This website is best viewed using Firefox v.3

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 ...

22nd - 28th June

The week kicked off with plenty of sunshine and a strong SW’ly breeze; it was a really good drying day as your Gran may have said. On the whole the winds were rather variable for the period and they were light in strength compared to Sunday. Tuesday saw a misty start to the day and it was chilly first thing on Thursday, this day ending with rain after dark. Other than this, and a shower Friday pm, it stayed dry.

The grass fields along our lane were cut and quickly baled this week and it was strange to be able to see the local Hares again as they made the most of the open space and the rapidly growing and greening grass. They should be quite safe here as long as Oswald doesn’t get it into his head to give chase, although I am very careful about when and where he can be given time off the lead. And when he’s off, boy does he love to run! A Hobby passed through again one evening. I had walked to the top of the lane noting lots of Swifts and Hirundines over the village when one came in fast and low from the direction of the cliffs. It disappeared behind some trees but then burst into view where I had anticipated, my binoculars trained in readiness. It quickly disappeared to the south but not before I had taken in its white cheek and throat, black streaked breast and red ‘trousers’. Shortly after, 2 Lapwings flew across towards Lessingham, the first I had seen here for some time, probably non or failed breeders and perhaps heralding the beginning of the return passage of waders.

A birding friend from Surrey had been staying fairly locally for a few days and it was good to catch up with him on Friday; a couple of years must have passed since I saw him last. We walked out across the green lanes towards the lighthouse and on to the clifftop to check the groynes for Terns, noting a female Yellow Wagtail in the wheat field on the way. We were lucky in respect of numbers of Terns with 100+ Sandwich, 2 Little and a few Common present but nothing unusual was with them. Of most interest was a first summer Little Gull, one that had hatched last year. They don’t breed in the UK anymore but, following a failed nesting attempt in the Broads a few years ago, there is always hope that this most dainty of gulls will one day return. 2 other gulls heading directly out to sea proved to be Kittiwakes and 2 juvenile Black-headed Gulls on the beach were looking much smarter with their chocolate and ginger tones than the weary adults there. We also saw a returning Guillemot on the sea, resplendent in full summer plumage still.

Oswald didn’t get a walk until late on Saturday and walking along the lane I could hear the calls of a Tawny Owl. I kept mimicking it to try and maintain its interest and reaching a gap in the hedge near the paddocks I could see it was sitting atop a telegraph pole in open view. It was just after 10pm but the equinox was barely a week past and it was still light enough to see him well. “There’s the last bird of the day Ossie” I said, only to hear the harsh call of a Grey Heron a few seconds later…

15th - 21st June

The recent run of N’ly orientated winds came to an end on the 17th with the wind becoming more S’ly biased for the remainder of the week. It tended to be breezier during the middle part but noticeably warming up later in the week with the change in wind direction. Some light rain fell on Thursday and Saturday, although warm, was grey and drizzly.

The male Turtle Dove was once again crooning unseen from some trees across the field here on Sunday morning and 12 Geese heading NW late in the day looked rather unseasonal until it became apparent that they were Greylags, no doubt from the feral Broadland population. A male Grey Partridge put in an appearance at Cart Gap and, although I haven’t seen the species for several weeks, I suspect he’s probably been keeping his head down while his partner incubates her precious clutch of eggs. Early June is a critical time for nesting gamebirds when their newly hatched chicks are most vulnerable, and fortunately this year hasn’t seen the cold, wet and windy weather that we suffered at this time in 2007. Other young birds were again encountered on the daily walks, their eagerness to be fed evident in their noisy calling to parents; as well as the commoner Tits the young of Chaffinch and Goldfinch were all noticed.

June movements of Swifts are a regular feature along the Norfolk coast and during a brief early evening walk between the Coast Watch and the caravan site they were passing quite low southward over the clifftop field in good numbers. A 15 minute count revealed a passage rate of over 300/hour moving through. Passing along the lane near the church I noticed a small grey bird perched on a branch under some tall shrubs in a garden. It was a Spotted Flycatcher, another summer visitor whose numbers have suffered of late. They are quite late in reaching the UK, the second half of May being the usual time to start seeing them, but this was my first of the year.

The sea didn’t produce anything unusual for me despite a few visits with only small numbers of Sandwich and Common Terns recorded and c.15 Gannets were seen on the 19th. It was a reasonable week for raptors though with another Hobby just into East Ruston on Wednesday, 2 Marsh Harriers at nearby Wayford on Thursday with the regular male hunting here on Friday but pride of place goes to the Red Kite that passed directly over our garden on the morning of the 19th. I was putting our green bin out for collection when a sixth sense made me look up (although my neighbour says I’m always looking up!) to see a large bird with a twisting tail heading my way. Grabbing my ‘bins’ I had a terrific view as it slowly circled overhead, watching me watching it, before it drifted off towards Lessingham village. It was a bit tatty and bore no wing-tags, so wasn’t a directly introduced bird, but whether it possessed a truly wild lineage will go unknown. Shortly after this I took an eager Oswald out in the pleasant sunshine and we hadn’t gone too far when a Sparrowhawk missing a primary feather in its right wing was briefly in view overhead. Minutes later I heard the call of Sparrowhawk and looked up to see a different bird, a male, giving slow wing beats and with his under tail feathers spread out in display posture. Thinking he was probably displaying to the first sighted bird, I was a bit surprised when a fully winged female missing one or more central tail feathers appeared and began to circle with him. From where 3 Sparrowhawks had suddenly appeared, and displaying too, I have no idea; we don’t exactly have any sizeable tracts of woodland close by. Perhaps one of the more mature wooded gardens nearby suits the needs of this particular pair…

Red Kites are a welcome sight once again over much of the UK thanks to a very successful reintroduction scheme. Hopefully we will see them as a county breeder in the not too distant future. © Arthur Grosset

8th - 14th June

Despite the continuing N’ly wind the week was mostly warm. The first couple of days brought practically cloudless skies but enough cloud had developed by Wednesday evening to give us some rain after dark. Friday and Saturday saw the wind revert to W’ly with temperatures picking up slightly and the week ended with a heavy shower.

Crossbills! This is what my inner voice shouted to me as I busied myself in the garden during the evening of the 8th. It was 7pm and I suddenly became aware of the loud, hard ‘chip, chip’ call of the Common Crossbill. Looking up I could see a small flock of these stocky finches flying directly over head on a SE to NW tracking, part of the recent irruption from the conifer forests of northern Europe. There were 14 in all, a respectable sized flock and a species I had been half expecting to encounter in the parish at some point this year. It is thought that such irruptions happen as a result of a shortage of pine cones in the species normal range and during invasion years they can sometimes be found in Bacton Woods where they tend to favour the stands of Larches there. They are fascinating to watch as they extricate the small kernels from the cones with their cross tipped bills, the resulting debris making a gentle rustling sound as it falls to the ground. Another new bird for my garden and parish lists.

Last year I made several sightings in and around Happisburgh of that agile, summer visiting falcon, the Hobby. My first Norfolk sighting this year came on the 13th June near College Farm, when one flew over in the direction of Lessingham. Hobbies have become a much more regular sight throughout Norfolk in recent years and I wondered if this particular bird would be summering not too far away.

The Great Spotted Woodpeckers near to home have gone very quiet so my feeling is that they have successfully raised the youngsters to the fledging stage so I’m keeping an eye out for them in our garden and on the daily walk. Birdsong in general has now become subdued as busy parents devote their energies to raising their offspring. A local pair of Pied Wagtails must have had some breeding success as during the week I watched a grey and white juvenile awkwardly catching flies on the paddocks at Whimpwell Green, his success rate down compared to that of his father close by...