Monday, 30 January 2017
On Monday 30th January with another A/L day to take, I visited Burgh Castle fort in the hope of seeing the Rough- leg. Some birders had just left, but I joined a lone birder to the western (left end) of the Fort who said it was still there. He pointed out 3 posts by a gate slightly aligned diagonally away from us to the left of the marshes and I saw the bird perched on a post. It soon moved closer flying towards a gate just the other side of the reeds. This fine Rough- legged Buzzard was a really striking bird with pale head and mantle, brownish back, a large gorget of black down its throat and 2 big side flank patches of black flaring out from the lower breast sides. It showed white at the base of the tail bordered first by a chestnut bar then a dark black bar. It was facing us then and turned around facing right. It later flew low over the ground and onto another gate straight out from the fort (the closest one you can see over the river) before flying and settling in a field edge to the side of a dyke by some Greylag Geese, but the local Egyptian Geese took exception, as did a Short- eared owl that repeatedly dive bombed it. Whilst the one Owl kept mobbing it, 2 further Short- eared Owls flew over and east, comprising a great trio of Short- eared Owls!I recorded a 4th Owl for the trip when I heard a Tawny Owl hooting from the copse just west of the Fort. Sadly, I couldn't see it. Finally, walking back, a Redwing was perched up in a berry bush by the car park.
Sunday, 29 January 2017
An early start of 7am on Sunday 29th January saw me driving Rob Wil and James W up to Martin Dales near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire. Incredibly, a second White- billed Diver had been spotted on the River Witham for the second time in 21 years. I had tried unsuccessfully to twitch the first one in 1996, that had very unfortunately got a fisherman's hook tangled up into its bill. That poor bird was suffering badly and was quite rightly taken into care, but all this had taken place 20 minutes before si I failed to see the bird, it would have been no joy for me anyway to see such a magnificent bird in distress. So 21 years a later, we parked by the road leading to Kirkstead bridge and walked right along a concrete path for a mile and a half. The path skirted the river and for some time was surrounded by a buffer of hedges skirting the edges. After around 40 minutes walk, we could see a gathering of birders, or more specifically photographers by the riverside, and as I scrambled down the bird instantly popped up, looking in rude health and into view! I finally connected with this very special enigmatic Arctic visitor. It was an amazingly immature White- billed Diver! Sporting the characteristic large upturned "ivory" white banana bill and brown and white plumage that appeared darker in the harsh light. Access was only available down the southern side of the river which meant the river was spotlighted by a very strong sun, making photography difficult with the brown areas of the bird appearing much darker and really bleaching out the white areas. The bird was constantly diving and travelling under water for around 30 yards initially travelling north then south. The bird spent much of its time the far side of the river around 30- 40 feet away but on 3 occasions swam much closer at one stage being barely 15 feet away, it really was giving outstanding views and opportunities for some potential stunning photography! It was only when a birder brought his dogs to the river side that the bird appeared more vigilant and it subsequently spent the next 15 minutes up on the water. This elegant denizen of the Arctic then rose up and flapped its wings before travelling south and diving frequently again. On the fields opposite the track, at the back a gathering of Swans included both 5 Mute and from Scandinavia 2 Whooper Swans right in front of a distant house, Rob heard and called a a Green Sandpiper which I also heard and saw when it flew away right. Also stood out on the close ploughed field rather incongruously were 2 single Little Egrets. Moving onto at Kirkby on Bain looking over Riverslea Lake, a male Ring-necked Duck and immature female Scaup were seen. The Scaup was in the foreground in front of it swimming left . Both ducks were on the far side of the lake (with Wigeon, Tufted Ducks and Pochard around 10 of each) where we were viewing this fine gravel pit complex. The grey/ black and white at the front breast of this North American bird were very distinctive, seen as it spent most of its time asleep but as it swam strongly right, it briefly lifted its distinctive head up sporting its three tone bill (black, white and grey) plus a Great White Egret seen walking in the water of a pit 100 yards further down the road concluding a great day in Lincs. It also emulated my first holiday to Shetland when visiting with Mum, we visited Dennis Coutts photography shop and he told of us about 2 special birds a White- billed Diver at Quenelle and Ring- necked Duck on a loch, its been 40 years since I've been able to see these 2 birds in 1 day again!
It was a case of 13th time lucky as I finally on the Saturday 28th January saw my first Shags in Lowestoft for 2017. Looking from the fence just down from the rail bridge by Lake Lothing one immature Shag was fishing in the water to the east not far from a tightly packed group of 5 Little Grebe and appeared to be swimming closer but it then flew to under "John Lethbridge" wreck perching on the orange jetty underneath it, as I walked along saw the usual 2 Redshank were by the shoreline plus a calling Kingfisher flew past. At Mutford Lock basin nothing seen other than another 2 Redshank and 5 Turnstone. Walking back towards the railway bridge I looked under the John Lethbridge wreck and the original immature Shag had been joined by another immature Shag perched next to it! Looking from Riverside one, a third immature Shag, was on the river to the west and let out of the water when it was diving. From Asda round the I heard the familiar rasping of a Peregrine Falcon and I saw a male bird circling around 3 times before flying half way over the river towards me before it flew east and over the far side.
Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Today, I was using up some of my annual leave and you take pot luck with the weather, after 2 brilliantly sunny but cold days we had a cold misty murky day. First stop was the Oulton Broad, a juvenile Cormorant was on the jetty by Mutford Lock but no sign of the mega elusive Shag. Next stop was the Little Owl site at North Cove and no surprises when it wasn't showing. I decided to park at North Cove stature as I though the path would be easier to follow to the riverbank. Having reached the railway line, I was dismayed to see a car already parked probably a dog walker/ birder and guaranteed disturbance if the Goosanders were on the river. Sure enough, a dog walker with 4 dogs and also predictably no Goosanders on the walk down. I did however see 3 separate Water Pipits flying up from the recently enlarged dykes by the river path, great habitat creation from SWT, their white bellies noted and white supercilia clearly seen too plus different flight call i/d'd them. I also saw first a male then a female Stonechat. I met Carl B, who was also after the Goosanders and he decided to walk east. Ten minutes later at 11am, I suddenly stumbled on a lone female Goosander on the river looking very wary and swimming away, I saw 2 further Goosanders and I slowly dropped down but too late, all 6 female Goosanders took to flight and flew west a long way up river. Shame they were so wary I didn't get a chance to get any pics. I couldn't get hold of Carl so I walked back. Opposite North Cove turn, around 12 Red- legged Partridges in the field, Back at Lowestoft at Asda, as I walked to the river, I heard the screeching of a Peregrine calling and a magnificent male Peregrine flew around the grain silo twice and then flew half way over the river before heading east. That was to be it for my birds of today because apart from plenty of Cormorants on the river, 12 , not much else seen, still no sign of any Shags. In the afternoon, another stop at the railway bridge revealed 5 Little Grebe and more Cormorant, but still no Shag, will it be a case of 13th time lucky (in 2017) next time I check? No sign of any Waxwing at or around the vicinity of 99 Oulton Road.
Tuesday, 24 January 2017
On Tuesday 24th January, having some business in Gorleston town centre this lunchtime at around 12.30pm, walking from the high street down the alley way towards Morrison's supermarket, I heard the metallic "Tzshik" call of a Grey Wagtail and I had a good view of a bird flying low over the path and north in undulating flight as it flew.
Sunday, 22 January 2017
A look at Ness Point and I saw Rob Hol raising his lens to photograph something it had flown behind the funnel, I didn't see it. It was the hybrid Glauc X Herring Gull or colloquially known as "Viking Gull", great name but I hadn't seen it yet. We walked down the road to the Bird's Eye entrance and we saw it perched on a low roof, it was the excellent Viking Gull. 2 Purple Sandpipers seen in flight at Ness Point albeit at low tide. At Oulton Broad finally, finally the Common Sandpiper gave itself up to me (after 8 fruitless attempts) showing on the distant rock edge at the basin and even saw off 3 Turnstones that flew off! A Kingfisher then flew over and east. At Outon Broad briefly seeing Rob & erin, we also saw a Kingfisher fly right, I walked off to get the sun behind me and despite the excellent light, I picked out definitely one Yellow- legged Herring Gull, typically brute of a bird, slightly darker Common Gull grey on its mantle and crucially when it stretched its wings it showed the diagnostic grey secondary bar.
A look around Oulton Broad on Saturday 22nd January, looking over Lake Lothing from the railway bridge, Mutford Lock basin and Oulton Marshes failed to reveal the hoped for Shag, Common Sand &/or Goosanders. Nil return until I was at the furthest point at Fisher Row, Rob Will kindly rang to inform me Andrew had found a Glaucous at OB (I'd just been there! It wasn't there then). It took around 30 minutes to drive back to OB and Join Ali, Maurice, Rob Will and James B, watching the excellent biscuit coloured, bi- coloured pink and black bill , first winter Glaucous Gull on the ice. It was there 20 minutes before it flew away on languid flight getting ever higher and circling.
Friday, 20 January 2017
On Friday 20th January, a totally frozen Oulton Broad revealed no Goosanders on a quick look before work this morning, dipped for the second time as I had originally tried for these at Minsmere. I looked at Haddiscoe Church after work this afternoon but no sign of any Gulls.
Sunday, 15 January 2017
A pair of fine calling Bullfinches were heard at 11.30am and on looking out, I saw a male perched in the tree, just beyond the garden with the female perched just right of him, on Fallowfields. They were there for a couple of minutes before flying right.
On Saturday 14th I had limited time to go birding as I had an important trip to see relatives in the afternoon. As I arrived at Beccles along Ellough road and by the junction of Coney Hill, the usual favoured spot with a berry bush on the corner. I noticed one photographer with a 300mm lens stalking really close to the bush and the feeding Waxwing was flushed and flew up to the trees opposite where I parked the car along an adjacent side road. I spied 2 Waxwings perched at the top of the tree. They soon flew back to the bush and I got set up, it started raining and this quickly turned to snow, as I was walking across the birds flew back into the trees and were joined by 2 further Waxwings, that flew in from the south-west. All four birds then occasionally flew down to the bush, fed for a few minutes on the berries before flying back. A shaft of sunlight finally gave a brief window of excellent light to obtain some distant pictures. 4 Fieldfare flew over and perched in the back garden tree of a house over the road and then first one Mistle Thrush then another rattling Mistle Thrush flew overhead and perched in trees lining the other side of the road. Then a male and female Blackbird perched on the berry bush to consume some berries. @ waxwings then flew off and the original 2 Waxwings came down on several occasions. A look at Lake Lothing failed to reveal anything save a lone Redshank. As I entered the north section of Corton woods, several Goldcrests were heard calling, more significantly deeper into the wood, I could finally hear the countering of a Nuthatch, and by the bendy path, by the lone Pine tree, I spotted, at last, the excellent Nuthatch on a vertical branch overhead, it ran along here before flying off after 2 minutes. A Redwing was also heard.
Sunday, 8 January 2017
On Sunday 8th January, a look at Minsmere Island Mere this revealed little. The Goosanders had gone, Bearded Tits were heard and 2 calling Siskins flying over the Rhododendron tunnel. At Dunwich I saw Matthew D who had just seen a flock of 8 Scaup sadly a joy rider on a power boat had scared them right off. However, Matthew had mentioned he'd seen a tight knit group of LT Ducks to the north, I looked and picked out initially several 4 lone Common Scoters and a flock of 18 Shovelor on the sea. It was also apparent there were over 100 Great- crested Grebes on the sea, a quite remarkable gathering. But I also spotted the fine quartet of Long- tailed Ducks on the sea, always lovely to see and only around half way out, they were directly in front of a boat on the horizon and just right of a long line of Gulls stretched out on the sea. On the walk down, no Twite seen. I did however see a Great White Egret feeding on the coastal marsh but wary as ever, as I later walked back one was seen more in land close to the Dunwich end, making 2 Great White Egrets in all. My walk down failed to reveal any Twite or Snow B, but as I walked back, I noted an area of swampy salt marsh, where 2 birders were peering intently. Just in fromt of them, as I suspected was the excellent flock of 30 Twite most hidden from view but occasional glimpses were obtained when they hopped in to view or jumped briefly up into view. sadly, a Sky lark took fright and flushed them and all 30 Twite flew around in a large circle around 4 times before heading north.
On Sun 8th January, an exhaustive third attempt to see both extremely elusive the Nuthatches and Firecrests were doomed to failure despite the early start due to constant chainsaw noise emanating from a garden adjacent to the north- west corner of the woods. Only birds seen were around the road, Wood Pigeons, Jay and a vocal Goldcrest and I heard Redwing too.
On Saturday 7th January, after an hour and a half wait, people running to the wilderness area beyond the gate meant I was the last to arrive as I can't run with my torn leg muscle. Obscured views were obtained of the fine Pallas' Warbler seen through a Hawthorne bush and in a beech tree also.
Friday, 6 January 2017
In contrast to recent reports from everyone else I failed to see any birds in Corton woods at lunchtime today (Friday 6th Jan) and certainly no Nuthatches, Firecrest or Craig's Marsh Tit (unusual sighting), continuing my poor run for 2017. I wonder how long it will continue?
Thursday, 5 January 2017
In the morning on Monday 2nd January, along the Halvergate road, I eventually parked by the start of the concrete road heading east near Halvergate village, looking south by farm building first 2 then another 2 birds flew in totally 4 Cattle Egrets by the farm. I tried to get closer but other birders blocked access and I lost my parking space so I had to leave reluctantly. Driving to Buckenham, a lorry was blocking the road so I had to abandon my attempt to see Taiga Beans and my other planned birding in East Norfolk ,for the first time in 8 years. At Oulton Marshes , walking out to the rail line, I got caught in a sudden shower, sheltering under a tree from the rain, it suddenly brightened and just south of the platform, a group of 8 Bearded Tits showed well this time in the reeds east of the path, only 2 of their number were males. These showy birds seen albeit in a breeze, attracted the attention of 2 photographers. walking out to the usual field, the Short- eared Owl was seen flying around the field, before hunting further afield.
Sunday, 1 January 2017
On Sunday 1st January, I parked at North Cove car park and walked up the track, meeting Rob Will, Andrew E and James B who were on a New Year's twitch. On Castle Marshes, I was delighted to spot the 76 White- fronted Geese with a few Mute Swans the group were actively feeding. At least 1 immature bird seen with the flock. Perched on a post nearby was a Buzzard. Walking back, a Buzzard flew right over the fields and past the Alders a calling Marsh Tit, Wren were seen. Going over to the reserve, I heard a Bullfinch too. At Mutford Lock basin, 4 Little Grebe, Turnstone and 7 roosting Oystercatcher seen, no sign of the Common Sand at high tide though. Nothing from the railway bridge looking over Lake Lothing. At Leathes Ham, 3 Pintail (male and 2 females)seen distantly and 4 Pintail (3 males) seen close on the island. Around 15 Gadwall seen and Wigeon heard but not seen in worsening weather. At Hamilton Dock, a Cormorant seen plus 8 Turnstone feeding in the Turbine yard. Whilst at the point along the ledge, just north of the "finger" first 4, the 5, then 8, then 10 and finally 11 Purple Sandpipers seen all feeding along the ledge or the defence rocks and momentarily disturbed with the waves breaking against them. At Links road car park, a group of BH Gulls included an unsigned adult winter Mediterranean Gull plus a confiding Rock Pipit on the seawall eastern ledge sheltering in the rain.