Saturday 5 November 2016

The Autumn That Keeps On Giving - 5th November 2016

I just knew that this autumn still had a few cards to play and the double mega alert yesterday late afternoon of Cliff Swallow at RSPB Minsmere and a male Eye-browed Thrush ‘somewhere’ in Northumberland left me with the easy choice...

And so we left home just after five and a couple of hours later nervously arrived at the car park at Minsmere with the horrible feeling that I may have not left quite early enough.

Boots on, gear out and amazingly within about three minutes I had had the briefest of views of this pale rumped triangular winged hirundine as it drifted over the visitors centre with seven more conventional Swallows and then out over the reserve to be lost to view.

Dither dither....  where should I go?
No room here...
So I went here... no swallows but a stunning view

The question now was how to play it? Stay put and wait of head out for a scan round toward Island Mere? I opted for the halfway house of the Bittern Hide where I stayed for all of two minutes and those present had not seen and swallows drift past at all so it must have gone over the trees which meant...

Yep it was back by the centre... cue some fast walking... and then there it was flitting around the Bramble covered Hawthorns out on the sandlings up behind the building.  Over the next hour everyone got superb views as it hawked around us and frequently perched up with his buddies for a break. It was quite chilly but there were still visible flies on the wing and they appeared to be catching stuff.

Yep- this is a Cliff Swallow

More for aesthetics but the Cliff Swallow is top left with Barnies middle and right

The flying essence of Cliff Swallow

And one from James Lowen...  have a butchers at his blog too!

I would say that Antony was a very happy bunny but he does not have long fluffy ears...

Quite a crowd if you look closely

This American species had always been one of the slightly irritating gaps on my list with the Portland bird at the end of September 2000 being denied to me because of a pre-booked family visit to... wait for it... the Millennium Dome... I seem to remember trying to be pragmatic all day but failing miserably.  However, there were smiles all round today and all quite possibly down to the fact that unbeknown to me there was a bag of mini Double Deckers already lurking in the car. Jono and Bradders would be proud...

A perfectly formed mini Double Decker... a bringer of good birds

I had bumped into Antony Wren and we ambled down to the sea along North Wall in glorious sunshine with Robins and Stonechats flitting away in front and five adult Whooper Swans circling away to the south. 

Blueish skies and sunshine but not for long
The sea was flat calm and devoid of anything aukish. We turned our backs on the sea and looked back inland to not only see Andrea heading our way but a wall of grey murk not far behind her. As she reached us the sun was engulfed, the wind got up and the temperature dropped and beach time was very swiftly over and it was a brisk walk back past the now swallowless bushes whilst agreeing to follow Antony back to Lowestoft so that he could show us the Waxwings in Carlton Colville. 

It was an interesting journey will a large part of it stuck behind an ancient gentleman in a shiny Mini countryman, weaving all over the road and not getting above 39mph but sometimes dropping to 25 but we got there eventually only to find this small flock resolutely hiding in the canopy of large tree and showing no interest in the Rowan berries or Crab Apples. They had a little fly round and were calling lots but it was decided that a visit to Chez Wren for coffee and a catch up was in order. 

It was great to see Sarah and the growing kids and it was snug and warm and I could easily have dozed off but blue sky appeared out of the window and we headed back to the Waxwings which were still not really playing ball although eventually one of the fine males did come down and parade for a couple of minutes.


With the cloud rolling in again we made our way back through town to Ness Point where a solitary but very obliging Purple Sandpiper put on a good show but once again the sea was very quiet bar a good number of Gannets and a small flock of Scoter so we bid our farewells and started to make our way south again.

A very pale Purple Sandpiper

...that showed very well!

Dunwich Beach car park for an overpriced bag of manky chips to go with lunch before I headed off north up the beach onto Dingle Marshes in search of the only regular wintering flock of Twite remaining anywhere in East Anglia and the South-east.  Gone are the days of this species being the commonest passerine on any bit of saltmarsh you visited and the flocks in their hundreds that I saw at Tollesbury and Old Hall when I were a lad are most certainly a thing of the past.

They were feeding out on the red Samphire saltmarsh in the inland side of the shingle ridge and 58 were counted in a typically vocal and mobile flock with yellow bills, white wing flashes and pinky rumps glowing in the temporary sunshine. 

Twite grovelling in the shingle as well as the saltmarsh

A flock of 14 Skylark also fed on the beach and five different Marsh Harriers were spooking all the duck and gulls while two Great White Egrets were having a bit of a territorial dispute with one seeing off the other from his chosen patch. I love the fact that we are beginning to get blasé about this wonderful species to the extent that I am not even sure how many I have seen this year.  They can get just as common as they like!

Stroppy Great Whites

The loser...

The walk back along the beach was easier!

More showers were on the way in so with a rainbow at my back I called it a day and started to head for home...

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