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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 ...

7th - 13th September

The wind had swung overnight through 180˚ and was from the NW on Sunday morning. It remained rather variable and never went much over beaufort force 3 throughout the week, settling into a light E-NE on Saturday. It was mostly dry too apart from a heavy shower on Sunday morning and up until mid afternoon on Friday.

Although from the right direction, the wind on Sunday was only a breeze at best, but the passage across the central UK of an area of low pressure worked like magic regarding good quality seabirds around the Norfolk coast. And I was otherwise engaged! These things happen from time to time, and on the day it's almost gruelling hearing of events unfolding at sea watching points along t
he coast and with the sea just a few hundred yards away. In the garden that morning, a distinct 'tlip, tlip' call had me exclaiming "Tree Sparrow?" to no-one other than the dog. Quite a scarcity these days, it had been a long time since I'd heard them but somewhere deep in my memory a past experience must have been recalled. Looking up, a sparrow type bird was flying towards the bottom of the garden where it landed in a large Oak. I grabbed my 'bins' and could see it in the treetop, mostly obscured and partly silhouetted by the morning sun but still giving the call. Willing it to reveal itself more I kept watch and it eventually flew, this time towards me. My immediate neighbours always feed the birds at the back of their house and quite a flock of House Sparrows builds up at times. This morning they were mostly settled in a large shrub and my probable soon became a definite Tree Sparrow when it joined it's closer, commoner cousins allowing me to see the chestnut cap, neat black bib and black cheek spot that readily identifies them. As with many of our smaller farmland birds, Tree Sparrow numbers have declined steeply over the last few years and this one came as a welcome addition to my garden list. It was also the first time in many years that I had seen the species in Happisburgh. Given the timing of the sighting, this one was perhaps a passing migrant taking an opportunity to refuel rather than a bird from a local population unknown to me.

Tuesday morning saw me
walking Ossie up to Cart gap and along Doggetts Lane looking for migrants. Several Chiffchaffs and the odd Willow Warbler were encountered along the way as well as a family party of Whitethroats, 2 Wheatears and a female type Redstart which gave fleeting glimpses in the small fenced off garden near the pay and display. A Sparrowhawk flew steadily and low northward and may have been a passage bird. Checking the sea from time to time was generally fruitless with 3 Red-throated Divers, a few Common and Sandwich Terns, 4 Teal, 10 Gannets and singles of Arctic Skua, Dunlin and Common Scoter noted. Reaching the Decca site a Barn Owl was sitting on one of the fence posts looking rather tired and closer inspection revealed a distinct, buff breast band. It also showed rather dark upperparts and more richly coloured primary coverts than is usually seen in British Barn Owls. Although variable, the further east you look through Euope, the darker Barn Owls tend to be to the extent that the entire underparts can be almost rusty-orange. Such birds very occasionally occur in the UK although generally later in the year and ringing studies have shown that there is interchange both ways between British ringed and European ringed birds. Perhaps this bird was of near continental origin or was the offspring of a pairing between a British and a more distant, darker European bird. There was no sign of it the following day and I hoped it had managed to recover enough strength to move on and thrive.

Barn Owls aren't that unusual in NE Norfolk but this resting bird may well have journeyed from mainland Europe.

Saturday morning dawned with a mist which later turning into weak, scuddy cloud blown inland on a light NE'ly. By the time I'd walked half way to the paddocks along School Common Road my pager had delivered news of 4 Honey Buzzards seen coming in from the North Sea at points north and south of Happisburgh. I had been scanning all around anyway, but this new information changed my luck for as I looked back, a large raptor appeared from behind the cover near Laurel Lodge. It was circling and slowly gaining height and instantly recognisable as a Honey Buzzard with its long, flat to downcurved wing profile and comparatively long and almost constantly flexed tail. Against the sunlight it also showed a pale patch in the primary feathers on each wing, a good distinguishing feature of Honeys. The upperparts appeared quite dark and the dark trailing edge to the flight feathers suggested that it was probably an adult female. It began to drop so I moved out into the field a little and soon got onto it again to watch it continue southwards where it joined up with another; 2 Honey Buzzards now, and I could see my house in the same field of view! It was a great start to the morning and by the end of the day a maximum of 54 had been reported on the pager through the county, the huge Scandinavian high pressure and weak weather fronts over the southern North Sea producing the conditions to direct them to our shores. A Grey Heron south over the clifftop fields may also have come in from the sea and later that afternoon, when I nipped outside yet again to look for big birds, a superb Osprey was flapping southwards just east of the garden, perhaps having detected either Hickling or Barton Broad. A truly memorable raptor day indeed.

Other sightings during this excellent week pale somewhat into insignificance but include 2 Common Swifts south over the garden on Thursday afternoon and a Hobby getting seen off by a Jackdaw at the same place but earlier the same day...

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