Saturday, 23 November 2013

Glaucous Gull, Lowestoft

November is my least favourite month. It always seems to be relentlessly grey and damp and, with the nights continuing to draw in, no promise of spring around the corner. The birds too can often be disappointing. The excitement of autumn migration has gone and many of our wintering birds have yet to arrive in any numbers. Today at least dawned bright, sunny and windless.
After taking sheep to Norwich Livestock Market and returning home with a bag of Suffolk walnuts from one of the men helping in the wash out area(!), I took a stroll around the marsh. There was nothing special, but it was pleasant enough. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were passing overhead, 2 Marsh Harriers were calling to one another over next doors marsh and our wintering flock of about 40 Teal have returned to the alder wood. The scrape is just about to overflow its edges thanks to the previous weeks rain but the only birds making use of it this morning when I passed were 3 Common Gulls. Our other marshes are getting increasingly wet too with standing water on several.
Whilst sorting out the hay for my January lambing ewes, the distinctive wink-wink call alerted us to a flock of about 60 Pink-footed Geese heading south down the valley.
After lunch I headed to Lowestoft and found a small disconsolate group of birders by the side of the Hamilton Dock. The Glaucous Gull had not been seen since 8.30am when it had apparently been flushed by a Common Seal! The Hamilton Dock must be the most unattractive birding site in Suffolk with a security gate guarding a high concrete sea wall to your left, a noisy engineering yard behind you, Lowestoft town centre to your right featuring a multi-storey car park and the fish dock, currently in the process of being demolished ahead of you. It is always cold whatever the weather with the classic "lazy" North Sea wind cutting right through you. Despite these down sides, the dock has an excellent reputation for attracting rare gulls especially in its heyday when Lowestoft still had a fishing fleet, the most famous being the 1977 Franklin's Gull and the 2006 Ross's Gull.
After 10 minutes I moved off to Ness Point where the Purple Sandpipers were showing very well, pushed up to the railings at the point by the rising tide.

I had a look at the waste skips at the back of Birds Eye factory which were attracting some gulls but drew a blank. I headed back to the dock just in case and found Ricky Fairhead scanning the harbour. Within 5 minutes Ricky picked up the Glaucous Gull coming in from the direction of the town centre but it promptly dropped in out of view amongst the boats to our right. I had come armed with the last crust from my kitchen so within seconds we had it on the water and on the tiny tyre-strewn beach below us giving us tremendous views and an excellent photo opportunity.

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