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Friday, 31 October 2014

Redwing heard from back garden

Early this morning Fri 31 October, I heard a Redwing calling several times either from the back garden or in the scrub just beyond on Fallowfields.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Returning Purple Sandpiper

Taking TOIL from work on Wednesday afternoon 29th October, on yet another grey day, I arrived to see a group of 5 birding photographers surrounding a reasonably confiding Purple Sandpiper, my first returning bird of, dare I say it, the winter. It was perched up on the apex of one of the coastal defence rocks, it then flew even closer feeding along the edge of the inner ledge. The sea was very high and spilling over onto its eastern tip. It then flew to the rocks by the finger and then fed from along the other ledge just north of there around the rock, it frequently had to skip or even fly to escape the high tides coming in. I was disappointed to see again people standing far too close. Again no sense of fieldcraft and the bird's welfare not considered at all. Consequently and unsurprisingly the bird had gone to ground and I missed it. Little was moving out to sea.

Breydon Rough- legged Buzzards and very confiding Hoopoe

On Sunday the 26th October, at first light at be nacre no sign of the hoped for Hoopoe which was really disappointing. 1 Wheatear and 3 immature Brent Geese on the Broad were the only birds of note seen. At Breydon a really long exhausting 2 1/2 mile walk along the north wall, eventually produced the goods when first a hovering Buzzard and the first one Rough - legged Buzzard patrolling the railway line area and by the windmill. Before it settled on a bush. A second Rough- legged Buzzard flew around much closer and settled in a small tree and gave the best scope views of a perched Rough- legged Buzzard that I have had in a long time.18 Golden Plover, Wigeon and Teal flying over were also seen. possibly a third Rough- legged Buzzard was sen on the walk back hovering over a near field. back at Kessingland Sluice, I finally saw the superb confiding Hoopoe, a superb bird feeding from within the pumping station compound. As I walked by I was conscious that there were around 20 people string at it and I had to walk past badly feet away. I needn't have worried as it continued feeding. It ws only when it flew out of the compound and fed on the grass just east of there that I was able to start taking picture. It would characteristically probe in the ground for ood find a grub and then toss it in the air and catch it in its long down curved bill. Wonderful to see, but difficult to photograph in the exceptionally poor light. It carried on feeding here before once again flying back to the compound where I saw it down to 2 feet! Amazing! later it flew out and fed along the ridge leading to the only pit left and a whole line of photographers stood parallel to it and were taking pictures of it like a scrum of paparazzi snapping an "A" list celebrity. It later flew to the area just west of the compound where it hopped around the bank leading down to the river.

Surf Scoter in Holkham Bay & 2 Grey Phalaropes

On Saturday the Scottish birding team was re-assembled John H, Tim H, Tony S and myself and we arrived at Lady Anne's Drive Holkham at around 8.0am, 2 parties of Pink- footed Geese were seen in the mid distance and flock were flying over all the time. As we walked out to the bay, I noticed a small flock of mostly 15 immature Brent Geese on the near shore. From the dunes and we scanned the sea, some Common Scoter could be seen plus a male Velvet Scoter, black with a "white wing clip" and just next to it was the excellent near adult male Surf Scoter with bright orange bill and when it turned a waking great white patch on the nape which really stood out but only when it turned its head. It swam along dived occasionally and spent a lot of time flying down the bay and then back again flying in a little closer. Further down the shore line, a sharp eyed John spotted the Grey Phalarope feeding, actually walking along the shoreline and pecking for food. We approached it and watched it for some time as it walked up and down the shoreline. Driving down to salt house, viewing from the duckpond in the further pool in the field, I spied the 2nd Grey Phalarope of the trip this was swimming in the water swimming and feeding sometimes characteristically spinning around, presumably to disturb invertebrate in the water ready for it to snap up for its lunch.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Wednesday afternoon at Leathes Ham

Wednesday 22nd October, afternoon taking TOIL from work, I headed down to Leathes Ham and immediately saw around 8 pairs of Pintail (16 birds) really close. Walking around the path, I checked the parties of Lon- tailed Tits to no avail, I then bumped into Ali R, we saw a couple of Chiff- Chaffs then heard the Yellow- browed Warbler call and a few minutes later, then we spotted it flitting around in the scrub for several minutes. It showed a cream supercilia and 2 wing bars. Whilst on the ham pond, a female Goldeneye was seen too. I then drove to Ness Point, seeing John H in his car driving away. In the bush by the orange wind sock, the immature Red- backed Shrike perched on a bush, I parked close by and was getting the camera ready when a factory worker walked out and flushed the bird and I didn't see it again.

Monday, 20 October 2014

A quiet Scilly 2014

This year on Scilly was disappointing. No big birds and few opportunities for photography. The best chance I nudged the camera onto the wrong (manual setting) and messed up what would have been good shots of Barred Warbler, the only excuse that I can pass muster is that I'd had no sleep the previous night having co-driven down to Penzance from Lowestoft. On the boat trip over we saw a close Balearic Shearwaters. several Auks flew past, a Pomarine Skua flew by, plus a Great Skua and several Meadow Pipits and Linnets seen flying low over the waves. Arriving on Scilly, after dumping the luggage, we walked up to the Health centre and in gardens opposite the lane, particularly on the right side, by a flowering Palm, a superb bulky grey Barred Warbler skulked among the flowers, firstly it was obscured and then it sat almost right out head on and its breast and head seen really well as it showed for a couple of minutes before it flew right. A trip to the airfield revealed the fine pale Short- toed Lark feeding on the grassy area beyond the closest runway. Several planes taking off and loading forced it to fly a short way slightly further back. Meanwhile first one the 2 Clouded Yellows flew past. A Redstart, female type was seen in a gap of some gorse bushes. Further down on a fence Whinchat perched.

Distant Burnham Norton Steppe Grey Shrike

A last minute dash up to North Norfolk to Burnham Norton, taking the turning on the right through the village and carrying onto the end, parking an unusually free car parking area and a 10 minute walk to the spot where the Shrike was. A couple I spoke to said it hadn't been seen for half an hour and I was fearing I would dip out (and all too common occurrence this autumn) Fortunately, the bird popped up onto a bush by a distant gate. It was the superb Steppe Grey Shrike. it slowly started to make its way along the fence line towards us when suddenly a sharp shower spooked it and it hopped down and disappeared. The shower sone dissipated but it was a full half hour before we saw it again by the bush by the gate and then it started to make its way along the fence line towards us, before it flew eastwards over a field, it was then seen along a very distant hedgerow, before it once again flew back along the fence line working its way towards us before it flew west over the field and perched onto a bush, before finally it flew to a distant hedgerow.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Yellow- browed Warbler at Lowestoft Cemetery and a bathing Shrike

Driving back from Minsmere, I headed straight for the Lowestoft cemetery and John Turner House. Walking into the Cemetery I quickly caught up with Andrew E then Rob Wil, but it was a group of Bedfordshire birders who relocated it in a tree just 50 yards from the Folly western entrance. The bird was calling frantically and by moving around to the eastern side of the tree we saw the fine Yellow- browed Warbler. It was near the top of the tree, but by moving to the east of we had good views as it flitted between this tree and another where the foliage met. The cream super cilia nd wing bards showing well and as always a smart clean bird. It flitted around the foliage catching insects and as always a delight to see. Equally delightful, was the immature Red- backed Shrike at Ness Point by the bushes, hunting for food. It spent some time perched on the fence at the back before coming onto the close bushes and after Dick W had just left the Shrike flew down to one of the puddles and bathed for some 5 minutes before flying back totally bedraggled. It then went to ground for 10 minutes before again hunting from the bushes for food.

Sunrise start catches the Minsmere Little Crake

A very early start saw me entering the Bittern hide at Minsmere at 6.50am, it was already light and the Crake had already shown. My error in arriving 20 minutes later had no knock effect however, as I entered a packed hide but with room in the third row back to set up my scope. I stood next to Dick W & Paul & Jane F. After just 10 minutes the bird was seen, a wonderful immature Little Crake, It had been seen at the far pool walking around, or rather running around the at the back on the mud. However, when I saw it It crept out from the right of the far pool at the nearest edge (which narrowed to a pint at its nearest edge) whilst was slightly covered by a few reeds. The immature Little Crake walked out and around and then walked left. It later popped out and walked right, then I saw it come out again from the right. The small size and typical Crake like appearance ruled out Water Rail and the structure, particularly the protruding primaries and prominent fine white face and lack of barring ruled out Baillons. All in all I saw the bird for around 5 minutes wandering around and most of the distinctive feature were observed. Incidently, this was the 3rd bird for Suffolk the last being in 1973, also at Minsmere. A walk around the Scrape viewing from the East scrape hide, revealed many Black- tailed Godwits at least 50, and 3 Dunlin. We also saw 4 Spotted Redshanks in their grey winter plumage in the south west corner too. From the public hide, returning Wigeon 100 were back in some numbers as were 3 pairs of Pintail, with some asleep on the island. We were also fortunate to see several small parties of erupting Bearded Tits, usually around 8 in number, 3 distinct groups seen. Plus a pair of Stonechat on gorse by the path. Walking back along the North marsh, an immature Bearded Tit was showing well in the reeds.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

A confiding immature Red- backed Shrike at Ness Point

Since coming back from holiday, on Wednesday 24th September, I tried for the RB Fly at Kensington Gardens and in common with the 3 Greenish Warblers, LG Shrike, Barred warbler, YB Warbler this autumn, I missed it, wandering around the gardens in the afternoon for 2 hours failed to see it or anything else of note. Good to see Jeremy from GOR & Geoff from Beccles though. On Thursday, a dash down to the Turbine yard at Ness Point failed to reveal any of the trio of Black Redstarts although I saw a nice Wheatear here. On Saturday 27th September, I viewed the superb immature Red- backed Shrike from the sea wall, the following day, seen again plus 2 Bonxies going south, 5 Gannets flew northout to sea plus a fine Harbour Porpoise swimming north. On Saturday 4th October, the immature Red- backed Shrike was showing exceptionally well along the bushes bordering the eastern edge of Bird's Eye Factory and using the car as a mobile hide I managed to get close to the bird without disturbing it, indeed at one point it was too close for my lens set up. The Shrike was busy catching wasps and I noticed it took great care to get rid of the sting at the back end of the insect before devouring it. Looking out to sea, I a saw a Bonxie flying south. Seeing Maurice we had a chat then I drove seeing a group of 6 Meadow Pipits on the deck a couple of the their number briefly perched on the fence before flying west. I then drove to an enclosed area just south of the Orbis centre and was delighted to find my first belated Black Redstart of the autumn, a delightful smoky grey bird with fiery red tail that first disappeared behind some pallets before later being seen just to the left of a blue skip. Joining Rob Wil, Andrew E and Paul & Jane F we witnessed a remarkable passage of Bonxies flying south, some 69 Bonxies were seen by me flying around, some settled on the sea, some harried gulls, some were reasonably close where you could see the white wing flash on the wings. also seen amongst the Bonxies was the smaller longer winged Pomarine Skuas 2 were seen flying south. Small groups of waders included 2 Dunlin and 4 Dunlin and a sanderling flying south. Whilst 5 Red- throated Divers flew south singly. Some 268 Brent Geese in total flew south mostly in groups of around 20. 5 Gannets seen flying north, 8 Common Scoter south, groups of 8, 3 and 2 Wigeon south and 5, 6, 2 and 6 Teal south too. Another Black Redstart flicked up and perched on the wooden wall separating Ness point from the SLP dockyard. We also saw a fine Hobby departing these shores and flying out and the south over the sea. Whilst conversely small groups of 20, 18 and 8 Starlings flew in too.

The Birds & Wildlife on the Greek island of Kos

Just returned from a very enjoyable holiday to Kos, from Tuesday 16th to Tues 23rd September 2014 one of the eastern Dodanese Greek islands off the southern coast of Turkey. On Wednesday 17th after the rep had told us about all the excursions were walking back in the hot sunshine and just by the pool on the path ahead were there was a pool of water, incredibly, a Snake was drinking from here, when it saw us it froze, I dashed back to the hotel room, grabbed my camera and took some pictures before it quickly slid off behind some bikes in a corner to shelter, it was a superb Black Whip Snake. We also saw a Hummingbird Hawk Moth flying around too. A Sardinian Warbler was seen in bushes on the left side of the hotel at the front. Going to Tigaki Salt Lake, we noticed a few Red- veined Darters and a group of 19 Greater Flamingoes, with 1 juvenile amongst them. Walking around the scrubby area, I saw 5 Red- backed Shrikes, 5 Whinchat and 3 Plain Tiger butterflies flying around. Also seen on the Salt pans were a group of 4 Ringed Plover. In the evening around the hotel, I was delighted to see another Red- backed Shrike on a distant bush and the chortling sound of Bee- Eaters revealed around 8 flying around as ever, rainbow coloured birds. As night fell, I saw a Preying Mantis, sat next to the outside door of someone else's room next door but one from us. On Thursday 18th going to Kos looking at the archaeological sites no Lizards seen, but at Kos castle by a particularly large expense of wall a Starry Agama Lizard seen and a Yellow Wagtail sp heard only as it flew over. Up to 3 Swallowtail butterflies seen here by a grassy area. In the evening at the hotel, I first noticed a Hummingbird Hawk Moth perched on a smoke alarm in the hotel cocktail bar, which didn't move from there for the rest of the week. On the Boat trip to several islands, 11 Cory's Shearwaters seen plus several Yellow- legged Herring Gulls, Shags and on the island several Rock Grayling butterflies and Southern Meadow Browns. On Saturday we explored the Magic Beach and saw a large 4 foot long Grey Lizard that ran round to a cylindrical hole in the middle of a sand bank. It was later seen perched just outside the hole and I managed some distant shots. When we visited later it was seen at another cylindrical hole nearby. Several Red- veined Darters and Rock Grayling butterflies seen too. On Sunday 21st, the North wind had died down and we visited the abandoned village of Old Pyli, up to 4 Wall Lizards seen including a confiding individual close to the path, that was well photographed. At the top, it was wonderful to see 2 Black Stork soaring overhead, at Zia, 1 Common Buzzard flew overhead. and Great Tit and Coal Tit heard here too. In the evening it was great to see first 1 Green Toad by the rim edge of the hotel eastern path with 3 at the very end and another 1 further along, totally 5 Green Toads, I noticed one move towards an insect and the tongue shot out caught it and swallowed it. On Monday 22nd September, early morning at the hotel by a back hedgerow a Mediterranean Skipper and Holly Blue type butterfly seen. At Psaldi Salt Lake a Spotted flycatcher seen in the tamarisks plus 19 adult Greater Flamingoes At another abandoned village, a Clouded Yellow butterfly seen.(the juvenile had disappeared and replaced by an adult. 5 Crested Larks seen including a very confiding singing individual at the side of the road. At Magic Beach, the Lizard was seen again plus a Hoopoe flew over the road as we just turned off the main road. By the Agios Stephanos Basilica temple by the beach, 7 Starry Agamas and they all were very photogenic posing on the side and top of the wall sometimes just inches away!. At Kalimnos 31 Bee- eaters flew around on the way back, were seen on the mount overlooking an impressive vista looking down to a village countryside. In the evening, 2 Green Toads seen along the Eastern path of the Hotel, 1 Preying Mantis briefly landed on my arm then on the ground. 1 Gecko and then a Turkish Gecko seen too. There were 3 Wall Lizards seen- 1 with a Gecko at the Hotel front. On Tuesday 23rd September, a bigger foot long Wall Lizard seen by the eastern hedgerow of the Hotel plus around 5 Starry Agamas along the front. Whilst around 8 Swallows, a House Martin, 2 Alpine Swifts flew over the front of the Hotel. Finally a Chiff- Chaff heard and a Sardinian Warbler were seen.