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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Another Hummer

At around 7.30am this morning the garden was alive the calls of young Blue Tits, surely the ones that had recently fledged from the nest box on the garage wall. I counted at least 6 young birds and the 2 adult Blue Tits busy feeding them by the holly bush, the Honeysuckle and the Jasmine, and I was able to obtain some shots of the young at close range from the bedroom window. 
Taking A/L as we having cavity wall insulation being put in today by British Gas, I was really pleased to see a Hummingbird Hawk Moth feeding from the pink flowers of a type of Red Valerian (last seen feeding from this plant on 10 and 21 July 2010, this plant is rapidly becoming one of my favourites!) in the garden just outside the kitchen window between 1:56 and 1:58pm this afternoon. As soon as I retrieved my camera it was off and flew west. Here's hoping bit comes back soon for more prolonged views and I can get some pics next time!
UPDATE: the Hummingbird Hawk Moth was back again briefly at 3:06pm on the lower flowers of the Red Valerian and late evening the Blue Tit family were back at the back of the garden.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Mettingham walks

A look this morning at Mettingham walks revealed 1 then another Bee Orchid in full flower, my first seen at this site, plus further back in the vegetation Southern Marsh Orchids, around 30 seen, there was also 2 Pyramidal orchids starting to flower, a Yellowhammer was also heard.
Around the roadside reserve several 30 Spotted Orchids and a few 4 Pyramidal Orchids were just starting to flower.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Needle in a Hay stack

A visit on Sunday 29 May to Gressenhall Museum/ Workhouse led afterwards to a visit to nearby Foxley Wood and we parked in the third of the car parks and I walked right to the start of the walk. Getting into the wood proper, I heard a Turtle Dove "purring" (first sighting for 2011) by some bushes and the Turtle Dove  flew right into a tree and was seen briefly perched before it flew. I then took some time trying to find Orchids, Spotted Orchids were starting to flower and were easy to see. At one point through the woods, a Roe Deer crossed the path from right to left right in front of me! The Greater Butterfly Orchid, a fantastic orchid to see, it was finally seen after several hours searching and entirely coincidently as I had given up and was trying to find my way back to the car park. The light was very poor and it was difficult to photograph as you couldn't get the preferred side on ground level view because the orchid was caged and not as in good condition as the one I had seen at Parkgate Down in Kent a few years ago. Caging Orchids particularly rare ones such as this is now necessary to protect them from harm especially in this location.

Three out of Four ain't bad

On Saturday 28th May an early morning visit to Breydon ultimately reaped dividends as the Broad- billed Sandpiper was seen out of the middle mud, the split supercilium could just out be made out, the back braces and flank streaking plus the stooped posture and slightly smaller size compared to Dunlins nearby. The bird was feeding and occasionally settled for 40 winks or so for a few minutes before feeding again. 2 Sanderling (in summer plumage) also seen plus Curlew. 
A trip in the mid afternoon to Minsmere RSPB, by reception, I saw regular correspondent Paul W, who was just leaving he'd seen all the birds including the elusive Purple Heron. I also bumped into Danny P.
First stop, armed with Paul's info, was East Scrape hide and on taking my sear I instantly saw "Fiona", the escaped Greater Flamingo who was busy feeding at the back of the east Scrape, just in front of a long bank just right of central area. She spent most of her time with head in the water feeding. A chap very kindly pointed out the Spoonbill (new 2011) again at the same distance this time left of centre. The bird was preening and then promptly went to sleep. 
Looking at the 3 islands just to the left of centre I was pleased to see the Little Stint (new 2011) feeding on the left hand edge of the island it walked out of sight behind the island then walked into view.
Also on the Scrape were several Avocet including 2 young, a Barnacle Goose on the island right in front of East hide and a drake Shelduck just left of the hide. To the right were 17 Dunlin (9 summer plumaged birds) and 11 Black -tailed Godwits.
A look from Bittern hide was unsuccessful in seeing the Purple Heron despite a 2 hour vigil. However I did see 4 Marsh harriers flying about (2 males and 2 females) the female Marsh harrier often flew close past the hide.
2 different Bitterns were seen in flight. A Hobby (new for 2011) flew out of the wood and low over the marsh before flying high up and across Sizewell power station in the distance. 6 Red Deer were seen in a pool far right plus 2 Red Deer crossed a stream to the right of the hide and walked away. Sand Martin and several Swift also seen.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Memories of Jimmy

It was with great sadness that I learnt that Jimmy R had passed away this week. A great loss to all who knew him and the elder statesman of Lowestoft and Suffolk birding. 
It was always a delight to bump into Jimmy and his wife whilst out birding. I was pleased to get him onto 2 Savi's warblers I had found once. 
I remember a time in the early 1980's/1990's when I'd often bump into Jimmy whilst out birding the local patches. Jimmy would always let you know what he'd seen and give 
One of my fondest recollections of Jimmy was him recounting his witnessing the "Great Fall of 1965" when on the 2nd September a great fall of migrants had been seen on the North Suffolk and East Norfolk coast. I remember Jimmy telling me about seeing scores of Wheatear dropping onto the roads and pavements in Lowestoft and in particular many Redstarts dropping into Sparrows Nest park and even several alighting onto his arms and shoulders while he was out birding there.
Jimmy was an excellent field birder who found many rarities and the initials JRR were always in the Suffolk Bird report against many rarities in the Lowestoft and North Suffolk area in the 1960's, 1970's, 1980's and 1990's reporting the many rarities ie: Honey Buzzard over the the Oval at Lowestoft  that he had found. 
However his one source of regret in birding was that his best find a Blue cheeked Bee-eater at Covehithe (it definitely was one, his description was spot on) which inexplicably the BBRC rejected as a single observer record for such a great rarity.

Fledged Birds

Great excitement this evening when I saw the young Blue Tits fly the nest. One had flown this afternoon and was seen "bumbling around" the foliage by the nest box and even seen perched on the washing line. When I arrived home at 5.30pm one was seen perched on the vegetation just below the top beam of the pergola (just 2 feet away from the nestbox). 
When I went outside a recently fledged young Great Tit was seen by he pergola foliage and a family of at least 6 (2 adults and 4 youngsters).
At 7.15pm a soft thud heard from the conservatory, I looked out and my guess was right as to what had caused the sound. A recently fledged Blue Tit having left the sanctity of the nestbox had flown into the conservatory window! Another young very recently fledged Blue Tit was lying its wings outspread completely dazed (its head and upperback covered by aubretia flowers) when I went outside I was relieved to see it was still breathing. After a few minutes it flew up to the foliage by the washing line container attached to side of the garage and hopped up to the back of the foliage before flying to the back of the garden.
A late message from BINS had me driving up the A12 and joining a small throng of birders at 9.10pm on Breydon South Wall looking for a BB Sand, Justin L had the bird very briefly amongst a small flock of Dunlin. Justin gave great direction as to where the bird was before they all flew to Burgh Castle but the distance and the light were so poor that I wasn't even able to pick out the bird with my antedeluvian Kowa TSN 3 30X scope, the birds were just silhouettes and even the slightly smaller distinctive crouched shape and hook tipped bill of the could not even be made out (by me), another depressing dip in this great Spring of dips.
A cuckoo was heard calling from the copse behind the car park.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

An early Hummer!

The continued dry and hot spell ultimately provided great excitement today when I discovered an early Hummingbird Hawk Moth feeding off the nectar from several orange flowered Honeysuckle plants that are growing up on the western wall (of the Salvation Army building) of the Great Yarmouth Library Community garden. It was seen at 3pm when the wall was bathed in sunlight. The garden has been initiated through Big Lottery funding to give oppourtunities to those not in work and wanting to build their skills and confidence. The garden is very well tended by volunteers and the excellent range of wildlife friendly plants and bushes is now reaping dividends!
A look along Gunton cliffs this evening for a reported Quail seen in flight (inevitably yet another dip!) has put the seal on what is for me one the poorest Spring's (for me seeing rarities and in migrants on my patch) that I can remember, there's been quite a few good birds but I've missed most of them, at least other wildlife is providing some compensation though!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Broad- bodied Chasers

A look around Corton Sewage works on Saturday 21st May afternoon was relatively birdless despite the bright but windy weather, however the walk was enlivened by several showy Broad- bodied Chaser dragonflies, which posed beautifully for the camera. Firstly, a female Orange Tip and then a male Orange Tip butterfly were seen around the board walk. A female Broad- bodied Chaser by the boardwalk who kept returning to the same perches on brambles and a bush where I was eventually able to get really close and finally get some good shots of this species of Dragonfly. Secondly, by the sewage sludge pool, after I left a dog walker had let her dog wallow in the filth! Not only inconsiderate to the local wildlife (a trend I am witnessing more of especially at Fisher Row) but also to the health of her "beloved" dog. I returned some twenty minutes later and by the side of the pool another female Broad- bodied Chaser was oviposting on the water, a Red- eyed Damselfly and variable Damselfly also seen. 2 male Broad- bodied Chasers clashed and chased each other over the water and 1 male was eventually very obliging. Earlier I had stuck some sticks in the water by the edge hoping to provide perches and the male conveniently repeatedly perched on one of these and the bush by the edge of the water.
Some 3 Speckled wood butterflies were seen by the copse and another male Orange Tip on the return path bordering the road.
The only birds noted were singing Wren and Chiff- Chaff.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Chats, 'Tears & Young 'Uns!

Tuesday 10th May saw the first Swifts (4) over the house plus I heard the first scolding Lesser Whitethroat from the house too.
On Friday I saw a strange Caterpillar on the brick wall in the Library car park, not sure what it is but I suspect its the larvae of a moth, but which one? Will post pic later.
I also discovered that the nest box (the high pitched tiny whisping calls were a giveaway!) I put up on the west facing wall of the garage now has a brood of young Blue Tits and both parents are working tirelessly and diligently bringing food regularly to their offspring some times flying back once a minute. I have also witnessed one of the adults taking a white foecal sac out with its bill and disposing of it somewhere on Fallowfields meadow.
Saturday 14th May I looked around both Corton Old Sewage works (where there were an impressive 5 Wheatears, 3 male and 2 female perched on the raised grassy turf) and the New sewage works where in the extreme south west corner by the edge of the path a female Whinchat, my first of the year, perched on the posts and fence here and was reasonably confiding. 
A young birder who was also here (sorry don't know his name) said he'd just seen some Whinchats on the North Denes and so I drove down there. Initially I saw the Iceland Gull perched on Gunton beach but it was soon spooked by dog walkers and it perched on the end post of the groyne, 5 along north of Link's road. Walking out from the car park I immediately saw 3 Whinchats (2 females and 1 very smart male) perched on tall vegetation amongst the weedy area plus by some rocks by the path at the slope of the cliffs were 2 Wheatears, 1 male and 1 female Wheatear.
A female Sparrowhawk soared high west over the garden then dived and stopped down onto Fallowfields meadow.
4 Swift flew over the garden late afternoon on Sunday 15th May and the Green Woodpecker flew west over the back fence at 6.24pm this evening.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Another Suffolk Mega dipped

Bitter disappointment when en route to Minsmere late afternoon as I was forced to abort the planned trip, owing to the Audouin's Gull which had been since midday flying off at 16.20 hours.
Instead, I looked around the beaches of Lowestoft in the vain hope the bird had doubled back, it hadn't. I was lucky enough to finally get my May sighting of the Iceland Gull which was perched on the groyne 50 yards north of Link's Road car park, initially it was sitting and then it stood up and then sat down again. A fine bird looking a little whiter in plumage and a more two toned (dark- tipped bill) and dark eye.
Around 10 Kittiwakes flew south past Ness Point including one bird flying very close in over the defence rocks.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Slowly does it.

A tiny but very pretty moth, a Small Yellow Underwing (a dark brown Moth with a bright yellow underwing, an appropriately named Moth!) flew onto one of our Lavender plants at 11.30am today, in the sunshine in the back garden, nipping in to get the camera, it was obviously camera shy as it flew immediately over to the Lavender bush in the middle of the garden and disappeared as the sun was masked by cloud. This Moth is a day flying moth and only seen flying in sunshine, unusual for a Moth.
Later on I photographed an obliging Drone Fly on the Lavender bush. This Fly has 2 distinctive chestnut coloured wedge shaped markings on its abdomen.
A very pleasant walk through a reasonably local Bluebell wood, parking first at the churchyard revealed a Chiff- Chaff singing in plain view from a dead tree and a concealed Willow Warbler singing nearby in the Churchyard.
As we were walking along the bordered path at the start of the wood, I noticed a curled brown strand on the path which looked vaguely familiar. Stooping down I was delighted to find it was an excellent Slowworm, it hadn't moved (Jenny was in front of me and she was concerned she had accidently stood on it, I'm sure she hadn't) and I was concerned as to its health as it hadn't moved for some time, until its head popped up and this excellent legless Lizard posed beautifully for the camera, easily my most obliging Slowworm to date!
Having performed a faultless photoshoot (I had my 150mm Macro lens with me), the light was reasonable and I could use F5.6 aperture on an ISO 400 speed, the Slowworm then slowly moved round and then headed back to the fence and moved swiftly off when Jenny tried to touch it (not a good idea as it might jettison its tail as a defence mechanism from predators, fortunately it didn't do this, somehow I think we'll have to have a talk about fieldcraft later!!)
Later on a male Orange Tip butterfly flew past us by the Bluebell wood, composed almost entirely of English Bluebells but I noticed a few of the more robust Spanish Bluebells as the edge of the path (2% of the Bluebells were Spanish).
Finally at 6pm I noticed a Drone Fly on the lounge window sill inside our house and I realised on a bush in the front garden.
At Burgh St Peter's centre we saw and heard 2 Sedge Warblers, an overflying Grey Heron, 2 Swallows over the fields and 3 Swift high up in the sky overhead, also a quartering female Marsh Harrier close to the road (but against the sun) as we drove down.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Flava Wagtails at Corton

A call from OFB had me pulling into the Corton Church car park, where both OFB and Paul & Jane were seen. They had just seen the Flava Wagtails. I made my way half way along the "golf corse" at Broadland sands and joined the finder, James B and Morris B. 
I could see the delightful mixed flock of Flava Wagtails (one of the joys of spring if we are lucky!) on the grass between us and Broadland Sands chalets.
Male Yellow Wagtails at least 2, 3 female Yellow Wagtails, 1 male Blue- headed Wagtail, with striking blue head and white supercilia and at the back left the probable female Grey- headed Wagtail (thunbergi race). A great find and bold ID from James B, especially as I can find no definitive ID info for female Grey- heads! But I tend to agree with James' ID. This bird had a distinctive grey head, crown ear coverts and the grey crown extended down onto the nape. The eye was bordered by a little white "stripe" and the lores and area directly below the eye was a darker shade of grey (but not enough for Ashy headed?) It had a pencil grey bill with straight culmen, the bill appeared quite long and slightly down curved. The throat was a cream white extending a little onto the very top upper breast but the yellowish hues of the upper breast was seen here too. The mantle and back was olive- green and differed from the striking grey on the crown and nape. The rear back had slight brownish streaking too. The flanks had long thick greyish streaks. Sadly, I didn't hear the bird call at all.
The grey crown on the bird was very distinctive (more so than on the accompanying pic) and could easily be picked up amongst the Blue- headed Wagtail and the other Yellow Wagtails. 
With the others leaving, I carefully stalked the flock by walking round through the caravan park and kneeling close to a chalet, hopping the birds would come to me. These tactics worked well as the Wagtail flock soon made their way over to where I was and the male Blue- headed Wagtails showed very well at around 24 feet away. I noted the probable female Grey- headed Wagtail, spent most of her time near the back of the flock.
Occasionally the flock would be spooked by dog walkers walking past the cliff edge, one Wagtail would call a strident "tslie' and they would fly a short distance away. Finally the putative female Grey- headed Wagtail came a little closer and I took some shots at around 30 feet away.
Pied Wagtail seen here also.
Finally a dog walker walking along the cliff edge (nowhere near the flock!) appeared to spook the flock as they all flew off and south.

Perfect Spring Day at North Cove

Friday- The House Martins are back on the nests (at least 2 occupied of the 3 nests I have under the eaves of the house) at our house and the neighbours. 
An early start this morning (Saturday) had me up at 5am and an hour later I was walking along the idyllic track at North Cove, noting singing Whitethroat where I parked the car by the space by the railway line.
A Chiff- Chaff called from the woods whilst walking past the dykes going past another wood on the right I heard the brief "purr" of my Turtle Dove of the year but sadly the bird wasn't seen.
Walking along the river bank towards Castle Marshes, a Cuckoo was heard and a Reed Warbler was seen singing and then a Sedge Warbler. Seeing Don & Gwen and Richard W ahead, I could them looking intently over the river onto the Aldeby Pools and I scanning I soon saw the excellent White Stork, striding right on the pools, a really impressive immaculate bird. A big bird with long neck, bill and legs pure white head, neck, back and wing coverts with black flight feathers; primaries, secondaries and tertials. The bird would stride around stabbing the water and catching the occasional prey item. The bird took to flight briefly but only to settle in the far eastern corner of the lagoon. Don was on fine form and it was almost like being at Saturday Night Live with the Comedians of the ilk of Michael MacIntyre and co than being out in the countryside!!
As we were watching the bird I had a call from regular correspondent Paul W who was watching the bird from across the river on the Norfolk side along with Jeremy
We also saw 2 male Pintail, 2 Common Sandpipers and 1 wp Grey Plover.
Just in front of us a medium sized brown Dragonfly (with chestnut brown and dark black wedge/ bell shaped markings extending up from the abdomen tip) flew and perched on the vegetation just in front of us and posed beautifully for the cameras. We initially thought (due to the time of year) it was 4- spot Chaser but Richard texted me later saying he thought they were Scarce Chasers and indeed they were. These were out at least 2 weeks early! Another female Scarce Chaser was seen further back in the vegetation also. We also saw the larvae/ caterpiller of a Drinker moth too. walking back, I heard the distinctive 5 note call of an excellent Whimbrel, fling left/ east over castle Marshes. Whilst on the path ahead a Green dragonfly flew off the path and down to a dyke, surely an Emerald? Also seen here was the Hornet Moth.
Walking back through the wood, a Garden Warbler sang and showed briefly and we also heard Willow Warbler singing plus we saw a Hairy Hawker and another 2 female Scarce Chasers!
Finally at Barnby by the houses near Barnby Swan, I notched up my first sighting of Swift this year, 2 Swifts flying just above the roof tops chasing each other!

Friday, 6 May 2011

Bits and pieces

Friday early morning revealed very little on the North Denes and beach, (again no sign of the Gull) save for a male Wheatear and 14 Swallows flying south over the beach. A lightening lunchtime visit to Filby Broad revealed a singing Garden Warbler in the car park. Common Sandpiper heard from Rollesby broad but not seen.

Cuckoo Progeny

A visit to Carlton Marshes On Thursday revealed several singing Sedge warbler, Reed Buntings and at the end of the track calling Cuckoos first the bubbling call of the female then the "Cuckooo' of the male and 2 birds were seen, they were even seen to mate and hopefully this will be a good year for them.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

One Good Tern at Filby

A before work look at Filby Broad in Norfolk this morning, 4 Blackcaps were heard singing very stridently as I walked towards the road bridge, 1 male was briefly seen. (I was working at Martham Library this morning and it is on the way!) It was a very satisfying visit as looking south from the bridge by the road, I could see several hirundines flying over the water, plus 3 Swifts flying over the water, my first of the year. The hirundines comprised around 10 Swallows, 2 House Martin and 1 Sand Martin.
A calling Common Sandpiper than revealed the bird flying right over the near edge of the broad near the road bridge.
On the tern platform something suddenly disturbed them all and around 20 Common Terns could be seen flying around plus an excellent Black Tern (my first for a couple of years) flying about. A good find and I was pleased to finally find a scarce bird for myself this Spring. The Black Tern flew around occasionally dipping the water as it fed. Also I saw a small gull flying about with black underwing and white trailing edge, and rounded paddle shaped wing tips which was obviously an excellent adult Little Gull. Another first for the year too.
I texted several people with the news and was glad to get a text from John H at 7.10pm in the evening stating that he and Peter C were watching the Black Tern.