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Sunday, 30 December 2012

Great White Egret saves the day

Arriving at Hamilton Dock at midday, I missed the GNDiver by seconds as it swam left either into another dock or along Lake Lothing. Visiting Fritton woods, viewing from the mound only revealed the pale Common Buzzard sitting in a field. No sign of the RLB (5th time I've dipped on this bird! Sotterley and Hawfinches spring to mind!) or the GWE in very windy conditions. I decided to walk out to Chedgrave marshes walking along the cut from St. Olaves bridge, after 2 miles and past a pylon and house I saw the Alison & Chris A, they had just seen the GWE in flight just left of the caravan and a yellow post. I'd just missed it by 5 minutes despite keeping an eye on the area as I was walking up. After 20 minutes they left and 5 minutes later at 2.40pm, just from the right of there, the excellent Great White Egret complete with all yellow bill flew up and flew left a little way before landing, spreading its large white wings as it landed. It was seen out in the open briefly for a couple of minutes before disappearing into reeds and then becoming partially and finally completely obscured. Also around 300 Pink- footed Geese seen on the marsh, plus a hunting Barn Owl and 2 female Marsh Harriers quartering the fields.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Great Northern Diver at Hamilton Dock & no show (yet again!!) at Fritton

Switching on the phone, a tweet from Rob to say a GN Diver was at Hamilton Dock and within 15 minutes I was on site strolling along I saw Guy O, but could not see the Diver or the Shag for that matter. No sooner had Guy and his friend got in their car than the excellent Great Northern Diver reappeared swimming left from the jetty/ boat area at the back. I called back Guy, and the Diver then eventually swam into the north- eastern corner just a few metres from us and therefore showing extremely well at times, especially when people knelt down by the block it was happy to hunt close by, in front of an appreciative audience. It had a particular liking for Crabs and must have caught at least 7 or 8 during the two hour period of observation. It was joined by 2 Shag at one point, hunting not too far away too and I noted their characteristic jumping hunting dive on a variety of occasions. I was later joined by Ricky F, Jon E, Paul W, John H, Justin & his brother, Steve & Dot, Rene B and others. The bird would then swim back often to the far side before swimming back again and showing exceptionally well in the north- east corner. The bird frequently dived during the 120 minutes observation period hunting for food. At Fritton Woods mound, I saw Andrew E, Rob Wil, Paul & Jane F and Paul W again. Both the RLB (4th time I have dipped this bird) and GWE had just been seen but they failed to appear from 2pm to dusk. A Sparrowhawk flew east in over the wood and our heads! A Peregrine Falcon perched on a fence post out on the marshes was the only significant bird seen.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas Catch Up

Overall a very wet Christmas, I drove across to Wales to see the family on the afternoon of Saturday 22nd December. At Fleet early morning (staying with cousins) on Sunday 23rd I saw a Grey Squirrel run across the lawn and bury a nut right in the middle carefully pacing it beneath a tussock of grass, no doubt "squirrelling away" for a hard winter treat. 3 Robins were seen, 2 males who inevitably squared up to each other thrusting their chests out and then launching at each other whilst the female looked on disdainfully! Between Reading and Newberry whilst driving west along the M4 I saw a Red Kite on the left hand side of the road flying, using its forked tail as a a rudder in flight, a Buzzard was seen near Swindon. On Christmas day, in the rain a Nuthatch came to the food Mum put out at the Lodge at Llanddarogg and at my sister-in law's at Llannon, I saw 2 Mistle Thrush, perched on overhead wires opposite. On Boxing Day, further rain restricted my birding actvities but 2 Nuthatches came to the food Mum put out plus 3 inquisitive Jays and a loud "croak" revealed a Raven flying over the Lodge and south. A quick visit to the stream and I saw 4 Redwing on a distant tree, a Nuthatch showed well fairly high up in a tree and Goldcrest in trees by the stream. Finally, a Red Kite flew east across the fields seen from the Lodge. Thursday 27th early on the 2 Nuthatches came to food again and I was able to get a half decent shot of one of them. A pair of Raven again flew over the Lodge as did a Buzzard. A visit to the Cymisfael stream revealed an excellent Willow Tit, my first of 2012, by the Whitehall bridge, seen initially foraging deep in some bushes it flew up to a tree showing its bull- necked appearance, long matt black crown extending well onto the nape and a very white cheeks, another buffy bird that flew away earlier may have been a second. Walking back along the stream, first a Goldcrest seen in a fir tree (Treecreeper heard also) and an immature Grey Wagtail seen feeding by the edge. A Buzzard flew over the woods here by the stream. Finally mid afternoon on the return journey, just before turning onto the main road at Llanddarogg, a Raven flew left over the road and the fields. 2 Buzzards seen one near Cross Hands and another near Swindon (a pale bird) on the return journey east along the M4.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Sparrowhawk Kill

At 9.45am today Saturday 22nd December, a male Sparrowhawk landed in the garden perched on the bird table roof for what must have been a preliminary reconnaisance. At 10.25am he was back with murderous intent as he swooped in low talons out at the last minute, all the birds scattered but he caught a female Chaffinch as it tried to evade his clutches in mid air. He then stood at the end of the lawn with the unfortunate Chaffinch pinned to the ground, pecking at it before minutes later he flew back over Fallowfields.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Merry Christmas to one and all!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, healthy and bird/ wildlife- filled 2013, thank you for taking the time to read the blog and they'll be more posts later this year and 2013. Cheers everyone!

No sign of Rough- leg

Quick visits to Burgh Castle (18th), Fritton Woods (19th & 21st) failed to reveal the sought after Rough- leg this week (15 minutes scanning on each occasion due to strict 1 hour lunch breaks!) On the two latter dates I saw the very pale (complete cream white underparts and belly) Common Buzzard perched on a fence post gate (2oth) and also the end of a section of gates (21st). On the 21st I saw 2 hunting Short- eared Owls too.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Night Blackbird

Monday 17th December, an adult female Blackbird flew across the road in the pitch black, half way along Park meadows, Lowestoft very near my home at 5.15pm and perched on a fence post on the south side of the road, as I was driving home from work. Tuesday 18th December tried to view Fritton/ Chedgrave marshes from Burgh Castle at lunchtime, I couldn't see the marshes so failed to see any of the goodies there currently. Unfortunately, I cannot quite manage the Fritton woods site in a one hour lunchbreak!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Benacre: Back to its Winter Best!

A thoroughly enjoyable day, started off this morning on driving past Oulton Broad Mutford Lock bridge on the jetty, there were at least 2 immature Shag on the jetty brown plumage and white chins duly noted (seen whilst driving slowly over!), 2 other darker birds may well have been Cormorants. Whilst approaching the A12 Kessingland bypass, I saw a bird perched up on bushes which I was sure was a Waxwing, having to drive right down to the end of the bypass and back again in a loop, I then took the turn onto London road (the old road to Kessingland) and immediately saw 7 Waxwings perched up in the tree there. They flew down briefly to some nearby berries before flying back again. They spent a lot of time in the tree before suddenly taking to flight and flying south perhaps to Heathlands caravan park, a great start and my 4th lot of Waxwings self-found this winter! At Covehithe Church, I walked to the back (north of the church) and in the line of bushes on the northern edge of the church plot, there were an incredible 15 Brambling perched including at least 6 very smart winter males showing all blacks and oranges on the eastern most bush, an incredible sight that I had last seen in Sweden! 13 flew to the field opposite, whilst 2 females stayed for a further few minutes before also flying into the field. Joining a group of birders including Dave & Pauline, work colleagues, we enjoyed a mixed flock of finches which included at least a dozen Bramblings, which fed on the path leading to nowhere, literally the end of the cliff! I saw 3 Brambling including another smart male. One bird was in front of us whilst the others were at the back. On the sea, were several Common Scoter, 3 single females, and group of 3 Common Scoter were in a raft on the sea. A Brent Goose flew south as did 3 separate Red- throated Divers and I was briefly shown a Grebe that looked like Slav, but the brief view was yet another untickable Grebe view from this weekend. We then saw Dick W walking back and he reported the good news that the Smew were still there. Walking down to the Broad and up the newly installed side stairs, a preliminary scan of the Broad first revealed 4 Scaup, including 1 male and 3 females, seen directly out from the Hide and by the far side initially before they swam more to the middle of the Broad. Later on I spotted the excellent male Smew, white with black lines like "cracked ice" was seen at the back near the western end of the Broad, some of the time it was asleep before resuming its feeding whilst diving. A female Smew or "Redhead" later joined it swimming out from the western end of the Broad. 7 Goldeneye were seen including 1 smart adult male, 1 immature male and 5 females. many Gulls were seen on water but I couldn't make out any rarer species. Also later seen by the Scaups was a smart female Common Scoter. Benacre was really very enjoyable today with lots of winter goodies producing the goods like it used to do regularly during winter birding forays in the eighties. Happy memories! A very convivial atmosphere at Benacre today too. I wanted to see and photograph the HAR again, so I then drove down to Aldeburgh and was pleased to see John E there, initially the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was very flighty (unusually for such a previously confiding bird) some of the people there were getting a little too close, I also saw Rob Wils, the bird photographer there too, he was giving out plenty of birding photography tips! I first saw the Arctic Redpoll on the middle of the beach perched on the shingle briefly, before it flew to weeds near the seawall for all of 2 minutes. A few over eager people were again crowding it, pushing it again and it flew right up and west to perch up on the top of a yacht's sailing mast by the Sailing Club. It then flew down to the fence by the Slaughden Quay car park, before flying up to another yacht mast. I was then joined by John E again and the bird flew towards us and settled beside us feeding in weeds barely 15 feet away, on the top of the bank going down to the quay car park. It fed here for sometime and we filled up our memory cards in celebration! The Arctic Redpoll then flew back to the beach, where it was seen at the base of some steps before flying north to some weedy bushes feeding again. It flew north to the top of a clock tower on a building before once again flying south along the beach calling as it went past us. It was great to see Andrew H & Tina here and I am especially glad they enjoy reading the blog! A tweet from Dick W and I was soon looking west of the Blythburgh water tower, looking for wild swans, where my search was initially unsuccessful, before seeing Gerald J and we then decided to look from the layby by the A12 just south of Blythburgh. From the layby, we saw 4 Whooper Swans and 7 Bewick's Swans in the middle of the field, the larger Whoopers (with yellow extending down the bill) were at the front and roughly in the middle of the flock of swans.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

American Buff- bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Reservoir

Travelling home from work on Thursday 13th December just yards from the Tesco Gunton roundabout at 5.40pm on the A12 a Fox ran across the busy road from right to left disappearing into the trees on the western edge of Tesco car park. An early start this morning, Saturday 15th December and I was kindly given a lift by Morris B and we picked up Roy H near Morrison's at Beccles. The object of our quest, an American Buff- bellied Pipit at Queen Mother Reservoir, near London in Berkshire. Three and a quarter hours later, we drew through the gates of Yacht club there, paid a £2 day permit each and a twenty minute walk later, we aimed for the crowd gathered on the bank, there must have been around 120 birders all gathered in one spot, just past the jetty/ pier. Looking down on the grassy sides of the reservoir just feet away was the excellent American Buff- bellied Pipit . The bird was seen on the reservoir bank sides feeding on insects and midges around the green weed encrusted stones/ concrete that were here. The bird was constantly on the move feeding on these insects running back and forwards, rarely stopping. once it flew to the Pier gantry, perching at the top of the fence. Before it flew back to reservoir bank, the other side where I first saw it running towards me and past me, before it ran back again. It stopped at the edge of the water, it preened and was fully lit in the sun, rather than being in the usual shade. It was a distinctive Pipit, with grey brown upperparts and very distinctive buffy underparts. The buffy areas being particularly prevalent on the sides of the underparts with a noticeable whitish under-tail coverts area. The head had fine streaking on the crown there was a dark line above the eye. It shows a prominent off-white eye- ring, with just a hint of a cream supercilia "flare" behind the eye and a corresponding darker area in front of the eye. The mantle and back had fine streaking. The wing bars were cream- coloured, with broad but short streaking on the breast with them being more diffuse on the flanks/ breast sides. The legs were jet black. The bill showed a very pale orange buff colouration to the two- thirds part of the basal lower mandible. The bird was then seen feeding and running along the reservoir bank once more, a cracking bird and my second new bird for 2012. The pictures published alongside this post were taken in the shady conditions by the bank under the wall/ path circling the reservoir and it doesn't really convey how buffy the bird was on its underparts, which were really buffy. The upperparts also appeared less grey and more buff- grey in good light too. A Red- necked Grebe was by a Great Crested Grebe, it was on the far side of the reservoir, but it was so far away, all I could see was a slightly smaller Grebe than the GC Grebe, therefore rendering me with untickable views of what would been a very nice bird to see. I had last visited here just over 25 years ago following the Great Storm of 1987 where I had seen my first Sabine's Gull, an immature flying around this same part of the reservoir! Apparently there were 367 visiting birders at the reservoir today, which I'm told is a record crowd for a twitch in Berkshire. On the way back to Beccles along the A146 just after the roundabout we saw 4 single Golden Plovers in one field to the north of the road.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Foraging Jay

A foraging Jay in the back garden in the south- west corner at 7.50am this morning, it appeared to pick up a shard of apple and flew off towards Fallowfields. A group of around 30 Jackdaw were flying south over Caister road, Great Yarmouth.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Lone Waxwing

As I was about to put the car on the road this morning at 7.45am this morning, I heard the wonderful distinctive trill of a Waxwing some way behind me. As I turned I saw a lone Waxwing fly low directly overhead and at roof top height flying right over our house! It circled once as if trying to land (perhaps it spotted our berry laden bush at the front!) before thinking better of it and continued on its way north, trilling once more.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Aldeburgh Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll

Firstly congratulations to Robert Win for winning the Lounge Lizard Cup for 2011/12 for finding the most popular rare bird in Lowestoft during that time, the Hume's Leaf Warbler, was a really great find and just reward for the many hours he spends out in the field. A tweet came through late last night first from Lee Evans and then Rarevine stating amazingly that a Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll had been showing very well that day on the beach opposite the Yacht club. The finder had discovered it at 12.30pm and amazingly thought it was a Lapland Bunting!! Ironic that both of Suffolk's rarest birds this year (this and the Spanish Sparrow) had been completely misidentified, initially. I was up at the crack of dawn and as soon as the first message came through that it was still there, I leapt into the car and drove down to Aldeburgh. I parked at Slaughden Quay by the yacht club, but when I got to the beach, a group of around 40 birders were already tightly packed in a semi- circle with an array of assembled telescopes and cameras with large lenses attached. They were looking directly around the edge of the beach wall much nearer Aldeburgh town, 150 yards away. I joined them and seeing Jon E, I first saw the excellent Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, (HAR) hopping around the ground behind some weeds, where it was busy feeding on seeds. Carl B, Ali R, and later Dick W, OFB, Andrew E, Paul & Jane F arrived. The bird then crept up into full view perched on one of the stems, feeding. A superb bird with buff white upperparts with irridescant red (particularly stunning when the sun lit the crown) at the front third of the crown near the yellow bill, with blackish lores and black tiny bib, it also had a warm cinnamon buff colour on the face and pale buff upper breast with white flanks and underparts. It seemed to me a larger bird than Coue's Arctic Redpoll with a bigger yellow bill (ie. without the Coue's distinctive pushed in bill appearance, I also find the Coue's is a more rounded fluff ball of a bird on occasions) Something you couldn't say about the HAR, that being more bull- necked appearance. It fanned its tail on one occasion, which I managed to get a shot of, right at the end of a memory card with 774 shots before it, so don't expect that image to appear soon! The Arctic Redpoll also a pure white rump of an inch half square white with just 1 greyish smudge marks on the outer perimeter. The underparts, were white or an off white with a couple of dark streaks on the upper breast flanks only. It fed quite a while here before flying south some 300 yards, flying to some weeds again near the wall. It fed here again and then flew 100 yards again. James B, Robert Wil and Robert Win & Paul W arrived the bird had disappeared but a swift gathering further down the beach opposite the Yacht club revealed it had been spotted again. I went back to the car to fit the 1.4X converter and rejoined the throng this time looking at the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll feeding on a greener weed which may have been Yellow horned Poppy. The redpoll was ridiculously confiding at times particularly when it hopped closer and closer being barely 3 feet away before it flew south past us and a walking OFB, disappearing by some weeds behind a bin. Later on, it was feeding at the back of a weed and then hopped out to the eastern front edge feeding and then hopping towards us and being joined by Lee E, it hopped even closer being extremely confiding being just 2 feet away from us and far too close for my camera or even binoculars for that matter. (Naked eye birding like the Firecrest yesterday!) It then suddenly took to flight and flew towards the sea edge before continuing to fly a little way north. This must be one of my top 4 most enjoyable Suffolk sightings of this year (Alpine Swift first & Lesser Emperor Dragonfly second- both self finds on the local patch, the twitched Spanish Sparrow third after finally nailing it on the third attempt and 4th this bird). A call in at Minsmere failed to see anything of interest in the North bushes but I did purchase the 2011 Suffolk Bird report newly on sale there and was delighted to see both my Diver pictures inside and to see both the Great Grey Shrike & 2008 Ross' Goose records attributed to me (I didn't find either of these but may have been the only person to report them to the recorders?) Looking for Swans at the layby just south of Blythburgh along the busy A12 the field to the east had some 40 Fieldfare on it and I was delighted to find a further 6 Waxwings seen first on the tree opposite the layby and then they flew to the berry bushes by the layby bordering the road, often trilling. They fed off the berries but often out of sight and were obscured by branches and twigs. A Fieldfare flew out of these bushes and across the road, as did a Redwing. I was reluctant to try and photograph these Waxwings as I realised I might inadvertently flush them and didn't want them flying low over this busy A12 road on my account so I promptly left. Travelling along the entrance road to Fritton woods, I followed a low swooping brown- backed female Sparrowhawk who flew 30 yards down the road ahead of me then veered off right into the wood. A look at Haddiscoe island from the bung at Fritton woods, was very disappointing, the windy conditiuons didn't help, a Chinese Water Deer seen, lots of "brown Geese" (and no White ones) along the far side but in the high winds I could only guess that they were Pink- feet. 1 Little Egret flew over here. Back by the car walking in a sunlit sheltered spot in the woods revealed 4 Goldcrest and 8 LT Tits.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

2012 Firecrest at last!

After a humdinger of a migraine last night when travelling in the evening I had to swiftly turn back after I had the aura appear and I had go home and straight to bed. I eventually surfaced today, Saturday 8th December, early afternoon with a head that felt it had gone 2 rounds with Mike Tyson. At 1pm, the weather was sunny and I entered Warren House Wood and in the northern side were a flock of Long- tailed Tits plus a Treecreeper and 2 Goldcrests. In the western section were more Long- tailed Tits and a Goldcrest. As I was walking south on the western most path, a male Muntjac Deer crossed onto the path ahead of me and looked back at me, curious no doubt to this human intruder! In the south east section, another (or same) group of Long- tailed Tits plus Goldcrest and then suddenly the excellent Firecrest, a belated first for 2012, appeared right in front of me and barely 3 feet away too, it promptly flicked to another branch then flew past me and into the wood and out of sight. At Links road car park, around 60 Black- headed Gulls here, little else and at Ness Point 3 Purple Sandpipers were seen on the rocks in front of the compass. At Hamilton Dock in the north east corner, a Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Turnstone were seen briefly. At Lowestoft Asda late afternoon, whilst shopping I spied a flock of 30 Starlings flying east joined a larger flock of c1200 Starlings flying around the Lowestoft harbour. Also early Friday 7th December morning, Common Gull seen out the front perched on a neighbours roof. Snow then fell and they was around a covering of an inch of snow, Plus 3 Long- tailed Tits seen in front garden!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Lapwing & Starling flocks

On Monday 3rd December, c70 Lapwing flew west over the A12 just past Hopton Farm on the commute to work, early morning. Several flocks of Starling, c80 and c50 seen flying around the trees west of Great Yarmouth Library much later during the same day.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Wangford Waxwings

Waking up this morning to a thin covering of snow and ice, I decided to have a look at my very local patch of Fallowfields in the hope of seeing a Woodcock. Having traipsed round for half an hour having heard 2 Bullfinches only, I walked into the middle of the area and immediately a Woodcock flew up from an area of bushes at around 9am and headed south- west towards Parkhill Hotel grounds. I then drove over to Wangford Playing field following a BINS message, always a happy hunting ground for me, I remember the Waxwings here in exactly the same place in December 2008. As I drove past, I could see and hear 42 Waxwings perched on the bushes bordering the northern edge of the field. Walking onto the field, I observed them perched around the top of the bushes before they all flew down to the north- west corner of the field. They flew down to a bush covered with a few berries. Later on they flew back to the bushes bordering the northern edge of the field, before several of their number flew across the road and started to alight and feed upon a berry laden bush in the middle of a garden (apparently owned by a 95 year old lady), where I had seen them before in Dec 2008. On their first visit to the garden, I witnesses one bird that had a colossal crest that looked like a Miter or an Archbishops's/ Bishop's hat! It spent most of its time on the edge of the bush. You can judge for yourself by looking at the picture above. The light was perfect (for once) and I finally managed to obtain the shots I wanted of this species this winter. I stood behind a bush on the path just outside and managed to get some really nice shots. The birds coming across too and fro with no more than 15 birds on the bush at any one time. Unfortunately after quarter of an hour, the neighbours of this lady, a father and 2 young children walked out flushed the Waxwings from the berry laden bush and onto the North bushes before walking across the road directly below them again, the children shouting, which unsurprisingly, totally spooked the whole flock of Waxwings. At 10.45am, the startled birds flew way up high and north east over the roofs of the houses. half an hour later, 17 of the flock returned and initially perched in a tall tree just east of the church, where joined by Dick W, eventually they flew to the north- west corner of the field and fed briefly from the scantily covered berry bush before perching up in bushes. at 11am they suddenly for no reason flew south- east. At 11.15am, Dick did really well to spot a Jack Snipe fly east and then south when I managed to see it.