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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.

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