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May 31st

Two Cuckoos were heard calling to the north of our garden this evening.


May 29th

It was a cooler morning than of late and a pink flushed dawn soon turned into a grey day during which the fields and gardens were treated to a much needed gentle rain. Ossie and I walked the lane early on, hearing a distant Cuckoo calling from across the fields. About half way to the paddocks, where the hedgerow becomes quite mature and more interesting, a snatch of song stopped me in my tracks. It sounded like a Reed Warbler, but any late Spring 'Reed' singing from a coastal hedgerow is always worth double checking for the rare Marsh Warbler. It remained silent for a while and I played an mp3 recording of a Marsh Warbler from my mobile phone hoping to elicit a response. None was forthcoming though. A few more minutes passed and the singing started again, this time for a bit longer, still sounding like the commoner species and without any of the extravagent mimicry usually associated with Marsh Warblers. The habitat was 'wrong', but this bird was undoubtedly a pausing migrant heading for a reed-bed somewhere, for it eventually showed and I could see it was a typical Reed Warbler, a tricky species to record within the parish so I was more than pleased to add it to the year's tally.

On the return leg a flyover Heron was just a Grey (as they always are!) and later, from the garden, an increasingly loud 'cuckoo... cuckoo...' was given by one of two birds that eventually appeared as they flew overhead towards the northwest.


May 26th

Looking westwards from the lane by Laurel Lodge a streak of almost electric blue took a second to register as a Kingfisher, which then disappeared into the grounds of Thatched Dyke where a nearby breeding pair fished occasionally last year. This was my first Happisburgh sighting of one this year so hopefully they are nesting locally again.


May 25th

The Garden Warbler that has taken up residence at Laurel Lodge continued to proclaim his territory today, showing reasonably well at times. Hopefully a female will be impressed enough by his beautiful song to want to stay and raise a family.


May 24th

As I drove the morning school run yesterdays Spotted Flycatcher was still present, perched on a telegraph wire over the road.


May 23rd

Either side of where we live are two 'Moat Farms'; one in Happisburgh, the other just into Lessingham. The former is a proper working farm, being surrounded by small fields full of market garden produce and several meadows of swaying grass, soon be mown into swaths then baled and poly-wrapped in which it will ferment into a rich, sweet scented cattle fodder. The other Moat Farm is now a sympathetically converted group of farm buildings and as their names suggest, small areas of water can be found at each. I pass both when I choose to walk the regular circuit with Ossie and this morning we headed round anti-clockwise, passing through Lessingham first. The grounds around Moat Farm, Lessingham are home to some tall, mature Oaks where commoner birds often gather and this morning a Spotted Flycatcher sailed into the treetops, their summer arrival well under way.


May 22nd

Almost a week after the first Spotted Flycather, this morning revealed two more at the same location. One bird was softly sub-singing, although the full blown performance can't really be described as ear-splitting by any means; it's no surprise that such an unassuming bird has an understated, yet quietly pleasant song. Returning home I was greeted by neighbour with the sad sight of a freshly dead young Blackbird in his hand. I was expecting a bit of an anti-cat rant as our Polly does occasionally take birds. This particular Blackbird was one of a brood that had become really quite tame, providing a source of entertainment with their fearless, nonchalant antics which even resorted to stealing morsels of food from Ossie's bowl. But this time Polly wasn't to blame, for this particular birds demise was caused by, of all things, a falling linen prop. A quite extraordinary, unbelievably tragic end to a short life.


May 16th

The middle of May is when we can usually expect to see the first Spotted Flycatchers returning to Norfolk from their African wintering grounds and this morning one had appeared in a sheltered, sunny hedgerow behind Laurel Lodge at the top of our lane. It wasn't at all active and just sat looking content on its warm, sunny perch, perhaps digesting a belly full of juicy St. Mark's flies. These bumbling, black insects have been quite abundant this Spring although they must surely be coming to the end of the short adult phase of their life cycle. No longer such a common breeding bird here I paused to watch the Flycatcher with background music provided by a nearby male Garden Warbler.


May 15th

I can't ever remember going through April before without hearing the call of the Cuckoo but this year I did just that, in fact I heard my first just this morning from across the fields opposite our home. With the wind backed off to the north-west many birds that may have taken advantage of yesterday's south-westerlies to assist them on their northbound migration will have stopped off, as was no doubt the case with a male and female Wheatear I watched along the fence by Lower Farm's meadows. They were actively feeding in order to replace energy expended on the journey thus far.


May 14th

At last the wind has shifted to the south-west, hopefully bringing an end to the chilly northerly-biased winds we seem to have been stuck with for an eternity. I headed with Ossie to the cliffs and we walked from the Decca site along the cliff path to the village and back, via Lighthouse Lane and Upton Way. A splendid male Yellow Wagtail was within the fenced off site boundary and two more were noted along our route. Having just turned towards the cliffs at the crossroads along Upton Way I noticed a small passerine with a distinct, stocky, Sparrow-like 'feel' flying in from the south-east. It gave a typical House Sparrow's 'chirrup' as it passed and then dropped into an extensive patch of Alexanders. I back-tracked to try and see it again and sure enough, out popped a male House Sparrow. It was a little unusual to see one here and my feeling is that it was probably a locally nesting bird on a feeding foray. Walking a little further I was somewhat saddened to see that groundwork was taking place in one of the holiday bungalows by the Decca site, the large tangle of brambles that on Monday had held at least a male Common Whitethroat (was there a mate on eggs?) had been levelled in the name of progress. It's a shame that a little more foresight isn't applied to such developments and that any scrub clearance is undertaken before birds have invested huge amounts of time and energy into establishing a territory, finding a mate, building a nest and laying eggs. The Whitethroats breeding season may not yet have reached this stage but, unfortunately, this scenario must be duplicated many hundredfold across the country each year.

Early this afternoon, as I drove homeward along the A149 at Smallburgh, I had a brief encounter with my second Hobby of the year as it zipped across the road on sharply raked wings. Our most agile Falcon, the Hobby favours Dragonflies above any other food source and the Ant valley will hopefully be able to provide plenty for the species this Summer.


May 13th

Having mistakenly thought that a single Swift around the houses on April 23rd marked the return of 'our' birds I was pleased this evening to see five chasing noisily around the houses. It seemed as if four were all in pursuit of the bird at the front of the pack, which showed a subtly different manner of flight, and I wondered if this was a female teasing for the attentions of one of four males.


May 10th

Following the school run I made a stop just west of the village to check the large beet field as it really does look prime for the attentions of a Dotterel or two. By this time the sun was beating down through a cloudless sky and a strong heat haze was shimmering across the ground. I soon latched onto a medium sized, long-legged bird as it ran a short distance across the dry soil right at the back of the field and my hopes soared. It was rather pale looking but I could make out a whitish brow above the eyes and it had a dark patch on it's lower belly in the region of it's legs. "Yes!" I thought to myself, but I needed better views to make a conclusive identification. I was a little concerned about the pale upperpart colouration, but knew that a dull male Dotterel could look quite pale, but as it continued to trundle up and down niggling doubts began to set in. It really should show a darker crown I thought and at one point, as the heat haze relented slightly, I could make out a small patch of dark feathering higher up the central breast. My choice of species was now changing and, as if to prove me correct, the bird flew a short distance to reveal black axillary feathering on the underwings; it was a Grey Plover, still mostly in winter plumage. I was left a tiny bit disappointed but as it was a new 2010 Happisburgh species for me all wasn't lost.

Bob and Keith happened to pull up just after this and we spent a few minutes catching up before heading for Cart Gap. We walked Doggetts Lane and reminisced of birding days gone by, it was good. One or two of Wheatears were noted here and a male and female Yellow Wagtail were briefly on the ground at the Decca site before flying further west. Other than a few Carrion Crows south and a few Linnets north it looked as if the bulk of any migration had ceased for the day. I walked Ossie out when I got home and saw nothing noteworthy other than a party of 21 Linnets feeding in the meadows behind Lower Farm.


May 9th

Nothing new seemed to be around this morning except for when I arrived home and a male Lesser Whitethroat was in full song around the gardens.


May 8th

A bright male Yellow Wagtail was on the horse paddocks again this morning and I surmised that it was perhaps a different individual to the one I saw here six days ago despite looking identical in appearance. A brief stop at Rollesby Way to scan the clifftop fields produced a pair of Grey Partridge doing their best to evade me in the lush green corn. What are probably the same birds are portrayed below.

Grey Partridge, Cart Gap - 19.04.2010 - Bob Cobbold


May 6th

Quite a while after dark last night I went outside to check on the sheds and make sure all was well before turning in for the night. Whilst out I heard the unmistakable calling of a small party of 'seven whistlers', much more commonly known to present day birders as Whimbrel. I have no idea how many birds were present but they fell silent. After a couple of minutes or so the calling continued and it was apparent that they were flying north, probably not to make landfall for several more hours.

I did my bit mid-morning and went to the Wenn Evans Centre to put a cross in a box, as opposed to a tick which, until near the year end, I do on a much more regular basis. On my return a Falcon was soaring quite low over the garden and when it moved away from the sun I could see it was a Hobby, my first this year. It moved off to the south and out of sight, but whilst passing not one House Martin gave an alarm call, as they often do. They must have been happy that on this occasion the Hobby wasn't up for hunting.


May 2nd

A blustery north-easterly had picked up overnight and coupled with the low cloud, the temperature had dipped again. I needed my scarf and fleece this morning to fend off the Bank Holiday weekend weather. Scanning the field south of Cart Gap I soon got onto a lone, distant Plover but the obvious white stripes down the sides of it's breast immediately ruled out the species I was hoping for. Still, summer adult Golden Plovers are a smart bird and there won't be many more in Happisburgh until the autumn. I headed north to check the large open field west of the village which proved to be devoid of anything, but I did have a surprise sighting whilst driving along Blacksmiths Lane. And it came in the guise of a colourful male Golden Pheasant. As I wouldn't expect to see one of this introduced species occurring 'naturally' in Happisburgh, I can only assume it was an escapee from a nearby garden. It showed an obvious dark throat so was possibly of the form 'obscurus', some more info and photos of which can be found on the Go Birding website.

Things had quietened down at the paddocks, although a Lesser Whitethroat was singing from the shelter of a Blackthorn hedge, and even the myriad of Dandelions that were in full yellow bloom yesterday had closed their flowers to the cold, grey sky. On the paddock itself a male Yellow Wagtail was flirting with the horses hooves
along with four Pieds, all feeding on the flushed insects.


May 1st

I've been able to have a quick look at several sites around the village early in the mornings this past week and today I stopped just west of the village and scanned the large sugar beet field just south of the road. A hundred or so mixed Gulls were all apparently immatures, any adults, sensing the urgency to breed, having moved on from this particular wintering area. They were distant from the road but seemed jumpy and I was a little surprised that they all took flight as a Sparrowhawk coursed low over the field. A Chinese Water Deer was also nearby and I considered the likelihood of this being the culprit but couldn't make up my mind; perhaps the Gulls' immaturity, and the lack of any experienced adults around, meant that they would spook easily and at anything. During the time I was there, the deer slowly picked its way across the open field and gingerly crossed the road, it's coat looking somewhat scruffy as the more insulating winter hair was slowly being shed. Having turned up just after me, Keith managed to take some good video footage, helped by the fact that these cute aliens appear to have lost much of their fear of man, this one giving us just the occasional cursory glance as it approached. As I was leaving, a male Reed Bunting appeared on a sapling, perhaps a migrant bird after some R & R.

At Cart Gap, five Wheatears remained on the large beet field where last night there had been ten; had half the flock gone or were these new birds? A male Yellow Wagtail was also there, the first I have seen this year. Later, as I walked Ossie just into Lessingham, there were another three in a newly planted potato field, one of which was a drabber female. At the paddocks there was less Warbler activity than yesterday but I was lucky enough to pick up a Peregrine flying south. It wasn't particulary high up, the streaked breast indicating it was an immature bird and from it's small size probably a male. It showed no interest in the few Woodpigeons around, nor they it, and passed straight through in a direct line, obviously intent on getting somewhere.