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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.

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