Tuesday, 31 December 2013
On Sunday 29th December, an early morning walk down to Cymisfael stream was atmospheric and cold with extensive hoar frost shaping the landscape like white icing on a cake. By the woods, just down from Mum's house, a Marsh Tit called "pitchou" and was seen briefly high up in the trees. Not many birds seen with just a female Grey Wagtail along the stream by the cottage right of the walk down hill. Walking back up the hill to Mum's house, a fine male Bullfinch flew towards me into the hedge bordering the road then eventually up into the tree canopy of the woods. Whilst walking along the drive, a Nuthatch was seen creeping down along the branch. Monday 30th visit was much better, the weather was milder but much wetter, with extensive rain overnight, water was running down the road side, running down from the roads. By the brook, male and then female Grey Wagtail were seen, the male perched briefly on a gate in the field by the brook end. Incredibly, opposite was a flooded field and in the north west corner swimming around was a fine female Goosander. My first sighting on my Welsh patch! Also 30 Redwing flew up from the field and into the hedge. sadly as soon as she saw me she took off flew towards me and over the road and eventually out of sight. Walking along the road to the two bridges. The road was completely flooded. Later investigating with Wellington boots the water was 14 inches deep and even though I waved at 3 cars not to attempt the crossing (risk of flooding the engine) 2 drove through with seemingly no ill effects. As I walked back to the brook, I heard the distinctive call of the Willow Tit and sure enough 2 birds moved through moving west along the hedge. One was definitely a Willow Tit, bull- necked with white cheeks, but I didn't see the other bird well enough. The Redwings were again in the field. A Raven was heard its deep croaking call somewhere in the distance but unfortunately not seen. Whilst walking back up the hill to Mum's house about half way along 2 fine male Bullfinches, fine birds with peach red breasts were seen and heard moving through the fence bushes bordering the road, before they too flew over the road and up into the tree canopy. On Tuesday 31st in the gloom at Reading East a fine Red Kite flew over the M4. Single Buzzards seen along the A12 at Kelveden & Capel St Mary.
On what must have been my best ever experience of harbour birding, I left Lowestoft on Saturday 28th December at 5.30pm and arrived at Portland harbour Quay at 10.20am. I had arranged to see Dick W & Ali R there. They had graciously offered me a lift but I declined as this period was family time in Wales but no harm in a 60 mile detour off the M4 on my journey over! As I walked up along the Quay side thronged by a group of what must have been around 120 birders, in the first harbour, I could see Mergansers and a smaller throng of birders scoping the Tystie, I walked past as top priority was the Brunnich's, I walked to the second harbour with wooden jetty's for the yachts I spied a larger knot of birders all scoping something quite close on the water, immediately in front of me sitting in he water just 30 feet away was the excellent Brunnich's Guillemot! This, unfortunately was the closest it got all morning. It was immediately apparent that this bird would constantly dive and be under water for some time (around 70% of the time only spending 30% of its time above the water line) It had a curious diving action seemingly to flop over to 1 side with its wing half out stretched to dive not really aerodynamic. I took a good look at it when it was above water. The upper parts were black and not chocolate brown in ordinary Guillemot. It's bill was blunter and less dagger like that on ordinary Guillemot. The bill showed the distinctive white line running parallel just above with the cutting edge of the upper mandibles and extending onto the face. It appeared a much darker bird with the black on the head extending onto the upper breast and sides punctuated by a paler whitish flush on the chin. The dark black eye had a line extending down from it and away. The bird was regularly diving and could be up to 30 yards away when it resurfaced. It swam out into the harbour and almost over to the first one before it made its way back to the wooden jetty running alongside and parallel with harbour wall at the Osprey Quay, it then swam up a channel very close to the Quay side for those fortunate to witness it, after a sudden downpour of rain where we all took cover under the leisure centre eaves. The bird then went missing for some 45 minutes. In the meantime we admired the incredible tally of at least 15 Red- breasted Mergansers, with 7 females and 6 males seen in this one harbour alone. A fine Great Northern Diver was also seen at the back of the harbour. A Razorbill that surfaced just in front of us raising our hopes briefly for a millisecond. Walking back along the harbour wall, to the first harbour ,the fine winter- plumaged Black Guillemot or Tystie as I prefer to call it. The Tystie was only my third sighting in this plumage. It swam near an orange buoy. Further out incredibly were 2 incredibly handsome Black- throated Divers which swam together showing silky grey necks and distinctive white flashes on their rear flanks. A female Eider was also later seen close in by the bout and way out an ordinary Guillemot was also sighted plus a pair of Red- breasted Mergansers. Suddenly a movement towards another section of the harbour further along had us peering through the fence and seeing the excellent Brunnich's Guillemot swimming close in following the harbour wall then diving its unique floppy dive(!) then swimming out into the harbour. I decided to view from the far end and when I reached there 10 minutes later the bird was swimming out of this part of the harbour under the bridge and back towards the Osprey Quay area. Walking back it was again close into the harbour the light suddenly approved and I finally bagged some half decent shots albeit a mid distance. It swam out to the harbour almost toying with going into the first harbour before swimming back again heading for the wooden jetty area where it dived and wasn't seen again by me during the rest of my visit. In the meantime the group of 13 Red- breasted Mergansers had grouped together in single sex flock the male throwing their heads back in display, an incredible sight. The Great Northern Diver was still patrolling at the back of the dock too. Some really superb winter harbour birding!
Friday, 27 December 2013
A Boxing Day early afternoon walk at Winterton we had to really search for a free place to park, everyone was on the beach there must have been over a hundred people walking along. It was gratifying to sea the Cafe and the old Beachmen's huts had survived the recent sea surge although the anti tank traps hd been tossed about. Just a few metres out to sea almost by the shore line several Grey Seals were seen and a very irresponsible owner had let their dog swim out and one stage it looked as if the 2 Seals were going to attack it in a pincer movement but the dog quickly swam back to shore. walking further along north coming up to Horsey beach we found 3 Seal Pup carcasses victims of the recent sea surge. A white tiny baby seal pup was huddling amongst one of the groynes on the beck and taking the inland route we found an older pup in the Dunes. By another Seal carcass, 5 Turnstone and a Sanderling were gathering the Turnstone feeding of the raw meat from the carcass. Seeing the one of the Seal wardens who were doing an excellent job of keeping th people and their dogs away from the Seal Pup she said those mothers who'd been able to get their pups to the dunes had saved them around 75 but those who hadn't the Pups had been washed out to sea presumed dead 100+ but only a few carcasses had been washed up so far, we counted 4 in our walk. A massive Grey Seal hauled himself out of the water and lying on the sand, the great grandaddy of them all. Going back, we were delighted to have for company around 84 delightful Snow Buntings which flew around us for some 10 minutes, flying over our heads and calling their very festive tinkling calls.
Thursday, 26 December 2013
An early start on Christmas morning had me walking down to Covehithe Broad at first light and I was surprised to see 1 dog walker and 3 walkers/ sea dwellers already there, it was like Piccadilly Circus! An initial look on Covehithe Broad revealed nothing but another more extensive look in the far south western corner revealed 5 female Goldeneye and the excellent female Long- tailed Duck with them. They were constantly diving. Walking back to Benacre Broad, the recent sea surge had drained much of the water out, except a smaller pool nearer the beach, asleep on the southern edge were several ducks including 2 Pintail (male and female) asleep. On the pool both male and female Goldeneye were seen. A female Marsh Harrier quartered the reeds at the back. An incredible tally of c1900 Common Gulls seen in the field behind ie. just north of Covehithe church. Next stop was Pakefield beach just by the Jolly Sailors, the beach was full of walkers and I thought there there was no way I would see any Snow Buntings, when like a mirage, a flock of 64 Snow Buntings flew in and settled to any area which looks like it had been seeded especially for the birds. The walkers were constantly flushing them, they flew onto the pebbly beach before flying back to the seeded area. Next stop was the Oulton Marshes where just north of the railway line in he field, the fine Glossy Ibis was walking around feeding in a ditch. Resplendent in the sunshine with the especially the purple and some green iridescence showing well within the plumage. I was able to walk along the western edge and using the reeds as a blind was able to take some half decent shots with the bird walking towards me feeding by a pool area, until a walker walking along the top path stopped and shouted out "Anything special?" causing the Ibis to walk quickly back to the eastern fringes of the field. My cue to leave, I next visited Fritton Woods or should that be waste ground as a disproportionate amount of trees had ben chopped down, the enlarged clearing had led to around a further 8 trees being blown down by the high winds. On the marsh itself, a pale Common Buzzard sat on a nearby gate post showing a particularly pale cream belly and way in the north- west distance, a shape that looked suspiciously like the RLB proved to be a Rough- legged Buzzard when it moved showing pale head light on the mid back and when it flew the glorious black patch on the lower belly and black banded white tail seen clearly as it flew right a short way and onto another post. A Kestrel was also seen perched on a fence post plus 2 Chinese Water Deer. A real festive again treat!
On Saturday 21st December, we saw a Small Tortoiseshell flying around the garden first thing in the morning, I was unable to catch it to try and let it hibernate safely in the winter. On Sunday 22nd December, unable to twitch the Glossy Ibis as I was at Wroxham Barns at the time. I rose early in the morning and walking out to Oulton Marshes in the pouring rain but from the platform saw the excellent Glossy Ibis feeding distantly in the field. Walking along to the path by the tea garden, we looked across and north into the field and the Glossy Ibis flew in really close and settled but took one look at us and flew further back into the field. Finally we saw in the field north of the railway line, walking along and feeding along a dyke.
On Tuesday 17th December, a quick visit to Minsmere early in the morning to replenish Christmas card supply, I called in at Southwold and at the harbour car park just east of there and the Lifeboat shed, the excellent Lapland Bunting was feeding, another photographer was already there but I managed several shots before it flew even closer to me and managed to get some nice shots albeit in very poor light. It was a well marked bird. It finally flew onto the middle of the car park which was my cue to leave as I had to be in work for 12 noon.
Saturday, 21 December 2013
On Tuesday 10th December, 2 groups of around 40 Pink- footed Geese flew north east over the Hospital car park at 8.20am. On Friday 13th December I had the morning off and in the gloom I drove to Southwold walked over the bailey Bridge and the excellent 1st winter Grey Phalarope was feeding close in to the north west corner. I crouched down and watched it for a little while, 3 minutes and was setting up my camera up when a passer by flushed it and it flew east. It was seen partially obscured by reeds in a dyke running parallel with the river. On Saturday 14th December, I drove back to Southwold harbour and walked along the river bank meeting some photographer and I instantly saw the Grey Phalarope out briefly in the open for 2 minutes before sadly defence work contractors flushed it as they drove right up to the bird it flew away, but for the rest of the time it spent time in the dyke obscured by reeds. On Sunday 15th December, an Environment Agency guard was blocking any access along the walk way it was again the north west corner by the Bailey Bridge but after just a minute it was flushed but he guard and flew into the obscured dyke. Later on it flew to the pool and showed reasonably well. It later flew west of the bridge and flew and swam in the river before flying high east past Southwold town and the lighthouse and appeared to drop but not seen again.
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Thanks to Jane's tweet I headed straight off to park just before Covehithe Church and eventually found a space after someone had rather rudely nicked the space I intended reversing into! I eventually parked next to PJ's car. I walked down to the Broad and could see a lot of water had drained out, I could also see a winter- plumaged Black- tailed Godwit and Paul & Jane on the beach and on a small channel of water, I could see the excellent female Long- tailed Duck. She had a dark blackish back and cap blackish spot on the ear coverts, a blue grey bill and brownish eye with black pupil. Otherwise the plumage was a pale white colour. It was really good to spend some time with this bird, this species had been distinctly scarce during the last few years, the one that flew past and north at Ness Point last year was my first for several years. This individual is the first chance I have had to photograph this species. She spent a lot of her time swimming around a wiry junk piece sticking out of the water, Jane jokingly said Carl had tied the bird to it. It appeared he head because the LT Duck spent a lot of time here, always swimming round it in an anti- clockwise direction. Initially she didn't dive very much, but when she did using fieldcraft, I was able to get in position by the last ridge. She spent time swimming to the right of us in a channel to the sea and then back by the junk and then finally when OFB arrived even closer and just left of us. As we watched some 4 Sanderling wandered up the broad edge towards us giving great views and photographic opportunities before the lead one no doubt seeing us checked its progress, turned and ran back and out of sight. The Long- tailed Duck showed really well until the wind blew my Scilly cap off and the female Long- tailed Duck flew short way left (note to self on a windy day in winter where a woolly hat!), first mingling with Mallards before swimming back again. We left as Danny P and family arrived with their digiscoping equipment. In the afternoon, I had a quick look with Jenny at Corton Woods, I heard the Firecrest call and another Crest answer it nearby, but in the 5 minutes I was allowed there I couldn't see either bird.
Ignoring the urge to recommend some excellent Physio's at the Paget (see end of last message), I drove over on Saturday 7th December to Fritton woods (I received another text informing me Peter N had just found another!) and had a very pleasant walk to the mound where I met Chris M, Peter N & OFB. OFB kindly put his scope on both birds, 2 excellent Rough- legged Buzzards, one on a gatepost in front of a mill and the other left of that and between that and a disused mill with no sails. They both looked well marked birds and when one flew left it showed a clear dark brown belly patch white tail except the terminal black tail band. This bird then settled on gate. The other bird also flew left and perched in a field, after it did some hovering, wonderful to see. Both birds had very pale whitish heads. Whilst we were there, a skein of 200 Pink- footed Geese flew over calling and over and onto the marsh and Peter N spotted a Peregine perched on an isolated wooden post in a field. Both birds were on view until first Paul and then Jane F arrived and one of the birds had gone! We left Paul & Jane to search for both Rough- legs, which they eventually saw perched on 1 gate, it must have been a marvellous sight! As we walked away, I heard the "chip chip" calls and looking up I saw a wonderful flock of around 20 Crossbills flying over us and they appeared to settle in the tops of the tall pines 200 metres ahead of us along the track back, but as we walked past we couldn't relocate them..
Whilst out checking the storm damage from Gunton Cliffs, on Saturday 7th December, where I could see a significant amount of seawater deposited on the Dunes between the beach and Warren House wood, I received a tweet from Chris M saying he had a Rough- leg from the hump at Fritton woods (sounds painful!).
Thursday, 5 December 2013
This evening up to 10.10pm, I witnessed the storm surge at first hand parking at the top of Gunton Cliff, I was amazed but not surprised to see people driving down Links Hill and parking in the car park and walking onto the sea wall with 30 foot waves crashing over the top of the sea wall, surely the height of folly. People's cars were constantly being driven down to the car park (up to 30 at one time were parked at the far eastern seaward end) with an average of 20 cars on the car park at any onetime. I have never seen the area so busy, coupled with the more sensible observer parking on Gunton Cliff (around 10) and the very top of Link's road (about 5). Walking down Links Hill, I found water had seawater had flooded Links Road up to the entrance to the car park and being 6 inches deep. The beach just north of here was completely flooded with water seeping to the eastern fringes of Warren House Wood, there were islands of higher parts of the beach & Marram grass still visible but the bulk of the beach appeared underwater.
On Tuesday 3rd December, picking up Jenny from Norwich airport a bad accident forced on the road leading to Hellesdon Library and a fine looking Fox crossed the road from left to right at 9.40pm and trotted along the expanse of a new car/ used car forecourt.
Sunday, 1 December 2013
Being offered an early 7.10am lift on Saturday 30th November, with John H and Ian M on board, we met Andrew H at the car park at Lynford and walked along to the Larch area. The weather contrary to the forecast was dull and overcast with frequent "mistly" rain. At the Larch viewing area, the big wooden gate behind us was open behind us revealing a muddy track extending to the large house at the end. 2 Crossbills flew over calling and perched in the top of the tree, I also spotted a Hawfinch joining them and I yelled out Hawfinch! and we were able to ID as a female. This was the start of a real purple patch here that would last all morning! A few minutes later, a group of around 10 Crossbills flew over and settled in the bush, one flew looked a little different and sure enough it proved to be the male Two- barred Crossbill. It flew into the top left of the tree, the white wing bars could be seen in flight. Typically, a bird more pinky red rather than the brick red of Crossbill plumage colour with 2 white obvious wing bars and longer narrower bill than Crossbill. It flew to the left and then flew to the top of a tree in full view further away where it was seen well at the top. A stunning bird and my first in 20 years! Eventually the group of 11 Crossbills flew off calling "chip chip" as they went. It was then the turn of a female Hawfinch to fly in to the tree, more subdued plumage than the male. A Treecreeper was seen crawling up a tee nearby. A Mistle Thrush then flew to the top of the tree. At the feeding area, a Nuthatch seen perched on a curled branch briefly before flying off left. A walk to the usual Hawfinch area for once failed to reveal any. But walking around the Arboretum, 9 Hawfinches flew out of the top a tree and 3 came back and fed from the very top of a tree, feeding on the buds. Looking over to the garden of a large house, 3 Hawfinches seen at the top of a tree and later 10 Redwings seen at the top too. Walking down to the lake, was an inspired decision as half way down at the left t junction of forest tracks, 3 Crossbills sp flew in and one showed white barring. The other 2 were Crossbills but the third, as I raised my bins and sure enough it the very top of that tree, the fine male Two- barred Crossbill could be seen again. The more pinky red plumage noted, the white wing bars (not as thick as on a full adult but substantial nonetheless and significantly, we noticed on this closer view the diagnostic thin white edgings to most of the tertials (these can become abraded in worn plumage) also the the slimmer longer bill noted again. After a minute or two it flew to the right hand tree where it also stayed for a minutes before it flew left with the 2 Common Crossbills. At the Lake we saw 3 Gadwall and a Common Teal. Finally, the icing on the cake, at the car park, we just initially missed a Fircest but half an hour later, I heard the distinctive more scratchy call and it flew back into the holly where I saw the Firecrest for a split second before it flew left (into a still group of beech leaves) showing the more olive green plumage with bronze shoulders and distinctive dark eye stripe and supercilia. It was not seen again, but this sighting had re-inforced my earlier view that this was my most successful visit ever to Lynford Arboretum, I look forward to a repeat visit soon!
Thursday, 28 November 2013
The transitional plumaged now 1st winter Rose- coloured Starling or (Rosy pasteur as they have been rather evocatively called- but only applicable to the adult) now showing more 1st winter plumage rather than the drab pale juvenile plumage was seen briefly perched on wires in the company of 4 Starlings, just east of the Caister Beach car park. A very interesting looking bird showing some adult feathers, for example, it showed black greater coverts, black on one each of the tertials and primaries. On the upper breast it was black too with a black wedge across reminiscent of the white chevron the Ring Ouzel sports on its chest. When 2 Starlings flew north I wasn't too optimistic about photographing it and this was proved correct when a minute or so later it flew a little way north and out of sight. Despite checking a load of Starlings around the Tan Lane chip shop area I didn't refind it in the 40 minutes I had left.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Sunday, 24 November 2013
I had been planning to visit the Parrot Crossbills at Holt for sometime and an offer of a lift today, Sunday 24th November, with OFB was gratefully accepted. As we drove up to Acle the weather really closed in with thick black cloud and steady rain. A tweet came through that yesterday's Parrot Crossbills at Tunstall were still there. A quick call to Carl B revealed the weather was much better in Suffolk, so we turned around and diverted via Poringland, Bungay and Halesworth and just 3 1/2 miles past Snape we turned left (by the black barn) by the sign pointing us to Tunstall Common carpark and we were soon parked up in a heath with heather and some Pine trees. They were initially in a large Pine and I saw a Crossbill type bird fly quickly past a gap before all 10 Parrot Crossbills (8 males and 2 females) all flew up calling a deep " Chuup chuup" and flew to the top of a smaller stand of pines 100 yards further south. One fine male Parrot Crossbill perched on the top with a few more seen further down. The large bulging bills was clearly seen. I walked over to obtain close views. It was here they spent the entire time in a stand of some 7 Pine trees in front of us. They would often completely disappear from view and we were grateful for the male they continued to perch at the very top. Just under him and to the left a grey green female fed from within a "dark hole" area. For the next few hours birds were seen feeding within several "dark hole" areas, often obscured and seen feeding behind pine cones or the pine needles. It was also apparent that these Parrots would often pull off Pine cones and hold them firmly in their substantial bills. As we continued to observe the odd male, paler immatures and adult male perched out completely in the open from time to time. The Parrot Crossbills differed from ordinary Crossbills in appearing slightly bigger with significant bull necks. They had very thick bulging bills being as wide as they were long and the lower mandible showing a distinct "S" curve on the top leading edge. Plumage wise the rear of the ear coverts, "neck" and shoulders" were greyer than ordinary Crossbills and the call occasionally heard was a deeper "chuup chuup" call. When finally the sun came out the birds appeared as if by magic with 3 together (all males) with an adult male just below and just below and left of that an immature male and near the top left a female Parrot Crossbill. Managed to get a few shots too, albeit at not very close range. It was fantastic to see these birds after a 30 year gap, the last ones I saw were the breeders at Wells Wood in Norfolk, way back in 1982! Also a really great addition to my Suffolk list, my second of the year following the Trimley Pacific Swift in the spring! A Kestrel hunted on the common nearby. Later on at 2.30pm I checked the stubble field just east of the old Sewage works and just a few yards east of the OSW 2 birds flew up calling the distinctive "pprrrt" call revealed them as 2 Lapland Buntings. They flew towards the cliff top path area, from here they flew to the field just south of here and whilst walking along the cliff top path, first one and then 2 of the Buntings flew low just past us and north and settled by the central path leading east. From here I saw 1 Lapland Bunting perched in the grassy tramline area it turned left showing it was quite a well marked bird before darting in the central stubble where I was happy to leave it.
On Saturday 23rd November, a no show (for me during a 2 hour steak out for the Glaucous Gull) meant I didn't see much of avian interest in Hamilton Dock, however there was a Common Seal lying on the beach, it launched itself in the water and often arched its back in the water and sticking its head vertically upwards out of the water many times before it eventually hauled itself onto the beach. The dock worker mistakenly thought it was ill and the moment a ladder went onto the beach the seal looked around then frantically started to get itself into the water where it again swam off and eventually hauled itself onto the far beach. A look over at Ness Point saws very close feeding Purple Sandpiper feeding in good light on the rocks just a few feet away from the compass circle. The excellent light revealed the magical purple sheen on its plumage, giving the birds it's name. A real treat to see this rarely seen feature. Nearby on the defence rocks by the ledge were a further 9 roosting Purple Sandpipers. These wonderful waders are always a delight to see.
Thursday, 21 November 2013
On Tuesday 19th November an extended luchbreak saw me at the Dock, where the 1st winter Glaucous Gull was seen again bathing, light was again poor. On Thursday 21st November, during late morning I again saw the Glaucous Gull in Hamilton Dock, it was initially there but judicious throwing of both bread and chicken attracted first Black- headed Gulls then Herring Gulls and finally the 1st winter Glaucous Gull came flying in. The light was still an issue as the sun was directly at us. The Glaucous Gull flew round but always appeared silhouetted when it came close. After a while it flew off. A mini- sea watch at a wind swept Ness Point, there was a strong north- west wind with the waves crashing over the rocks ar regular intervals, none of the hoped for Little Auks so far but it was a good sea watch with Danny P & Gus. The sea watch revealed, firstly a group of 22 Eider flying north in a group then a line with 7 adult males. A little later, a further group of 20 Eiders included 2 adult males and 1 sub- adult male. 2 Gannets also flew north. 2 Scoters also flew north, the first, a female Common Scoter and the second a fine white- wing panelled Velvet Scoter.
Sunday, 17 November 2013
A much better day today, Sunday 17th November following a horrendous last few days. A look at Gunton Warren along the cliff top revealed 2 chacking Fieldfares from a tree by Corton road along the southern edge. A look down at the sea revealed a fast swimming female Common Scoter swimming quickly north. Seeing Rob Wil & Roob Win, they suggested going along the clip top to look for the Dartford. I initially had no luck but when I bumped into Paul & Jane, Paul W & one other all stood in a line, I joined them overlooking the new path and the laid out scrub edge, the Dartford Warbler was seen briefly flitting about before it flew up into the branches of a small bare tree where it showed well here for just over a minute before it flew left. A text stating the Glaucous was back and we drove down to Hamilton Dock, where the fine 1st winter Glaucous Gull, was seen swimming around very close to the north east corner giving superlative views. A typical 1st winter with biscuit coloured plumage, quite dark face, pale whitish wing tips and diagnostic pink/ black bi-cloured bill. The bird spent a lot of time swimming around the other herring Gulls feeding on the bread and discounted chicken scraps thrown by the birders! The bird would occasionally swim over to the left and then swim back to the right desperate for the food being thrown onto the water. 2 Rock pipits were seen too. Later seeing Phil J he casually mentioned that he'd just seen 3 Velvet Scoters off Gorleston cliffs. I decided to give it a try. At Gorleston Cliffs, viewing from the extreme south end of the car park I was astonished to see a really large flock of 459 Common Scoters initially in a large flock with a separate group of 32 Common Scoters. Looking closer still I suddenly spotted the distinctive silhouette of first one then 3 then 3 Velvet Scoters with more triangular knobbly heads, 2 white spots on the head and the distinctive white wing clip of 3 fine Velvet Scoters, they led the flock south, dived and surfaced together and it was great to spot them in the gloom (3.20pm on a very cloudy afternoon.
Saturday, 9 November 2013
On Saturday 9th November, just before the rain, I walked over to Fallowfields and taking the northern most path going west, at 1.25pm, a Woodcock suddenly flew up from the north west corner and flew over towards Parkhill Hotel grounds. Looking back on Tuesday 5th November, Firework night, I had spotted a Peacock butterfly flying around the Library at work at about 5.20pm, flying over to the Mezzanine floor but then it flew down towards the Journals sitting area where it had disappeared. It was really imperative that I caught it as it wouldn't survive in the "warm" Library this winter. So I was delighted to be informed by my colleague on Friday 8th November, that the same Peacock butterfly was sunning itself by the window doors facing the Sandra Chapman centre. I managed to catch it safely and released it unharmed in our garage back at Lowestoft ready for it to hibernate for the winter, complete with a supply of fresh nettles just in case it fancied a snack!
Saturday, 2 November 2013
Wednesday, 30 October 2013
On Wednesday 30th October having followed the tweets of a series of sightings of a Humpback Whale swimming north in the sea between Scratby and Sea Palling rather enviously. I awaited tweets on my morning off, would it be ever be seen again? (I had TOIL from working to 7pm the previous evening) and looking at BirdGuides at 9.30am it was seen off North Winterton I tweeted out and drove up to Great Yarmouth where I picked up Keith D, who was fortunately in regular contact with Barry J. A good tip from Barry was to look for the circling Gannets and it was usually directly below them. Barry J advised us to go to Horsey Gap as it was swimming slowly north. By 10.30am, we parked at the car park at Horsey Gap and we walked hurriedly up to the top of the mound over looking the sea, where we saw a small group of 5 people peering intently out to sea. It was the Whale, We looked far out to sea just below the horizon at about 2 o'clock and suddenly I saw the watery blow from its blow hole, the blow of water was bushy in shape and around 3 metres high in length, then I saw its black back and small stubby dorsal fin with the pronounced hump in front of the fin clearly seen, the whole body the arched up, the tail stock could be seen but not the whole tail or fluking. It was the magnificent Humpback Whale, an absolutely superb beast, an ambition realised to see a big whale species and one I never expected to see off the East Anglian coast! Plus a brand new Cetacean species ticked off and definitely my biggest to date! The Whale was swimming south and then north, going around in broad circles obviously fishing, twice for example the more triangular shaped head was seen poking out of the water. The Whale then appeared to swim closer in and the now familiar sequence of blow, then the dorsal fin and back appearing, followed by the arching of its back then the tail stock and then it was gone again. It started to swim north to around 11 o'clock on the horizon. It then turned and started to swim south just below the horizon. Its position could be seen by the number of circling Gannets initially there were just 3 but later on there were around 10- 15. The absolutely superb Humpback Whale at one point appeared to half breach out of the water, although try as I might I couldn't see the long fins. Grey Seals were also seen one further out and one close to shore. We finally saw it appearing to swim purposefully south and was back to the 3 o'clock on the horizon. By 11.25am, I really had to leave (in at work at 12 noon), it was really good to see Roy H & John H plus John W. I dropped off Keith at Asda on the way back and was back at work at 12.05pm! No pics as the Whale was a little too far out for my camera plus the limited time to observe it. Big thanks to Barry J for his regular updates, thanks also to those who tweeted, to Rene B for his call & advice and to Keith D for accompanying me this morning on a fabulous trip!
Monday, 28 October 2013
On Monday 28th October, the high winds failed to deter a male Peregrine which was seen to fly very fast and low over the grassy area just North of the James Paget University Hospital and seen from the Burrage centre at 4.20pm. At around 4.40pm, a pre- roost gathering of 37 Pied Wagtails were seen by the grass near the Burrage centre.
Sunday, 27 October 2013
A tweet from Tim on Sunday 27th October stating he'd found a Pallas' by the scrub at the base of Hermaness camp, had me driving to Winterton this morning. Parking was very difficult but I eventually found a space and as I was walking through it was really great to see former colleague Peter C and we had a quick catch up before I joined the assembled crowd (OFB, Paul W & others). It wasn't long before the fine Pallas' Warbler put in a brief appearance, appearing briefly in company initially with a Goldcrest, but the Pallas' was seen in vegetation right at the back looking through a sycamore tree, I saw it perched briefly for 2 seconds the obvious yellow supercilia bright olive green back and double wing bars clearly seen. It then went missing for 10 minutes before the soft "tsuui" call was heard several times and it was seen working left at the back always flitting about seen hovering in flight with lemon yellow rump, then it worked its way back to the green bush and left of there along a thick sycamore branch right out in the open briefly before it worked its way left again flew to another sycamore and by it's calls I followed it 30 yards further north, where it was seen again flitting about. Walking across the Dunes to the beach I walked around 400 yards north of the beach car park and joined a throng of 4 birders scoping the excellent Shore Lark perched on the sandy cliff just below the top over hand where it perched for a while before hopping down the cliff feeding and then it flew onto the beach in front of us but was eventually scared off by a dog and the constant stream of walkers and it flew onto a sandy spit by the sea (a long pool separated us from it and we managed a few pics before it flew onto our side again. Out to sea we saw a group of 8 female/ immature Common Scoter It later ran over to the edge of the beach by the marram grass and some more walkers pushed it towards us before a dog forced it to fly up to the cliff again. A tweet saying a BB Albatross had just been spotted flying north, we (Paul W, OFB and I) tried hard to see it but didn't!! Several Gannets seen including several immatures and several adult Gannets seen c40 seen. The Common Scoter flock or flock had increased to a total of 22 again all female/ immatures. OFB saw a flying raptor flying south and coming in off the sea it was seen just above the horizon, it was a female Marsh Harrier.
On Sunday 20th October, I walked over to the Boulevard from the Wherry and could see the Red- breasted Merganser, the eclipse or immature male was very, very close on the water just a few feet away, it really was very close, but as I was setting my camera up it started raining (I could see Danny P already taking pics) and a lady walked to the edge and this spooked the Merganser which swam very quickly away and to the middle of the Broad and then subsequently dived and I didn't see it again. No pictures and this was very, very frustrating to say the least!!
Wednesday 16th October was windy and it rained for much of the day but early morning we were up on the Garrison and by the football pitch I heard the rasping call of a Brambling and evntually spotted her in the bare branches of a pine before she eventually flew off. In the campsite bushes, a female Blackcap seen plus a Wheatear by one of the Batteries walking back towards Lower Broome platform at the start, a Clouded Yellow posed beautifully on a weed and I took full advantage obtaining several shots. Again walking over past the airport to Porthellick Pool, we saw Wheatear and Rock Pipit and by the Sussex hide, 2 Jack Snipe and a Snipe, 1 of each species seen at close quarters with the other Jack a little further back of the left hand edge of the pool. Fly through Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail seen too.9 Greenshank seen at the back too. On Thursday 17th October the Black Redstart showed intermitently on Town beach spending some time by the walls and beach before flying down to a boat and posts near the Atlantic. walking along Porthcressa beach, I saw 5 Sandwich Tern perched on a white boat out in the bay, whilst another, sixth, Sandwich Tern flew right fairly close in to the beach. By the time I walked over to the Lower Broome platform, looking back on the boat, 6 were seen on the boat and another, seventh bird on a pink bouy beside it. At lower Moors On Friday 17th October, again sheltering from the rain we went down to the Town beach sheltering under an awning by the Atlantic Hotel, we didn't see a lot, save for Turnstones and immature & adult Herring Gulls. At Lower Moors, a confiding Little Grebe posed well for the camera just left of the hide, whilst Grey wagtail seen also. Clouded Yellows seen plus one in a field by Longstones. In Carreg Dhu garden, persistance paid off when looking at 3 Goldcrests, a Firecrest was seen and it showed reasonably well half way up the sycamore. Walking along Green lane, we definitely saw a Scilly Shrew, this time a dead one with a stone on its head. Walking through Holy Vale we heard and saw a very active Yellow- browed Warbler. At Burial chamber a Rat seen scrabbling around in a bramble whilst a Merlin flew right out to sea and over to St. Martins, 15 Shag seen on the sea. On Friday 18th October by the pottery, 7 House Martin flew over us and towards the Garrison. On Saturday 19th October, on the Garrison, we saw a resonably confiding stunning male Black Redstart on rocks below the Battery. On the Boat trip back just clearing the Scillies, I saw a small grey white wader flying left and Dick then shouted Grey Phalarope confirming my suspicions to its ID. 2 Great Skuas seen, plus another Balearic Shearwater flying left on the horizon, another great call from Dick and & fine Sooty Shearwater also flew left and behind the boat. We also saw several groups of Common Dolphins, a group of 4 heading for the bow of the boat, a group of 8 behind the boat and a group of 4 leaping out of the water. A fine end to the trip.
On Monday 14th October, we were walking around the garrison, arriving Morning Point fortifications John spotted an excellent Ring Ouzel dark with silvery wings that chacked and flew to a bush near the Lower Broome platform, A Raven also flew over here. We also saw 3 Wheatear around the Garrison mainly near the King Edward battery. Along the King Charles road, on Peniness Head, a Snow Bunting was exceptionally confiding feeding along the path and the grassy margins and on one occasion when flushed by a dog it flew up to a bramble bush. It was often in company with a Dunnock. By the Pulpit rock, I heard the "pprrrt" call of a Lapland Bunting but unseen this time. Whilst the Whimbrel again showed on the rocks, walking feeding and often sticking the seaweed line which undoubtedly was full of invertebrates, by the path to Oldtown Churchyard and showed well in marginally better light. Walking up to the airfield 4 Wheatear plus I saw a tiny mammal out of the corner of my eye run into a grassy clump, it must have been a Scilly Shrew, my first albeit seen poorly. A pair of Stonechat showed on gorse near the wind sock and in Porthellick Bay, 18 Ringed Plovers were seen. From the Stephen Sussex hide at Porthellick Pool, we saw a group of 8 Greenshank, a Kingfisher flew past several times as did a Grey Wagtail, but right under the hide barely a metre away at point blank range was an excellent Jack Snipe. It wwas too close to photograph but it slwly walked away, bobbing up and down settled down by a clump of grass on the waters edge just 3 metres away. Whilst further back, another Jack Snipe was seen. Walking along Four Lanes end, I noted a Clouded Yellow fling in a field north of the track and another Clouded Yellow in a field south of the track. Plus another Clouded Yellow seen on the main road too. On Porthloo Beach, 3 Wheatear and a Little Egret seen. The CB said a Black Redstart was on Hughtown Beach and as I walked onto the grass the bird was flying past and left briefly perched on the wall then disappeared a typically smoky grey individual. John arrived 2 seconds later and missed it sadly. On Tuesday 15th October, we took the boat to St. Agnes, and walked right over to Browarth Point field where we soon got onto the excellent Short- toed Lark feeding at the back of the field, it flew to the middle of the field and gave reasonable views. A Sky Lark was seen in the back corner of the field. A calling Raven flew overhead flying left. Just before the Parsonage looking underneath a large tree to the field beyond a Pied Flycatcher was fliting around some weeds at the field edge. Whilst at the parsonage Chiff- Chaff seen. 12 Ringed Plover and 7 Turnstone seen in the bay. As we walked back home past Porthcressa bay an excellent female Merlin, brown backed with barring on the tail flew past flying right 2 metres above the water last seen disappearing over the Garrison. 2 Stonechat and Red Admiral seen lates by Peninnis Head and by the Hospital persistant scanning of the Starling flocks paid off when a chap yelled he had it on the hospital roof, the fine immature Rose- coloured Starling perched on the extreme left hand end of the roof, sandy plumage and yellow bill the give away ID featurs noted for a couple of minutes before it flew off.
Saturday, 26 October 2013
A fine crossing on the Scillonian on Saturday 12th October revealed some exceptional seabirds, a Bonxie early on was a good start but thus improved when I picked up the first one an extremely close Balearic Shearwater that flew exceptionally close (being a rich chocolate brown colour and smudged brown and white underwing) to the boat and then sheared away and diagonally right away from the boat, which I shouted out so everyone could get on it. I found another Balearic Shearwater flying further away on the horizon and shouted out this one too. A great start & the first time I have ever found this particular species! Another Bonxie flew by plus a Razorbill and later 3 Guillemots and several, c30 Gannets seen too. Arriving at the Quay we quickly dumped our stuff at the accommodation and we took the boat over to Tresco and the Great Pool to look for the Sora. We walked quickly to the Swarovski hide which was almost full when we arrived. I managed to get a seat but with an obscured view. John picked up the Sora walking in out of the reeds to the right of the hide and I picked it up walking back into reeds, the excellent Sora. After a false alarm when somebody mistoke a half obscured Water Rail in the reeds washing. The Sora was seen again after a while around the margins of the reeds and then right out in the open. Similar to Spotted Crake but with distinctive yellow bill, black around the lores between the eye and the base of the bill and lot less spotting. The Sora walked out in the open for a while before eventually disappearing into the reeds. An abortive attempt to go to the David Hunt hide to look for Garganey had to be abandoned due to lack of time as we had to tight deadline to meet to catch the last boat back to St. Mary's. A Jack Snipe was seen very close to the right hand end of the hide in the reed fringes between the edge of the reeds and the mud and was characteristically bobbing up and down. Walking back to the boat near the heliport we saw a Wheatear and an immature Stonechat plus a Meadow Pipit and 2 Sky Lark on the grass. On Sunday 13th October at Lower Moors, we saw a Water Rail run away from the dyke a female Blackcap and a calling Yellow- browed Warbler eventually revealed itself in the bushes between the road and shooters pool. A Greenshank and Grey Wagtail seen at Lower Moors whilst in Old Town Bay, I saw a Whimbrel fly in and onto he rocks, we would see much more of this bird a little later on. Around Pennines Head lighthouse, we saw 4 Wheatear and 4 excellent Common Dolphin swimming right out to sea, which the finder were convinced were Porpoises! Another Whimbrel flew onto rocks here too. We were having trouble finding pulpit rock which we had already passed as it was on the coastal path leading 2/3 of the way up to the lighthouse and as we got there both Laps were seen on a rock but somebody with a little camera just walked straight up to them flushed them (all I saw were 2 Wheatear) and I had to wait until one Lapland Bunting flew into the large rock at the top of the hill where it fed and promptly disappeared for my first sighting. Later on it flew back and showed down to 2 feet far to close for he camera at times but it did return to the rock area to feed. By the rocks by the shore on the way down to Old Town Churchyard, a confiding Whimbrel, the one I mentioned earlier, was walking around feeding on the rocks giving exceptional views so I spent some time here photographing it. back at Lower Moors, 2 Grey Wagtail flying around like hire wires and up to 4 Jack Snipe dotted around the far end of the pool edges and a Kingfisher breifly perched on the post at the back. By the skate park by the School by the large Elm opposite Nowhere, a calling Yellow- browed Warbler constantly on view showed well before flying to bushes nearby. A Speckled Wood landed on the grass. We then received news that the Thrush had been seen near the farm on the road to Hughtown, we tried with no luck but headed back to the Churchyard. The Churchyard was full of people and when the CB went off saying it was currently showing we didn't know where until I walked to the start of the path leading to the back top edge of the Churchyard. Incredibly looking back at the top monument, the excellent Grey- cheeked Thrush could be seen in full view barely 20 feet away. Only trouble was there such a hem of people, there was no room to set my camera up but I received superlative views through my bins. Smaller than Song Thrush and greyer, this was by far my best ever views of this species as it fed around the monument disappearing behind it at times before popping out the other side, watched for some twenty minutes. Later a Yellow- browed Warbler was heard and 2 calling Raven flew over. A great start to the 2013 Scilly holiday.
Tuesday, 8 October 2013
On Sunday 6th October I missed out on seeing Black Darters at Corton because I had been gardening all afternoon. Well done to Andrew E for findinga further3 at this site, but I am kicking myself for not going myself as I thought it would be a good area to check following Andrew's stunning bief sighting of a Vagrant Emperor, an Odonata I am particularly keen to see. So on Monday 7th October at 1.15pm, and despite grey clouds looming, I made my way to the Corton sewage works pond armed with my wellies and I was initially unsure on whether I would see any and was mightliy relieved and elated to immediately see a male Black Darter on the hand rail. As I waded through the submerged board walk. This magnificent Odonata showed really well and was particular obliging for the camera although this was spoilt by the slightly overcast conditions making photography particularly difficult. This species has a very thin pinched in abdomen which makes sharp photography particularly difficult and this requires a normal aperture rating of F8 for Dragonflies increased to a more light demanding F11 aperture. This causes serious problems in the poor light and this wasn't an option on the day with such poor lighting. A further Black Darter, another male, was resting on the handrail along the eastern end of the boardwalk. Whilst around the grassy margins just west of the pool, another male Black Darter was seen and took a particular shine to Ricky, often alighting on his hand. Meanwhile I saw a Willow Emerald hanging from the bushes and viewed from the western side a pair of Willow Emeralds were mating (initially viewed through Steve A's telescope), this bodes very well for the future of this species at this site. Probably around 5 male Black Darters seen in total, plus several, 5 Common Darters mostly male, 1 Emperor Dragonfly buzzing about and several 3 really smart male Migrant Hawkers. We also saw Nick M, who was asking about Lesser Emperor sighting including my record from last July at the now Odonata hot spot of Links road/ North Beach/ Gunton Dunes area! On Tuesday 8th October, the sun was shining and a late night at work (working to 7pm) I was able to break for very early lunch at 10.30am and by 10.45am, I was walking down to the Pool. A case of deja vu, as it was good to see Ricky F here again. Ricky hadn't seen any Black Darters but I soon spotted a male Black Darter perched on the hand rail of the boardwalk over the far eastern end. But our concentration was on the grassy bank, where we spotted up to 10+ male Black Darters flying around then either perched on the ground or on a frond of sticking vegetation sticking up. The perfect sunny conditions made all the difference as several male Black Darters posed beautifully for the camera giving some good results. The trick was to either spot them perched which was tricky or follow one seen in flight and hope it landed within view. The bright sunlight meant we had to be very careful not to cast shadows over these insects which would quickly fly off again. Also seen were an Emperor Dragonfly, 3 smart male Migrant Hawkers and 5 Common Darters (4 males and 1 female). After leaving work at 7.05pm this evening I heard a Tawny owl calling "kewick" calls from just north- west of the site not far from the Doctor's quarters.
Saturday, 5 October 2013
On Saturday 5th October, I went straight to Gunton Warren and parking at the end of Corton road took the path heading east onto Gunton Heath, good to see Chris M & James W, the finder having initially seen it in bushes along the top. Down on the warren, we heard the chacking of a Thrush and a very grey looking long- tailed Thrush which perched in the top left of a Sycamore at the top of the cliff. It was the excellent Ring Ouzel, showing very silvery wings. It perched here for several minutes before it flew down and left. Only seen at distance with bins, it would have been nice to have seen this bird close up to check if it had shown any characteristics of the pale scaled "Alpistris" race? Back at the top it was eventually seen flying back into the Sycamore and then away again. 2 Song Thrushes and 2 Redwing, 1 flew over and another flew in and 1 perched in a mountain ash with a Song Thrush. A visit to Corton was fairly uneventful, with 2 Goldcrest seen in bushes along the coast road just north of Corton Church were the only birds seen. A return visit in the afternoon, parking at the Links Road carpark, an adult winter mediterranean sat in the car park with several BH Gulls before a dog let off the lead ran directly into them like an exocet missile with the Gulls promptly dispersing. Warren House Wood was very quiet indeed, eerily so whilst alook a few yards further north revealed 2 Firecrests, they were calling from the bushes just west of the Holm oak copse itself just north of Warren House wood. First one and then a second Firecrest flew into the Holm oaks showing the bronze sheen on the shoulders as they flew in and quickly disappeared amongst the dense foliage of the Holm Oaks. Seeing both James W & Nick B, 2 Thrushes, one the grey Ring Ouzel suddenly flew from the slope and appeared to drop down by a Sycamore near the N Holm Oak copse but they were not seen again.
Friday, 4 October 2013
After a wet night and a loud thunderstorm in the early hours we were all expecting a good fall of migrants. So I was up before dawn and well before work this morning, Friday 4th October, and looked around Corton Old Rail Track with Song Thrush and heard Chiff- Chaff the only birds noted. Down one of the rides a mist net was seen and Derek & Colin were around with bags full of an unseen Song Thrush & Blackcap. At the Corton Old Sewage works, I immediately heard a very vociferous Yellow- browed warbler, fantastic, but then it started singing unusual in the autumn, to say the least! I turned around and behind me I saw Derek & Colin walking up the track with their bags and the penny belatedly (it was an early start) dropped, it was their bl**dy tape playing!! Later on, I saw Craig, he hadn't seen much, so I decided to check the bushes to the west of Broadland Sands Holiday camp where the OBP had been seen last autumn and I saw an excellent early Fieldfare perched within the bush, it saw me and hopped further in. By Church Farm entrance I heard some 'Crests briefly, worthy of further investigation, but that was it. At work we had the door open and being based in the Burrage centre, I heard the sharp "Tzchikk" call of a Grey Wagtail flying west over the buidling and inland. At lunchtime, at 1.30pm, I walked into the south side of Great Yarmouth Cemetery and it was great to see Tommy C and we walked just east of the main path in the usual bushes and in one bush, I immediately saw 2 Firecrests in the same field of view. My belated first 2 of the autumn! They were calling regularly and were even started singing to each other. They were joined by a third Firecrest, as usual lovely birds with olive green mantle, fiery crests with white supercilia bordered by a black stripe. They were constantly on the move and giving good brief views within the bush.
Thursday, 3 October 2013
A quick lunchtime visit to Breydon Water along the south wall from 1.40pm, it was really good to meet Peter A, its finder and who easily by a mile has the record for finding a whole multitude of rarities at Breydon over the years. As usual I'd timed the tides completely wrong so the waders were over the far side and couldn't be properly I'D'd apart the larger ones such as Curlews etc. Apparently the Pom had regular fly rounds every hour and was due another fly around and had been last seen sat on the lumps. After a while I drove round to Asda and viewed from the steps and was pleased to see Paul, one of the Dereham boys. We watched for around ten minutes before suddenly at 1.15pm Paul said "It's flying!" and almost instantly I picked up the excellent Pomarine Skua flying up left from the north-west end of the lumps and powering low and left over the estuary scattering some Gulls. The Skua flew right over the estuary and high above the bridge it wheeled up and chased and harried a Herring Gull, that dropped its food which was expertly caught by the Pomarine Skua and then it flew west over the estuary towards Burgh Castle. A superb sleek but barrel chested Skua with all dark bill and distinctive white flashes beneath the base of the primaries on the underwing. Thanks to both Peter A for telling me where he had last seen and an update from Tommy C on when he'd last seen it this is much appreciated, especially when you have so little time to spare on a lunch break.
Wednesday, 2 October 2013
On Wednesday 2nd October, a late morning TOIL (working 8 to 6pm Monday and 8 to 7pm Tuesday!) visit to Sparrow's Nest today, revealed a mini fall of greyer looking Robins and Song Thrushes, 4 of each species were seen, obvious migrants from the continent. The elusive Firecrest still eluded me, not sure where its been seen exactly? I assume it has been seen either round the bushes on the north side of the loop trail at the top of the bottom of the lighthouse top of the bowling green area? Finally got problems of tweeting out in the field from my mobile phone sorted but this has been replaced by me not being able to login on the Vodafone website will be calling their customer services tomorrow, why is new technology so difficult???
Sunday, 29 September 2013
Ever since Thursday, there has been strong easterly winds offering plenty of promise but delivering very little so far, lets hope we get some bad weather to ground the inevitable migrants. As it turned out the weekend delivered a couple of visitors from the north rather than the east! On Thursday 26th September, I made my way after work to the pool by Corton New Sewage works where Andrew E had brilliantly found both Black Darter and Willow Emeralds. Sadly I missed all of these Odonatas (the sun had just gone in when I arrived at 5.40pm, too late!) and had to content myself with 4 Chiff- Chaffs in the plantation (always a productive area) following a nice group of 20 Long- tailed Tits moving through. On Friday lunchtime, I had a 2 hour extended lunch (TOIL) at the Corton New SW Pool and Ricky F refound a superb Willow Emerald, my first in Lizard land/ Lowestoft. showing well but just out of photographic reach and enjoyed by Chis M, Maurice B and myself it was perched on the vertical branch of a bush bordering the western side of the pool. The dagger mark on the side of the thorax being a diagnostic feature. On Saturday 28th September, a very disappointing total lack of migrants in the afternoon (a nagging headache, due to the high pressure/ humidity, kept me housebound in the morning) and couldn't see the Firecrest at any of the 4 entrances to Bird's Eye (I assume it was seen by the western offices entrance but not entirely sure!) but it was nice to see a close Brent Goose on the east side of the Oval, looking through the fence albeit directly facing into the fading sun. IThe Goose was faithful to a small shaded area and was constantly feeding in a small 3 metre square area during the whole time of observation. On Sunday 29th September, another Firecrest dip, this time it was too windy in Sparrows Nest again in the afternoon, but a tweet from mid afternoon Danny P, had Paul F, Jane F & myself dashing to the northern path slope leading down from CEFAS and I refound the excellent Snow Bunting feeding on a secluded bit of concrete at the bottom. It then flew a little way onto the main path, before it was about to feed in the sunlight on the main path, it was inevitably flushed and it flew back to the pink tarmaced path sloping down from directly underneath the CEFAS's northern side and the bird was particularly confiding (see header shot! & below) and seen just 2 feet away until some walkers pushed it towards me, I couldn't believe it (ala Victor Meldrew) when two of their number apologised for flushing saying they hadn't seen it when it had been trundling down the slope barely 3 feet in front of them for a good ten metres!! They flushed it but it flew up and alighted further up the slope. It was seen again for a while before the inevitable dog walker flushed it right off the slope again and flew further east down the slope
Sunday, 22 September 2013
At around 10am today, I made my way to Sparrow's Nest after the fog had dispersed but had been beaten in finding the first YBW of the autumn and above the Bowling Green I saw Andrew E, Robert Win, OFB and later Robert Wil as we waited a short time and suddenly the excellent Yellow- browed Warbler started constantly calling a high pitched "tsuuip". The only problem was we couldn't initially see it, as it was near the very top of the trees but eventually came down to 2/3 of the height of the tree and a flitting movement soon put us all onto it. A small Warbler with whitish underparts and cream supercilia seen from the angle we ewre viewing it from, as it flitted around in the tree showing occasionally before after 4 minutes it suddenly stopped calling and we lost it from view after seeing it three times for around 3 minutes. Little seen on the Denes save for an adult winter Mediterranean Gull flying south over the sea and an adult Common Tern perched on the groynes. 3 Chiff- Chaffs heard and later on in Sparrow's Nest at lunchtime where 5 Migrant Hawkers were seen flying around the bowling green hunting insects at least 3 were blue adult males. At Fallowfields in the afternoon, 2 Chiff- Chaffs heard.
Friday, 20 September 2013
Friday 20th September nothing seen at Ness Point, this afternoon save for 2 Turnstones on the wreck of the old sea wall. 2 Chiff- Chaff were also heard along the North Denes slope. 2 Common Tern seen flying south along the sea plus an adult Mediterranean Gull in winter plumage and letter seen on the beach. After a chap said he'd seen a rare gull on the beach with orange bill black band on the lower bill and orange legs wih rings on both legs, did I know what it was? I said "Mediterranean Gull" and sure enough it was the adult winter Mediterranean Gull a ringed bird this bird had a white ring with black lettering "E861" on its right leg and a smaller silver ring on its left leg. It spent most of its time running along the shore line before it flew north into the over the sea and onto the next bit of beach.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
Having TOIL from work during the morning of Wednesday 18th September, I was to try the Herculean feat of going for both the LGS near Sizewell and the Wilson's P at Cley during the morning off from work I had today. So just after first light (it started to get light at 6.30am but by around 7.30am the sun was staring to shine and found myself driving along the Sizewell road looking for the Halfway cottages thanks to the obligatory OS map I found them easily and managed to find a parking space (only 2 available but preferable to the very long walk required if you parked at Leiston as advised) on the opposite side of the road just 50 yards before. I walked across found the bridleway snaking back in a south- east direction behind the cottages and a reassuringly located horse box. I could see the power lines from the road and looking east from the path could see what must have been the horse paddocks (but no horses in them, probably still in their stables?) directly underneath power lines. I met 2 birders, one just grunted at me neanderthal style when asked if they'd seen the bird, the other helpfully told me to look underneath the power lines along the fence posts. I duly followed the advice and quickly located the excellent Lesser Grey Shrike perched on a back fence post. A super bird, basically a mixture of grey black and white, slightly bigger than RBS the grey colouring being; grey crown, fore crown running into a grey neck and mantle. The black colouring being; on large rounded head a thick black stripe running back from the lores past the eye and running to the back of the ear coverts. With black wings and tail. The white on the throat and underparts with square white patch at the base of the primaries when the wings were closed forming a distinct patch, there were white edgings to the median coverts and tail sides. The bird would frequently fly off the fence posts hunting for food before being relocated often on a different fence post on the other side of the paddocks. At 8.30am, I left for Cley taking the Beccles, then Norwich (held up by a lorry travelling 40 mph the entire length of Beccles to Norwich outer ring road), Norwich outer ring road and Holt road and finally at 10.45am, I was walking down to Bishops Hide (this is located on the right hand side of the road walking 300 yards right of the Visitors centre. I was fortunate in the crowded hide to quickly get a seat and the superb Wilson's Phalarope was immediately on view briefly walking around on the extreme right hand edge of an island that was helpfully right in front of the hide around 40 feet away. The Phalarope was constantly feeding with its head and pencil thin bill pecking the earth for food as it made its way around the ducks and Teal sitting on the extreme right of the island. The bird appeared slightly larger than other Phalaropes with long neck and long needle thin bill giving it a very delicate appearance. It had a striking pale appearance with light grey crown, top of neck and upper parts with just a hint of immaturity browner on just a small amount of flight feathers. It had striking yellow legs and was constantly walking about feeding often with its head just above the surface of the ground/ water. It appeared to be more dry ground dwelling than other Phalaropes but it didn't stop it from occasional but rare sorties into the water. Typically it would give a brief walk around before disappearing out of sight at the back of the island for a while. However this excellent bird didn't keep you waiting for long and during the hour and 10 minute period of observation (I had acute time pressures as I was due back at work at 1pm) it reappeared at least six times. The last time was the best when it walked to the front edge of the island and then giving superlative views as it walked left feeding out in the open. Other birds out there were many 200 Black- tailed Godwits a family of 5 Ruff (2 adults and 3 immatures) plus another adult elsewhere and finally The heralds of winter, a quartet of Pink- footed Geese that flew around and settled amongst all the Greylag Geese. It was good to hear the dulcet tones of Ali R, who like me, had only seen one previously, the fondly remembered Benacre Broad bird way back in mid September 1991. The Wilson's Phalarope was one bird I particularly wanted to see again. It was now 11.50 am and time to go, as I drove past Walsey Hills, I could see a group of birders probably looking at the RBS, a great shame I couldn't join them for a view but work beckoned.
Sunday, 15 September 2013
Arriving at the Beach road, Caister today, I saw Peter C & Diane and a big flock of 200 Starlings flew over us and amongst them was we spotted the excellent very pale sandy coloured Rose- coloured Starling flying around. It then flew over to the buildings just east of the Beach road car park along Beach Road & Old Mill road and it was seen perched and scoped from the car park on the roof and chimney pots with Ricky F and John H briefly joining us joining us before it flew again. Walking along back along Beach rd, I saw the bird perched first on the roof then amongst the chimney pots and then it flew to a more distant roof where good scope views were obtained. It flew again. Seeing the Dereham lads, as sharp as ever they had picked it up near a roof top with solar panels in Clay Road (first left west of car park) and we had good views of it here where it rested for some 10 minutes along with around 20 or so other Starlings above the panels. A very sandy looking bird as is always the case with immatures with yellow base to the bill and very clean fresh dark black or brown flight feather with white/ cream edgings giving it a very clean smart looking appearance. It then flew again and was seen at the back of a chimney pot, down a side a passage of the Street, where I managed a few shots before it and the Starling flew onto a green area. They fed here for a while before they flew again. Reassembling back at the car park, I amazed Paul W by picking up the bird in flight, which was easy to do with the Zeiss bins I now have, obviously it was very pale but appeared slightly bigger than the other Starlings with slightly blunter edged wing tips maybe with broader bases making it reasonably distinctive n flight if you were warranted a good view. Also good to see around 30 House Sparrows around the green area and a further 10 House Sparrows opposite the Library too. Late on today 4pm, news came out of a LGS at Aldringham walks but where on earth was that? After 30 minutes pouring over maps of Suffolk, I finally located was near Sizewell, but I had run out of time as I calculated it would take 2 hours to get it; 1 hour's drive and another hour's 2 mile walk and in the driving rain to boot! Should have gone as I would have seen it very late on at 6.35pm, when it was still showing. Lets hope it stays to next weekend as there will not be enough time either before or after work (start work at 8am finish at 5pm).
On Saturday 14th September following the rain I went out onto the north denes and saw several Lounge Lizards plus 3 Whinchats perched at top of 5 foot high vegetation and I wheatear seen on the sea wall and 1 Arctic Skua flew reasonably close in flying south. I searched the Oval, netposts and north beach and a Sandwich Tern and 2 immature Common Terns seen on the groynes.
Saturday, 14 September 2013
Over the last 3 week during the recent hot weather I have been counting regular numbers of Large White caterpillars or larvae on the Burrage centre car park at work at the Hospital, normally the counts have been in high single figures but reached a record of 26 one day over a week ago and 5 were still crawling along on Friday the 13th. Also today, Saturday the 14th around 20 Jackdaws flew over chasing a Rook flying overhead and north over the garden.
Sunday, 8 September 2013
Today, early morning on Sunday 8th September, I saw nothing at the net posts and following a tweet from Rene, I made the very short journey over to the Oval. I initially saw 2 Yellow Wagtails, but the groundsman walking out flushed all the Wagtails onto the north side of the Oval. I met Chris M and we walked over to the North Denes slope together and the excellent juvenile Cuckoo flew low falcon- like along the North Denes slope settling into a sycamore near the top of the slope it flew again briefly, sporting a pale belly with browner breast, and was then seen flying back into a bush. We saw a Chiff- Chaff in the sycamores and making our way back at the Oval, up to 4 Yellow Wagtails were seen on the Oval near the green wicket, one was reasonably close and I managed to obtain a few shots of it.
On Saturday 7th September I popped out mid afternoon and by 3.30pm I was walking across from the layby the Blyth estuary along the busy A12 and crossed the busy road and immediately saw the excellent Osprey hovering over the far corner south- west of the estuary, distant but reasonable views through the bins and it flew down into the water and then flew right fairly quickly sadly that's all I saw of it as it soon disappeared from sight. walking down I met Rene and co and Malcolm F and pointed out the larvae of a Glow Worm crawling across the path and we saw around 8 Curlew fly out at regular intervals from the creek plus a Black- tailed Godwit amongst all the c60 Redshank. I wanted to try for the Osprey again but was really unsure where to view. I walked back to the car and in the hedge just before it I saw a white and brown moth with a little yellow at the top which I think is a Jersey Moth, sadly no macro lens available so no pictorial evidence to show you. Going to the Tinkers Marsh reserve, I parked at the car park and under one of the corrugated iron sheets, I saw an excellent Grass Snake curled up, I then followed the path down to the road and didn't know where to go next and couldn't find the Bungalow either that I was advised to find, if I was to view the Osprey on a post so gave up and went home!
Early on Thursday 6 September morning before work I looked along the North Denes slope and the immature Cuckoo was still flying first right and then left along the North Denes slope disappearing into a Sycamore the last time I saw it was now 8.15am and I had to leave for work.
Wednesday, 4 September 2013
Having TOIL this afternoon Wednesday 4th September, I headed out to Horsey & parked at the Nelson's Head at Horsey and walked down the path to the end, a brief Wall Brown butterflywas seen on the path. Whilst at the end by the green hut, a smart Wheatear and 2 Whinchats seen on the fence line. walking down to the seal colony a load of Grey Seals c30 were seen lying on the beach with around 5 in the water. Around 40 Swallows seen resting on the path ahead and then they perched on the fence posts, dispersal of newly fledged birds and their parents plus around 15 House Martins seen too. I met Tim sitting by the North Pine wood and we made our way to ether to the Toad Pool where the female Common Hawker was buzzing aound and during the 2 hours I was here she was constantly oviposting by the boggy marsh and also on the path, just a foot away from me at times, showing exceptionally well but the the very bright sunlight made getting good pics extremely difficult. She is a bigger and fatter bodied Dragonfly compared with an adult male Migrant Hawker seen occasionally flying around too. I was grateful to Tim for pointing out the Southern Emerald damselfly with bi- colour brown/white ptrerstigma and white legs, it also had its wings at rest held across the body, whilst Common Emeralds seen on the same pool 2, tend to fold their wings back along the abdomen. Tim left and 2 other birders came and quickly found another 2nd Southern Emerald Damselfly just a foot north of the north most perimeter path along the pool first perched on grass and then a flower before eventually flying up to the bramble bush behind it. Those 2 gents left and I concentrated on the female Common Hawker who spent more time oviposting along the path and allowing close views. walking back the 3 mile walk, a strange buff (leucistic?) Swallow flew south along the field with 2 normal coloured Swallows, Tim had tipped me off about this bird and I was pleased to see it, just wanted the other pale buff bird, the Immature RC Starling than asn't sen all day, sadly. Back by the green hut, 2 Wheatears perched on the fence wires. It was a long 3 mile walk in the long sun and searing heat together with the optics I was carrying 2 cameras lenses, bins, telescope and tripod.
Sunday, 1 September 2013
I was delighted to get a phone call from one of my friends this evening (Sunday 1st September), stating they had a Convolvous Hawk Moth in the garden this evening. It had been passed third hand onto them from a neighbour over the road! Whilst driving over to see them I witnessed a brown female Sparrowhawk perched on top of a Wood Pigeon in the gutter on the left hand side of the busy A12 road almost directly opposite the Foxborrow pub! Arriving later at the garden they showed me to their greenhouse where it had been expertly put on a dead piece of log and I was able to obtain a few pictures of this marvellous beast. A subtle mixture of greys and a really impressive moth, along with Privet & Death's Head one of the largest moths we get in Britain. Albeit, this a rare migrant from Africa, rarely seen here. However, this is the 5th Convolvous Hawk Moth I have seen having first seen one at Gunton off the North Parade (very top of the North Denes slope many moons ago, with a further 3 on Scilly over the years and one in Peter C's garden at Winterton, always a treat to see, these grey beasts!) As I finished my photography, I looked up and saw a Cuckoo fly past heading east, it was a dark shape but almost definately another immature Cuckoo, which like buses you wait ages for one then 2 come along almost at once (or was it the same North Denes bird? could be!) A big thank you to my friends for the phone call and warm hospitality this evening.
A tweet saying there was a juvenile Cuckoo on the North denes slope had me haring down to Links road car park and an initial look was unsuccessful, but I was fortunate enough to bump into Bill H and after haf an hour without success we said our goodbyes. This was a little premature as Bill called me back and said he though he had it flying low towards the group of sycamore on the bank just north of the Oval. Bill volunteered to go and have a look and five minutes I saw swoop out low like a brown and falcon, settle for a millisecond ina sycamore bush before flying up and settling in dead bush near the top. The juvenile Cuckoo, really was a fabulous bird, the first ever that I have seen, which is really surprising considering all the time I spent down on Fisher Row seeing many adults. It had abrown back, bib and cream breast and underparts. After 10 minutes sitting in his bush it then flew down and perched near the top of umbellifers near the bottom of the slope. One slight problem, a dog was approaching me but the quick intervention of Bill and the kind co-operation of the dog walker meant the dog was restrained and I was able to approach the Cuckoo albeit with just the handheld camera and lens and managed a few shots of it before a magpie flushed it and appeared to settle in a sycamore before it flew back a little way and disappared out of sight again. Also seen earlier were several Swallows c15, 4 House Martins and 1 Swift flying low over the North Denes my first in ages!
Saturday, 31 August 2013
At 9.55am this morning a Hornet was seen on the flowers for a couple of minutes on the front floer bed, first spotted and identified by Jenny, she'll be needing a pair of bins next, she can have my old Zeiss Dialyts! Walking along the North Denes this morning included an excellent Spotted Flycatcher that flew to the top a bush, surrounded by 2 female Whitethroats. saw Big Steve & Norman and was able to put them onto the bird. It then flew down and perched a few feet down from the top for some 20 minutes first being face on and then hopping to be back on. It eventually flew out and flew north a way, but on the return journey it was back on the bush perched at the very top. Further along by the Links road car park, a Lesser Whitethroat flew to a elderberry bush and was joined by another Whitethroat. An excellent Garden Warbler flew to a Buddlea bush and perched for about a minute before flying off. An excellent Clouded Yellow flew to a yellow plant and perched before flying again. At Ness Point the juvenile Red- backed Shrike perched in a Buddlea bush on the western boundary of the Turbine compound, spending alot of time perched on the left hand side of the big buddlea. In the garden early evening was a male Common Darter preched on the tip of a runner bean caneand a female/ immature Migrant Hawker.
Having to go to Cleyspey on Friday 30th August (TOIL from work!), OFB & I popped into Cley early afternoon, always a delight to come here but sadly we had very limited time. From checking the hide at Pats Pool, we saw a load of waders including 30 Black- tailed Godwit, up to 9 Curlew Sandpipers, in more winter or immature plumages, 10 Dunlin, 7 Ruff and 2 Common Sandpipers. The Curlew Sandpipers were bigger than the Dunlin, "cleaner" with brown above and white below or a peach flush on the upper flanks and of course longer down curved bills and more elongated shape, very elegant waders. Around 5 Little Egret and a Wigeon seen also, but no sign of the hoped for Little Stints. In the gadren in the evening 2 female/ immature Migrant Hawkers and a female Common Darter.
Thursday, 29 August 2013
A wonderfully sunny evening on Thursday 29th August just after work had me out on the North Denes and the Red- backed Shrike was sat on the middle of the west side of the usual big bramble bush just north of the Oval. The Shrike sat there dozing for a while before gently waking up looking around, up and to the side and then it eventually woke up and flew to a different bramble branch and promptly caught an insect. A little later, the Shrike could be seen coughing up a pellet in its throat. Some dog walkers made the bird even more alert and it flew to the top of the bramble standing sentinel. At Ness point seeing Andrew E and the Rob Wil, there was no initial sign of the other Red- backed Shrike eventually looking from the sunlite western side, the Red- baked Shrike was seen eventually perched along a line of elderberry bushes and sycamore in the middle of the yard just west of some orange metalwork in the yard. The Shrike was very active catching at least 3 insects sometimes perched at the side, top and back of the bushes, showing on and off.
Wednesday, 28 August 2013
On Wednesday 28th August, Robert had done it again a found a second Red- backed Shrike in 2 days! I just had enough time (8am to 8.15am) to drive down to Ness Point seen within the wind turbine compound viewed on the far western side of the compound as we watched it from the seawall. and join him for some 15 minutes watching the bird. A paler individual compared to yesterdays one, it preched on top of a Buddlea bush and flew down caught something promptly devouring it and then flying back to the top of the bush again. In the evening a visit to Gorleston walking south from the cliffs, 2 Wheatear were seen on the fence of the first garden and later one was still there and one on the municipal grass. An adult winter plumaged Mediterranean Gull was on the beach later seen flying north along the beach & where I later saw a Common Gull. A male Linnet was een to fly into bushes by the bank. I'm still unable to upload any photo's from my new Macbook Pro (an otherwise excellent computer) from the iPhoto onto this blog, does anyone have any suggestions??
On tuesday 27th August, the exceptional list of bank holiday migrants continued when Rob Wil found an RB Shrike on the bush by the lighthouse cafe on the North Denes. Not having enough time to twitch it in the morning, I patiently waited until after work and parked by the Oval, walking over to the first bramble bush north of the Oval I spotted Danny P and sure enough the excellent Red- backed Shrike was perched on the top of the bush showing very well. It was bathed in golden sunlight and occasionally caught foof from off the ground always flying back to the bush, ending up on its left hand side. It eventually flew to the next bush north of there (about half the size of this one) and again perched on the top of the right hand side of the bush where again it posed beautifully. I managed to obtain a few shots and left it perched there and was able to show a late arriving Peter N and his wife exactly where it was, even pointing out the bird on top of the bush!
Gunton beach- Wheatear and 1 Wheatear by Oval. At Carlton Marshes I met Rene by the first gate on the left just past the Spider dyke and he pointed out a Wall Brown perched in foliage just before the gate, Rene photographed it and the butterfly then flew into the field where I photographed it leaving it still perched there. At the Carlton marshes Scrape 1 then an 2 immature buff peach coloured breasted Ruff, 2 Black- tailed Godwit and 5 Greenshank seen, Sparrows Nest 1 Willow Warbler, Good to see Tony B and we both made our way to Gunton ORT. Really nice to see Chris M and together we had a female Blackcap & Pied Flycatcher seen in a small oak tree. The Flycatcher seemed to do a circuit and occasionally revisted the tree and seen perched on a branch. At Corton old SW, a Wryneck north side 7 posts from end really good clear view, plus a Black Redstart flew onto fence then perched in field then flew over cliff edge onto beach. At Gunton Warren, 2 Whinchat seen by the burnt gorse bushes but no sign of the sought after Wryneck. In the evening at 7.20pm and 7.30pm a Common Sandpiper flew south west heard calling twice over garden but not seen.
Tuesday 20th August a visit to Winterton after finishing work at 2pm, by the telephone exchange at 4pm, a Buddlea was covered in butterflies including 5 Graylings, a Painted Lady and numeous Small Tortoiseshells and Largw Whites. A walk to the northen most toad pool, included stopping at the secong northern most one where I saw several Emerald Damselflies. The northern most one included a confiding Dunlin in partial summer plumage and a Hawker dragonfly flying about which I carefully studied it was bigger than Migrant hawker with 2 yellow side stripes on the thorax, brown and yellow markings on the abdomen and clear wings with yellow costa clearly seen on at least 2 occasions, it was an excellent female Common Hawker, my first ever.on Wednesday 21st August at Cantley Sugar Beet factory a juvenile Red- necked Phalarope was seen I walked down and it was seen by the big pool by islands. Spending much of its time over the far side it would occasionally swim out and feed in its distinctive "knitting nachine style" as always an utterly charming bird. A Green Sandpiper flew over and settled on the bank out of sight just 2 feet from where I was standing before it quickly flew south.
Saturday 25th August, a Tree Pipit heard calling "teez" over garden Corton ORT in the evning no sign of the Wryneck but another Tree Pipit heard calling as it flew over. On Sunday 26th August a Wryneck was seen in the compound of Corton Old sewage works on the mound on the seaward side half way along behind ragwort its back and tail could beseen, the head and shoulders obscured by the ragwort, but later the Wryneck was seen clearly in a gully. During an early morning walk at Corton Churchyard, a Redstart seen flying along the north hedge flew. At Corton new sewage works by the sludge pool, a Redstart and female Blackcap by sewage pond, On the Denes 5 Whinchat seen, initially no Greenish, 1 Clouded Yellow then flew west and over slope, a Wryneck was seen flying and apparently perched by umbillifers (I didn't see it), a Zebra finch flew in grass just a foot from my foot. Another Clouded Yellow seen as I searched for this Wryneck unsuccessfully. On the Sunday afternoon, by the top of steps leading to the Oval the excellent Greenish Warbler seen on occasions in a sycamore bush zipping about. Memorably, the excellent Greenish warbler perched and stuck its head out showing its characteristic head and supercilia for just 2 seconds before whizzing off again. A Wryneck was seen by the path just west of Links rd car park, watched feeding edge of park with Dick. At Corton new Sewage works pool 3 Chiff- Chaffs & a Willow Warbler seen but no 2nd Greenish seen here or seen or a potential 3rd one heard by Corton shelter belt. Tree Pipit heard calling "teez" over the garden again.
We mourn the loss of our beloved friend Cleo. Cleo was a loving and very tactile blue and cream cat who was 16 years and 9 months old. I am proud to say I knew Cleo for 12 years and 2 weeks. Jenny had chosen Cleo (and Henry, a ginger cat who sadly died 8 years ago from a throat infection) from the Cats Protection League when she was just 8 weeks old. When Jenny had picked up this pretty and delicately marked cat as a kitten she had purred and the lady had said to Jenny "she's going home with you!" Cleo was quick to start purring when you stroked her. Cleo was a nervous cat with strangers, indeed any loud noises, and particularly the sound of the dustbin men, had her running to hide often going under the duvet of our bed. She was particularly afraid of small children and men. Maybe a sign of her troubled past as a very young kitten, as she had a small kink in her tail where this may have been broken through abuse. Although she warmed to some men, she was wary of most, but was instantly accepting of John H when he called round once and promptly sat on his lap! In her younger days Cleo was quite athletic and would find safe and secure hidey holes to fall asleep in and leap up to the top of the wardrobe (10 feet high) and fall asleep and often the only clue of where she was, was her comically loud snoring at times! She didn't go out very often, being content usually just to go out or usually following us in the garden although sometimes she asked to be let out at the back and would often spend an hour patrolling the garden out of sight. If she was locked out she would cry mournfully desperate to get back until we heard her and promptly let her back in. She loved being around us and liked nothing better than to be stroked and tickled. She was particularly fastidious about keeping herself clean and was often grooming her soft coat. After washing herself she would often lick your finger too! Another endearing characteristic (of many) was she gave a very contented "purr" if you touched her when she didn't realise you were there. She particularly like to be tickled under the chin and unusually for a cat, have her tummy tickled. She liked to roll left and then right (roly poly) on the carpet, the thick shag pile in the lounge was her favourite for this particular pastime and if you gently touched her right foot she would roll over to her right and when you touched her left leg she would roll left. She could also be what we laughingly called a "tiger cat" particularly going for your hand through the bannisters of the stairs (although she would never bite or scratch you unless she was playing this particular game) she loved to chase up and down the stairs after silver foil balls, or memorably once leap up unsuccessfully once, 3 years ago unsuccessfully 6 feet up in the air and turn round at the apex of her leap to try and catch a flying Brown Hawker. This was unusual because she wasn't a hunter of birds, dragonflies or butterflies and she never caught any of these. She did however go for mice and occasionally moths in her younger days and one summer brought the odd Wood Mouse in, including one live one we had trouble catching until Cleesy did it for us expertly. Another characteristic she had was in the middle of the night she would go downstairs to eat and then yowl almost like a tomcat wondering or maybe unsure of where we were! She loved to be made a fuss of and would usually come down the stairs and greet us when she heard our car pull onto the drive. She would always sleep at the bottom of the bed at night but liked to wander up to us and every night have a twenty minute cuddle first, particularly on cold days (like a warm and purring hot water bottle!) this charming characteristic for example really helped and relaxed me on the night before my recent successful interview for the James Paget Hospital Library job. Sometimes she would sleep on our pillow, wrapped around your head like a Russian fur hat. The house feels very empty without her, Cleo was a much loved friend, who will always be in our hearts we loved her dearly, she was a very, very special friend.