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Saturday, 30 April 2011

White-winged Black & Bittern at Minsmere

Somewhat contradictory BINS messages stating there was a White-winged Black tern, then it was a Black and then back to White-winged Black again on the North scrape at Minsmere. It took a ridiculous hour just to get through Lowestoft the traffic was the worst I have ever seen. Plus I had to stop and remove a dead tree that had blocked the road just before Westleton.
I finally walked into the North hide at 12.30pm nobody had the bird so scanning around I saw 3 Ruff (1 male) and 3 sp Bar- tailed Godwit. Finally I picked up the excellent White- winged Black Tern, with all black head, body and underwing coverts (with just a little white around the base of the bill) and contrasting white upperwings. A super bird, my first British one since 1996 when I famously saw one at a virtually deserted Southwold (how unusual is that?!) when I and another birder had a full adult sp bird to ourselves flying around the groynes during England's football semi- final game against West Germany first half during Euro 1996!
The White- Winged Black Tern flew along the south section of the scrape flying east past the tank traps in the back ground and almost reaching the public hide and back again.
OFB and Richard W entered and we left the hide and walking back we heard and saw a Lesser Whitethroat and heard a Nightingale briefly in the bushes too. 2 Red Admirals seen near the North bushes. Just outside the East hide looking from the tank traps concrete blocks the the Tern was now flying on the middle of the Scrape between West and East Scrape. From East Scrape the bird was flying up and down a muddy spit intersecting east/ west scrape, constantly flying over the same area obviously finding a rich source of flies. Close to East Scrape were 2 and 3 ie. 5 sp Bar-tailed Godwit, a Shovelor, Barnacle Goose and a male Pintail another male Pintail seen further back too.
At this point Paul & Jane, Ali R, Chris M and Peter N entered the hide. 
Later on, by the north bushes I heard a Nightingale and saw it briefly flit through the bushes while we unsuccessfully waited for the Nightingale to reappear I observed 2 Small Copper butterflies seen on the grass and photographed. A Whitethroat sang from the top of a bush briefly too. By the pond in the old car park, a 4 Spotted Chaser and Hairy Hawker dragonflies seen flying around and briefly perched on the reeds too.
At Island Mere, a male Marsh Harrier was seen briefly quartering the reeds and a Sand Martin overhead then a Bittern was seen in the reedy area directly in front of the hide about 30 yards away, the bird walked towards the dyke running directly running away from the hide. The bird stuck it's head up a few times then followed the path of the dyke towards the hide and then walked towards some tall reeds and reedmace to the right of the hide where incredibly it started booming and I could actually see the Bittern booming as it crouched down its body expanding and contracting as it boomed, a first as I have never before seen a Bittern boom; an exhilarating experience!
The bird then walked towards a small pool area close to the hide before disappearing from view. As we were leaving briefly saw Paul W.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Woodchat saves the Spring?

Not one for staying in watching the Royal Wedding, although I am grateful for the additional piad day off work, I was out around the North Denes this morning, the Iceland Gull is still about and perched on the groynes just off the end of Link's Road. The Oval had the usual Wood Pigeon's plus a Stock Dove the in the north- west corner. Sneaking round the walled perimeter, 2 Wood Pigeons flew up and flushed the Stock Dove off before I could photograph it. A male Wheatear seen on the mown area of grass just east of the Sparrow's Nest car park.
A Suffolk BINS message confirming that a Woodchat Shrike was seen along the end of Butt's Lane at 11.45am this morning between Spexhill and Westall (between Beccles and Halesworth)
I drove there navigating through a whole swathe of minor roads via Ellough and Weston and Riseborough, reaching Butt Lane I drove the length of it and at the end where it became a "T" junction a load of cars confirmed where the bird was. Parking and walking to the end I saw OFB, Richard W, Roy, Ali R, Dick W and I was soon enjoying my first scarce bird for sometime a wonderful adult Woodchat Shrike perched on telegraph wires perched near the pole. It flew down several times to the ground and was successful in catching prey at least once. 
Driving back, 2 Swallows were seen on wires and up to 5 scolding Lesser Whitethroats heard.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Easter Monday (One to forget)

Very little seen around Gunton Pitch and Putt although both Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat heard from near the entrance to Corton woods. 
A look at Corton Old sewage works revealed a female Wheatear within the compound and 2 male Orange Tips flying around. I was then attacked by a dog along Corton cliffs (it didn't draw blood but it was mighty scary! Did I predict this? See my 4 April post, again no apology from the owner who should have had their dog under control) and that put paid to birding for the rest of the day.
Whilst recuperating at home my spirits were lifted by seeing 2 feeding Dunnocks on the back lawn.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Scorching Lound (temperature not the birds!)

An unseasonally hot morning at Lound this morning revealed a couple of Orange Tip (male) butterflies by the causeway and I heard my first scolding call of a Lesser Whitethroat of the year.
Further the mournful calls eventually revealed a fine male Bullfinch that briefly posed in atree over hanging the road. A faint but distinctive call of a Cuckoo, also my first of the year.
A Sedge Warbler sang from deep within a bush.
A look around Ashby revealed little.
In the garden at 2.15pm this afternoon a fine male Orange Tip was seen flying around.
The Dunnock was seen again on the lawn this time in the back garden.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Nothing doing

I have tried all week looking for Rouzels checking the Oval and both sewage works at Corton with no success whatsoever, they are often very difficult to catch up in Spring and after finding my own for the past 2 Spring's this one is like a return to the poor returns I normally have. 
This Spring's dipping sequence looks as if it might break all records as I have also missed the Monty's at Kessingland last sunday too and the Slarks again and am still waiting to see a Kite this Spring despite constant scrutiny of the skies.
Thursday 21 April- a Yellow Wagtail (new record albeit only heard) called flying over the garden but not seen.
Friday 22 April- a House Martin flew over the garden.
Saturday 23 April- A morning trip to the local woodland revealed just 1 smart male Adder seen on the edge of the woods and around the base of a tree at the start of the good area. 
Later Common Terns 6 and 4 flew north over the sea at Gorleston beach and 6 and 4 Little Terns flew south also, my first of the year and again early records.
Another look at Corton late afternoon revealed just a Green Woodpecker along the track and another behind the sewage work and 2 male Wheatear within the old Sewage works compound were the only birds seen. A very poor return.
A lull in the constant disturbance outside the house allowed a Dunnock which was seen feeding on the handkerchief sized patch of grass in the front garden, an almost unheard of sighting with the usually constant and incessant screaming of kids which we are usually subjected too.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Kessingland Blues & first 2011 Orchids

An early morning look at Kessingland, the first surprise were 2 wind turbines and big ones too that have suddenly sprung up just south of Kessingland Wildlife Park/ African Safari park either side of the A12! A look at the sluice and the beach area sluice yet again failed to reveal any Shore Lark, and I met someone who claimed a Pallid Swift sitting on the Pillbox at Benacre! Was this the notorious stringer/ wind-up merchant who has been claiming birds such as the Rustic Bunting at Southwold recently and maybe the Rufous Turtle Dove at Barsham yesterday?? Anyway he was tall slim (6 ft 2) short dark hair and in his thirties, so watch out! I didn't see anything there save for a House Martin flying south.
For the fifth time of asking I have missed the Shore Lark at the Sluice (rapidly becoming my hoodoo like the infamous Hawfinch at Sotterley) , whenever I go the place is overrun by people and dogs!
Absolutely nothing else noted save for a calling Whitethroat, heard only.
A trip to a local tourist attraction revealed up to 5 spikes of Early Purple Orchid just starting to come into flower.
An afternoon visit with Jenny to Hillcrest garden nursery revaled my first Orange- tip, a glorious male that briefly alighted on a flower. Nearby in Haddiscoe woods, I briefly saw a Holly Blue butterfly by a cottage and we were treated to a glorious blue carpet display of Bluebells, flowering unfeasably early this year and almost at their best.

A mini- fall of Wheatears

Yesterday, Saturday 16th April I had look around the North Denes, the Iceland Gull was perched on the groyne just south of the newly, ghastly named Dene Ting caravan site (old Took's shop).
There were several Wheatears seen one male briefly on the concrete block before it was scared off by the inevitable dog, it took sanctuary together with 2 other Wheatears, so there were 3 Wheatear (2 male and 1 female) within the compound of the newly named Caravan site.
A couple called me back and I identified the Turnstones about 12 seen on the seaweed encrusted rocks of the old seawall and amongst them were 3 Purple sandpiper. The Iceland Gull stood and then sat on one of the posts of the groyne which I pointed out.
A look around Corton revealed 3 Wheatear within the old Sewage works (2 male, 1 female) and 4 Wheatear (3 male and 1 female) on the ploghed field just east of there.
Whilst looking north, around 40 Sand Martin flew in the sky, several prospecting for nests by the cliff, up to 6 Swallows seen too.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

A steady trickle of migrants

Monday 11th April (early morning) felt like a return to winter, with the temperature plunging 10 degrees (from the summery 21 degrees celsius we had been enjoying) and a strong north, north-west wind as I checked the Oval and the North Denes no migrants were seen and appropriately the only notable bird seen was the Iceland Gull on the groynes, on one nearer Ness Point.
Wednesday 13th April early evening, a trip to Fisher Row on a somewhat gloomy and cool-tinged evening revealed up to 5 singing Willow Warblers, the first seen singing from a Willowy bush just left from the bottom of the entrance hill. A Muntjac Deer crossed the railway line. A Chiff- Chaff seen just past the bowl and by Horseshoe point pool, 2 Gadwall (male and female), 4 Egyptian Geese and 2 Wigeon (again a pair were seen), up to 8 Reed Bunting flew up from the reeds nearly all were males. A Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling here and another heard from Rist's Marsh. Also on the return path by Rist's Marsh, a Sedge warbler was heard singing from within the undergrowth.
Up to 4 Blackcap heard singing by the wooded area and 2 singing Chiff- Chaff and another Muntjac deer seen on the marsh too.

Monday, 11 April 2011

New Arrivals

On Thurs 7th April, I heard my first Whitethroat of the year singing merrily away at the western end of our road.
On Saturday 9th April. A trip to Waxham, parking at the bend in the road and taking the path heading east and then south along the top of the Dunes, eventually saw me looking out over the fields just north and east of Poplar farm and with Neil M I saw 2 very distant Dotterel, a male and more brightly attired female running around in the field around the 3rd post marker in the background. At one stage they flew off and west in the direction of Heigham Homes but I am reliably informed they flew back, I had departed by this stage. 2 Swallow flew south along the dunes as we walked back.
Sunday 9th April, at the end of Link's Road the excellent Iceland Gull was perched on the groyne preening and maybe preparing for its long journey back north?
Looking down on the Denes by the Oval I could see Don & Gwen and they were looking at 3 Wheatear 2 male and 1 female by the water tap.
A walk along Kessingland Dunes revealed a Swallow flying around the sluice but no sign of the hoped for Shore Larks. A Sand Martin flying north was my belated first of the year.
2 Wheatears (both males; one seen at the back of the sluice on the fence and 1 flying west over the Dunes walking back) concluded my trip.
A look in the local woodland revealed just 5 Adders (3 very smart males in silver/ black scaly suits and 2 more sombrely attired females) just before and after the best area where incredibly a whole family had gathered and were having their picnic. Of all the places to set up! A look around the area after they had gone failed to reveal any further Snakes which had understandably fled the scene. It was obvious from the smart males that several of the Adders had shed their old skin and 1 shed skin was found just before the main area.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Lowestoft Dipping & Dicing with Death!

A visit to Link's road car park very early in the morning and check of the North beach revealed nothing, indeed I haven't seen the Iceland Gull for several weeks now (last seen by me 12 March). If I'd stayed 2 hours I would have seen the WT eagle that flew over, but work beckoned.
A brief check at Breydon south shore at lunchtime after just receiving a BINS message that was 2 hours too late (!!), informing me that the WT Eagle had just been seen at Breydon revealed little, save for travellers camping near the car park with Rottweillers and Bull Terriers which didn't encourage me to stay for long. I've learnt to be very wary as I have been bitten before by traveller's dogs (during the fair near the Lowestoft netposts one Easter, where you all saw your Isabelline Wheatear last year, guess who didn't see it!), attacked by a Bull Terrier at Fisher Row which kept charging into me and a Rottweiller attacked me once on Hounslow Heath pulling me to the ground, luckily I escaped unhurt but very shaken! No apology from the owner whatsoever. I do not have a prejudice against dogs and even like the ones that don't attack me or bark at me. I have even been shot at by travellers whilst birdwatching in Donkey Wood near Feltham in West London.

I hope this isn't the start of my infamous dipping sequences as I have now missed Cattle Egret and WT Eagle in the local area over the last few days. Sounds ominously like a start of very long dipping sequence. 

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Return of the Swallows

A look down Oulton Marshes this afternoon, in the hope that the reported WT Eagle might fly past (as I was already down there) as it was flying south from the Norfolk Broads, produced instant dividends when I heard a singing male Blackcap at the bottom of the entrance hill and 30 yards right from there.
It flew across the track and was chased by another male Blackcap, my first of the year.
Down by the river track, I heard the familiar call of Swallows and 2 excellent Swallows flew past and west over Peto's marsh. A nice early date. On the marshes were 2 Shelduck and several Greylag (15) and Canada Geese (10). Constant scanning of the horizon revealed just a distant Marsh Harrier and no other sought after raptors.
A Snipe flew over calling and flew north. Up to 4 Chiff- Chaffs heard and 2 Green Woodpecker flew in the tall trees of the copse and a hole under the divisive "V" of main branches from the top looked suspiciously like a potential nest hole.
Cetti's Warbler were heard along the dissecting path but not seen. A lot of people either walking dogs (2 groups), cycling (2 people) (always just before I walked down any of the paths of the reserve) or even setting up a camp fire (5 people with motorbikes!!) at the bowl led to a lot of disturbance of the area and consequently nothing else was seen. 

Record tally of Adders

On Saturday 2nd April in the afternoon, I saw a record tally of Adders, 22 to be precise (19 male and 3 female) all in the 3 main areas near the end of the track in the local woodland. many were basking in groups in the sun, several lying together in pairs. A grass snake seen 2/3 of the way down the track briefly too.
No sign of any raptors despite an hours vigil at Ashby & Lound.