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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 ...

24th - 30th August

The wind direction followed a similar pattern to last week; SW'ly until Friday when it turned NW'ly. By Saturday morning it had veered to the south-east. Wind strength remained rather light throughout and, with some light rain, Monday was the only wet day.

Family parties of Goldfinches have been grouping together following successful breeding and c.20 have been regularly seen along our lane; the buffy headed juveniles are easily differentiated from the more boldy marked parent birds. There were still 4+ Spotted Flycatchers in the trees by Moat Farm this week and the Willow Warbler had been joined by a second bird and a Chiffchaff, whilst in our garden the berries of a Himalayan Honeysuckle were proving irresistible to a male Blackcap. The majority of our Swifts leave by the end of August and I noticed just one present over the garden on the 27th; any sightings from now will be noteworthy.

From the 28th was quite eventful and I visited the clifftop each day. A Yellow Wagtail headed SE on Wednesday, 2 Common Whitethroats and 7 Wheatear were south-east of the lighthouse on Thursday and something was going on with Redshanks. I heard some calling and got onto a flock of 22 flying west with 2 Knot, followed by 2 more with a single Knot. Shortly after another flock flew east, perhaps containing the original birds, but this time numbering 45. Three smaller waders may have been the 2 + 1 Knot. Finally a lone bird flew south-west calling.

Usually only seen here in small numbers, the large flock of Redshanks this week was rather surprising
© Ron McIntyre

An early seawatch the following morning added a new species to my Happisburgh list when I picked up a Balearic Shearwater flying north at about middle distance. What is possibly the same bird has been seen several times in recent days from Eccles and Sea Palling, flying both north and south at various times of the day. A few others have been seen elsewhere around the coast, but the regular appearance of a single bird off this part of the coastline leads me to believe that one may be roosting either offshore here or even in a suitable crevice on one of the reefs off Sea Palling. On a worldwide scale Balearics are very rare, indeed it's status on the IUCN Red List is 'critically endangered'. This is mainly down to predation at the breeding colonies by introduced mammals such as cats and rats. They nest on cliffs and small islets in the Balearic Islands and outside the breeding season they wander around the western Mediterranean and venture northwards to the seas around the UK and as far north as south-western Scandinavia. More in-depth information can be found on the excellent Birdlife International website.

It was quite hazy on Saturday in the light SE'ly breeze as I parked at the Cricket Club and headed out towards the Coastwatch. Hearing Swallows alarm, I looked up for the usual Hobby sighting but nothing was apparent. Putting Ossie on his lead the alarms continued, so I looked around to catch the tail end of a large raptor disappearing westward, quite low, behind the barn complex at the Forge. From the brief views had I suspected it was most likely a Marsh Harrier and hoped that nothing rarer was reported during the day! A Golden Plover flew over calling and Lesser Whitethroat and Yellow Wagtail were present as I walked the track. Scanning the slightly swelling, almost oily looking sea 2 Balearic Shearwaters were heading south, close together and not too far out. Their brown colouration, dusky markings to the underwing, broad 'hand' and pot-bellied appearance allowed me to easily identify them even through my 10x binoculars. I'd left my pager at home but when I checked it I was pleased to see that two had been seen together passing Cley less than an hour previously. Several other birders managed to track them past other sites further round the coast, in all a good set of records of this rare species...

17th - 23rd August

From SW'lies at the start of the week the wind shifted through 90 degrees to end up NW'ly at the weekend. Conditions were a bit blustery at times particularly when one of the numerous showers was passing.

Half an hour watching the sea at Walcott early Tuesday afternoon was rather uneventful apart from an exceptionally heavy downpour during which I could hardly see the sea from the sea wall. Bird interest was restricted to 9 Gannets and 4 Arctic Skuas south and a juvenile Mediterranean Gull flying north along the shore. Once home, and with the sun out again, I took a walk towards Lessingham. On reaching Moat Farm I was pleasantly surprised to notice that there were several small birds in the trees there. Feeding quite high up were at least 4 Spotted Flycatchers and a nice yellow juvenile Willow Warbler along with an assorted Tit flock. Further around the circuit were 2 more Spotted Flycatchers and a sprinkling of Willow Warblers so it seemed probable that an arrival had taken place. In birding terms an arrival such as this, especially following rain or the passage of a weather front, is known as a 'fall' and is something that is always keenly anticipated amongst birders. Close study of current and predicted weather patterns can give a good indication as to when a fall may occur and to find oneself in the middle of a sudden arrival of birds is an exciting and memorable event. Close to Lessingham Star is a field that had recently been harvested of peas. The bare soil and clumps of haulms presumably harboured good feeding and had proved attractive to a mixed flock of c.150 Rooks and Jackdaws and c. 100 Gulls, mostly Lesser Black-backed.

The rest of the week continued rather quietly and a couple of visits to the clifftops saw little although a Wheatear was by the large muck heap and the 'local' Hobby showed itself 3 times. A female Eider appeared to have taken up semi-residence just offshore and the odd Arctic Skua was seen too. There were, however, really good numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns offshore on the 21st; the whole panorama was filled with feeding or passing birds. With the wind turning NW'ly during Friday I was a bit disappointed to be working and unable to look for seabirds, especially on Saturday when I heard that good numbers of Shearwaters and waders had been recorded along the coast...

10th - 16th August

A bright, breezy week ensued, warm on the Sunday, cooler on the Monday but warming by the weekend. There was a good mix of sunshine and cloud and light rain overnight from the 11th was perhaps the build up to a torrential shower mid-morning on the 12th.

The biggest surprise of the week came on Monday morning when, as I walked Ossie to the end of the lane, there was a Kingfisher sitting on a wooden rail by the watery ditch at the paddocks. It was only there briefly for as soon as I saw it, it saw me and was off. Without any decent ponds or water courses in the parish I had rated my chances of recording one here as very slim. They do however occur as a coastal migrant but are recorded rather infrequently. Walking back home one of the Turtle Doves was perched on the telegraph wires that cross the fields here. A Sparrowhawk (or 2) was seen over the garden on Sunday and Friday, the former a juvenile bird that perched in my next door neighbour's garden for a while. I was able to get some photographs by shooting through a narrow gap in the fence. Perhaps due to the inexperience of youth, it didn't see me and fly; I'm sure such keen eyesight must have detected me through the gap. The Hobby was also over again this week causing panic amongst the House Martins once more.

Not always welcomed in gardens Sparrowhawks are nontheless fascinating and beautifully marked birds.

Friday saw a few Chiffchaffs appear and although I didn't get close up, their behaviour led me to believe that it was a family party. Ossie had a long walk on Saturday, across the fields to the cliffs near our lovely lighthouse and back. A little migration was evident with a Curlew and 2 Golden Plover flying north and a southward bound juvenile Wheatear was feeding along a grassy bank. At sea a Red-throated Diver was close inshore, resplendent in full summer plumage, and small numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns were feeding and passing by...

3rd - 9th August

With the exception of Friday 8th, when a force 5-6 NNE'ly blew up, the winds this week were generally light and with a S'ly bias. It was however a week of cloud, any prolonged spells of sun were few and far between and we were subjected to many showers, some longer periods of rain and thunderstorms after dark midweek.

I visited Cart Gap early morning a couple of times but couldn't make it on the Friday in the onshore blow, these being better conditions for sea-birding than winds off the land. I heard from Bob, who had managed to watch for a while at Walcott, and Gannets, a few Arctic Skuas and a Manx Shearwater passed by whilst he was there. My sightings included the usual Terns and Gannets and one morning 2 each of Knot and Redshank flew north. Turnstone numbers had reached 13 at Walcott by Thursday and 27 Herring Gulls, were loafing there. Saturday 9th dawned and the wind was S'ly, force 1-2 with 7 oktas cloud cover for the hour that I watched from06:25. Gannets were abundant this morning with 145 north and 73 south and with them were 4 Fulmar and 2 Kittiwakes, again northward bound. A party of 6 Little Terns flew by and waders were represented by Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover and Sanderling. A single Red-throated Diver, still rather early, flew south and ducks passing north totalled 19 Common Scoter and 11 Teal.

Warblers are starting to become a bit more obvious of late; they tend to go rather quiet and secretive as their breeding season progresses, I guess the constant demand for attention takes it's toll. A Blackcap was 'tacking' in the garden on and off and Chiffchaffs were more numerous than usual including 5 for a couple of days in a local clump of trees and brambles. Whilst sorting some stuff for recycling one morning a noise like the start of a cat fight alerted me. Thinking maybe our cat Polly may be in trouble, I looked up at the very moment a Little Egret flew from behind the house, the most likely perpetrator of the harsh noise. Still a rather uncommon sight in Happisburgh, it was the first I had seen from the garden and a good one for the garden list. Aside from a visit by the Hobby again, on the 6th, there was nothing else of note seen...

27th July - 2nd August

We continued to enjoy last weeks glorious weather on Sunday but Monday dawned rather misty and cloud built up during the day. By mid afternoon some stormy clouds threatened from the south-east but it wasn’t until after dark that thunderstorms arrived. Three days of fine, warm weather followed but by mid evening on Thursday it was raining. It remained warm for the rest of the week with occasional, sometimes heavy, showers.

The Hobby that has chosen to spend the summer in this area made appearances again this week on Sunday and Thursday, the latter sighting when it appeared low and fast from close behind me as I was watching 21 Linnets, 6 Greenfinch and 2 Goldfinch in the rough stuff near to Moat Farm. What may be the same individual flew briefly alongside my car just after 9pm one evening near to Brumstead church; raptors often hunt in the fading light at the end of the day when small birds are preparing to roost. A female Marsh Harrier overflew our garden again on Sunday as the Hobby was heading in the opposite direction and another bird with a pale head and quite obvious pale wing patches on Monday was most likely a 3rd calendar year male. Also this week, close to home, I had good views of a juvenile Green Woodpecker that was probably raised nearby. Typically this species in shape, the black spotted face and underparts and pale tipped mantle and wing coverts give juveniles a distinct appearance. My bird appeared to have a blackish moustache so I took it to be a female.

I kept a rather close eye on the sea this week and on Wednesday morning a fine summer plumaged Red-throated Diver was very close inshore from the Decca site; close enough in fact to actually see the red on its throat. A common passage and winter visitor, this was an early returning bird. One of the Eiders remained throughout and a dark phase Arctic Skua spent a couple of days offshore. An adult and a first summer Little Gull flew northwards on the 28th, 2 Kittiwakes were sitting on a groyne on the 29th, Gannets were regularly noted in small numbers and all of the Auks that were scrutinised proved to be Guillemots. A single Teal flew south on Friday and waders returning included 8 Turnstone, 2 Sanderling and a Snipe south along the shore, all at Walcott. I also logged Whimbrel on two days and 2 very distant waders flying north early one morning looked good for Knot but no doubt I’ll be seeing plenty of more readily identifiable ones as the year progresses…

Just into Lessingham, these lovely old hedges, barely 120 yards long, have been the nursery for young Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Blackbird, Wren and Yellowhammer, the recently fledged young of which I have all encountered here this summer.