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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.