Friday, 17 February 2017

Aldeburgh, Long-tailed Ducks

As family days out go, not much beats a drive to the Suffolk coast to Aldeburgh during February half-term - especially with the promise of eating fish & chips on the sea wall, whilst the kids throw pebbles in the sea and chase the resident Herring Gulls - but I wasn't expecting to see a couple of Long-tailed Ducks on the River Alde!

Blessed with some welcome winter sunshine we parked-up and followed the sea wall south towards Orford Ness and as I scanned the river Alde I picked up a smart pair of Long-tailed Ducks being pushed along with the rising tide close to the river bank. Buy all accounts it has been an excellent winter for these birds off the East Anglian coast with up to 300 birds being reported at Holme/Titchwell alone, but it was a real bonus to see a pair of these skittish sea ducks up close and on the river. The birds soon moved out to the middle of the channel and I lost sight of them on the bend as they continued to dive and head in the direction of the mouth of the river and towards the sea.

Also of note along the river Alde were 52 Curlew and 3 or 4 Rock Pipits around the area of the Martello Tower but another big bonus was seeing a flock of 20 Barnacle Geese heading north and flying low over the sea. As non-birding winter family days out go, this was right up there with the best of them - but how fortunate was it that I had my bins and camera close to hand!

Suffolk, Winter

Suffolk, Winter

Suffolk, Winter

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Cocksure Pheasant

In regards to working the patch It's been a very slow start to the year with nothing of note throughout January, and I was starting to wish away February so I could hit March with a spring in my step as thoughts of early spring migrants helped raise the spirits, but February wasn't going down without a fight and only goes and delivers a rather fine patch tick in the form of a Pheasant - in these parts Pheasants are not to be mocked as these birds are rare - with only five records in the last decade!

The bird had been reported hanging around the new horse paddock in the the Old Sewage Works and was duly confirmed and ticked by those who are able to bird the patch during the week, but for us weekend birding warriors it was Saturday morning until I had my first attempt at adding this bird to the patch list. Unlike a certain Cetti's Warbler which played hardball last spring in the same area, the Pheasant did the decent thing and was parading around the horse paddock as soon as I turned up shortly after first light. A dog walker soon had the bird running for cover and into the 'big hedge' but within minutes it had popped out again and happily stood on the paddock perimeter fence - looking quite at home, as if the bird had always been apart of this manor.

The strange thing was, once you've seen a Pheasant on the patch and as good as that was, you don't hang around studying its finer details or behaviour...it is after all just a Pheasant, so I didn't linger and left to cover the rest of the patch which again was painfully slow and bereft of birds - so thanks February for this little winter gift but roll-on March.

Cock, Wanstead, London