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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 ...

4th – 10th May

Apart from some light rain early on the 4th we enjoyed a generally warm, dry week with light winds from between the south-east and just north of east. Lots of sunshine prevailed and the 5th in particular was very warm.

Having seen just the one during the spring of 2007 I was pleased with my recent successes with Ring Ouzels and a suspicious looking ‘Blackbird’ which flushed from a field edge along School Common Road on the Sunday morning proved to be another; a female. Oswald didn’t seem particularly impressed so we pushed on and walked a circuit down the Cart Gap road, along Doggetts Lane, across the green lanes towards the lighthouse and back to the coast road then home. We started off with the wind a light SE’ly and a light rain which was not at all troublesome. These conditions gave an air of expectation and I was hopeful of seeing some migrants. Checking the field on the right as we reached the ‘S’ bend towards Cart Gap a male Wheatear drew my attention. It was rather large and pot bellied, longer winged and much more richly coloured than the Wheatears of mid-March to mid-April which indicated that it belonged to the race ‘leucorhoa’, commonly known as Greenland Wheatear. These pass through the UK later on average than the British and Northern European breeding race and continue their migration north-westward across the Atlantic to nest in Iceland, Greenland and Canada. A female perched on wires along Doggetts Lane appeared to be a standard, nominate race bird. A male Lesser Whitethroat appeared a little further along, briefly breaking into song, and there were several closely related Common Whitethroats in the brambles and nettles again. Movement overhead included 4 Yellow Wagtails, c.10 Swallows and 6 Swifts all flying southward whilst a clear, ringing ‘tew, tew, tew’ call from above gave away the presence of a Greenshank flying northward. At the Sand Martin colony the number of birds present had doubled from when I counted them almost a month previously and c.70 were busily swirling around the cliff edge. Casting my eye out to sea a party of 5 Common Scoter flew west, these surprisingly being the first I’d seen this year. Last autumn a flock numbering up to 1,200 spent several weeks offshore between Happisburgh and Eccles but they’d disappeared by the year end. Walking back through Whimpwell Green a male Blackcap was singing and at close range I noticed that the very beginning of his song sounded like small pebbles being rattled together, a sound that probably goes un-noticed at any distance. A Cuckoo then sang; a song that everyone knows. He was quite distant and not in sight, but I thought “I’ll have a bit of fun with you...”. Employing a trick my Dad had taught me many years ago, I blew into my cupped hands so that the sound made was a good impression of the Cuckoo’s song. Sure enough, within a few seconds there was a Cuckoo flying over my head giving a low, scolding note of displeasure. I wasn’t a rival but I’d succeeded in fooling him into thinking so. “Works every time” I smiled to myself. Arriving home 3 Swifts were silently hawking over the gardens, interest in breeding not yet evident. It was a lovely day by now and looking up late morning, a large raptor soaring to the south-east was nothing more than a female Marsh Harrier. What was conceivably the same bird was gaining height just to the east of the garden with 2 Sparrowhawks as the air warmed early the following morning. Not exactly a species to get my pulse racing, but like all of the larger raptors I can’t help but give them a second look. Swifts had seemingly arrived in force too, as 22 in a feeding flock busied themselves over cereal fields at Happisburgh Common.

Early on Thursday I stopped by the lakes at East Ruston, the sun was rising above the trees and the wind was light from the south-east. A Common Sandpiper flew around the near margins before disappearing over the reed fringe at the back of the southern fen but it was the number of singing Reed Warblers that amazed me; there were at least 8 singing from close to the road. Who knows how many more were further over out of range of my hearing. Later, a male Turtle Dove was singing on wires near College Farm along School Common Road. This species has declined incredibly in the last decade so I was pleased to see another bird the next day between Corner House and the old Victoria.

The gentle purring song of the Turtle Dove along with the screaming of Swifts is, for me, the essence of a summer evening.

© Arthur Grosset

Out and about before the crowds on Saturday morning Os and I shared the beach with a lone fisherman. Oswald loves puddles, so I had a feeling that he would be unable to resist the North Sea and within seconds of being let off the lead for the first time on the beach, he was up to the top of his long legs trying to drink it. He had a whale of a time! On the bird front I managed to see a single Fulmar offshore, 4 Turnstones were looking resplendent as their summer plumage developed, a Curlew flew south calling and 2 Common Sandpipers flew low along the shoreline. Inland from the beach was a lone male Wheatear and a light southward passage of Swallows was evident.

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