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February 1st

After the morning school run I took the long way home, checking for Brents at Walcott and then stopping at the seafront. There were no Geese and the North Sea was rather harshly pounding the concrete there, high tide coupled with a bit of a north-wester driving foamy water into the seawall. Hopefully it wasn't pushing quite so hard into the crumbling cliffs back at my home village. Against the cold, grey-brown briny sea the adult Mediterranean Gull stood out prominently as it hung above the waves.

I had a bit of time before the school pickup and as it was a lovely bright afternoon I decided to slowly drive down to Cart Gap in the hope of seeing some Geese on Sugar Beet tops there. As I passed down the lane two parties of Pinks headed over, 44 and 16, but the beet field held none. I turned around at the lifeboat station and headed back. On reaching my target field a large number of small passerines took to the wing, some 200 or so was my estimate, and from the brief views I had I felt they were mostly Finches and Larks. Pulling over I scanned for what I suspected may have spooked them, namely a Sparrowhawk, but was rewarded with a more exciting raptor in the form of a Merlin. It landed on the ground, looking round with bobbing head as it tried to pick out a likely prey item. A couple of times it flew around, only to land a short distance away, and at one point it walked into a shallow puddle but neither drank nor bathed. After maybe 15 minutes it flew to the top of a small bush then chased off northwards, scattering a small flock of Golden Plover. I followed it and watched it have a half-hearted stab at grabbing a Woodpigeon, the Pigeons size and weight perhaps proving too much. It disappeared after that but I was soon watching it in the field again as it had returned having successfully seized a small passerine. What it had caught I never properly saw, although it did have white outer feathers to a longish tail, and I suspected a Pied Wagtail. The Merlin was an immature bird and from the generally bluish cast to it's upperparts I judged it a male, although I have since read that females can have somewhat male like plumage. A single Linnet flew over while I was there and in the background, a Sparrowhawk hunted the gardens of Rollesby Way. The large flock of Finches and Larks didn't return so I'll have to save them for another day.

Merlin, Happisburgh - 01.02.2010

Just before I left, a movement in amongst the seeded Sugar Beet and Fat Hen was a 'Teddy bear' faced Chinese Water Deer. They really seem to be everywhere.

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