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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 July

As high pressure built the wind shifted from the north-west through a rather variable phase to easterly and remained rather light in strength. Monday saw a small amount of rain during the morning but its effects were soon gone. Tuesday onwards was warm and dry and harvesting of winter barley started here midweek. By the end of the week we were enjoying some hot, sunny English summertime.

A 2½ hour, early morning stint in the dunes at Cart Gap in a light NW’ly on Sunday was surprisingly productive and I enjoyed some good summer seawatching. There seems to have been good numbers of Arctic Skuas in the North Sea this summer, perhaps reflective of a poor breeding season, and I had some excellent views of both pale and dark morph adults passing north and south at close range, one individual almost along the beach. My notebook shows 16 logged but with possible duplication of birds I put the actual total seen at nearer 7 or 8 individuals. The Terns present on the groynes nearby seemed to be attracting them inshore as some appeared to be making a beeline for them from quite a distance. A few Gannets headed north but the southward count finished at 170 and other species noted moving up the coast included 5 Curlew, 10 Knot, 2 Turnstones, 2 Sanderling, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, single Dunlin, Golden Plover and Ringed Plover, along with single Fulmar and 4 Common Scoter. One of the Shags was again resting on a groyne north of the gap and 7 Manx Shearwaters, one of my favourites, flew south at just over half distance.

Manx Shearwaters visit the North Sea during late summer and autumn. They are magnificent to watch as they shear past at speed on a strong tail wind.

© Arthur Grosset

At the horizon was an almost continuous line of what was almost certainly a large feeding flock of Kittiwakes and several Guillemots and Razorbills were dotted on the sea, some with ¾ grown young. Several Common and Sandwich Terns were up and down and some, it was encouraging to note following the stock depletion of recent years, were carrying sizeable Sand Eels in their bills. From about 7.15 it was Terns that livened things up, starting with good close views of an adult Arctic Tern slowly passing/fishing northwards; a scarce breeder in Norfolk, they are hugely outnumbered by their close relative the Common Tern. I had my fill and continued scanning when, a few minutes later, I picked up 2 more passing south slightly further out. Five minutes after this I got onto another small group of Terns, most of which were Sandwich, one a Common, another being one of the recently present Roseates. It had suddenly turned into a ‘Tern fest’! Within the next ten minutes, amongst the close birds, were another Arctic Tern north and then (presumably the same) south. I went home more than satisfied with my tally. That afternoon as I walked out of the gate a Sparrowhawk soared over and about 100 yards down the road I looked up to see a Common Buzzard directly overhead. I watched it as it circled southward and over towards Brumstead, receiving some unwanted attention from a Carrion Crow on the way. It was quite a pale plumaged bird and in heavy wing moult, its shed outer primary feathers replaced with not yet fully grown new ones lending an unusual shape to its wings. It was also carrying a small, unidentifiable prey item.

Oswald had an afternoon walk on Wednesday when we parked up near the Cart Gap road and walked across the fields to the beach. Three juvenile Yellow Wagtails were flitting about the wheat field ahead of us, hopefully indicative of successful local breeding; I had noted a female of the species here at the end of June so felt that this was highly likely. The ‘seven-whistle’ call of Whimbrel had me searching the sky and I eventually saw them, a group of four, anxiously looking for a suitable patch of beach on which to land. They did so but only for a few minutes before flying off out to sea. We walked to the waters edge to get close to the Terns just in time to see 3 beautiful summer plumaged Little Gulls flying south just beyond the end of the groynes.

The following day a message on the pager told of a Roseate Tern on the sea defences at Walcott and I was pleased when I later found out it was Bob who had seen it. He managed to get some good photos too, much better than mine, which he kindly forwarded to me, one of which appears below.

The Roseate Tern at Walcott (right) with a Sandwich Tern (centre) and Common Terns ~ Bob Cobbold

I took my bike out for a spin on the Saturday evening, ending up with a fish supper at Walcott sea front. I’d put my binoculars into the tank bag but had left my camera at home, a decision I came to regret as on the beach here, and at close range, was a juvenile Mediterranean Gull, one of very few juveniles I have seen. Like the Arctic Tern, they are a scarce county breeder and this was a missed opportunity to photograph one...

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