A REVIEW OF THE BIRDS SEEN IN THE LOWESTOFT AREA
JANUARY - JUNE 2002
By James Wright
The "big freeze" started off January 2002 but none the less it started off in style with an ICELAND GULL (pictured left). It was seen on the first 3 mornings on the partly frozen Oulton Broad. It joined the procession of gulls heading inland, where it was seen at Aldeby landfill site. It seems likely that it was roosting at sea off Lowestoft before heading inland each day to the rubbish dump, stopping off at Oulton Broad enroute. Another notable rarity that first week was the unusual sight of two female RUDDY DUCKS on Oulton Broad They are quite a rare bird locally and usually only seen after such a freeze up. From the 9th a very obliging GLAUCOUS GULL gave crippling views from Hamilton Road in the northeast corner of Hamilton Dock it was also seen at Ness Point and on the roof of the fish market (no surprise there!). A single Guillemot was also seen in the Dock throughout the month.
The Gull roost at Burnt Hill produced an adult CASPIAN GULL a first winter GLAUCOUS GULL was also seen there which probably was a different bird from the one in Hamilton Dock. Like last winter Haddiscoe Marshes was the place to see raptors, with Marsh Harrier, Merlin, ROUGH LEGGED BUZZARD, Short-Eared and Barn Owls being seen. A Green Sandpiper was there throughout the month. A Hen Harrier was at Fisher Row and a Peregrine was at Mutford. Little and Mediterranean Gulls were seen at Ness point and the South Beach along with Sanderling, Turnstones and Knot. Purple Sandpipers peaked at seven at Ness Point on the 29th. Two JACK SNIPE and six Woodcock were at Carlton Marshes and two POMARINE SKUAS were seen off Kessingland and Ness Point.
Bohemian Waxwings peaked at 11 and continued to show around Pakefield. 14 Snow Bunting were at Kessingland Beach and Grey Wagtails were noted at Haddiscoe and Laxfield Way, South Lowestoft. Finally one notable sighting was one of a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER seen at the Parkhill Hotel, along road 200 yards north of the hotel. It was perched in a tree before flying west over the road. Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers are quite a mega nowadays in the Lowestoft area!
February traditionally is a quiet month and this month proved no different. It continued with the seabird theme with POMARINE and Arctic Skuas being seen off the Harbour and Kessingland at the beginning and end of the month.
Throughout the month, a first winter GLAUCOUS GULL was in Hamilton Dock (pictured to the right) and second slightly paler (possibly second winter) individual was seen distantly at Burnt Hill. CASPIAN GULLS were also putting in a strong showing with up to 6 being seen at the same locality with up to 3 Yellow-legged Gulls. Offshore up to around 400 Cormorants were on the sea feeding on sprats, they flew in from the north and after feeding they head back north possibly to Breydon Water and Fritton Lake. Quite a spectacle was witnessed on February 2nd when about three hundred flew south-eastwards over Gunton St Peters in just 2 minutes at 9.15am. A Shag was present in Hamilton Dock during the first half of the month. The number of Purple Sandpipers at Ness Point peaked at ten.
A GREAT WHITE EGRET, potentially a first for the Lounge Lizard area was reported just outside the area over the river Waveney at Haddiscoe on the 16th. It flew north-eastwards across Halvergate Marshes but it wasn't known if it ever crossed into Suffolk. Records of Short-eared Owl this winter have been few and far between and one was at Herringfleet early on. A Barn Owl was at Browston Manor on the 19th, and on the same date a Little Owl was at Carlton Marshes in a tree near the Visitor Centre near to where a couple of Stonechats were seen on that day. Passerines were also noted with a Chiffchaff in a garden in South Lowestoft on the 18th. A wintering bird or possibly the first spring migrant? Nine Snow Buntings were on Pakefield Beach towards the end of the month also 9 others were at Kessingland Beach as well.
March saw us limbering up for the first shots of spring migration, which in terms of Wheatear passage was very disappointing indeed. Over the whole month only 4 individuals were seen, the first being a smart male at Kessingland on the 20th. Other migration included a number of Firecrests including 2 seen together in the Gunton, with others at Corton and Warrenhouse woods. Summer visitors such as Chiffchaffs started to arrive and were around in good numbers by the 22nd. The first Blackcap sighting in a south Lowestoft garden on the 10th and like the "chiffies" were around in high numbers by the end of the month. There were still a few winter Thrushes in the area, towards the end of the month many Redwings were noted calling during the night as they flew back to the continent. There were a few White Wagtails about with 12 present at Kessingland Sewage works on the 19th with large numbers of Pied Wagtails. The last Snow Buntings were reported from Kessingland Beach, with 3 there on the 17th and the last Bohemian Waxwings were seen opposite St. Margaret's Church (8), on the 13th.
Rare birds in the area included a lone HAWFINCH seen perched and in flight at Ashby Warren on the 23rd, also a TREE SPARROW was feeding with Chaffinches in a garden near Haddiscoe on the 30th. A LONG-EARED OWL spent a few hours in a garden in Corton in the early afternoon of the 19th. A CASPIAN GULL and Great Skua were both seen in one day behind Birds Eye, the Skua was being chased by a number of gulls (which makes a change!), as it flew north over the groynes before heading further out and continuing north. The gull was perched on a groyne nearby. Another as at Burnt Hill at the beginning of the month. A mobile GLAUCOUS GULL was seen on and off in the harbour and off Kessingland, it was a different individual from the January/February bird, and was much paler. The first Sandwich Tern of the year was seen off Kessingland on the 22nd.
Offshore, migration was also pretty much in evidence. Off Kessingland there was a good Passage of Red-throated Divers all month with a peak of 40 on the 9th and a Black throated Diver was seen on the 31st. Like last year there was a good passage of Fulmars and Gannets but numbers passing were not as heavy and more notable was the sight of 4 MANX SHEARWATERS passing Ness Point on the 14th. Back at Kessingland there were 3 Goosanders with 2 together on the 10th. Raptor migration was also evident with Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and a Red Kite being seen over Lowestoft. A Hen Harrier was at Lound on the 27th.
The raptor migration continued into April with three OSPREYS being seen in the area as well as a ROUGH LEGGED BUZZARD over Ashby on the 7th. A Hobby and a female Hen Harrier were seen at the same location on the 22nd. Firecrests were still turning up with two in the first week. Migration really took off in the first week with, Sedge Warblers, Sand Martins, Swallows, Sandwich and Common Terns being reported. It was becoming a good spring for Whinchats (pictured left) with 3 and Wheatear passage picked up from the doldrums of March, all be it rather late with almost 20 being seen from the 23rd onwards. Other summer visitors were arriving thick and fast with good numbers of Willow Warblers by the 18th, Whitethroats and Lesser Whitethroats by the 23rd.
Offshore movements included a CASPIAN GULL at Kessingland on the 4th, Velvet Scoter on the 6th and good passage all month of Gannets, Fulmars and Common Scoters with the latter peaking at 53 on the 14th. Other sightings past Kessingland were Red-breasted Merganser on the 6th, Black-throated Diver on the 17th and Curlew early in the month. The odd Red-throated Diver was seen as well. There was also some Whimbrel seen at Hopton and Kessingland late in the month.
Yellow Wagtail migration was quite heavy; on the 24th there were 28 on the North Denes Caravan site if that wasn't enough, there were also two Blue-headed Wagtails with them and another was at Kessingland sewage works, but unlike last year is wasn't a 'Beema' type! Ring Ouzels appeared at the Denes Oval and one as with a flock of Fieldfares at Ashby on the 21st. Sightings of Redstarts, House Martins and Little Terns started to come in the last third of the month. On the 28th a female Pied Flycatcher was found on the slope above, where else than Flycatcher Lane! The only notable sighting of the month came in the form of a HOOPOE reported from Pakefield on the 8th. It flew past the CEFAS laboratory at 2:30pm and apparently landed on the Tamarisk bushes below. It wasn't twitched, as news of this sadly only came to light a couple of days later.
The first week of May got off to a flyer with a spell of north-easterly winds bringing 20 Black Tern sightings in the first fortnight. Two more Blue-headed Wagtails were seen, this time at Corton sewage works and one at the North Denes (pictured to the right), a Whinchat was there on the 1st. On that day there was a Wheatear on Kessingland Beach with three there the day after accompanied by a late female Snow Bunting. A Nightingale was singing in Warrenhouse Wood on the 2nd. The Star of the month had to be a RED FOOTED FALCON that appeared over Nicholas Everitt Park at about 10:25 on Saturday May 4th, it spent about five minutes in the area. It was lost to view when it dropped below treetop height and could not be relocated there. During the early afternoon it was seen again at nearby Carlton Marshes before appearing to head north towards Fisher Row. Earlier in the week a COMMON CRANE was seen intermittently at Carlton Marshes and down river towards Barnby up until the 4th. The 4th was by now turning out to be a bumper bird day with Common Buzzard, Hobby and Peregrine all at St Olaves, the day before at Carlton Marshes a Short-eared Owl was noted. Not to be outdone was Corton where a flooded field revealed a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER on the 4th when else! Other notes from that day were the large numbers of hirundines including Common Swifts that had arrived around 20 were over Oulton Broad along with several Common Terns.
The second week proved just as eventful. The spectacle of 11 LITTLE EGRETS was witnessed flying north off Kessingland, a Whinchat was at the Links Road car park and a Hobby was seen near Radar Lodge, Corton. On the 12th a WOOD WARBLER was found singing in Gunton Woods, it showed well throughout the afternoon, it even stayed long enough to be viewed by a group of travel weary Lounge Lizards who went to see the Lesser Sandplover in Lincolnshire. Other migrants noted in this month were more Whinchats at Carlton Marshes and Corton, Spotted Flycatcher and Nightingale at Kessingland, Pied Flycatcher at the Denes Oval with a male Redstart. Offshore passage revealed some good birds including POMARINE SKUA and PUFFIN at the beginning and end of the month, 2 Black throated Divers towards the end and 2 summer plumaged Razorbills flying close to Ness Point on the 6th on the same day as a MANX SHEARWATER flew north at the same place. Wader passage included good numbers of Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel moving north. Towards the end of the month, another Common Buzzard was seen, this time over Harris Avenue.
June was a comparatively quiet month with seabird movements dominating throughout. An intriguing report was received from Kessingland of a Skua sp. on the 10th. From the description it seem likely that it was a Long-tailed Skua as the bird appeared dark overall but not black. The most obvious feature was a white collar (complete behind a dark cap) with no suspicion of a pale belly. There were no obvious wing flashes however there was slight variation in tone across the mantle and wing coverts. The wings appeared quite long and narrow with the rear body appearing attenuated. The flight was lighter with a more relaxed manner than typical Arctics. Very small numbers of immature Long-tailed Skuas are noted off southern Scandinavia between June and August (Skuas & Jaegers: Klaus Malling Olsen & Hans Larsson: Pica Press 1997), so perhaps we should keep a look out for them here in the southern North Sea at this time of year. All month the good passage of Gannets, Fulmars and Common Scoters continued along with more very distant Auk sp. including a Guillemot, which flew south close in off the North Denes on the 28th. Tern sp. passage was also very strong with all regular species noted offshore every day of the month. Other species noted past Kessingland included Gadwall, a single Brent Goose and Red-breasted Merganser, Avocet, Mediterranean Gulls and several Curlews which are presumed to be failed breeders heading back south. More notable sightings included 3 Spoonbills that flew south on the 22nd 400 metres offshore and a couple of Arctic Skuas at the beginning and end of the month. Manx Shearwater sightings were starting to come in at the end of the month with 3 on the 28th.
The only real good place to view waders in our area is at Burgh Castle flats. On the 23rd an immaculately plumaged Spotted Redshank (pictured right) was found feeding with large numbers of Redshank. On the same day a Little Egret and a flock of eighteen Egyptian Geese were at the same location. Two Shags now roost in trees at Leathes Ham. They appear to have got fed up with fighting the Kittiwakes for a space on the wall in the harbour each evening. Three singing male Black Redstarts with two at Lowestoft Harbour were noted on the 8th. A Yellow Wagtail as seen at Corton on the 29th and the day after a smart male Blue-headed Wagtail came to bathe in the pool at Corton Sewage Works seems highly likely to be breeding locally. A late Wheatear was at Kessingland beach on the 8th. Hobbies were also noted at Kessingland and Lake Lothing.
Nationally June was noted for an unprecedented influx of Rose Coloured Starlings into the country. Despite the fact that several thousand Common Starlings are roosting in the trees around Lake Lothing and a flock of over a hundred was found feeding on the Dip farm playing field, none of these pink visitors have turned up in our area. Of course there have been a few in Norfolk as usual
Never mind, roll on autumn! Here's to the next 6 months! (-clink-) Cheers!
Part Two - July to December will follow shortly.
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