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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 ...

9th – 15th March

Variable cloud and a light SW’ly started things off but in the early hours of the 10th the wind started to shift SE’ly and by first light we were again in the grip of gale force winds and rain. Following a brief and sunny respite, their strength increased by dawn on the 11th but this time from the west. We were back to a light W’ly from the 13th and the week ended with a cold, fog laden E’ly.

There were more Blackbirds than usual around the paddocks at the top of the lane and 18 Meadow Pipits were noted as I walked the dog out on the 9th. Just prior to this at about 3pm, having parked my car on the drive, I glanced up to see a large dark bird flapping slowly south, low across the meadows opposite. It was a Marsh Harrier and although I only saw it from rear on, I could see it was a female or immature bird. Adult males are quite striking birds in flight with pale heads and shoulders, black, grey and brown upper wings, a grey tail and a quite rufous brown underbelly. This bird had the all dark wings and body typical of young or females of the species. East Anglia is a Marsh Harrier stronghold with birds breeding not only in the once favoured reed beds but now also choosing to nest in arable crops. Although at one time a winter scarcity, they are now a familiar sight all year round. They can also sometimes be seen in the spring passing quite high westward during periods of favourable weather, these birds having most likely drifted over from continental Europe.

Hunting Marsh Harriers are a frequent sight whilst travelling around East Norfolk.

Photo © Arthur Grosset

A day I look forward to each year turned out to be March 11th this year. Walking up the lane with Oswald leading the way I heard a familiar, thin, inflected “tu-ee”. It was my first Chiffchaff of the spring, an event that to me always seems to herald the passing of winter. I soon located it in some sheltered privet and watched for a while with a smile on my face. Walking further on, it flew past me calling, heading toward the village. Although traditionally a summer visiting warbler, several Chiffchaffs spend the winter in the UK. This bird was most likely to be a new arrival or perhaps a UK wintering bird making its way back to mainland Europe. By the horse paddocks at the top of the lane were 7 Redwings, 3+ of which remained a couple of days later.

Quite late in the day on the 11th, another (or perhaps the same) Marsh Harrier flew low southwards over our garden. I drove to Stalham via Lessingham shortly afterwards and enjoyed views of it and a Barn Owl over the fields by Water Lane.

Driving by Walcott seafront on Sunday 15th the adult Mediterranean Gull was instantly obvious preening on one of the groynes. It wasn’t so much his jet black hood (with just a few flecks of white now) but his brilliant white wing tips that made him stand out from amongst the Black-headed Gulls. 3 Turnstones shared the groyne space but they were busily feeding rather than resting. With the wind now in the east I was hoping to get to the clifftop to see what was around. I got there but not until quite late on and by now the fog had reduced good visibility to perhaps 20 yards. A Snipe flushed out of a roadside drain on the way there and 18 Linnets and single Reed Bunting were on wires by the weedy cabbage field. It’s a good trek to Cart Gap, along Doggett’s Lane and back over the fields but there’s always the chance of seeing something interesting. In some brambles at the old Decca site sat a female Stonechat (no male so perhaps a migrant) and nearby a male Linnet gave his pretty, twittering song. Walking homeward the regular Barn Owl put in an appearance looking somewhat ghostly in the evening gloom…

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