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Thanks for taking time to visit the 2008 Happisburgh Bird Diary, we hope you enjoyed reading it. To find out what Ossie and I see this year please visit the Happisburgh Parish Bird List 2009 ...

24th February - 1st March

The 24th was an absolutely glorious spring like day with a mild SW’ly breeze and high cloud. Overnight rain cleared to leave us with a frost by dawn. The winds continued to veer and settled at WNW for a couple of days before backing W’ly. After another overnight frost on 28th -29th, frontal rain reached us by early afternoon and the wind strength noticeably increased. By late evening we found ourselves in a severe W’ly gale which raged throughout the night and into the following morning; March had certainly come in like a Lion.

The dawn chorus was quite spectacular from my back doorstep at the weekend, participants shortly after first light comprising Song Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, Wren, Robin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Skylark all in and over my garden. I took Oswald in the car just out of the parish into Lessingham and walked him along the footpath around what was heathland at Hempstead many years ago. Sadly this rare habitat is now all gone, the odd piece of Gorse serving as a reminder of what once existed. One wonders at what specialist birds of heathland used to live here and what would return if it was restored to its former glory. Wishful thinking and unlikely to ever happen, at least some healthy hedgerows have been maintained and the nearby Hempstead Marshes remain largely undrained and undisturbed. 4 Stonechats fed vigorously in some rough pasture nearby, this species being one which would doubtless have bred on the heathland here in days gone by.

The fine, sunny conditions on 27th were ideal for enticing birds of prey onto the wing and following the morning school run, I returned home through Honing and East Ruston. I wasn’t disappointed as a Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard both circled lazily over woodland there. Another much darker Buzzard glided across the road at treetop height near the waterworks and once back into Happisburgh, a Sparrowhawk, almost certainly out hunting, dashed across the road in front of my car. Both of these species have prospered in recent years and are a regular sight in many parts of the county. As upsetting as it may be to see a Sparrowhawk take a songbird from the garden, the only reason that they are so numerous is because the food supply is sufficient to sustain the population at that level. Certainly the food supply was there, and probably even more plentiful, in the 1950’s and 60’s but years of pesticide use had caused the eggs of many of Britain’s native raptors to be thin shelled or infertile and their numbers were decimated. It took decades, but with the noxious chemicals removed from the ecosystem, our hawks and falcons recovered. I can remember birding with my late father at Crostwight in the mid 1970’s when we came across a pair of Sparrowhawks. His excitement was enormous; to see just one Sparrowhawk was something but here was a potential breeding pair! It was a wondrous moment for a small boy; the memory is one I cherish. Buzzards too are doing well in wild Norfolk now, their eastward spread across the UK supplemented in the not too distant past by small scale re-introductions with help from sympathetic landowners.

Common Buzzards show much variation of plumage. This is a typical view of a typical Buzzard.

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