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Sunday, 25 December 2011

Happy Christmas everyone!

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

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

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Great Christmas Eve birding

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

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

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Spoonbill by the hide

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

Acle Strait Dip

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

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Presence

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

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Owls & raptors

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

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

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Western Sand; second lifer of 2011

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

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

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