29th March. "Come on Kes"

In 2002 a Lesser Kestrel was present on the Isles of Scilly. At the time I pondered the pros and cons of going and subsequently didn't bother. This proved to be a wise move, as photos HERE proved beyond doubt that the bird was probably of captive origin* Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and the small corner of coastal Suffolk currently experiencing an irruption of Southern European Apus comes up trumps with a real spanking adult male Lesser Kestrel. I didn't ponder this one long and after several texts settled on a Tuesday trip! However the Birdguides message at 9.25 suggested that it had been seen to go to roost on Westleton Heath. A phone call to my boss and a change of car sharing partner (sorry Pete) and we were on our way. One of the benefits of taking Roy is that he has enough old twitching tales (many of which I've heard before) to easily last a 200 mile journey without me nodding off. Pulling into the Dunwich road car park at 2.30am Roy's tales had done the trick and I could now get my head down.

Dawn came round too quickly (must bring more rohypnol next time) and after several coffee's we wandered to the heath to join the gathered hoard (more of a small crowd).

After an hour there was no sign, though a Stone Curlew and a stampede of Red Deer helped ease the tension. A small bird of prey miles away on the horizon tempted us away from the heath and along the access road to Minsmere, roughly the area where the aforementioned bird was. We saw no further sign of it but had a calling Lesser Pecker and a booming Bittern. A kindly birder pulled up alongside me on the way back to the car and informed me of the Kestrel's presence back on the heath!! Ten minutes later we were back by the quarry where after an anxious 10 minute wait it showed distantly but well on and off for the next couple of hours. The crowds at these weekday gatherings are usually a much more pleasant affair and this one was no exception to this, though the poor bloke behind me who called the Kestrel only to be told that it was a Chaffinch must have felt a right tit - but to his credit he enjoyed a laugh along with the rest of us.

Spot the birdy!!

It would have been impolite not to visit nearby Lowestoft, for the couple of Alpine Swifts along the sea front, so we did. The sight of these two desperate creatures clinging to the front of an apartment blog was quite pitiful as they looked pretty knackered and despite a few brief ariel jaunts they were surely getting very little food. With the weather outlook not looking great I fear the worse.

Another one of Suffolk's swifts, this time a Pallid, was just down the road at Kessingland though unlike it's Alpine cousins it was seemingly having more success - choosing to feed over a presumably insect rich sewage works. That is until we arrived where we were greeted by just two Swallows and a White Wag'.

All avenues explored we headed home - "best day ever"

*This is a complete lie!

27th March. Snake Pies

Despite the Met office's poor forecast the weather this morning looked promising and seeing as Beth was keen to see the adders it made sense to have another short trip out to Hatfield. Having noted the position of three basking snakes we went for a look at the cracking summer plumaged Red-necked Grebe before returning to the now basking adders one of which showed particularly well.



and a nice selection of pies to finish.

22nd March. White Arse

Apologies if I've said this before but "Whetears give me the horn"! There's something about these hardy chats that fires something off in me giving me a sudden rush of adrenalin. I don't know what it is about them or why they have this affect on me - they just do. So a nice drake this morning was more than welcome as I trudged up the muddy track from the largest of Orgreaves two lagoons. It's the same rush every spring - a flash of white, a warm all over fuzzy feeling and a sense of euphoria comes over me as though I'd just found a top draw 'rare'. Subsequent early spring birds have the same affect but come mid-October the flash of white usually leaves me cursing "bollocks it's just a Wheatear"! What fickle creatures we birders are.

20th March. Alone Again

From the weather forecast Saturday looked promising and had it been mid-April a pre dawn raid on Orgreave, would have been necessary in order to get in place before the dog walkers and 'other' birdwatchers arrived. This however was still March and the only likely species would be a few early migrants at best. Sure enough halfway round I picked up my first Little Ringed Plovers of the year followed immediately another. A newly exposed bit of mud on the smaller pool held three Dunlin which was briefly exciting and a sign that at least birds were moving, so four Sand Martins over were hardly surprising. The rest of my two and half hours visit was quiet but I never set eyes on another living sole - bliss!

17th March. The Strife of Brian

It’s that time of year again when I can grab a precious twenty minute, or so, birding spell before work takes over.So once again I have been paying regular visits to Orgreave usually arriving around 7am. This has several benefits one of which is that I’m usually the first on site and that the birds are all mine. Not this week though. I arrived yesterday and noticed the obvious silhouette of a birder – you know the one we make when we lift our bins’ to our eyes. Filled with dismay I decided to stick it out as from my vantage point I could keep ahead of the ‘intruder’ who for the benefit of this story we will call Brian – Brian Dead. Scanning the shore line I picked up three Ringed Plovers which Brian subsequently saw as he almost trod on them, as by now he had begun to walk right along the shore line in dog walker style though without a dog. Brian continued his walk along the shore seldom lifting his binoculars, except to follow the fleeting birds from under foot, until he came to a nice gathering of c.150 Black-headed Gulls with a handful of Commons among them, which he duly flushed. Brian was back again this morning but must have arrived early as he was already halfway round when I arrived at 7am. God knows what he’d already flushed but once again he managed to clear the Black-heads, in fact as he glanced at his watch his pace increased and he successfully managed to flush every bird off the lake including two Mute Swans – it takes a true pro to flush Mute Swans. Now before any one comments I must point out that I have on occasions accidentally flushed the gulls at this site and I have walked along the shore line – however in my defence when I walk along the shoreline I scan it as far as I can see and move well back so as not to cause disturbance. Brian sadly seems to be lacking in that all too rare skill seldom seen in birding these days called ‘field craft’ either that or he is blind and it is for his benefit that Rotherham Borough Council added the braille text at the bottom of this sign!
I doubt very much that Brian will read this. But in case he does it's nothing personal just take a little more care when walking round the edge of any birding hotspot*

*Technically Orgreave is far from a hotspot more slightly tepid!

Thanks to Rebecca Nason for awarding me this sunshine blog award.
Rebecca's Blog full of proper photographs can be found here

14th March. Adders

Despite the milder weather of the last couple of days the first migrants of spring remain absent, at least in these parts. Having given Orgreave a good going over over the last couple of days I decided on not only a change of scenery but also a change of subject.

I have tried to see Adders on Hatfield for the last couple of years, mostly without any real success, so a cool morning with sunny spells seemed ideal. Ideal it was. We found two straight away which posed nicely and a third individual that let me get within just a couple of feet. Despite this and over 250 shots I managed just a handful of 'keepers' probably due to using a monopod instead of tripod, though I suspect the latter would have caused too much disturbance.

And Finally.

Thanks to Stephen Dunstan for bringing this to my attention.

6th/7th March. The Piewich

For once the Met office got the weekends forecast spot on, wet on Saturday with glorious sunshine on Sunday. I had a couple of oil changes planned for the Saturday so that would keep me busy for the morning at least. Unfortunately I couldn't raise the enthusiasm to pick up the binoculars in the afternoon but did go to Morrisons and having not eaten since the previous day created this:

The Piewich

Having written Saturday off I was torn between two choices for the promised sunny Sunday, either Grigrin Farm Red Kite feeding station with bonus Black Kite or the long staying Black-throated Thrush at Newholme. The Thrush hadn't been seen since Wednesday so there was really only one choice. Arriving at Newholme (yes I foolishly chose the latter option) it became clear after around five minutes that the thrush had moved on one way or another. Feeling somewhat like a wedding guest who'd turned up on the wrong Saturday we hung around for an hour out of shear courtesy. That left us with two choices head back via Scarborough and Filey or go a bit further north and get an insurance tick in the form of the Saltholme Hooded Merganser. Once again I made the wrong choice and headed north. Now as far as birding goes this area takes some beating and has a track record that some east coast spots can only dream of, but It's such a depressing area. The subsequent no show of the Merganser didn't improve things but a couple of red-head Smew provided some compensation - but not much! Of course the very fact that I didn't see Merganser will ensure that it makes it on to category A!