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Saturday, 30 January 2016

Great Northern again

On Saturday 30th January, the Great Northern Diver was again seen this side of the orange bouy at mid distance and it appeared to be heading closer, was it time to get the camera out? No! a passing boat heading south along Lake Lothing caused it to dive and the next time I saw it it was way in the distance beyond the orange bouy. 2 Little Grebe seen. The sun was shining directly in my eyes at Leathes Ham and there was nothing at Ness Point or Hamilton Dock when I looked.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Memories of "Ginge"

I was very saddened to hear of the death today of Bill F, affectionately known as "Ginge" (because of his former very fine head of red hair) from Great Yarmouth. He was a real Great Yarmouth character, a gentleman who I have known for close on 30 years. He was regularly seen around various Yarmouth haunts, particularly Breydon, Great Yarmouth Cemetery, Yarmouth seafront and around Winterton. He was an allrounder, perhaps better regarded for his great all round natural history knowledge, particularly insects and plants. He was well liked and he always liked to have a chat with you when you were fortunate enough to bump into him. I remember once he told me about a Red- backed Shrike, near Great Yarmouth Power station and I was pleasantly surprised to see the bird exactly where he described it. I also particularly enjoyed our chats at the Great Yarmouth Naturalists' Society, when I was lucky enough to be invited to give talks to, over the years. Yarmouth natural history has lost another of its great characters, R.I.P. "Ginge".

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

North- West Norfolk trip

On Sunday 24th January, following a tweet from John H, I joined both him and Tony S on a trip to Abbey farm, Flitcham for the Pallid H. What a wonderful farm this was, a true advert for a wildlife friendly farm, with tall hedges, winter wheat crops in fields and lots and lots of farmland birds, it was without doubt my best ever farmland birding. A veritable oasis! We arrived and joined around 40 or so birders scanning a large field where the Harrier was regularly seen. Initially, we saw 2 then 14 Bramblings perched in the hedgerow opposite. A female Hen Harrier, heavily streaked flew right low over the field. In the field itself around 120 Linnets , flying around in the field we were looking in. In a distant field by the hedgerow, perched in a small tree was one excellent Buzzard, it later flew and perched on the field. A second Buzzard flew right over the field. Amongst those Linnets was a lone Fieldfare, then 14 Fieldfares flew over, later on 6 Redwings flew by. Bullfinches heard are proved to be 2 smart male Bullfinches. 2 Kestrels also seen. A funny "chirrup" revealed a Tree Sparrow flying in and perching high in the bush. Around 6 Chaffinches were also seen, whilst looking right, a load of birds flew down from these bushes, 4 Bramblings were again seen and then an incredible tally of 14 Tree Sparrows. By the barn, a male Sparrowhawk flew low over the field. Another, a second female Hen Harrier flew right over the fields. Perched in the hedge by the barn was another Tree Sparrow, resplendent with its chestnut crown and black cheek patch. Finally at around 12.10pm, flying in from the left and across towards us, the excellent immature male Pallid Harrier, complete with slimmer build and wings with dark chocolate collar and orange- buff underparts flew low over the field and away over the hedge and then flew right above the horizon and then out of sight. Without doubt this is the best most prolific birding I have undertaken on farmland. Next stop was Tottenhill gravel Pits, driving down and then taking a road to the left we saw a large stretch of water viewable through the trees, walking over to the far right, we saw a close winter- plumaged Black- necked Grebe, it swam left and then finally flew a little way and then dived. The next bird that surfaced was a Great crested Grebe. Driving up to Old Hunstanton, we parked along the seafront by the lighthouse, along the cliff tops we saw around 4 Fulmars soaring over at cliff level height, we walked down to the very rocky beach, the cliffs were showed wonderful different coloured stripes of geological strata. Sitting on the cliffs were at least 6 pairs of Fulmars, 2 single bird and 1 group of 3. As we walked left along the beach for around 300 yards a group of around 40 people were surrounding the incredibly sad sight of the carcass of a dead young male Sperm Whale. A large being around 40 feet in length, we approached its tail first of all and the walking around the carcass, it was all too evident of the suffering that this poor noble creature had suffered with a gouge out of the body, reddened areas of the body and a pool of blood around the front and back of the body. It was incredibly sad. Around 40 people were surrounding it many taking selfies with it which wasn't something I would condone. The lower mandible of the Poor Whale had been sawed off for testing by the Cetacean Society. Walking further north, on a better note I was able to photograph the Fulmars on the cliffs. 2 of them were a particularly warring pair.

Oulton Marshes Owls

On Saturday 23rd January in the afternoon I looked down Oulton Marshes and as soon as I lifted my bins I could see an excellent Short- eared Owl quartering the fields of Camp's Heath marshes. It flew around the fields between the railway line and the river and then crossed the line to the field adjacent to the west. A second Short- eared Owl flew along the same field the other Owl had just vacated. By the gate seeing some other photographers we chatted and as we spoke a Short- eared Owl (probably one of the 2 seen earlier) flew over from the south and flew over the track and then north. Meanwhile a Barn owl flew around the fields near the barn and then a second Barn Owl flew over the East Camps Heath marshes and then finally a third Barn Owl flew onto there gate by the entrance track. At 4.10pm I was travelling along Oulton Road and roundabout and along hall Lane, I could see a Fox standing in the middle of the road barely metres away from the roundabout. I drove down stopped the car but the Fox strolled off along a north track by the houses.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Guillemot still a-cruisin'

On Tuesday 19th, at 8.40am the fine Guillemot was still on Lake Lothing seen around the Lowestoft Cruise club exactly as described by Jane, my thanks to the great directions given, The bird quickly swam south and out of sight behind the Cruise club jetty. I was able to see this bird as soon as I had taken a few steps south along the Lake Lothing shoreline, and able to get back to work in time too.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Arctic and American visitors

On Sunday 17th January, a very frosty, hoar frost morning with a very thin covering of snow too, first thing 2 Redwings added to the wintry seen by flying south right over the house and garden calling as they went. An early visit to Oulton Broad revealed that half the Broad was frozen over around by the causeway it was totally frozen, no birds seen although I did bump into Richard S. I then drove up to Great Yarmouth and no luck on Beaconsfield road recreation ground. However, I looked from Marine Parade by the Waterways and I spotted a large Gull soaring over the building that looked promising, its large size, biscuit coloured appearance and creamy- white primaries with a two tone pink/ black bill and black eye proved it was the excellent 1st winter Glaucous Gull. As always, a very fine looking bird, it soared over and then settled on the roof of a house opposite the Waterways. It was quite wary and only spent 5 minutes here before flying over to Yarmouth Crescent, it then flew back over the road over my head and then wheeled round and settled on another roof opposite the Waterways. It was again wary and only settled for 2 minutes before it flew off away over the road and then slowly soared and glided with very languid flaps of its wings and last seen flying over Yarmouth Hollywood cinema. Seen with Paul & Jane who joined me. Receiving a text from Rob Will stating that the 'legs was back on Glebe Marsh, within 20 minutes (thanks to the new road Beacon estate & Belton) I was pulling into the Burgh Castle car park. Minutes later I was joining Rob, and initially I saw the excellent Lesser Yellowlegs, a more slender slimmer and slightly smaller bird than Redshank- c30 seen here with obvious yellow legs, grey above and pearl white below and narrow attenuated rare end, this bird fed on the mud on the middle island proving this was Glebe Marsh in Watsonian Suffolk and in Lizardland! It walked left and then walked closer and flew into the muddy edge (when we were joined by a greatly relieved Ali R who had tried on 7 previous visits) on the closest part- even further into Lizardland! Trip to Oulton Broad and looking at Mutford Lock the Common Sandpiper was back feeding on the far edge near a post. On the Broad itself around 30 Greylag Geese seen. Nothing else of note disappointing the assembled crowd of Tony B, Andrew E, Paul & Jane F, Neville L Rob Will & Erin. Back at Mutford Lock the Common Sandpiper was seen feeding in the same place. A trip to Oulton Marshes I was just a little too late, another birder had just seen the SEO which had given a really good fly around on Camps Heath marsh around but sadly for me it had gone to ground and in the 10 minutes of daylight left I failed to see it or anything else for that matter.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Jumpy Goosander and Elusive Egret

On Saturday 16th January, a look first thing down on a very cold Oulton Broad, I saw the eclipse/ 1st winter redhead male Goosander swimming amongst the side arm of the broad by the boats just south of the causeway, I knew I could get some good shots of it keeping out of sight of the bird but unfortunately I hadn't reckoned on a dog sat on top of one of the boats which as I crawled closer barked loudly making me jump out of my skin (I didn't know it was there) and its barking flushed the Goosander (frustrating!) that flew out to the Broad so I had to be content with mid range shots as it fished amongst the Gulls. Walking around to Mutford Lock I searched high and low for a Common Sand but couldn't see one. However, a Kingfisher flew close in and even perched very close to me on the mooring ropes of the "Southern Belle" cruise ship (which had clearly seen better days!) albeit in very poor light, so pics aren't very good. By 10.30am I had travelled down to Sandy Lane at Iken, where I had just missed the Egret there that had been showing well in a field by a farm before a well known birder had unintentionally flushed it. In the 4 hours it took before it reappeared, I managed to see 2 Mistle Thrushes in a horse field and also take pictures of a feeding flock of c15 Curlews in a water logged grassy field close to the road. having teamed up with Dick, we had been scanning both ends of a cattle field, I walked down to rejoin Dick who had seen a distant Little Egret in a grassy field beyond some trees but a second Egret right of it was the excellent Cattle Egret, Dick did really well to get onto it and we saw its yellow bill clearly and the white gape jowel also seen, sadly it walked off left and then right and then out of view. Slightly later we then saw it fly to the edge of the cattle field the part I had been checking earlier. Dick and I saw it just beyond the Cattle and just beyond a wire fence in a field behind at mid distance. We retrieved our respective cameras and Dick fired off 2 shots and got good record shots, I didn't get any pics as a woman with bright blue coat pushed past and despite being requested not to get too close instantly flushed the bird (yet again frustrating!) that then flew off high and back to the distant fields which were out of view.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Frustrating Day

On Friday 15th January I tried to get to Oulton Broad to view the Goosander but being stuck in traffic (traffic light on the main road) for 20 minutes I had to turn back in order to get to work for 9am. At lunchtime (1.15- 2.15pm it was sleeting most of the time!) I checked Beaconsfield road Recreation Ground the best thing I saw was a Fieldfare along the southern edge. There was no sign of the Glaucous Gull, I checked Wellesley Road Yarmouth FC. I also looked along Waterways and the Seafront but no sign there either.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Memories of David Bowie music superstar, fashion guru and cultural icon

It was a massive shock to hear of the death of David Bowie this morning especially after only just ordering his latest album "Black Star" off the internet. A true pop genius, style and cultural icon constantly changing his style and persona, his influence on popular culture is enormous only rivalled I would argue by Elvis Presley & the Beatles. He also did much to extend boundaries and contribute greatly to the values and freedoms that we value today. A true innovator, he was a beacon of artistic/ cultural/pop music light against the grey power-starved days of the early 1970's. I first heard David Bowie when "Space Oddity" was played on the Top 40 and also on "Top of the Pops" and his records played I attended at parties in the late 1970's, the album "Hunky Dory" was a particular favourite. Of course, when you hear songs like "Jean Genie", "Life on Mars" "Changes", "Suffragette City", "Young Americans", "Heroes", "Ashes to Ashes", Fashion", "Let's Dance", "Hello Spaceboy" they defined not just one generation but several. I was lucky enough to see David Bowie perform live with his band at Wembley Stadium in 1987 on the "Glass Spider Tour" to support the "Never Let Me Down" album, the stage set was impressive where a large glass arachnid towered over and encompassed the stage, really impressive. He sang most of his latter day songs and I was a little disappointed that he didn't see a few more of his classic songs from the 1970's but he was still excellent and I particularly remember the circular stage had lots of dancers on it. I also remember Bowie was changing his costume every 3/4 songs into different coloured suits green, red, blue, yellow were some of colours worn! RIP David Bowie.

Covehithe saves the weekend

On Saturday 9th January, The Great Northern Diver from seen from the brick rail bridge and Riverside but sadly very distant from both vantage points for me. No birds seen at all at either Hamilton Dock or Ness Point bar 1 Turnstone at both locations. On Sunday 10th Fish Dock 12.45pm no Caspian, Walking down to Covehithe Broad- a male Scaup was seen on the northern section of the broad showing greyish back , 2 Tufted Ducks, male Goldeneye and 4 females. The Slavonian Grebe was back at the far end south- west section of the Broad. 15 Brent Geese were seen feeding in a far field. Out to sea, 15 Brent Geese flew south, 20 Pintail flew south, 100 Wigeon flew south, 5 Gadwall flew south. I tried for Big boogy bird Bean Geese not seen on the very long track down to Dingle marshes from Dunwich tea rooms, walked around 2 miles & I couldn't find any double gates seen or any geese. As dusk approached at the Harrier roost at Cove Bottom, 15 Marsh Harriers seen 7 male but no hoped for Hen.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Covehithe Broad again

Walking down to the Broad on Sunday 3rd January, I saw 5 Mutes on the west end of the Broad and most gratifying the 9 Bewick's Swans seen along the south- western section mostly feeding with the rear ends sticking up above the waterline and their head neck and upper body submerged. The Slavonian Grebe was swimming along the southern section of the Broad close to the beach again showing well. There were 4 Goldeneye, 2 males and 2 females were seen. Turning my attention to the sea, 2 Red- throated Divers flew south, the several groups of Little Gulls seen 34 in total. Around 8 single adult Kittiwakes flew past going south. First a group of 8 Little Gull flew south getting closer and closer until they were over the beach and then they flew over the back of the Broad then flying south. Another group of 6 Little Gull flew south, did exactly the same. Further groups of 5, 5, 2, 1, 4, 1 and 2 Little Gulls flew south. The a dark small cigar shaped bird flew (flap flap glide) the arcs and shearing down and then up again, it was a fine Sooty Shearwater flying north. groups 30 and 5 Teal> flew south. a group of 30 Wigeon including 1 male Pintail at the back flew south. 15, 5 Dunlin flew south whilst another 5 Dunlin flew in off and over the Broad.

North Cove and back at Burgh Castle

On Saturday 2nd January, a 1st winter Shag was seen in Hamilton Dock seen with Danny P, initially we saw it swimming very close to the edge when we were on the phone to Jane F to get directions for the Grey P at North Cove. By the time we had finished the call the Shag had swum a little further away. Taking Jane's directions travelling along the A146 Lowestoft to Beccles road and just passing Barnby Garden centre taking the second left turning off the main road after 20 yards taking the sharp left up a hill we initially parked and then drove little further near a white building farm and taking the steep track beside it. We parked and what initially looked like clods of earth turned out to be 10 fine Grey Partridge. The group were all together a male to the left was keeping alert while the other birds seen regularly feeding. a tweet from Craig had me over at Burgh Castle again. Overlooking Berney Marshes by the same gate where a female Sparrowhawk had perched just 24 hours earlier, the excellent Rough- legged Buzzard was on the ground slightly obscured by the downward slope of the gate but it soon flew up onto the fence post showing really well. The waders on the marsh below revealed many Redshank, Black- tailed Godwits, an Avocet, Dunlin. A wait till Dusk revealed around 35 Marsh Harriers coming into roost but no hoped for Hen. The Rough- legged Buzzard was seen distantly flying west. 1 very distant Barn Owl also seen hunting.

New Year's Day birding

Friday 1st January, first stop at the brick bridge overlooking a very low tide Lake Lothing revealed precisely nothing! No GNDiver in half hour look, no Kingfisher, no Little Grebe. However I did see male Pintail, c10 Gadwall, 3 Wigeon on Leathes Ham. A stop at the "fly-tip" to look at some Swans flying over the road- 3 Mutes revealed a Chiff- Chaff in bushes along the right field entrance. The approach road to Covehithe just past the corner revealed several Chaffinches and up to 5 Yellowhammers including 2 smart males. perched on the hedgerow intersecting 2 fields and leading to the corner of the road. I met Maurice B. who'd just been down to the Broad. A walk down to Covehithe Broad revealed 8 Goldeneye along the northern bit of the broad, 3 smart males and 5 females. Later the males and 2 females flew over to the southern section of the Broad. Another photographer was on the beach and right in front of him by the edge of the northern broad swimming vigorously left was the close fine Slavonian Grebe. It then swam left by the edge of the reeds and I managed to get a few pics before it swam through the gap of the reeds and did a loop around and swam in front of the reeds right in front of us barely a few feet away giving superlative views and showing well for the camera too although it was continuously on the move. I then started to fish right in front of us but frustratingly most of the time it fished it had it's back to us whilst fishing and devouring the fish, but a couple of good shots were obtained. We also had a rogue pig, a sow, lolloping through the Dunes, on the beach ripping up the Marram grass vigorously. Back at the Brick rail bridge overlooking Lake Lothing the Great Northern Diver was mid distance and as if to apologise for its earlier absence it caught a fish and promptly devoured it. 2 Little Grebe also seen and a Kingfisher flew over the river. Going straight up to Burgh Castle, the water was in and at the viewpoint there were 2 groups of Redshank on the far bank the bird had disappeared but I picked it up again a smaller greyer bird, the fine Lesser Yellowlegs with fine pencil thin bill, it sat behind some Redshanks and when it stood up it showed its yellow legs. There were also 1 Spotted Redshank seen too. A Sparrowhawk was seen perched on a distant fence on Berney marshes left of the farm.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Lesser Yellowlegs at Burgh Castle (again!)

A tweet from Steve P on Thursday 31st December, had me driving over to Burgh Castle and I bumped into Peter A who told me to go over to the viewpoint right along the middle "front" section and I saw James B & Steve P. Sure enough the Lesser Yellowlegs was in the middle of the Redshank flock stood on the far muddy bank. A smaller greyer bird with obvious yellow legs. Also 2 winter- plumaged Spotted Redshanks too.