Monday 1 January 2018

The final fling

2017 had not been a vintage year for birding as far as I was concerned. But with one day left there was still a chance to salvage something.
Myself and Nick Watmough headed down to Suffolk on the morning of the 31st December. The Coues's Arctic Redpoll was still present at Hazelwood Common near Aldeburgh and I had never seen Arctic Redpoll (seeing as I would be losing Lessser Redpoll as a species from midnight I might as well cancel out the loss by adding another Redpoll species!).
Anyway, when we arrived the weather conditions weren't great (wind and rain), the Redpoll flock was skittish but we managed to get views of the bird as it perched in the trees belonging to the garden of the white cottage.

Coues's Arctic Redpoll, Hazelwood Common, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
We didn't really improve on those initial views, the flock was very mobile and when perched in the tress there was usually some twiggery blocking the shot. We decided to come back later when the weather was set to clear a little and meantime we would head towards the Martello tower at Aldeburgh and look for some Snow Buntings.
We parked near Slaughden Sailing Club and walked along the sea wall towards the Martello Tower all the while scanning for Snow Buntings. We got nicely distracted along the way by two Purple Sandpipers. They weren't too perturbed by our presence and we managed some nice close-up shots as they dozed on the rocks just yards from the crashing surf.

Purple Sandpipers, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
While we watched, a flock of 5-8 Snow Buntings flew over our heads and pitched down somewhere near the Martello Tower. They were a little difficult to relocate at first but eventually we found them feeding behind the shingle ridge at the back of the tower. They too were skittish (there were lots of walkers by now), so we figured the best option for photos was to retrieve the car from the car park and use it as a hide. This worked out very nicely and the birds fed within a few feet of us as we snapped away from the warmth and comfort.

Snow Buntings, Aldeburgh, Suffolk
After a coffee break we headed back to Hazelwood Common for another go at the Arctic Redpoll. The skies had cleared and the wind had dropped but the flock remained mobile. I managed one shot of the bird as it sat out in the open for a few minutes, sadly a little too distant but you can't always have it everyway.

Coues's Arctic Redpoll, Hazelwood Common, Suffolk

Showing its white bits nicely!
And then it was time to head home and call in the new year.
So, despite it being a relatively poor year for birding, this last day out was one of the best. Thoroughly enjoyable, good company (thanks Nick), good birds (including a lifer) and obliging subjects. Feeling a bit more optimistic about birding now too!!

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