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Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Humpback Whale off Horsey Gap

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

Peregrine & Wagtails

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

Winterton Wonders

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.

Merganser... going going gone!

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!!

Scilly 2013: Days 5 - 8: Slow Days & return sea crossing

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.

Scilly 2013: Days 3 & 4: Continental Migrants

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

Scilly 2013: Days 1 & 2: Sea Crossing & American Duo

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

Black Darter influx at Corton Sewage works

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

Ring Ouzel and Firecrest duo

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

Trio of Firecrests in the Cemetery

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

Pomarine Skua at Breydon Water

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

Continental Migrants at the Nest

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???