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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Lesser Grey Shrike at Aldringham Walks AND Wilson's Phalarope at Cley

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.

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