Monday 6 April 2015

The Easter Weekend

Yesterday (Sunday), I decided to try one last time to see the Santon Downham Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I must have tried seven or eight times this winter without success, its been a boogey bird for me in every sense of the word and up to now still missing from my life list. If I didn't get it today then the chances of connecting at all would be slim, I would be distracted by arriving summer migrants, the birds would start to become less vocal and the canopy would begin to leaf up! So it was now or never!
I arrived at what I considered to be the usual spot at around 11.30am, a bit late to be fair and becoming a bit gloomy too! Which after twenty minutes of nothing was a fair reflection of my mood! However, I met another birder who said that recently the bird had been reported from a spot about ten minutes walk further downstream (near to the tree marked '80' in luminescent green paint). That perked me up a bit so I picked up my stuff and walked on. I reached the marked tree and sat down to wait and listen, however after thirty minutes.....not a sausage!
As I was thinking of giving up a GSW started to drum and call. As I located it, a second bird began drumming further off in the distance. That drumming sounded different though, higher pitched maybe! I wondered if it might be an effect of distance and distortion of the sound as it traveled but it did sound different. I walked further along the river bank for maybe 500 yards and reached a large dead tree on the right hand side. Just as I was scanning the top branches of this tree, a small woodpecker flew in calling, landed on a branch near the top and began to drum. Up to now I had never seen or heard Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but there was no doubt that this was one. The bird spent two or three minutes drumming busily in the same spot before taking leave, flying over my head to the opposite bank of the river and stopping briefly to allow me take a few record shots. Only one shot came out but one was all I wanted - Lesser Spotted Woodpecker sorted finally!

Female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - Santon Downham, Suffolk - 5th April 2015
I watched it for about a minute as it fed around the branches before moving deeper into the woods, where it continued to drum on and off for another five minutes or so. Even though it was now only 1pm, a Tawny Owl hooted away in the background.
Lunchtime beckoned, so I headed back along the path to the car stopping only to watch three Mandarin ducks that dropped in briefly before setting off again up the river. A bit 'plasticy' but it'll do for my UK list - two birds added within twenty minutes is not bad!

Male Mandarin Duck, Santon Downham, Suffolk - 5th April 2015
After lunch I still felt I had an hours birding left in me. I popped over to Lynford Arboretum where three Hawfinches (two males and one female) gave decent enough views in the company of some very smart male Bramblings.

Male Hawfinch, Lynford Arboretum, Norfolk - 5th April 2015

Female Hawfinch, Lynford Arboretum, Norfolk - 5th April 2015
Today (Monday) I took a different tack and went with Nick Watmough to Happisburgh to start looking for arriving migrants. The morning started off sunny but by 9am a thick fog had rolled in. First bird as we left the car-park at Happisburgh was a rather dull male Northern Wheatear, first one of the year for me (and Nick too I think). We did a circuit of the area but couldn't dig out anything else of note. From there we decided to head towards Weybourne and look for the Lapland Buntings which appeared to be moulting quite nicely into breeding plumage if photos on the web were anything to go by.
Two birds had been reported but we only managed to see one, still a smart individual nonetheless and only my second ever Lapland Bunting (a very scarce migrant and rare winter visitor in County Cork).

Lapland Bunting, Weybourne, Norfolk - 6th April 2015
By now the fog had burned off and the sun was out, it had turned into a very fine day. Having enjoyed decent views of the bird we decided to take lunch and headed back along the cliffs, past the coastguard cottage to the carpark, taking in the fine view as we walked.

Looking west along the north Norfolk coast - 6th April 2015
So all in all a good weekend and some good birds, three UK ticks, one of which was a lifer, its not often you can have that. Next week the winds veer south for a few days, hopefully we'll finally shake this long winter and see a decent arrival at last of our much loved summer migrants. Roll on!!

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