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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 ...

20th - 26th April

As the week progressed we found temperatures picking up with the wind direction re-orienting to the south-west. Sunday commenced very murkily with a cold, wet E’ly and poor visibility before it cleared out after lunch. The week then gave us some periods of complete cloud and others where there wasn't a cloud in the sky at all and the 20th, 23rd and 24th saw some light rain. On the 23rd we were treated to a beautiful misty dawn.

It turned out to be a good week bird wise and one that was especially notable for large birds of prey, none of the scarcer ones seen in the parish by myself unfortunately. I had chanced on an Osprey at Hickling Broad NWT on Sunday morning as it circled to the north-west in quite grim conditions but was a little disappointed to miss the one that Bob Cobbold saw flying east at Trimingham which was later seen passing south at Eccles by keen local birder Andy Kane. It certainly passed through Happisburgh and would have been an addition to my parish list. One of the now regular Marsh Harriers put in an appearance at Lessingham on the 23rd but the accolade of rarest raptor goes to Black Kite on the 24th. Originally seen in the Bacton area early morning it headed south along the coast and was watched passing through south of Happisburgh at Sea Palling by Andy Kane and Tim Allwood. It was a bird appearing to show characters of the eastern race ‘lineatus’ with more obvious whiter wing patches and a pale rufous tail, features similar to those shown in Red Kite. What was apparently the same bird reappeared at Bacton later that afternoon and once more headed down the coast, being seen to pass through the parish at the Lighthouse Inn and watched from East Ruston water tower gaining height and heading towards the sea over Happisburgh. Although not seen in Happisburgh, another apparently nominate race Black Kite spent the afternoon in the Sea Palling/Waxham area. What seemed to be an incredible Kite fest was perhaps marred slightly by the fact that, following high wind damage to an enclosure at London Zoo in late March, 4 free-flying Black Kites escaped and were at large somewhere in the UK. One of these was a pure Black, the other 3 being hybrid Black x Red Kites, colloquially known as Cape Verde Kite. Perhaps the Kites this week were those very birds. Shortly after the original Kite sighting Tim and Andy watched a Hooded Crow fly south near the lighthouse. Once classified as sub-specific to Carrion Crow the more handsome grey and black ‘Hoodie’ has now been afforded full specific status but has sadly become a scarce visitor in recent years. As a boy, I would often pay winter visits with my father to the tip at East Ruston where sometimes up to double figures of these northern visitors could be watched scavenging amongst the rubbish.

No longer recorded as frequently as a few years ago Hooded Crows are occasionally seen on spring passage amongst Rooks and Carrion Crows. © Arthur Grosset

Summer visitors continued to arrive in good numbers and Whitethroats, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were all seen and heard singing with more regularity during the week. The first Lesser Whitethroat, my favourite warbler, could be heard from the garden giving its rattling song on the 22nd with another at Lessingham the following day and the reeling song of a rather distant Grasshopper Warbler emanated from the hedgerow behind Moat farm on the 25th. I was pleased to record the latter as the parish doesn’t really hold the type of habitat to encourage this species to breed and they are usually very hard to find as migrants. Yellow Wagtail was new on the 22nd with one west over the village and it or another in the fields between the Wenn-Evans Centre and the Coast Watch later on. Wheatears remained thin on the ground; a single at the end of Doggetts Lane being the only one I saw in what is one of the peak weeks for their passage. My first Swift was one that sped north over Cart Gap on the 26th.

Birds were not only arriving; some of our winter visitors stopped by as they prepared to leave our shores. A female Brambling was in the Sallows surrounding the tiny pond at Whimpwell Green on the 21st and 2 flew south (the wrong way!) over my garden on the 24th. A neighbour had enjoyed the presence of a bright green, black and yellow male Siskin on his bird feeder all day on the 21st and I picked out a party of 7 by their calls as they flew north-eastwards over our garden the following day. Fieldfares were seen on three days and included a group of 4 flying north-westward over the garden on the Saturday evening and 2 Redwings were noted on the 25th. Song Thrushes seemed particularly conspicuous on the 24th and I wondered if they formed part of an exodus to the continent.

The meadow behind Lower Farm has a tiny stream crossing it, bordered by posts and fencing to prevent the lovely Gloucestershire cattle from falling in. Walking past with Oswald on the Saturday morning I glanced across, thinking that a particular post had an angled top such as I’d not noticed before. “It could conceivably be a Shrike perched atop...” I mused to myself… And it was! A superb Great Grey Shrike, feeding along the fence line, dropping onto the ground after beetles and the like. I'd found one of these predatory passerines about 300m from here in September last and wondered if it was the very same individual heading back to mainland Europe to breed. I watched it for 30 minutes or so until I felt poor Ossie had waited long enough, his occasional whines remindful of the fact that we were actually on his walk. But I’m sure he’s used to my frequent stops now…

When self-found, a Great Grey Shrike will always be one of the days highlights. This distant record shot is of an autumn migrant at Mundesley in early October 2005.

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