was instantly rewarded with a Bonxie or Great Skua flying south and then north, 2, 1, 1 & 1 Arctic Skuas flew north in quick succession.
A Gannet also seen flying north as did a adult Kittiwake. On the groynes below was an adult Mediterranean Gull and I could see it sported a green ring with white lettering on it, was it our old friend "3XA9" walking down the cliff I'd just set foot on the beach when all the Gulls flew fishing but the adult winter Mediterranean Gull returned and a quick scan revealed it was indeed our old friend "3XA9"
Finally on the groynes south of here another regular the adult Yellow- legged Gull perched on groynes too.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Arrival of Siberian waifs and strays & northern visitors too!

A look around Lound this morning failed to turn up any goodies save for 2 Bramblings flying up from the road by Fritton woods and a Pale Tussock Moth larvae on some Purple Asters which were hastily bought at Lound garden centre! The caterpillar was very striking, being very hairy green in colour with yellow/ black barring on the back; the rear end hosting an impressive pink "spike".
Having read the larvae feeds on Deciduous trees, I decide to re-patriate the caterpillar on our Mountain Ash tree, lets hope the local Blue/ Great Tits doesn't find it and wolf it down as a tasty morsal!
At Ness Point, I finally saw 2 Black Redstart, a fine male beneath some wooden planks and a pale female/ immature bird perched right on top just to the south of the wind turbine.
In a location in Lowestoft, I stumbled across a fine Fox asleep on some grass and cursing myself for not having my camera in hand, I admired this beautiful canine as it got up sleepily looked at me before strolling off left.
Later on, I saw Rob Wil and Josh in the Sparrow's Nest park and from high up in the Vireo Holm Oaks I heard a Yellow- browed Warbler call twice, but it wasn't seen, despite seaching through the Tit flock which included a Treecreeper. Walking across the Denes I enjoed further views of the superb immature Woodchat Shrike that favoured the bushes west and on the western edge of the car park.
At this point Nick B and I heard 2 Yellow- browed Warblers constantly calling from the Links Hill slope, one being nearer Links road, I ran up the slope but failed to see it as it stopped calling the second I reached the top!
I had better success at Corton Old Sewage works, where in the trees just to the west of here, amongst a Tit flock, a Yellow- browed Warbler stuck its head out of the foliage and showed of its cream supercilia briefly before disappearing from view.
A flock of Long- tailed Tits along Corton ORT revealed a single Chiff- Chaff.
Finally from the garden early evening I heard the pszzeee call of 3 Redwings flying up from Fallowfields and north, a further 6 single birds flew up minutes later one after another they all, the 9 Redwing, flew north too.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Lowestoft Woodchat

After an autumn which has been sadly lacking in scarce passerines on my local patch so far, today certainly delivered.
A brief vigil at Ness Point in the company of Andrew E and Rob M we saw up to 40 Red- throated Divers flying north, 12 Brent Geese flying north and 15 Gannet flying north with 12 Common Scoter and 1 Wigeon flying north also. 1 adult winter Mediterranean Gull flew south.
The Denes, Flycatcher Alley seemed quiet, I had to sit down for a while as I suffered a mild migraine which soon passed but always impairs your observation for up to 24 hours afterwards. As we approached Warren House wood we were joined by Robert Wil we looked at a passing flock of Long- tailed Tits and Rob M picked up an excellent Yellow- browed Warbler tagging along behind that showed briefly. It soon disappeared into the wood, but Andrew refound it by the eastern edge of the wood by the pillbox and we were treated to further glimpses of this enigmatic species. It also called once here, As usual olive- green plumage with a riot of cream supercilias and wing-bars.
A calling Redpoll flew over flying south.
By the northern edge of the wood, some "chop- chop calls revealed 8 excellent Crossbills flying south west over the wood.
Our luck didn't stop there, walking south out of the wood, we were approaching Links road, when Rob Wil said there's a Shrike on the bushes over there and there was, it was an excellent immature Woodchat Shrike!
Wow! I'm just not used to seeing so many quality birds especially on my local patch, usually i walk around and see absolutely nothing, this was incredible!

The bird then flew to a bush a few yards east of bordering the northen end of the car park and a passer-by flushed it onto the tall post on the northern edge of the sea wall before another walker flushed it back onto its original perch. It was feeding occasionally. We stood by the concrete blocks near the entrance and looked across to its perch first on a bramble and then a nearby post. It then flew south and perched on the small concrete water tap wall where it stayed for sometime making occasional forays on the ground catching Bees (including an Orange-tipped Bumble Bee), a Devil's Coach Horse and other insects. It even coughed up a pellet at one point that sadly blew off the wall a few minutes later. It would always return to the wall. Once or twice it flew right away over the seawall and the beach but it always returned. I left it to check the Gunton Dunes area, I didn't see much here but I did see the regular adult Yellow- legged Herring Gull on the groynes off Gunton beach. Returning to the Shrike it was seen on the large evergreen bush along the southern edge of the car park. It then returned to the concrete wall hunting from here and a small grey post nearby before some dog walkers flushed it to a post much closer to us where we had further good of this stunning bird.
new birder arrivals included OFB, Justin L, Derek B, Peter N, Chris M, James B, regular correspondent Paul W, Morris B, Nick B, Danny P & others.
James B spotted a Skua flying north, it was an excellent dark phase Arctic Skua flying north close in low over the sea, would have been very good views from the beach/ sea wall.
Walking back along the seawall south, a Grey Wagtail flew north over the Denes by the netposts and along the old broken up sea wall, I spotted 3 singleton Rock Pipits and on the grassy area within Birds Eye 2 Wheatear.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Gathering of Martins

It was lovely to see around 25 House Martins flying very low over the Oval and Marine Parade as I parked the car at 7.50am this morning. The Martins were presumably feeding up on the proliferation of flies flying around before their long migration south to Africa and I counted around 30 flies resting on my car when I returned to it after my walk around the Oval and the Parks and "No Mr. Martin Hughes- Games!" re: from his opening comments of this evening's otherwise excellent edition of BBC Autumnwatch; all of the Swallows & Martins haven't left these shores yet! You should know better, especially given your first name!!
At lunchtime, I looked around Great Yarmouth Cemetary and again very little was seen save for a female Sparrowhawk flying away which had caught a brightly coloured luminous yellow- breasted bird which it clutched close to its chest and the prey could only have been an unfortunate escaped green and yellow plumaged Budgerigar!
This evening, a look around Corton sewage works (both old and new), Corton cliffs and sea revealed little save for 2 Wheatears on the grassy area to the east of Broadland Sands Holiday camp. Crouching beneath the height of the fence I was able to get quite close to one and photograph it albeit in poor light.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Finding the "Holy Grail": Twenty Years On!

With a fantastic super rare American vagrant in Suffolk at the moment, I am reminiscing back twenty years ago when I and a young and very promising young birder Rob Wilton (11 years old in 1991 I believe!), found another rare American. Only Suffolk's second ever record of the species at the time. Rob has gone on to be a representative on the Suffolk Record Committee & find/ jointly find Isabelline Wheatear and Pine Bunting amongst many other great finds).

Rob and I found another fantastic American vagrant, a Red- eyed Vireo right here in Lowestoft in Sparrow's Nest gardens on the hallowed day of Sunday 6th October 1991.
Prefacing this story, two years previously, I had dipped spectacularly, when I had missed out on the first Red- eyed Vireo found in Suffolk by David Bakewell found on the edge of the cliff by Warren House wood. How times have changed, I found out a day later with a note by Ricky F posted though the letterbox of my then parents home in Corton road! I was also at the time living and working in London and had returned home for the weekend.

On the morning in question, there had been an Icterine Warbler in Warren House wood and I met Rob and initially he was keen to look for the Warbler but I though it would be a good idea to check the Parks first, as it turned out it was an inspired choice!
We were walking south up the slope past the Museum towards the Bowling greens when we approached the row of mature Holm Oaks on our right and in the very last one on a large frond of Holm Oak hanging down, lit brightly by the golden glow of the early morning sun, 2 passerines were flitting about. The first, Robert pointed out as a Spotted Flycatcher, I then turned my attention to the lower bird (which we both saw at the same time) of the 2 and realised instantly, that it was a cracker, a Red- eyed Vireo!
I blurted out the words "Good grief! It's a Vireo, a Red- eyed Vireo!!" and in another sign of the times, a young Robert wanted to instantly rush off to the phone box at the top of the ravine and phone the news out to everyone (there were no mobile phones, pagers or the internet or Twitter around in those days!) I said best to get and look for everything on the bird, watch it note down all the ID features and its habits and then let everyone know. We watched the bird for several minutes before it disappeared, Rob went off to phone everyone and I tried to relocate the bird without success. The bird would "clonk" around the foliage and at one point it even caught a caterpillar; bashed it against a branch before swallowing it.
The bird was a large warbler-sized approxiamately Garden warbler- sized with a bulkier body and it sported a smart grey crown, a black sub- terminal crown stripe bordered the grey crown above and a striking white supercilia below, with a brown eye, it showed a faint dark eye- stripe. it had a thick grey hook tipped bill and bluey-grey legs. The upperparts, wings and tail were a beautiful olive- green colour with whitish underparts apart from lemon- yellow undertail coverts.
About an hour late Richard S refound the bird on the circular trail at the top of the Nest and visiting birders included the Ricky F, late Brian B, the late Jimmy R, Peter N, Derek B and Peter A, Peter C and John H from Norfolk amongst others.
I remember a great celebratory lunch with the family and going back and seeing the Red- eyed Vireo again in the afternoon when it had moved into Arnold's Walk.
Just two rare bird photographers were present that day, very much a rarity then (again how times have changed!), Rob Wilson and Robin Chittenden and both obtained great shots of the bird.
With all the excitement, we never did see the Icterine Warbler in Warren House wood!

One really sad note in looking back is the fact there are 4 really good friends who were there that day who are no longer with us; firstly Peter Gill (a really great fellow and local "patch" worker who would always let you know what he'd seen), Brian Brown- (the "father" of Lowestoft birding who taught me the value of doing your birding "apprenticeship"), Ian Smith (wonderful chap and fellow finder of a Pratincole in Lowestoft!) and Jimmy Read (another skilled Lowestoft birder who was great company and found many goodies in Suffolk including a Blue- Cheeked Bee-eater!).

Monday, 3 October 2011

Boyton Marshes Sandhill Crane Success

Taking a half day's leave from work, I had a second chance at trying for the Sandhill Crane, that had taken up residence in the Boyton Marshes/ Boyton Hall farm area. The Crane having first been seen by Chris D flying south from Kessingland Levels. Chris has got the Suffolk BINS cup in the bag for the second year running! Parking at the car park by the village hall in the Boyton village, initially the signs were ominous (no BINS message since midday, it was now 4pm) and the lady at the car park had said the bird hadn't been seen recently.
But as I walked/ ran the 3/4 mile walk along Mill road heading east out of the village and then over to the track running left of a wood going out onto the marshes, via some crop fields, encouragingly birders were saying the bird had been relocated on a marsh viewed from furrther along and south the seawall, a further 1/4 mile along and I met 4 birders who had it in the field!
Scanning right and directed onto a small pond a ditch that ran just right of here concealed the bird, an excellent adult Sandhill Crane with just its head and neck visible. What a wonderful bird! It had a light grey neck and vivid red forehead.
Noting there were further people along the seawall, I decided to walk around another 1/2 mile walk along to get a better side on view.
So walking under the seawall, I reached a throng of some 30 birders and leaning against the bank looked over and saw the whole bird standing in the field!
The bird was a big Crane sized bird with long paler grey neck and legs. It had grey plumage with bright red forehead. On the body it showed more scaling than a Crane. It was walking around the field. It seemed slightly agitated by the presence of a Little Egret. It walked around the field for some twenty minutes before it suddenly took to flight and flew north around 3/4 mile. walking back the bird was relocated in the tiled field just north of the track by the wood.
The Sandhill Crane was busy feeding in the middle of the field with its head down feeding on either potatoes or sugar beet. It walked close to the edge of an area of green shoots and was constantly feeding, it would occasionally look straight up and around if alerted from calls from other birds or the firing shots of a mechanical bird scarer in the field opposite. It continued to feed as the light started to go and well satisfied I decided to leave at 6.45pm.

Crane Dip

On Sunday 2nd October, What happens when I go away? Rare birds turn up in their droves, this weekend was no exception with 4 Yellow- browed Warblers in Lowestoft and a Sandhill Crane first spotted by Chris D flying south past Kessingland sewage works, it then landed at North Warren before eventually settling at Boyton marshes. Drving back from Buxton in NE Derbyshire, I managed to get to Boyton marshes but was 12 minutes too late at 6.52pm as the Crane had already flown.
A Pipistrelle bat flew around the wood on the way back.

Buxton Blues

Just back from a very enjoyable 3 days in North- east Derbyshire Peak Distict.
On the way up,on friday 30th September, Jenny and I called in at Haddon hall where several dramatisations of Jane Eyre have been filmed including the version out at the cinemas now. A bit of avian interest was provided by a very confiding Dipper seen feeding directly underneath the bridge the only problem photographically was one was looking right down on the bird.
On Saturday, at Buxton, a very picturesque Edwardian Spa town, in the main park of the town a Grey wagtail flew down by the water.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Yellow Wagtail over

At 8.45am, as I was just about to get into the car to drive to work, a shrill "psit" call revealed an excellent Yellow Wagtail which flew very low and north- east just over the house.
After work, a look around Corton ORT revealed 2 Chiff- Chaffs and 8 Meadow Pipits in stubble field by the Old Sewage works.
At Ness Point, for the first time ever the tide was so low that some beach was visible beyond the defence rocks immediately opposite the wind turbine. Amongst the Gulls on the beach was the ringed adult Herring Gull with black lettering on a white ring "A7YY" (last seen by me at Ness Point on the 24th July, coming to bread).
Absolutely fantastic news about the success of 2 pairs of Red- backed Shrikes which bred at secret locations on Dartmoor this year raising a total of 7 young, a great result lets hope this enables them to re-colonise the UK?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Return of the Fudge Duck

Receiving a BINS message at 5.50pm this evening and determined not to miss out (see Sunday's blog) I went staright out of the door and within 5 minutes was at Leathes Ham and incredibly OFB was already there!
I was soon watching the excellent male Ferruginous Duck asleep on the left hand side of the island. As usual a really smart bird with mahogany reddish brown plumage, white under the tail, a full set of wing feathers and definitely no ring on its right leg. Presumably last winter's returning bird and very welcome it was too.
Paul & Jane soon arrived and had good views too despite it briefly swimming behind the island it reurned and showed well.

Tried registering to this "Twitter thing" on the internet this evening, never used this "service" before but everybody, the media, Stephen Fry etc thinks this is the best thing since sliced bread.
I set up an account, registered my mobile, sent a text... got one back, fine but the service wouldn't let me follow anyone.
I've also heard other people couldn't register their mobile either (although this worked for me). I advise people about the internet and computing as part of my job, and set up this blog too, so I am not a technophobe, but I am distinctly not impressed with Twitter so far!!!

POSTSCRIPT: Thanks to Rob Wil I am now on Twitter and "tweeting" (apologies Twitter) apparently the fault lay with the AppleMac I use, better send a tweet to Steve Jobs and ask him (if he's well enough) to solve this problem and the problems of ghost thumb nail deletions on the iphoto file that I get occasionally, it took me 3 hours to resolve it on Sunday night!!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Lapland Buntings save the day (and the month?)

With prevailing south- westerly winds throughout the month, a lack of birds all month, especially in Suffolk (Norfolk is honorably excepted) and missing out on the seabird bonanza (as usual) mid month, lack of birds seen on any of my local patches, this September must be one of the worst.. no, the worst on record for me and the complete lack of scarce birds seen all month. Today was my last chance to change all that and initially the signs were promising when at 9.30am I headed hotfoot to the back of the southern end of Lowestoft Oval following a BINS message, that Rob & Andrew had found an Icky Warbler there. I would have received the message an hour earlier, if I hadn't left my personal phone in the car (and text messages out of earshot) both Andrew and Rob had very kindly sent me messages, but this oversight cost me the bird and all I saw there was 1 male Blackcap. A Southern Hawker and Migrant Hawker were seen flying around the trees here. A nice Pied Flycatcher was seen at the top of Sparrows Nest plus a Treecreeper seen, plus a Jay and around 40 Long- tailed Tits.
Good to see Don & Gwen, OFB, Neville L, Rob Wil & Win, Ricky F, Chris M and Paul & Jane, sadly I missed chatting to the LBC chairman who popped in briefly.

Another BINS message stating that a Lapland Bunting had been seen on Kessingland beach between the Rider Haggard Lane steps and Heathland caravan park, somewhere on the beach meant in all probability an extensive search for one small bird but I was up for the challenge!
From half past 4, I combed the beach and initially all I saw were 40 Linnet and a Wheatear which flew in.
I was zig-zagging across every inch of the beach and checking every area, no mean feat when the entire area is 1/2 mile long by a 1/4 mile wide! I was about to head back when I decided to follow the Linnet flock, when I reached the area near the seaward side of the beach, by a lifejacket (yellow) holder and stones piled around its base. This area must have been 100 yards north of the steps (down from Green Lane/ Rider Haggard Lane) and 3/4 of the way across the beach towards the sea.
From the lifejacket holder walk 50 yards in a north- west direction following the narrowing finger of sandy dune with the odd bits of marram grass which is sandwiched by short green/ brown turf (formerly the puddle area in the winter) and near the tip of the finger before the sandy dune peters out, locate a bright green or blue rope (can't remember the colour!) and look east from here to 2 clumps of marram grass. I was walking along here, the Linnets were just east of here and I heard the very distinctive dry rattling call "prrrtt" of a Lapland and looking around, I saw an excellent Lapland Bunting feeding underneath clumps of Marram grass, I crept along and got a few shots in the fading light. Even better there was a second Lapland Bunting feeding out a little in the open, I crept further around but this second bird was less confiding and when the Linnets behind them took to flight the 2 Lapland Buntings flew 10 yards nearer the sea, one then seen feeding here and then one flew west 30 yards. the birds adopted their usual "shy" hunched shape as they fed between the blades of Marram grass.
Later on at 6.15pm checking the original area, there was still 1 Lapland Bunting feeding between 2 clumps of Marram grass.
I watched it for 10 minutes before the fading light made me retrace my steps up the cliff.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Dragonflies at Waveney Forest

This morning I drove down to Waveney Forest, I had to pull in at a layby on the left hand side for a postman's van, as I pulled up I noticed a large dragonfly patrolling the woodland edge, it was a superb male Southern Hawker. Jumping out of the car I managed to obtain a few shots before it flew back a few yards and settled again, a great start!
From the car park, I walked down the northern most track following the pylons and it was immediately apparent there were loads of Common Darter, probably around 300 seen during the whole walk! There was a heavy dew on the vegetation and the flowering heather was completely covered in loads of spiders webs. A male Marsh Harrier flew over. Either side of the path, a variety of funghi seen including 5 Fly Agaric and a particularly fine and large Wood Mushroom (Agaricus silvicola) Thanks to Michael B for the ID. Three quarters of the way down I saw a Common or Viviparous Lizard which quickly scuttled off. By some sun drenched heather, 2 Small Coppers and a showy Comma butterfly were seen. Also seen flying through was yet another Southern Hawker dragonfly, this time a female, which briefly perched on some Silver birch, it flew again and I tracked it down again and managed a few further shots were obtained (see 2nd header picture).
A barking nearby Deer was probably either a Red or Fallow Deer, a large Deer was seen walking away through the wood. By the end covert, a mewing Buzzard was heard too. Several Siskins were heard too.