Tuesday 18 April 2017

Easter Birding

14th April has been a good day for me in the past. Red-flanked Bluetail in 2013 and a Cape Clear first in 2008 (Great Spotted Woodpecker). But I wasn't expecting a 'Good' Friday this 14th April. Cold northerly winds didn't dampen my enthusiasm but they did temper my expectations. Still, I would choose hunting for migrants on the coast instead of grafting over a hot laptop any day.
I birded Happisburgh from 8am but had only Chiffchaffs there. Horsey / Waxham was a bit better - two White Wagtails at Waxham Sands, a singing Whitethroat near the pipe dump and six Ring Ouzels in the field near the pipe dump also.
Sunday I popped over to Drayton to see two further Ring Ouzels, a male and a female in a horse paddock off Marriott's Way. A very nice local find by Joseph Nichols.

Ring Ouzels, Drayton, Norwich - 16th April 2017
Monday the weather was a little better. I've been watching and waiting to see if any Nightingales will return to my local spot at West Earlham / Bowthorpe - none so far but a spot I visited in previous years near Lakenheath, Suffolk already had two in song. In previous years I've done quite well photographing them (see 2016 and 2015). Yesterday was harder though.  I'm guessing the birds are just in and being midday weren't that vocal, plus it was cold and a little windy.
One showed briefly on the deck - a little too distant unfortunately.

Nightingale - Lakenheath, Suffolk

This bird - or another sang very briefly right out in the open.

However, "Bird of the Day" - if not "Bird of the Weekend" revealed itself when I was back at the car having my sambos. A singing Corn Bunting! Sadly very scarce now so really a welcome surprise.

Corn Bunting, Lakenheath, Suffolk

Monday 10 April 2017

Remembering the "Colditz Plover"

It still feels just a little too early to be looking for scarce or rare migrants, but high temperatures, clear skies and a light southerly breeze tempted me out early on Sunday morning.
We started out from Happisburgh in east Norfolk where highlight of the morning was a superb full English fry-up from Hill House Inn

The Flying Scotsman, Hill House Inn, Happisburgh, Norfolk
Other highlights included this Black Redstart at the caravan site.

Black Redstart, Happisburgh, Norfolk

Black Redstart doing its best 'Red Kite' impression
Further 'highlights' included a flock of fifty-plus Sand Martins, several singing Blackcaps, two - three Willow Warblers, two Swallows and seven Common Cranes.

Common Cranes, Happisburgh, Norfolk

Nick's severe 'man-flu' threatened to put an early end to the day but he soldiered on and despite a traffic-jam on the Acle Straight we made it in time to Breydon Water to see American Wigeon, Arctic Skua and Kentish Plover.

Fly-by dark phase Arctic Skua, Breydon Water, Norfolk
Although distant, the Kentish Plover was a fine male bird and along with American Wigeon, a UK tick for me.

Male Kentish Plover, Breydon Water, Norfolk - 9th April 2017
Back in Ireland I had seen one Kentish Plover - the infamous Red Barn, Cork bird in December 2007....the "Colditz Plover" as it became known. I reluctantly removed it from my Irish List when the IRBC placed it in category E.
Here's the story in the 2007 Irish Rare Bird Report;

Appendix 1: Category E records
Individuals considered to be probable or certain escapes from captivity.
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandinus
Cork First-winter, Redbarn Strand, Youghal, 2 December to 23 January 2008, photographed
(D.O’Sullivan et al.).
The exceptionally late date, together with the presence of a vagrant Buff-bellied Pipit Anthus rubescens
nearby, initially gave rise to speculation that the bird may have been of the Nearctic subspecies C. a.
nivosus (Snowy Plover). The presence of a metal ring stimulated intensive efforts to ascertain its origin.
Through close observation and almost forensic analysis of fragments of the ring’s inscription, the bird
was eventually traced to Germany, where it had been hatched and reared in captivity, having originally
been taken illegally from the wild. Following a raid on the dealer’s premises by the authorities, this bird
and numerous other waders were confiscated. It was subsequently released into the wild at Greetsiel on
the northwest German coast. Given this bird’s bizarre life history and the exceptional effort that went into
discovering its provenance, it is not without a measure of regret that the record is placed in Ca

You can see the ring on its left leg from this image I took during my digiscoping days.

"Colditz Plover" - Red Barn, Cork - December 2007
I'm not sure if there have been any Kentish Plover records in Ireland since. Probably very few if any - its pretty rare and still a description species there.
So, almost ten years on I have laid the ghost of "Colditz Plover" to rest with this fine male bird at Breydon Water. The real highlight of a splendid day's birding in east Norfolk.