Sunday, 14 April 2013

Red-flanked Bluetail, owls amd thrushes

A great day's birding started slowly this morning. I was getting Tweets about lots of thrushes in the Lowestoft area but my walk around the marshes produced just a single Redwing. Chiffchaffs and Blackcap were singing but no other migrants were in evidence. I took a bit of time to count the nests in our rookery and came to a total of approx 135, up on the previous 2 years counts of 120 plus there is a small satellite rookery of 21 nests just outside our boundary.
I was tryng to decide where to go for an afternoons birding when news came through on RBA of a Red-flanked Bluetail at Horsey so my mind was quickly made up. Leaving home I had my first Swallow of the year just a mile from home in Haddiscoe. Reaching Horsey I parked on the access track and walking along this had several Chiffchaffs and more Swallows. The site of the Bluetail was immediately obvious by the small crowd of birders perched on top of a ridge overlooking a small copse of open bushes with a clump of gorse at one end. Remembering the near mythical status this bird used to have it was a surprise to be sitting in a group of just 20 or so birders in such a well-populated birding county as Norfolk but it did make the experience all the more enjoyable. The Bluetail showed very well within minutes of my arrival working its way along the front of the bushes in full view much of the time. I even managed a photo (of sorts) of it.

Shortly after it moved in to a denser clump of bushes and pine trees but still showed well with patience. Having had my fill I moved on to Winterton for 2 more Long-eared Owls, one of which showed well in a large holly bush when the wind was blowing enough to move the obscuring branch away from in front of it.

There were more Swallows here and a single House Martin flew over at the owl. As I walked back to the car 2 Sand Martins flew past. I can't remember ever having a day when I've year-ticked all 3 common hirundines on the same day.
With the temperature now very pleasant indeed I decided to head home and stake out the marshes from the patio to see what might go by. Settling myself down in the sun with a cup of tea and a piece of cake, I soon had the first Swallows for the patch, closely followed by a flock of about 100 Redwings and Fieldfares. Another patch year tick followed in the shape of that well-known summer visitor, Shoveler, when a pair was flushed by a Marsh Harrier. Like Coot, Shoveler arrive on the marshes to breed but depart by the end of summer. A pair of Gadwall also put in an appearance. Shortly after a House Martin flew by, making 3 Patchwork year ticks in about 45 minutes. As the early evening wore on small groups of thrushes continued to move through following the edge of the valley towards Lowestoft.
Tweets started coming through describing the build up of Redwings at Corton on the coast and when the phrase "truly astounding" was used, I decided to go and look for myself. I arrived at dusk and joined an assorted collection of Lowestoft Lizards watching the spectacle. I had missed the main peak but there were still flocks of hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfares going over all the time, their calls filling the sky, now all heading out to sea. Someone picked out an owl almost certainly a Long-eared heading out with them and as darkness began to fall anther owl flew into the hedgerow in front of us, paused briefly before it too flew up, gained height over the land and joined the movement eastwards. A truly magical experience!

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