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Caspian Gull (left) and Herring Gull, Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville
IF ONE THING CAN BE LEARNT from January 2001, it is what a good place Carlton Marshes is. The undisputed highlight was a WILLOW TIT, Parus montanus, associating with a Long-tailed Tit, Aegithalos caudatus, flock at Sprat's Water, on the 24th and 27th. This species used to breed sparsely around Lowestoft in the late 1970s but rapidly became local rarities. The last reliable pair used to come to a bird feeder, up until the mid-1990s, at Oulton Marshes, Fisher Row. As this is only a short distance north of Carlton Marshes, it may be a sign that they are just about clinging on in the area. Fingers crossed they stage a comeback.
Close scrutiny of the gull roost at Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville was rewarded with two regular adult CASPIAN GULLS, Larus cachinnans, three adult Mediterranean Gulls, L. melanocephalus, and a third winter Yellow-legged Gull, L. michahellis. Up to three very obliging Short-eared Owls, Asio flammeus, could be seen quartering the marshes all month from mid-afternoon until dusk and a Barn Owl, Tyto alba, was seen from the visitor centre most evenings.
Other local specialities that lured birders were; Egyptian Goose, Alopochen aegyptiacus, Marsh Harriers, Circus aeruginosus, Hen Harrier, C. cyaneus, Grey Partridge, Perdix perdix, Water Rail, Rallus aquaticus, Stonechat, Saxicola torquata, Cetti's Warbler, Cettia cetti, Bearded Tit, Panurus biarmicus, Lesser Redpoll, Carduelis cabaret, and Corn Bunting, Miliaria calandra.
Haddiscoe Marshes was once again the place to see raptors, the highlight being a ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD, Buteo lagopus. It was widely twitched on the third weekend when it could be seen perched on top of the power cable posts. With so few around in Britain this bird was appreciated by many. The supporting cast included up to four Marsh and two Hen Harriers, two Peregrine Falcons, Falco peregrinus, two Barn and two Short-eared Owls.
The long staying GREAT NORTHERN DIVER, Gavia immer, remained on Lake Lothing, Lowestoft, throughout as did two handsome drake Red-breasted Mergansers, Mergus serrator, and at least one Shag, Phalacrocorax aristotelis. A winter plumaged Guillemot, Uria aalge, was seen on a couple of dates whilst two female Eiders, Somateria mollissima, frequented Hamilton Dock, Lowestoft Harbour.
At Ness Point six Rock Pipits, Anthus petrosus, ranged between the jetty and the South Pier and three Black Redstarts, Phoenicurus ochrurus, included a stunning male, were seen regularly between the Harbour and Ness Point itself. Offshore three adult Mediterranean Gulls and an unseasonal adult Little Gull, L. minutus, fed at the sewage outfall, on the 14th. Recently, a large section of the north beach has been scoured away by the sea, exposing much more of the old seawall than usual. At low tide the Purple Sandpipers, Calidris maritima, favour this area where 8 on the 8th was the maximum count.
Extremely high water levels at Leathe’s Ham, Lowestoft, resulted in the local Water Rails being fairly easy to see as they fed along the edge of the car park; and at Lound Waterworks the Barnacle Goose, Branta leucopsis, flock peaked at 302 on the 14th, (apparently a new site record).
Bohemian Waxwings, Bombycilla garrulus, were seen in small numbers at Yarmouth, Gorleston, St. Olaves, Oulton Broad, Lowestoft and Kessingland. The biggest flock was 40 in gardens opposite the Hotel Victoria, Lowestoft on the 7th. Chiffchaffs, Phylloscopus collybita, were at Kessingland Sewage Works, Breydon Way and Stevens/Clemence Street, Lowestoft. However, the only Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla, reported was a male in gardens along Holly Road, Oulton Broad, on the 7th.
After a good showing in December the only report of a Skua was an Arctic, Stercorarius parasiticus, flying south over Kessingland beach on the 2nd. This particular bird had an injured leg and had been at Sizewell the previous day. 40-45 Snow Buntings, Plectrophenax nivalis, commuted between Kessingland Sluice and Pakefield Riffle Range all month.
Finally with 'Ole Frank' being the local name for Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea, could there have been a more appropriate location in Lowestoft to have seen one flying over than the Ole Frank pub itself?
The full record of January sightings can still be viewed on the relevant news page click here to view it.
FEBRUARY was a relatively quiet month but interesting nonetheless. The GREAT NORTHERN DIVER was on Lake Lothing throughout and was joined by a colour ringed Great Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo, on the 17th. This bird had been ringed on the Friesian island of Vlieland, Holland on June 8th, 1999 where it was still present in the ground-nesting colony on July 16th. By September 14th, it had flown to Lowestoft where it was last seen on April 29th, 2000. Obviously Lowestoft was to its liking!!!
The ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD headlined the raptors in the Haddiscoe Marshes area throughout. The supporting cast was again quite impressive and included two Barn and one Short-eared Owl, several Marsh and Hen Harriers, a Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, three Peregrine Falcons and a Merlin, F. columbarius. Flooded marshland at this site was particularly productive for waders and wildfowl. Peak counts and highlights were: 200+ Eurasian Wigeon, Anas penelope, 20 Gadwall, A. strepera, 150 Eurasian Teal, A. crecca, 16 Northern Pintail A. acuta, 1500 Lapwing, Vanellus vanellus, LITTLE STINT, C. minuta, GREEN SANDPIPER, Tringa ochropus, 50+ Common Snipe, Gallinago gallinago, 12 RUFF, Philomachus pugnax, 300 Black-tailed Godwits, Limosa limosa. Unfortunately the water had all but disappeared by the months end and so too had the birds.
At Ness Point Purple Sandpiper numbers increased from 8 in January to 12, which remained all month. 86 Turnstone, Arenaria interpres, roosted on the rocks at Lowestoft’s South Pier on the 17th, but Sanderling, Calidris alba, numbers were well down on previous winters with 6 being the maximum count. A Woodcock, Scolopax rusticola, which was flushed from the tideline rocks at the Old Coastguard Station, Lowestoft, on the 5th was obviously a new arrival.
Mediterranean Gulls were around in good numbers this month. At least five adults were between Lowestoft Harbour and North Denes on the 17th. One of which was displaying to Black-headed Gulls, L. ridibundus, with no success! Elsewhere, an adult and second-winter were on Haddiscoe Marshes on the 19th and an adult was at Burnt Hill Lane, Carlton Colville on the 3rd.
The main sewage outfall is shut at the moment, so the gulls are currently feeding close in at Ness Point itself. Single adult Little Gulls have been attracted on a couple of dates and on the 4th, 11 flew south with two others lingering. The only other notable sighting offshore was 350 Red-throated Divers, Gavia stellata, at Ness Point on the 24th.
The passerines that were around were much sought after. Non-more so than the pair of Black Redstarts that frequented Hamilton Road and five Bohemian Waxwings, at Bloodmoor Road, Lowestoft, on the 3rd. Another flock of Bohemian Waxwings, 23 this time, were seen at the Rainbow superstore, Carlton Colville on the 26th. Wintering Chiffchaffs were seen in gardens in south Lowestoft and Hopton and two were at Kessingland Sewage Works on the 14th, and a male Blackcap was in gardens in Oulton village during the last two weeks of the month. A flock of up to 38 Snow Buntings at Kessingland Beach included some stunning males.
The full record of February sightings can still be viewed on the relevant news page click here to view it.