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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

When will Spring arrive?

A day off today, Wednesday 27 March, the morning was taken up taking my Canon 7D camera body (which to be honest I've had problems with focusing ever since the Arctic Redpoll at Aldeburgh last year) down to Colchester to a Canon Repair centre and indeed the settings were way out, repairs to the 1.4 converter and the prime lens was serviced and cleaned on the spot, just a 20 minute wait! Excellent service. But it will be a 2 week wait until I get the camera back. This afternoon it was very pleasant in the sunshine despite the cold temperature. Arriving at Lound car park, it was good to see Roy R and his wife and we both spotted the redhead female Goosander swim out from the islands and over to the reedy bank before she swam further back and out of sight. A Snipe was also seen here. I then spotted Matt G and over the course of a very interesting conversation he told me SWT had a ten year lease from WDC to manage Gunton Warren, great news and they can really help Nick B and James W in the excellent work they have done off their own back. Thanks to first Chris M (great find, Chris!) and James B for both their very useful directions, I drove to Lound water for an initial look by the Somerleyton/ St Olaves turn off and parking at the Browston sign in the muddy layby, I missed the Mandarins, but a Kingfisher calling revealed a stunning Kingfisher showing his stunning back sporting cobalt blue plumage on the low branches of a bush and later the Kingfisher turned round and again looked resplendant with its bright orange breast showing well in the afternoon sunshine. A quick visit to OFB and we were comparing lenses, nothing in it, Rog! A return visit just after 5pm and the pair of Mandarins were out swimming in the middle of the lake. The Mandarins were later seen swimming over the far side of the lake under the branches of the fallen trees and once again venturing out into the middle of the water. Good to see Rob Wil here too. The Kingfisher was still around showing well for those lucky people with working cameras!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Storm blown migrants and Waxwings still

Another bitterly cold wintry day today (Saturday 23rd March) nothing in Hamilton Dock and I then headed to Ness Point expressly in the hope of maybe seeing a Little Gull, which are often blown in close inshore with easterly stormy conditions. The strong east wind was causing the waves to crash over the rocks at Ness Point mid morning and further north, they were crashing over the "new" sea wall. It was bitterly cold, especially as I couldn't find my gloves. The waves were even crashing around 10- 15 feet over the sea wall making walking potentially hazardous to say the least. I stayed safely at Ness Point and whilst scanning through the Gulls flying very close in just metres from the defence rocks, I was delighted to see 1 adult winter- plumaged Little Gull. I also saw 5 Purple Sandpipers fly in from the north and settle on the finger. I tweeted this out immediately and a little while later I was joined by Andrew E. The wader numbers had grown to 9 Purple Sandpipers feeding around the rocks on the finger. We then looked at the Gulls feeding close in just off shore and noted the Little Gull feeding again with them. A noticably smaller bird, with a more languid flight, dark black underwing and more paddle shaped wings. But this bird had a very noticable pink flush to the underparts, a second adult winter Little Gull, this was joined by another adult winter Little Gull, my third. So there were now currently 2 adult winter Little Gulls flying together. This latter bird had white underparts and then flew north just past the finger and way south and out of sight. The pink- breasted Little Gull (and no it didn't unfortunately have a wedge shaped tail!!) was again joined by another adult winter Little Gull (my fourth)and then another (my fifth), so there were now 3 birds often flying together flying south and then wheeling back north then south again low over the water and the occasional bird would settle on the sea too. So 5 adult winter Little Gulls seen by me in total. Several kittiwakes mostly adults were seen amongst the bird and they flew south, around 10 adult kittiwakes plus 2 dark "W" winged immatures. At 12.30pm I was back home having escaped the incoming blizzard, Andrew stuck it out and later observers (Rob Wil & OFB) were rewarded with an incredible 10 Little Gulls flying just off the Point. However, just as OFB rang at 12.30pm, an olive- green Chiff Chaff flew low over the lawn and stopped on the ground in the south- west corner of the garden. Despite the dreadful wintry conditions this was probably a freshly arrived migrant from the continent assisted on its way by the strong easterly winds! Justin L tweeted to say he'd just seen 31 Waxwings opposite the Chemists at St. Peter's Street (formerly owned by my grandfather) I checked and could see none, however just as I was parking outside Hoseasons along Raglan Street at 3pm, a large number of Waxwings flew onto the telegraph line by the telegraph pole, I very carefully counted them 5X and the tally always came to an incredible and confirmed 61 Waxwing in total, my largest tally this winter. Around 5 flew to a nearby bush and eventually all the Waxwings flew to bushes nearer the entrance to Hoseasons.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Heralds of Spring?

I drove to Hamilton Road, viewing Hamilton Dock today (Friday 22nd March), and I immediately saw 2 excellent Sandwich Terns flying over Hamilton Dock and heading right for me! Indeed they flew right over my head and over the circular gas turbine at Ness Point and out of sight. One of my earliest records of this species and certainly my earliest at Lowestoft, they were a delight to see and obviously also new for the year. Although the bitter wintry weather, they must have felt totally out of place in the bitter conditions. Strong easterly winds were causing the waves to crash against the sea defence and even reach the raised walkways at Ness Point. I had a brief look from here dodging the spray from the waves and was pleased to eventually count 9 Purple Sandpipers, some of them very hardy creatures, 4 (2 pairs) were asleep on the rocks on the right hand edge of the finger that juts out from the most easterly point. The other 5 were busying feeding either on the rocks or the flat seaweed encrusted finger itself providing them with plenty of invertebrate food. The wind was icy cold and after fifteen minutes I was satisfied i had counted all birds present I left.

Goodies at Kessingland Sewage Works

No that's not the much loved comedy trio Bill Oddie, Graeme Garden & Tim Brooke Taylor, although I'd certainly twitch them if they were sighted there! I meant a variety of avian treats that I'm sure Bill Oddie at least would have appreciated. On Sunday 17th March, I walked down to the sewage works mid morning and immediately saw on the North-west bed, a female Grey Wagtail, a great start and new bird for the year. She was perched on the circular circumference edge of the bed. Turning my attention to the north- east bed, I noted a number of Pied wagtails probably on all of the pans around 20 in total and then a super male White Wagtail, I noted a further 2 at least making 3 superb White Wagtails, their black crown differing markedly to their light grey backs and creating quite a clear contrast. Also feeding on the beds were 6 Reed Buntings including 4 smart males and 2 females. Meanwhile by the perimeter fence that I was peering through barely a metre away, a Chiff- Chaff, another new bird for the year, flitted around the vegetation and later on crossed the track and gave a brief rendition of its Chiff- Chaff call. I then drove to Links road and the North Beach and had to depart suddenly as I was feeling distinctly unwell. I was then bedridden several days afterwards.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

PanSTARRS Comet seen from & Wren seen in the garden

A Wren was seen mid afternoon foraging around the flower bed by the conservatory, lets hope it survives the current wintry spell. I went out at 7pm to look for the PanSTARRS Comet having failed to locate either it or the Moon yesterday. However I quickly located the Moon, due west from our garden, it being either a new or old one being very crescent shaped at the bottom. You can tell I'm not a budding astronomer! I did see a bright star around 10 o'clock from it, wasn't sure if that was it, it wasn't!) I am very grateful to have received a a tweet from James W stating it was below the Moon at 5 o'clock, I promptly went out and looked and there it was! A yellowy/ orange "speck" at that exact position. When I looked 20 minutes later it was a little lower (and less obvious) and I showed Jenny. Around 20 minutes later, it had disappeared beneath the horizon, which Dick W had tweeted the same bit of news to confirm. An astronomical tick! Thanks chaps. Finally does anyone know why the STARRS bit is capitalised? UPDATE: I have reliably informed by friend and colleague Michael B at work that the bright star seen at the location "10 o'clock", seen at the time 7pm GMT from the crescent moon was indeed the PANSTARRS comet, this was the area where he told me to look (a big belated thanks to Michael for his help here) and subsequent sightings of it below it were not the comet.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Arctic Blast brings in Snow Bunting & Waxwings still there!

A tweet from First thing in the morning, a male Sparrowhawk landed flew in from the west and landed on the pagoda, causing a mass exit from the varierty of garden passerines using the feeders. He'd gone by the time I got back with the camera! Rene (thanks Rene & a great find!) had me hot footing it down to the North Beach. Parking in Links Road car park, a brief perusal of the Gulls revealed just 3 Common Gull and around 60 BH Gulls. I walked onto the seawall (the strong icy North- east wind making it very uncomfortable with a wind chill of around -8C) initially with just my bins and located the fine Snow Bunting, my first of the year, sat motionless on the sand between the marram grass and the sea wall posing beautifully. I dashed back to the car to retrieve my camera and retraced my steps, unfortunately some dog walker passers-by had accidently flushed it (despite considerately putting their dog on the lead and walking away from the edge of the sea wall, thanks for your consideration). I walked carefully around the southern flank of the Marram grass from the beach end and located the excellent Snow Bunting feeding by the edge of the Marram grass on the beach. After a while it flew to the northern end of the Marram grass clump feeding on the landward side not far from sea wall and the lifeboat belt post. Sneaking round carefully, I crawled up to the wall and enjoyed, observing it for the next 20 minutes feeding reasonably close to. For the first time this year in Lowestoft, I was able to get some reasonable photo's (see header and accompanying photo). It then ran back east along the seaward edge of the grass and I left it to look at the Gulls again in the car park, photographing one of the Common's. A quick look at Ness Point and it was abundantly clear that conditions were too dangerous for seawatching or indeed looking for Purple Sands as huge waves were breaking over the top of the sea wall/ defence rocks and reaching the inner wall. At Hamilton Dock, parking space was yet again at a premium and a quick look revealed very few birds around to observe. I then drove to Raglan Street outside Hoseasons, initially the Waxwings couldn't be seen but next time I looked, a large flock had suddenly appeared on the wires and I'd counted to 50 with a few more to go when the whole flock took off and flew west, I'd estimate 58 Waxwings seen here. Driving back north along Katwjck Way by the roundabout, I saw a few 8 Waxwings on an aerial here and parking the car nearby I walked to the extreme east end of St Peter's Street, opposite Stewart's Pharmacy (which incidently occupies the same building that my grandfather Frederick Curtis ran as a Chemist's shop many years ago! His ornithological links stretch back to the 1930's when he photographed Bitterns (he wasn't a birder but being a Chemist was the only professional photographer on hand at the time??) nesting at Leathes Ham in Normanston Park accompanieed by that great Lowestoft ornithologist Fred Cook- I am very proud to be the owner of his excellent set of photo's of the Bitterns, once displayed in the Castle Museum at Norwich, but I digress!) and counted exactly 60 Waxwing seen sitting both on aerials and feeding from a small berry bush on the other side of the road. Small groups of Waxwings would periodically fly down and feed from the berries, oblivious to the fast moving traffic passing just metres away. A sudden snow flurry had me retracing my steps to the car and back home to the warm!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Return to Winter: Waxwings in Central Lowestoft

It was raining all day today and I when I ventured out mid afternoon, I drove past Hoseasons along Raglan street and saw 48 Waxwings all bunched up on the wires near the post (there were lines of 10, 10, 12 and 16 on 4 separate wires) all huddled up as close to the telegraph pole post as they could possibly be in the very cold driving rain. They were "trilling" constantly, a marvellous sound with so many there and always a an absolute joy to hear. One or two flew down presumably to a berry bush, I didn't investigate, as there was driving rain and I spent most of my time watching them from the sanctity of the car parked in a layby situated rather conveniently directly opposite the birds. Then suddenly they were gone! My cue to go. These Waxwings are my first in central Lowestoft this winter and maybe my first in central Lowestoft ever, I have always missed them on their previous visits here. Looking across Lake Lothing at Asda, the Peregrine Falcon, a big bird, a female was sat right at the top of the grain silo, I had a quick look due to the driving rain/ sleet. It was nice to hear when I was in Hughes TV & Audio later (asking for their advice on how to get the precious video tape repaired) outlet in Lowestoft High street this afternoon of a regular reader of this blog! By the time I was driving back home, the rain/ sleet had turned to snow and soon a carpet of some 2 inches of snow had covered the ground by late afternoon.

Plea for "Bill Oddie Goes Wild" BBCTV programmes

Has anyone got any episodes of "Bill Oddie Goes Wild" BBCTV wildlife programmes on VHS videotape or DVD? These were first broadcast between 2001 and 2003 and may well have been repeated since. These are absolutely fantastic programmes, brilliantly presented by Bill Oddie. As I am very keen to see these again. Some of the episodes I have are of either poor quality (there was sometimes very poor reception at my old address at Oulton Broad) and were contained on a VHS tape I had with 2 episodes has just snapped in the video player. There appears to be nowhere where I can get this tape repaired. I also cannot undo the plastic screws to try a DIY job myself. Does anyone know if these are repeated on a Sky satellite/ cable station and could these be recorded onto DVD for me, please? I am willing to pay money for the loan of any episodes you may have. I particularly want the episodes: Series 1: Speyside in Spring, Merseyside in early Spring, Dorset in late Spring Series 2: Scilly Isles, Dartmoor, London Series 3: Somerset Levels, A Voyage to St Kilda & Tyneside. Any help anyone can offer would be very gratefully received. UPDATE: Have just found 2 episodes Northumberland in Early Summer & Norfolk Broads. I have also located a professional tape repair and DVD transfer service in Loddon, charging very reasonable rates, so will use them. But I still am desperate for any of the above episodes.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Twite & Scaup

Late morning I walked over to the Bailey bridge at Southwold/ Walberswick and met Don & Gwen and initially there were no sign of the Twite but walking west on the north side of the river some 300 yards to a wall overlooking saltmarshes, a group of Twite could be seen feeding on the weeds. With warm buff brown faces and when they flew up to the wires, initially totalled 28 Twite, but a further 4 birds joined them, totalling 32 Twite. One bird back on, showed a lovely pink rump. They then all flew eastwards and dropped down into a field, before eventually flying back. walking along, looking over fields towards St Felix school a group of swans, included 39 Bewick's Swans (4 of these were immatures). Driving over to Covehithe, I walked down to the broad, over the far side a fine adult male Scaup seen amongst Tufted Ducks. Whilst out to sea, a group of 5 equally fine Eiders flew north. A large Diver was out to sea, whilst parking just before the "S" bends, I saw male and female Reed Buntings and perched on a bush some 30 feet away, a pair of Bramblings (1 male & 1 female).