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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Snakes Alive!

A further visit to the local woodland and by the car park I saw a Comma butterfly briefly and then a second Comma, I also heard the familiar rasping call of a Brambling but alas I didn't see it. 3/4 down the usual track I saw my first Viviparous or Common Lizard of 2011 it then had a look at me and then dived into cover! I saw a very young Adder barely 6 inches long near a tree stump, also here were 2 Chiff-Chaffs that abruptly flew into the bush right beside me but quickly flew off again. 4 further Adders (including a brown- zig zagged marked female) seen near some heather and 3 seen by the usual trees (including another female) near the end of the track. By the mound just before the usual trees 2 large Grass Snake were seen resting by a large log and 2 further Adders (probably the ones from the usual trees).
I then had the good fortune to meet someone who was a regular reader of the blog and was keen to see the Adders for himself and had visited in the hope he might see the Adders and bump into me as he was struggling to see them (like me initially until I had help from seasoned Adder watchers; particularly Nick B, Andrew E and Colin J- my grateful thanks to them, and I learnt how to look out for them for myself only last year in 2010) , I was able to show him 3 that were distinctly reluctant to show well and unfortunately they were always on the move when he glimpsed them briefly. Both before and after this meeting the Adders had been showing very well indeed. We also saw a Brimstone that flew straight by.
Further down a further 4 were seen by some heather, 3 curled up around the base of a tree and 3 basking under some bushes which posed briefly for the camera (Which included my third female Adder of the day).
Whilst at the very end, a further 2 patrolling male Adders were seen plus back at the usual tree, including 1 virtually fearless male Adder that i was able to take a few snaps of plus a medium sized Grass Snake (and therefore my third of the day) wandered almost right up to me then across the path.
In total, allowing for some duplication in the sightings, I estimated I must have seen an incredible tally of at least some 20 Adders (17 male, 3 female), 3 Grass Snakes and 1 Viviparous/ Common Lizard.
Walking down towards the cut area by the redposts no Adders seen here but a Comma butterflyn posed beautifully for the camera. By the path leading west near the end (very near where I had the fearless Grass Snake that posed beautifully for the camera last year during a lunch break visit) I disturbed a fine Woodcock that flew up with a burst of wings and flew north west towards the marsh.
Seeing OFB at the "bung" all we saw were 2 Goldcrest and Greenfinches in the Pines. Nothing on the marsh, no hoped for unusual raptors or any Egrets.
A look at just past Ashby at the back of Fritton Water woods failed to produce any raptors but there were 2 Hares on the far edge of the field.

Missed by half an hour

A text from BINS informing me that a Cattle Egret had been seen following a tractor which was ploughing the field on Peto's Marsh viewable from Carlton Marshes but then seen in flight by Rob Wil, Andrew  Eand Richard W at 5.20 appearing to fly towards Fisher Row saw me down there at 5.50 but no sign of the bird at all. A Chiff- Chaff present calling too.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

More Vipers

Another return visit to the local woodland this afternoon  from 3pm, I first saw a Muntjac Deer bound off to the left of the path near the start. By walking down to near the end of the track, I first spotted a coiled up Adder right out in the open but it soon slithered off. Another area near some heather eventually revealed an incredible 6 Adders all slithered away one by one and by the Christmas tree, a further 6 were seen. A further 4 were seen in between these 2 areas by heather or grass near the cover of the trees.
An incredible 17 Adders seen in total, my highest daily total (only seen in 2 hours) so far!
At the end of the track, 2 Fallow Deer boundered out briefly and hopped away in a style similar to Roe Deer. Walking back just before the clearing, an explosion of wings revealed an excellent Woodcock which flew out and away over the clear. The dead Woodcock was still by the cut through path near the clearing. Also by the clearing Chaffinches were absolutely everywhere flying out of bushes, the ground and flying past me in a very passive version somewhat reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" and up into the tall pines, I counted 620 Chaffinches but that may have been a gross underestimate of their true numbers.
Small groups of Siskins flew by 2's, 3's and 4's and I estimate I saw around 20 Siskin in total.
I also came across an odd looking Beetle, on the track which walked towards me and then over to the left, which I photographed and was later able to identify as a Minotaur Beetle.
Finally, a Barn Owl was seen from the A12 sitting on a post and I was able to photograph it briefly from a bit of a distance in the fading light, it then flew hunting over the field and drop down close to the fence before it flew off continuing hunting over the far side of the field.

Spring Migrants at long last!

After spending much of the past few weeks looking for spring migrants, I finally saw 3. After rising very late following the change to summer time, by 11am BST I was watching several singing Meadow Pipits, 6 in total and the odd Sky Lark on the North Denes this morning, there was no sign of the Iceland along either the Beach, groynes or Links rd car park. I then walked over to the new caravan park compound. I finally saw my first Wheatear of the spring, a fine male feeding near the pile of earth by the tractor. Having walked off I bumped into Roy H and his wife at Sparrows Nest car park, I retraced my steps and showed them the Wheatear and Ruth H said there was a second, another fine male Wheatear just to the right of the original bird.
Back at the car park, I looked over the stretch of grass just east of there and I saw 2 Wagtails the first an obvious Pied wagtail but the second was a fine spring male White Wagtail, with pale grey back contrasting with the neatly demarcated black crown and nape. I called over Roy and his wife and they enjoyed this bird before it was flushed after several minutes by 2 children running over to the exact spot where the birds were.

Friday, 25 March 2011

A Nest of Vipers!

Having to use my A/L up, I had a whole day out today.
First up was yet another disappointing trip to Sotterley where, as usual I saw no sign of the Hawfinches. A Treecreeper heard near the entrance, single Nuthatches seen and heard at the Dell and near the church plus a Redwing flying across the entrance field and a calling Chiff- Chaff was the first herald of Spring amongst the common migrants, albeit rather late for my first of the year.
A female Sparrowhawk flying over the Dell caused several of the Tit species to alarm call.
Drving back first eitther a Stoat or Weasel dashed across the road from right to left and a pair of Buzzards soaring over a wood plus a female Sparrowhawk flying over.
Kessingland Sewage works was the next stop and walking down I saw my first butterflies of the year, 2 Small Tortoiseshells and 2 Peacocks near the sewage worksI saw 6 male/ 1st year male Reed Buntings and 4 Pied Wagtails on the sewage beds and an eventually showy Chiff- Chaff called from the trees further down the track. A Little Grebe was heard "winnowing" from the marsh but not seen.

A disappointing morning was followed up by an excellent afternoon of wildlife watching following a quick lunch stop at home. By 1pm I was driving down the track down to an area of local woodland. A fine Brimstone butterfly seen flying by the right hand side of the road.
Walking down the northern most track (following the power lines) I walked 2/3 of the way down and at the usual place I noted my first Comma butterfly of the year and my second Brimstone flying past east. From the area of heather I heard the slithering sound of 2 unidentified snakes plus a few metres west from here I heard yet another slithering sound and I saw a very dark looking young Grass Snake briefly and then the more usual olive-green coloured one, an adult Grass Snake with the usual yellow neck collar marking.
Dog walkers going past a few metres away then forced it to move off. I then walked futher down the track almost to the end and at an area by 2 20 foot tall "distinctive trees". I had the incredible experience of seeing 8 Adders, lying together in pairs just underneath the lower fronds of this tree. 8 Adders all contained within a 2 1/2 metre area. They allowed a close approach and I was just over a metre away from them. This group of 8 were sunbathing and they were "lying" together in pairs, 1 seeking out the other. The males of the group (around 3 seen) seemed to go on regular patrols around the edge of the tree whilst the females seemed to just lie there sunbathing! It was fascinating to see them really flatten their bodies and therefore increase the surface area, so they could soak up as much heat (essential for a cold blooded reptile) from the sunlight as possible.
I left them after taking a few pictures and then walked on to the last bit of heather just before the last pylon and saw another group of 4 Adders briefly sunbathing here too, but I spotted them too late and they all slithered off on my approach. Another Adder, my 13th of the day, was seen right at the end where I had seen some the previous year.
Several groups of Siskin flew over small groups of 4 to 15 (perhaps 60 seen in total), plus 8 chacking Fieldfares flew over here, 2 Crossbills flew over and walking back a Fallow Deer rtan off through the bracken. Near the new clearing, a further 2 Crossbills and a further 8 flew by. A Chiff- Chaff was heard calling too.
Whilst taking the track to the clearing I came across an unfortunate freshly dead Woodcock, it had obviously met its demise by having flown into something solid; a tree trunk/ or lorry maybe? As the bill was damaged half way down with the angle of the bill veering of to the right by some 15 degrees. 

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Jeepers Creeper!

Taking TOIL from work this afternoon, Ricky F and I headed straight down to Landguard after hearing of a Short- toed Treecreeper being trapped early in the morning within the compound. It took a full 1 hour and 20 minutes to get there in the busy afternoon traffic, gone are the days (lower speed limit, increased traffic) when you could get there legally in about an hour! It had been released at Icky ridge and we arrived there at 2.50pm. It hadn't been seen since 2pm when it had been re-trapped within the compound of Landguard Fort and subsequently re-released back onto Icky ridge.
After 40 minutes of checking out the trees along Icky ridge with barely 20 birders present, on the narrow track nearest the compound, a guy indicated he had the bird and we quickly ran over to the spot just a yard from the car park which was directly opposite the compound and the entrance to Landguard Common. The bird had been seen scaling the trunk of a base of a bush and I saw something, a bird, fly left behind a concrete basal post. Sure enough the bird scaling the trunk of the bush just 30 feet away was the excellent Short- toed Treecreeper, showing very extensive buffy flanks, its most obvious ID feature, as well as showing a slightly longer bill and a hint of a white supercilia behind the eye (not in front of it), we couldn't quite make out the wing pattern though. We watched it for a couple of minutes before at 3.30pm, it flew over our heads and back into the compound. A real mega for Suffolk, a first for Suffolk and it brought up all the 3's in bingo parlance, my 333rd species seen in Suffolk.

At Holton disused airfield not much seen there save for 15 Fieldfare which flew over north "chacking."

Monday, 21 March 2011

Mxy Rabbit

Sadly, a  Mxy rabbit (a Rabbit suffering from Mxymatosis) was seen stood right in the middle of the Hales road, looking very sorry for itself, at 9.50pm as I drove back from collecting Jenny from Norwich airport this evening.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Union Jack bird!

Hot footing it over to Carlton marshes on hearing there was a Bluethroat, I met regular correspondent Paul W at the car park and we trudged down to the area of Whitecast marshes where it had been seen. Ricky F was following us behind and I briefly congratulated Richard S on an excellent find, as he made his way back along the path. Eventually, we reached a small crowd (including Andrew E, OFB, Chris M, Roy H and his wife) by a turnstyle over looking a boggy field dissected by a marshy dyke on the left hand side. We waited around 3/4 hour before Matt D arrived and after half an hour he ventured forward and as it turned out, rather fortuitously flushed the skulking Bluethroat, it flew left over the path and into the reeds. I thought I may have seen the chestnut- brown panels in the tail. However, what wasn't it doubt, when it promptly hopped out, was the superb White- Spotted Bluethroat (but just at that moment some dog walkers chose to walk through the turnstyle and they very kindly held back so we could admire the bird for a few minutes) and it fed on the edge of the path. As usual, a brightly coloured Spring bird. It sported a very patriotic union jack- coloured breast, red or should that be chestnut brown (thick lower breast/ belly band) underneath a gorgeous chevron of metallic blue on its mid breast with a dash of very prominent persil- white in the middle. A real cracker of a bird and it showed a white supercilia before the eye too, as it hopped around mostly behind bits of grass. We even heard it singing its scratchy song on at least 2 occasions!
It then flew into the reeds again and it was only when some further dog walkers walked past that the Bluethroat popped out onto the path albeit a few metres further away showing for a few minutes.
It then flew north along the main path and into a thick bush, where it was seeen briefly but I then had a cracking flight view as it flew right and past us showing off its chestnut-brown tail panels off to a tee. We (Carl B and I)  then saw it very close briefly by the turnsyle barely 20 feet away but alas, it was obscured by grass in the foreground. It then worked its way away west along a dyke.
We crossed a boggy field and 3 Common Snipe flew up singularly and finally we saw the Bluethroat perched in a bush by the dyke and then hopping in a grassy area beyond this.
This bird was my first White- spot Bluethraot for Lowestoft and Lizard area having missed the previous Ness Point March 24 2001 bird, a good catch- up bird, I just need an Isabelline in the Lizard area now!
Finally a low flying Common Buzzard flew south over the visitors centre.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Redwings Over

Several Redwings flying east over the house tonight their "pssst" calls heard as they flew over.
Also at Brundall Library this morning it seems a pair of Blue Tit have got in under the eaves and a tapping sound can be head first on the east and then the south walls, prospecting for a nest site?
Will that be in the fiction or non- fiction section!!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

More Sotterley woe!

Following a blank yesterday, I decided to try again following Dick's sightings of LSW and 4 Hawfinch at Sotterley this morning. Meeting Neville L at the turnstyle at 1pm he said he'd had no luck and despite a 2 hour thorough search of the area, all I saw were 2 Nuthatch near the church, a Goldcrest, a flock of 20 Fieldfare with 110 Starling in the field east of the church, a Marsh Tit in the tree walking back plus 1 Treecreeper seen and another heard in the park near the turnstyle.
I have toted up my totals and I have been a total of 34 times to Sotterley (the first 3X I went round the chapel thinking that was the church and the area to check!) with not even a sniff of a LSW and just 1 albeit very close (before I had my current camera set-up) sighting of a Hawfinch.
A very, very poor return indeed.

North Denes quest

A thorough look around Lowestoft's North Denes yesterday Saturday 12 March, following another unsuccessful quest at Sotterley revealed the Iceland Gull on the third groyne south of the car park. A trio of bird photographers were on the beach and I scoured the Denes thoroughly for any sign of a Wheatear but failed miserably to see one. On the rocks of the old sea wall, a group of 4 Purple Sandpipers flew in before all flying to the area just east of the compass at the point. I then turned my attention to 2 Rock Pipit which flew in quite close on the rocks just to the right of me, before flying off again. By the compass at the Point, I counted 5 Purple Sandpipers and 16 Turnstone, whilst 2 elegant Kittiwake flew south close inshore. 
Walking back along the Denes, having checked both the Netposts and the Oval, I saw the 1st winter Iceland Gull flying its slow languid flight flying south in very good light, along the seawall, sadly I was 50 yards away on the Denes to take full photographic advantage. Back at the groynes near the car park, the Iceland Gull was seen initially on the third groyne, busy preening itself before flying south along the sea and then back again, where it settled on the 2nd groyne south of the car park at a slightly closer range. Finally a second spring Mediterranean Gull with 2 black wing markings near each the primary tip and a black hood (but with white around the base of it's bill) was seen wheeling around some fishermen on the beach just north of the end of Link's road.
Also a male House Sparrow on the far left fatball feeders at the end of the garden today, plus a Stock Dove that flew west over the garden towards Parkhill hotel grounds.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Fisher Row goodies

Walking down the entrance hill, I had the good fortune to meet Don & Gwen who gave very good directions for the Green Sand and after an enjoyable conversation, I took the right most path, over the fields and the railway line and looked north along the dyke running parallel and just west of the railway line. Sure enough, I spotted the excellent Green Sandpiper walking away and up to the bend before it changed its mind and started walking back sometimes venturing out a metre or so into the dyke, I was hoping it would continue feeding closer and closer but it then retraced its steps. This Green sandpiper was my first ever sighting of this species at Fisher Row, my first for Lowestoft and a 2nd for the Lizard area following a sighting of a Green Sandpiper at Fritton marshes in January 2009. Walking along the dyke wall I spotted 90 Wigeon in the fields and by then a Little Egret flew south over the fields over my head and settled in the overflow area sandwiched between the dyke path and the river, I scouted round and was hopeful of getting some shots of it in the pit but sadly it saw me as I crawled down to the fence and it flew east again.
In the lagoon at Horseshoe point I spotted the Ferruginous Duck with a pair of Tufted Duck and around 5 Coot. They were on the far (southern) side and then swam and promptly fell asleep by the far western side. I managed a few shots from the river path and then walked east to the main Fisher Row path. From the wooded area, a total 21 Redwings called and flew north.
At the sloping field 53 Jackdaws were seen and a pair of Bullfinches were heard calling their mournful "peuu" calls. Just before the entrance path, I looked east and perched near the top a large bush was a fine Redwing. Finally, a Jackdaw was seen in the horse field opposite the church car park.

Links Road CP Gulls & Firecrest in the Wood

A somewhat belated foray in the field today (another A/L day to use up and waiting for my camera battery to charge up, a silly mistake should have checked this the night before!) and eventually at 10.30am, I was watching the Gull flock with Mike P at the Link's road car park. Mike P, together with Danny P are in my opinion, the best digi-scopers in Suffolk and get some excellent shots between them. It is harder to get good shots through the scope rather than using a camera and lens. 
The 1st winter Iceland Gull was initially sitting amongst the flock but soon got up and flew over to the puddle where I obtained further shots.
I then left Mike to it and decided to explore Warren House Wood, some crests calling around the western edge; where it adjoins some back gardens warranted further investigation. This was immediately rewarded with views of a Firecrest perched on a branch just off the main trunk of an ivy clad tree. The Firecrest then flew to bushes behind and further fleeting views of the Firecrest were seen here too. Gunton Warren revealed just 1 Linnet, whilst back at the car apek I could see a Med Gull, with some white around the base of it's bill, otherwise in full summer plumage. Further investigation revealed it to be another old Lowestoft regular "Stumpy" an adult Mediterranean Gull, who as its name implies has half its right leg missing, just below the "knee joint" of the tibia, ie. most of the tarsus was missing. The bird was obviously an adult with almost full black hood, with a little white around the base of the bill, red eye liner and white half crescent bordering above and below the eye.
It then sat down and I managed a few shots. Also present were 1st, 2nd winter and adult Common Gulls plus around 90 Black- headed Gulls. The Iceland Gull then flew in briefly before the whole flock was spooked by something and flew around the car park with most birds electing to settle again, except the Iceland Gull that flew west and back over the car aprk towards the sea.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Sorry Sotterley saga continues

A visit this morning to Sotterley revealed 2 sightings of calling Nuthatches one by the Dell and 1 north- west of the church. Whilst a flock of 9 Fieldfare flew north over the Dell. It was nice to see a few Primroses flowering around the Dell. Hearing reports of up to 5 Hawfinches being seen at the Dell, I'd settle for just 1, but rather predictably again I struggled to see any Hawfinches (what a surprise!). I've only ever seen 1 bird in about 30 attempts and I never did get to see the Woodpeckers here either. This site has taken over from Breydon Water (where I have done rather well recently) as the site where I have dipped the most (ie. not seen the birds I was expecting to see ie. in this case Hawfinches). I could never be year lister rushing after different species to see in one year,with my luck I just wouldn't see some of the birds I was expected to see.

Gulls on the catwalk!

An extremely productive and satisfying photo shoot on Link's road car park this morning, with the stars of the catwalk or should that be the car park showing really well. The 1st winter Iceland Gull was in the south east corner of the car park on the edge of the flock of Gulls, mainly Black- headed but there was a 1st winter Common Gull amongst them too. The Iceland Gull was very obliging and was even walking around to within 10 feet of the car, which I used as a mobile hide. The light was very good so I was able to manually select low ISO setting such as 160 and 200 ISO.
The Iceland Gull posed really well and by the side of a puddle too. As I looked back at the flock I could see 2 Mediterranean Gulls, both adults, one in stunning full summer plumage and the other almost in full summer garb with a just a little white by the base of its bill.
The full sp one was having ago at the other which flew off. As I looked at the remaining adult Mediterranean Gull, I noted it had a green ring on its right leg, the number was 3XA9 it was the bird I have seen on 2 previous occasions for the last 3 years at this site. Originally ringed in Belgium on 17 May 2004 as a 3rd calendar year bird by Renaud F (so it will be 10 years old this year! See my post for 23 Nov 2009 for a fuller history of the bird) ) the Med Gull tends to alternate sites spending the winters at Lowestoft and the summer at Belgium and I will be e-mailing him and Camille D (in France who are conducting this excellent ringing scheme) tonight with the latest sighting!
It was really great to be re-acquainted with this Gull, (I had seen 3XA9 on 2 previous occasions 28 Dec 2007 and 15 Nov 2009) and it is just like seeing an old friend after a long absence and it obliged beautifully for a couple of shots at just 10 feet away (again using the car as a hide) before it ran back a couple of paces (see the result at the header to this blog!)
POSTSCRIPT 13/2/11 Just checked my pictures and the near full sp Med Gull is Stumpy, no wonder it was a little unsteady on its one foot!

Mole Hills

Just back from a trip to London (Monday) to see Jenny's brother's family and to take loads of digital shots of artefacts in the British Museum and I was surprised to discover 5 mole hills at the back of the garden just behind the bird bath.