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Monday, 27 May 2013

Red Kite at Tudor recreation at Kentwell Hall!

Really impressed with the level of detail that the historical re- enactment team carry out at Kentwell hall! This afternoon, whilst watching an Elizabethen England Tudor recreation at 4.45pm a magnificent Red Kite drifted low over the walled garden and gradually drifted west (one of the secondaries on its right wing was missing) just like they would have done in Elizabethan England!

Male Red- footed Falcon at Lakenheath & other Brecks Goodies

Sunday 26th May, I picked up John H & we drove to Lakenheath arriving there a creditable hour and a half later. Sadly, on the journey there road, the roads were littered with several Fox & Muntjac Deer carcasses (4 of each) but I was fortunate to see a live Roe Deer near the first Thetford wood. The car park at Lakenheath was absolutely bursting and we just managed to squeeze in and ambled down the track joining the crowds overlooking New Fen, where incredibly the male Red- footed Falcon was hawking for insects right over out heads! A really smart bird with a dark smokey- grey plumage with the vent and legs coverts a wonderful russet- brown. It was flying low over the patch of reeds bordering the path. It was flying up and down and flying up in the air, obviously catching insects and was later was joined by up to 3 Hobbies flying over the Mere. A calling Cuckoo revealed one flying left. A male Marsh Harrier also quartered the reeds. walking back another Cuckoo flew left. At Weeting Heath from the west hide 2 Stone Curlew seen both were initially standing with the closer bird moving and then settling down. Whilst just outside first one Spotted Flycatcher seen by the trunk of ivy clad tree close to the path, it flew in whilst further away another bird flew high up into the trees. These are my first sightings of this species for this year, yet another species which has declined rapidly in recent years. A walk at the reserve over the road revealed several calling Willow Warblers one calling from the top of a bush just by the path and then on the edge of a wood, we heard a delightful Tree Pipit singing, we then saw it it perched high in a deduduous not Pine tree and then another 2 Tree Pipits seen and heard later on. At East Wretham Heath, walking to a wood by a clearing just past a hide and looking across at a dead tree stump we heard the male Redstart singing and John picked it out perched near the top of a large bush (just left of the stump) before flew over to the tree stump, a resplendent male bird. It was seen a couple of times after this also. No luck at Beighton and we failed to see or hear any purring Turtle Doves, sadly.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Green- wings up, Early Purples down

On Sunday 19th May, a look at Pleasurewood Hills at 4pm revealed just 12 very late flowering Early Purple Orchids (flowering around a month late due to the wintry conditions) and maybe 20 in all with more non- flowering plants seen too. I am concerned about how dry this bank is getting and especially the incursion of bramble especially along the northern end. However, at another local meadow, (managed by the local wildlife trust) the difference was striking with a well managed site, I counted a personal record 43 Green- winged Orchids also coming into flower with one pale one seen (almost as pale as the Mediterranean sub- species) and one very deep purple one, too. Typically very stunted looking plants but when they are flowering they are absolute crackers well worth seeing!

Woodchat & Red- backed Shrike duo on North Denes at Lowestoft

On Sunday 19th May I was walking down onto the North Denes at 7pm hoping to see the RBShrike from saturday, having missed it returning from Margate. As I walked down the steps, I had a tweet from Rene , saying it was still in the isolated bramble. Looking at the bramble just north of the Oval, there was no sign but looking east I saw Rene scoping something in an isolated bramble bush on the Denes. Joining him, initially the bird couldn't be seen and it flew to the first wing break of trees bushes north of the Oval, it was a superb male Red- backed Shrike in full summer plumage with black mask, reddish & chestnut brown back with a pink flush on the chest. It perched on the eastern edge of the wind break before flying back to the bushes at the base of the cliff. It was seen here well, especially as we approached carefully and managed to get a few pics from 24 feet away. Meanwhile by the bramble by the Oval, a male Whitethroat was seen and 2 Long- tailed Tits. Rob Wil, then both Nevilles and Chris M, said he'd been briefly watching a Shrike by the wall on the eastern section of the Oval. Well it certainly wasn't our bird so we went in search of what we thought was another RB Shrike. How wrong we were! I elected to look in on the Oval (wrong decision) but Rene struck gold when he saw it and yelled out "Woodchat Shrike!" Well done to Chris & Rene on their excellent find. Looking over by a large bush by the entrance to the Oval, we could scoped and see a distant adult female Woodchat Shrike perched on the very top on its eastern end. She had a velvety looking chestnut crown with thick black face mask and noticeable amount of white on the lores indicating the bird was a female. She had a black back with greyer area approaching the whitish rump. There was a thick white patch on the upper wing and a much smaller white patch near the edge indicating this bird was of eastern European origin rather than being that of a Balearic race. She had whitish underparts with the flanks showing a pale rusty hue. She was eventually pushed by a dog walker closer as it flew and perched on the eastern oval wall directly in front of a pine tree trunk, it then flew closer on hedges peaks protruding over the height of the wall. A dog walker coming from the north, it flew south and into the Oval. Peering over the wall, we saw it perched on the Tennis court fence before flying down to the small manicured bushes by the start of pitch and putt, OFB went inside the Oval to photograph it when the keeper arrived, the bird was then flushed and flew south west within the oval. Inexplicably at this time everyone went off. I then seized the opportunity to walk around the path bordering the wall and as I reached the south- west section i noticed perched in a bush bordering the green, the head of the Woodchat, crouching down I was barely 20 feet away from the Shrike. She sometime stretched her head before flying to the bushes along the western edge catching beetles and promptly devouring it. She appeared to cough several times, obviously hoping to produce a pellet. I was really enjoying having the Shrike to myself but seeing Ricky walking out of the Oval, I tweeted out and within minutes was joined by half a dozen people. the bird performed well occasionally flying down to the ground and catching insects. Eventually leaving her, I walked back saw the male Red- backed Shrike again perched in the bramble just north of the Oval. A visit to Breydon water failed to reveal the Monty's, Sedge Warbler heard by the dyke and a male Whitethroat seen singing the only birds seen on what was a disappointing visit.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Dusky Thrush at Margate Cemetery, Kent

On Sunday, 18th May, again not feeling well, the sickness bug I had contracted now replaced by toothache which had started after ironically visiting the Dentist for a check-up. I rested up, being in some pain, at home this morning. I received a very welcome call late lunchtime from John H and feeling much better, agreed to take a seat offered with both him and Tony Str who wanted to twitch the Dusky Thrush in Margate, Kent. They arrived at 1.30pm and 3 and a half hours later we drove into the seaside town of Margate. Using John's smartphone (or maybe not so smartphone on this occasion?) we got lost several times (which is unusual because John is the best map reader I know, he was let down by the technology) and it took us half an hour to find the cemetery. On one nearby road we heard the familiar "Kee-Kee-Kee" of a group of 8 and then a single Ring- necked Parakeets flying over the road and over our heads. We eventually found the ceremony St. John's Cemetery and parked right at the entrance, walked to a chapel, where we saw a Red Fox walk nonchalantly across the path totally unconcerned by our presence! Eventually we saw a few birders and we turned right and joined them looking into a collection of well scattered medium sized trees. It had been seen a few minutes ago. We looked and after several minutes I saw a movement in a tree and Alistair a chap I knew a few years ago spotted it in a tree. It, the magnificent 1st winter female Dusky Thrush was perched 10 feet up in a tree looking directly up from a slanting gravestone. Only problem was the bird's head was obscured by a branch. Kneeling down, I could just about see the lower half of the head and the beady black eye and part of the yellow/ black bill. A large Thrush, appearing to be slightly bigger than Fieldfare, it was grey on the head with thick white supercilia white lower eye crescent, a thick black malar stripe extending onto the breast, thick blackish notches on the sides of the breast becoming thinner at the middle of breast forming a "necklace" with more brownish thick notches on the flanks, it had a grey brown back and on one occasion I noticed a more distinct rufus- brown tail, but in other light conditions it looked greyer brown! These browner features with a warm brown tone on the shoulder and some warmer tones on the breast and especially the colouring of the tail could be well within the range of variation for a Dusky Thrush or may indicate this bird could be an integrade (?) between Dusky Thrush and Naumann's Thrush, which if the latter assumption proves correct will disappoint many birders and twitchers who twitched this bird. Nevertheless, she was a smart bird, anyway! Finally, back to the initial sighting, all of the head was seen as it first stretched up and then down before it flew across to the middle of the tree by the trunk by the main path. I could see it through the foliage and it jumped onto a closer branch (see middle picture with this post) before briefly alighting on the ground by a gravestone, before flying left again and into a bigger tree viewable on the left hand edge. From here it eventually flew to a tree by the crossroads, where it was seen perched near the very top right hand edge of the tree. From here it again flew to the western edge of the Cemetery where it was seen perched behind some foliage on the left side of the tree. She then flew to a tree just in front of me and I took full advantage taking several shots of it showing brilliantly, albeit behind a branch or too, I really should get Photoshop to clone these out! It stayed here for a couple of minutes before eventually flying right. Walking back groups of 2, 3 and 4 Ring- necked Parakeets seen and heard flying overhead. A Mistle Thrush was also heard rattling but sadly not seen.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Finally some Suffolk Swifts!

At just after 5pm on Monday 13th May, I finally saw 7 Swifts in Suffolk flying over a cloudy Leathes Ham, a female Peregrine was circling 100 yards east of the Grain silo at 5.20pm viewed from Rotterdam road.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Summer Migrants at Filby

Hearing the screaming of Swifts as I drew up at Filby broad car park at around 5.45pm this evening (Friday 10th May), I looked up and eventually counted an incredible 78 Swifts flying overhead. Walking over, a Green- veined White and a fine male Orange Tip were flying around by the dyke. Scanning the broad around 10 Pochard seen and 6 Common Terns, some on the Tern rafts and 2 flying about. I then viewed an excellent Hobby fly west over the road and presumably over the Broad as it disappeared behind some bushes, I picked it up again as it flew west again over the road, this time a little closer, it disappeared behind the bushes again. Walking over to the boardwalk, viewing straight out the Hobby was seen hunting low over the broad flying over the middle of the broad flying first right and then left and then flying further west and the far side of the Broad. The Swifts were again flying overhead, this time in larger numbers and I counted 130 Swifts. A great evening visit with Swift, Orange Tip & Hobby all new for 2013.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

No Storks & evening Lound visit

A quick look on the east end of Breydon this evening directly after work failed to reveal any White Storks, these are probably the free flying ones from Thrigby, anyway. A look at Lound at 7.30pm revealed a male Whitethroat singing from the top of a bush just east of the Blue Doors Loke (why is it given this name???) and a singing Chiff- Chaff heard & 5 Swallows flew by. Little else seen, but I did see a new Little Owl prominently perched on an obvious bare left hand branch of a tree along the road just 100 yards south towards Lound village. The Chiff- Chaff was still singing on Fallowfields and 1 Frog seen in the wildlife pond of the garden this evening. Still awaiting my first Suffolk Garden W of the year and Hobby & Swift.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Filby & Carlton marshes

On Monday 6th May, fully restored back to rude health after over 3 weeks of feeling distinctly unwell following a debilitating stomach bug and wanting to catch up on lost time/ birds, I particularly targeted those species I have yet to see this year including Cuckoo, Garden W, Lesser W, Reed W, Swift, & Hobby. A quick look after work at Filby Broad resulted in an unexpected sighting, I saw Ken S who said the Grebes were still there. From the boardwalk, I saw them bang in the middle of the broad, 2 resplendent summer plumaged Black- necked Grebes right in the middle of the broad, they constantly dived (the left hand one) when one dived the other quickly responded. Albeit the Grebes were seen seen against the light, so the finer points of their plumage could not be fully savoured, although fortunately they were not swimming around in the extensive sun patch on the water which would have made the viewing impossible. Arriving at Carlton Marshes just after 7pm, walking over to Spratt's Water Marsh, I saw the omni- present Kyle M at this location, he pointed out a Barn Owl hunting over a distant western marsh, I saw an excellent Cuckoo, one of my target birds, flying low and right over the bushes. I also saw singing male Reed Bunting and taking the marsh walk heard both Reed (another target bird but alas not seen) and Willow Warbler. 2 Jay screeched from a nearby wood, 8 Swallows flew over here. By the far side, Cetti's warbler and a Sedge warbler and a female Linnet seen to fly into a tree. I met a new chap keen on birds and photography and was explaining how to tell birds by their song/ call, he seemed amazed by this, but I have got over 40 years worth of experience and learnt the songs by following up any calls I didn't recognise, doing my "birding apprenticeship" as the late Brian B would have called it. Walking back by the reeds bordering the long dyke, a Sedge Warbler seen singing from behind some reeds.

Bank Holiday Blues

Still feeling unwell over the bank Holiday weekend, I was confined to home but managed to hear a Chiff- Chaff calling from Fallowfields on the Sunday and Monday. On Monday 4 Frogs seen in the wildlife pond, whilst the tadpoles had broken free from the spawn and were swimming around. On a rare excursion into town on Monday, I heard a Lesser Whitethroat singing by the scrub east of the Pelican crossing by the vehicular entrance to Normanston Park/ Leathes Ham on Monday.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Adders by the dozen

Again not feeling well on Saturday, (otherwise I would have been at Landguard)I kept a low profile at home and ventured out on Sunday 28th April at 11am to the local woods in the search for Adders, which I always enjoy looking for. In the car park, a singing male Blackcap eventually gave itself up as Jenny spotted it near the very top of a tree on the northern edge of the car park. I will not state exactly where as there was evidence of several new paths undoubtedly causing disturbance in prime habitat, also damaged by the hard winter we have just experienced. We didn't have long to wait as we had a male Adder right at the top of the path near the car park, it quickly slithered under neath a log. Another male was seen in the tall heather in the usual spot and 3 females and 2 males seen close by. It was noticable that sadly much of the heather had suffered with the winter we have just had, providing less suitable habitable areas for Vipera berus. We then came across a family having a picnic sat in prime Adder habitat! Totally oblivious of what were probably just around a few feet away! Naturally none were seen here, but 30 yards further down we came across a further 5 Adders including a shy dull mature female that slithered off very quickly, once coiling up round and briefly up the the base of a tree and 1 male Adder who was very territorial, which Jenny saw coiling up and dancing with another male briefly before it vhased it off. This male was very curious and came to investigate me getting within a foot of me before I backed off. Jen also saw a Roe Deer in the woods, and I saw it running through the trees to the north. So 12 Adders seen in total (7 males and 5 females). This male was within 8 inches of a very lucky Common Lizard that survived to tell the tale as the Adder just ignored it! Another Common Lizard seen earlier, so 2 Common Lizards seen. Finally, a tiny hatchling greeny- brown Grass Snake wriggled across the path just in front of me travelling from right to left.