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April 26th

As it turned out, the first part of the morning was quite productive for me on the bird front. First off, a smart Fieldfare was in a field on the East Ruston side of the parish boundary, a bit of a straggler as the majority of Fieldfares will have left the UK now. I then drove south through Whimpwell Green, noting a 'blackbird' close to the edge of a barley field which appeared innocuous enough. However, my subconscious made me check the rear view mirror and brake, telling me that the birds wings looked rather too pale for a Blackbird. Reversing up, I found myself watching a female Ring Ouzel tugging an earthworm out of the ground which she quickly swallowed before flying up into a row of tall Leylandii. It was a brief view, but the pale edged wing feathers and dingy white breast band quickly confirmed the identity of this mountain and moorland breeding, summer visiting thrush. Numbers of Ring Ouzels breeding in the UK have been in decline, so her destination may have been further afield, in Scandinavia for example. A regular passage visitor to Norfolk, the species usually appears in reasonable numbers mostly along the coast and it seems that this year has not been an exception with several small groups and individuals reported.

At just after 8:00am I bundled Ossie into the car and we took the short drive up towards Rollesby Way, just south of the lighthouse. I like to bring him here as, more often than not, he can come off the lead straight away and have a good run along the wide, grassy track. Halfway along the track we bumped into Lucy the Labrador who was also out for her daily exercise and after ten minutes of chasing about I had a tired and rather muddy dog at my side. A Wheatear flew up and past us and whilst scanning a field boundary lush with fresh Alexanders a small bird, perched atop a stem, puzzled me briefly. I didn't have to wait too long to get a better view though, for it turned its head to reveal the blazing white stripe above the eye, dark face and peachy breast of a male Whinchat. I didn't have my 'scope to hand so had to make do with quite distant binocular views of this handsome bird as it fed by dropping down to the bare soil of a sugar beet field. A little further on, a flock of 14 Woodpigeons plus two Stock Doves flew purposefully north, a reminder that even birds we may think of as being resident are often concealing birds that have joined us for the Winter, and at some point get the urge to migrate back. Carrying on we passed through the Decca site, at which point I heard the unmistakable grating call of a Sandwich Tern. From the cliff edge I could see six of them perched on the sea defences, an equal number of the smaller Common Tern also present, both being firsts for the year here for me. Tracking back across the field and along Upton Way we turned towards the car and I stopped to scan the sugar beet field again. The dry earth was obviously to the liking of Wheatears, for nine were feeding here. Some of the males were large, bright 'Greenland' types, their breeding grounds still a long flight away across the North Atlantic. Almost back at the car I felt it worth checking another beet field and sure enough, there were more Wheatears. This time, seven were present, making a minimum count of 16 in quite a small area. I went home to clean Ossie up, happy in the knowledge that Spring was really finally here...

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