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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 ...

28th - 31st December

On our return from France on the 29th the wind had gravitated to the east and it was very cold albeit dry. Frost lasted all day on the grass in the shade of our garden fence and the ground beneath had become icily hard. Tuesday was a gloriously sunny day but New Years Eve remained shrouded in cloud.

Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were interacting along the Lessingham Road in the Tuesday sunshine, the male drumming and giving chase to the female in what was perhaps a preliminary courtship ritual. They disappeared along the lane, passing by the nest hole that was maybe nursery to their youngsters in 2007. Back home a Snipe circled low over the garden, it may even have flown up from the garden, and a 'wisp' of 5 flew over a while later, probably heading to feed in the now rank grass of the pastures bordering our lane. In keeping with the images on many of the seasonal greetings cards that doubtless adorned many Happisburgh homes at this time, a bright eyed Robin had become a familiar sight in the garden, his boldness growing with each day.

And so 2008 drew to a close, our journey further into the new millenium passing un-noticed in the lives of the birds around us. But the Earth has once again begun it's annual tilt that will bring longer and warmer days back to the coastal parishes of north-east Norfolk. The cycle of the seasons continues and hopefully my lovely dog Oswald and I will continue to enjoy them together for many years to come...

21st -27th December

Sunday, again, was quite mild with some nice bright spells. The rather light wind was from the westerly quarter throughout with temperatures quite reasonable in the run up to the Christmas period. The largely cloudy skies were broken from time to time by some brighter intervals.

Walking Oswald into Lessingham and back on Sunday morning I was aware that there were plenty of Woodpigeons about and that they were apparently rather agitated. Once airborne I 'guesstimated' the flock size to be around the 700 mark and a few moments searching the skyline soon revealed the cause of their disturbance; a Peregrine. Judging from it's large size I felt it was a female and it flew inbound on a course from the coast and steadily, quite lazily in fact, parted to the south-west in the direction of Brunstead not really showing too much interest in the flighty Woodies.

I didn't manage to check the Pink-feet flock near the water tower this week, time wouldn't allow for it, but their daily to-ing and fro-ing over the garden was a certain sign that they were still enjoying the feeding on offer there. From Christmas Eve we left Happisburgh for a few days, a special birthday celebrated in Paris on the 27th the reason for our mini break across the icy looking North Sea...

14th - 20th December

A dull and grey Sunday was relieved after dark when thinning cloud revealed a large but waning moon. It was quite mild too, and several moths on the wing were providing a food source for a late season Pipistrelle. Temperatures had dropped by Tuesday, Wednesday saw a frost and rain arrived later on Thursday. Following a bright, frosty start to Friday the wind picked up from the south-west, bringing with it rain, and it was generally rather damp for the rest of the week.

The biggest avian feature this week was the number of Pink-footed Geese flying overhead daily. Each morning and evening large noisy skeins totalling some 2,500 - 3,000 birds would head west in the mornings, returning eastward later in the day. As always they provided a real spectacle and I heard my neighbours come outside to marvel on more than one occasion. I soon guessed they were feeding on a suitable field not too far away, and following the morning school run on Wednesday I located a flock numbering c.2,500 in a harvested sugar beet field between East Ruston water tower and the Stalham to Walcott road. A couple of scans somewhat disappointingly revealed no other Goose species in their midst but some nearby 'brown clods' catching my eye proved to be 5 Grey Partridges; a nice little covey. Whether genuine wild individuals or bred and released I know not, but a group like this is a welcome sight these days.

Part of a large flock of Pink-footed Geese taking flight from a feeding session on some local sugar beet tops, a favourite and valuable element of their winter diet.

Aside from the Pinks the only other sightings of note were c.300 Lapwings which flew west over School Common Road later in the week and a hunting female Marsh Harrier which was quartering fields just over the parish boundary in Lessingham one morning...

7th - 13th December

We endured another seven days of weather similar to last week but with more rain, and by the middle of the week there was quite a bit of surface water on the local roads and fields. It was never really windy throughout, Saturday's shift to a force 6 S-SE'ly giving us the windiest day. It was also a very wet with the wind and rain which arrived late morning continued until midnight at least.

Things were quiet on the bird front although another Waxwing overflew the garden calling as I had my head in the woodstore early on Thursday. Looking up I only saw a single bird as it disappeared behind the rooftop, although I can't discount that others may have accompanied it. I took Ossie on a slightly different route later, noting 4 Skylark and 2 Yellowhammers on a field near Short Lane, but as I returned along the Lessingham Road a distant flock of c80 Skylarks were airborne to the south, perhaps taking evasive action from an unseen predator.

Several skeins of Pink-feet were seen moving both NW and SE most days and their seemingly unsettled nature may just have been indicative of local feeding movements. It may be interesting to note that this week coincides with a full moon and the calls of Pinks could be heard after dark on the clearer nights as they probably headed out to feed on sugar beet tops under the moonlight. We walked the fields to the cliffs after the early fog had cleared on Friday, a flock of c60 Lapwing catching my eye as they dropped down to the west of the village. We didn't see much else, but looking towards Eccles on the return journey I noticed a distant but conspicuously white looking bird flying towards us. Raising my binoculars to it I could see it was a Little Egret steadily and purposefully heading flying along the line of the cliff and I watched as it passed the village and continued towards Walcott...

A gleaming white Little Egret in flight, an increasingly common sight in east Norfolk.
© Ron McIntyre

30th November - 6th December

Without any doubt winter was with us as it remained cold throughout the week, although there was a mixture of grey, dry days, spells of rain and sleet, a midweek dusting of snow and a couple of brighter, frosty morns. Saturday had a slightly milder feeling to it though.

Braving the very cold ENE'r around midday on Sunday, I headed to the RNLI for a quick seawatch. As expected, wildfowl were passing although not in particularly impressive numbers. It was nice to see a total of 50 Eider passing north in a few parties, the flocks being made up of gleaming black-trimmed-white adult males, some immature males and some dowdy brown females. 5 Brent Geese, 20 Wigeon and 45 Teal were on the move too and 4 Red-throated Divers were diving offshore as a few more passed up and down the coast. The continuing cold weather was probably the cause of an apparent Lapwing movement early in the week when I noted 78 heading roughly south over the garden with a couple of flocks totalling c450 westward the next day. A few Redwings, Blackbirds and a Fieldfare were along School Common Road as I took Ossie for his morning walk on Tuesday and a Redpoll bounded over calling. Having only recently added them to my parish list, 8 Waxwings flying over lifted my mood from my dreadful cold.

Quietly unassuming, Bullfinches are probably not given the credit they deserve as a 'wow' bird. © Arthur Grosset

Our walk out on Friday after a few early spots of rain was brightened by the sight of 2 male Bullfinches in the thicker hedgerow along the lane towards Lessingham. Although still a common british bird, they are often overlooked as they tend to be rather quiet and secretive, so I took some time to study these closely for a while and really appreciate their contrasting clear grey, jet black and bright rose pink plumage. Further round our circuit a few Snipe flushed from a ploughed field close to the footpath, then a few more until a total of 18 had flown up and across the field settling at, for them, a more comfortable range. A limited amount of shooting takes place in this general area and, with breeding Snipe numbers suffering a decline in recent years, I hoped that the guns involved would spare the birds in this nice wintering flock...