Wednesday 8 March 2023

Thirty Years Ago - February 1993

6th February:

Bure Park on the northern outskirts of Great Yarmouth was the first stope for Steve B, VH-F and I and within ten minutes I had found the second-winter Ring-billed Gull amongst the Common and Black-heads and a few biggies. A typically obvious, well marked bird and quite a large individual too.

 second-winter Ring-billed Gull 

From here we made our way into the Yare Valley and the Cantley Bean and White-fronts performed extremely well and at reasonable range for a change [Eds: no counts of either species!] before double backing to Horsey Mill.  We almost immediately heard the Cranes trumpeting way off in the distance and we were lucky enough to  see four of them at reed level flying along the back. Marsh and Hen Harriers were mooching around as was a splendid Hooded Crow. My only other East Anglian records were from here too.  Four Whooper Swans flew over and joined a flock of 75 a little further up the road.

Hooded Crow

Several Bearded Tits pinged and a male Stonechat perched up on top but the still calling Cranes refused to show so we drove around to Hickling and walked down to Stubbs Mill.  Two were easily scoped from there as they fed in the open and the other calling birds could still be heard. Such elegance and grace even in flight. Over 150 Bewick’s Swans were also seen here as well as a nice flock of Yellowhammers. [Eds: No Chinese Water Deer of skeins of Pink-feet back then].


The rest of the day was spent around Cley where the Shorelarks did not show but we did see Great Northern Diver, Common Scoter and Snow Bunting which were all added to the year list while a lone Pink-foot with nine White-fronts  was a nice bonus [Eds: seems hard to imagine that the Pink-feet were not a big thing in Norfolk back then – or that I was completely blind].

9th February:

Cliffe Pools was the first stop for Pete G and I and the track was worse than ever! It was disappointingly quiet in the variety of species seen but Lapwings were everywhere and down on the foreshore I found my first ever wintering Curlew Sandpiper with the Dunlin and Redshank. The only other birds of note were 48 Greylags Geese which seem to be on the increase in the south east.

On to Funton Creek where huge numbers of Pintail performed splendidly. Ab fab ducks with a supporting cast of other wildfowl that included a few Mergansers and a wavy line of 105 Avocets.

From here we went to Harty where two ringtail Hen Harriers and a pair of Marsh Harriers were noted along with an immature Peregrine, some distant Bewick’s Swans and a bonus fly over Lapland Bunting.  Brent were the only Geese we saw.

13th February:

A south coast jaunt with Stuart, Adrian W and Mike S that began at Ferrybridge in Weymouth Harbour. It was certainly better weather than the January trip but there were very few waders to check through for the Kentish Plovers with just a few Ringed Plovers and Dunlin up by the actual bridge. A male Stonechat was using the car park blocks as a look out.

A few Gulls were milling around and harassing the Mergansers in the Harbour and amongst them was a sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull. Two Turnstones and four Grey Plover flew over towards the harbour and I followed them that way as the others strolled back towards the car and almost immediately I found one of the KPs trying rather unsuccessfully to lurk amongst eth weed covered stones. I called the others over and we all got superb views of this diminutive little plover. There was a hint of chestnut on the ear coverts and a thing white wing bar was seen in flight when a thin tittering call was also heard.

Kentish Plover

Other than the Mergs, the harbour was rather disappointing with just one Guillemot and a flying Red-necked Grebe so we moved onto Radipole where we stopped just long enough to see a Cetti’s Warbler very well. A huge fish factory ship was out in the harbour and had attracted most of the large gulls out to feed including the adult Iceland Gull.  With the KP seen well we relaxed a little and had a great big breakfast in the ferry terminal before moving back east towards Boscombe where a very elusive Hoopoe had spent the last three weeks.

Plenty of Buzzards were seen on the way but we had trouble finding the exact area and had to ask at three petrol stations for more specific directions to the Avonbourne School playing fields [Eds: no Google Maps, dropped pins, sat navs and probably not a mobile phone amongst us either…]. Officially there was no access other than one public viewing point. We wandered around the back of the school and fortunately another birder had found the Hoopoe in the long jump it by the tennis courts. A typically smart bird that even raised its crest a couple of times. There were lots of Pied Wagtails, Mistle Thrushes and Linnets using the fields.


With negative news on the Itchen Night Heron, we headed north to Black Gutter Bottom in the New Forest. The sun was out and fighting the mist and thus we had a great spell watching the Great Grey Shrike that patrolled the area along with two pair of Dartford Warblers that sang and perched in full view oblivious of our presence.

Great Grey Shrike

Dartford Warbler

On again to Timsbury where the drake Ring-necked Duck was found after the usual struggle before a final foray into Wraysbury to tick off Ring-necked Parakeets after a most successful day.

14th February:

An afternoon well spent with Pete in the Lee Valley that started well with finding the second-winter Ring-billed Gull near the A10 in Enfield in a fairly random ‘it could be here’ type stop. A small but distinctive individual.  A quick look at Coppermill Lane produced the desired Med Gull with a near summer adult. A group of Siskins were in the Alders.

20th February:

News had come my way of yet more London suppression [Eds: sorry if this was not the case but this is what I wrote at the time!] with both Little and Rustic Buntings wintering aBeddington Sewage Farm.  The latter was the first ever to do so. I arrived at 8.30 a and joined many others that had got wind that entry may be on the cards and shortly we were all watching the dapper Rustic and most felt that it was a first-winter male. The Little Bunting put in a brief appearance to complete the double while Tree Sparrows were everywhere you looked which was great to see.  Stonechats shared the same fenceline with the Buntings and Sparrows and I found a Ring-necked Parakeet that was actually a very rare bird for the site. [Eds: There are so many things that have changed since this entry… free visiting birders, completely absent Tree Sparrows and undoubtedly RNP is no longer a site rarity…]

Rustic Bunting

22nd February:

An afternoon excursion to Lakeside shopping centre with Viv and Kate produced a surprise Red-necked Grebe on the lake!

27th February:

A quiet visit to Dagenham Chase with just the usual Long-eared Owl and little else.

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