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!

3 comments:

Colin said...

Very nice summary Mark, since there has been some total shit written about this bird.

Many of the colonial nesting sites in the Algarve have now been abandoned by Lesser Kestrels, but the conservation area created by LPN (League for the Protection of Nature) at an abandoned farm in the Castro Verde area (the LPN have inserted drain-pipes into the walls of the buildings which have now become nest sites for Lesser Kestrel and Roller) has come up trumps; I have seen 40+ birds today.

Mark said...

Cheers Colin. Lesser Kestrels are stunning birds (though admittedly so are male Common Kestrels) and it's good that some effort is being made to preserve their populations. As good as this bird is my fondest memories of this species will always be watching them overhead in Trujillo with a nice cold beer watching the world go by.

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