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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 ...

1st - 5th January

The New Year started off cold, very grey and soon turning damp. I went no further than taking our dog for his daily walk. From Wednesday 2nd things brightened up and the airflow arriving from the continent got much colder. Thursday was bitter but the cold snap was short lived as the winds eased and veered to a milder, SW origin. Nothing of much note was seen during these early days of 2008 save for the regular Barn Owl along our lane and the regular skeins of Pink-footed Geese overhead as they traversed between favoured feeding and roosting sites in north Norfolk and Broadland/east Norfolk. This goose is a familiar sight over Happisburgh from mid September when the first birds arrive here from their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland. They can be seen almost daily as they commute back and forth and their distinctive ‘wink-wink, wink-wink’ calls can often be heard well before they are sighted. It is estimated that 192,000 Pink-feet spend the winter months in the UK (per. RSPB) and Norfolk is the most important county for them with well over 100,000 each winter (147,000 in 2004) Most birds will have left on the northward journey to their nesting grounds by the end of March – early April.

Saturday 5th dawned bright and sunny but still quite breezy. Once everyone was breakfasted and the morning chores done I helped the dog into the car and headed for the cricket ground. Oswald is still a young dog and not yet 100% happy with travelling on four wheels, so I like to give him short journeys with something fun at the end of each trip. A bit further along Blacksmiths Lane from the cricket ground is a public footpath that heads out past a couple of cottages and some horse paddocks and onwards to the clifftop, this being a favourite walk of ours. Near to the start of this track are some weedy bulb fields and this morning as I passed good numbers of small birds took flight, inadvertently disturbed from their feeding. Present were c.70 Chaffinches, c.45 Linnets, c.35 Skylarks and a single Meadow Pipit. It was pleasing to find such an assembly given the reduction in bird numbers generally over the past couple of decades.

Further along I stopped by the Coast Watch station and looking westward was delighted to see 2 Stonechats feeding in the rank, grassy strip along the cliff edge. Superficially similar to the Robin, Stonechats aren’t exactly rare here but are always pleasing to find and these birds may well linger until the early spring before moving on. A quick scan over the sea didn’t reveal much at all, although 3 Red-throated Divers kept disappearing as they dived for fish well offshore. The bulb fields stretch almost to the cliff edge, and as I walked along some more Linnets (7) and Skylarks (6) appeared and a lone Reed Bunting called ‘seeu’ from atop a small bush. I saw one here in November last and presumed it to be the same bird.

Heading back to the car a rather sad find was the remains of a Barn Owl. How it met its death was unknown (and the actual remains were few) but it was away from the road, so was almost certainly not a traffic casualty. It may have been predated – indeed Sparrowhawks have been seen to kill them, suffered poisoning or simply have reached old age; a sad end whichever way for one of our most treasured birds. Back at the car a small party of Blue and Great Tits moved along the hedgerow as we left for home…

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