Friday, 30 December 2016

Cattle Egrets, Saltram Park

Christmas 2016 is just happening around me, I really, really, really am not feeling it this year and after working a long day on Christmas Day and again on Boxing Day I was tired and withdrawn as we headed off for a walk on December 27th to Stoke Point with Julie and Matt.

The walk was as lovely as always despite the grey skies and cold wind and after lunch at The Ship Inn at Noss Mayo I was feeling a little better. A few birds were seen on the walk, the highlight being around 10 yellowhammers (8+ males and 2+ females) which really brightened up the day. Also seen were a raven, a buzzard being mobbed by herring gulls and carrion crows, a lone adult gannet offshore, stonechats, meadow pipits and linnets.

 Male Yellowhammer, Stoke Point

National Trust Signage Boo-Boo, Noss Mayo

December 29th and with news of 2 cattle egrets being seen in Saltram Park in what appears to be a mini-influx of them into the South West again (the last one was in 2008) I decided to go and have a look for them. The Park was busy with Christmas holidaymakers but I managed to see a nice selection of birds with the 2 cattle egrets seen very well feeding amongst cattle with black headed gulls, pied wagtails, redwings, song thrush, blackbirds and starlings - very active and mobile around the field, sometimes coming quite close and sometimes being a bit skittish and nervy.

 Cattle Egret, Saltram

 Cattle Egret

 Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

Also seen were 2 male and 3 female wigeon on the Plym on what was a very low water low tide along with a greenshank and 50+ dunlins on the mudflats. 12 grey herons was a good count, maybe attracted to feed in the very shallow water, and 5 little egrets were also seen.

In the woods above The Folly I found a very nice firecrest which gave some very good views despite being constantly on the move and it was joined by a second bird which it vigorously chased off. A mistle thrush, 2 nuthatches and a coo-ing stock dove were also noted along with a buzzard.

Firecrest, Saltram

I had a quick look around Beaumont Park again on December 30th and I had some nice views of a yellow browed warbler feeding in the tree tops in the north of the park but it was very mobile and difficult to keep track of and only called a few times. I also saw a nuthatch and heard a coal tit but there was no sign of any long tailed tits.

Snowdrops were in flower, a little early in what has been a mild December again, but the weather at present is on the chillier side and looks to be getting chillier as the New Year arrives - hopefully the yellow browed warbler(s) will continue to frequent the park and provide a nice start to my 2017 year list.

Snowdrops, Beaumont Park, December 30th 2016

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

That was 2016, That was

The year is coming to a close and what a year it has been - difficult, stressful, challenging and hard going both professionally and personally - but I have learnt a lot and I still have a smile on my face (well, most of the time!).

Thank heavens for the natural world though, it has been an excellent year for wildlife watching and has kept me sane and kept me going. The highlight has been 6 (or 7 or 8) British lifers - excellent views of Franklins gull, lesser grey shrike, desert wheatear and Hudsonian whimbrel and not so good views of great shearwater and yellow legged gull; misty views of Dalmation pelican which may or may not been deemed a wild bird but which did the decent thing and disappeared in the late autumn; and Eastern black redstart, a sub species of black redstart but which may become a full species.

Other bird highlights include cattle egret, glossy ibis, lesser scaup, great white egret, green winged teal, yellow browed warbler, woodlark, Jack snipe, great grey shrike, red backed shrike, Balearic shearwater, twite and snow bunting.

My year list is on 192, quite a surprise as I haven't been chasing a year list this year - this includes the potentially wild Dalmation pelican but not barnacle goose (I have such a block with this species, a common feral bird but I have never knowingly seen a genuine wildbird) and not long tailed duck (99.9% sure I saw one at Dawlish Warren but distant and heat hazy views and I couldn't refind it). It also includes grasshopper warbler and nightjar, birds I heard but did not see, but not sub-species - pale bellied brent goose, Eastern black redstart and white wagtail.

Despite the poor weather at times and noticeably low numbers of common species it was a  good year for butterflies with more species seen this year than last year. Four new species were seen - Adonis blue, small blue, Glanville fritillary and wood white - and good views were had of some scarce species - marsh fritillary, small pearl bordered fritillary, high brown fritillary, grayling, brown argus, clouded yellow and silver studded blue.

Mothing was not so good due to the often poor weather and working mostly early shifts but I managed to see most of my favourite moths with an eyed hawkmoth being a nice find in the back yard.

Lesser butterfly orchid, common dolphin, harbour porpoise, hare, my first ever live badger in the New Forest and harbour seal were also highlights as was the trip to Lundy and the Penzance pelagic. Trips to the USA and Canada and Croatia and Slovenia provided some interesting wildlife sightings too.

And so to 2017 - what will it bring? I hope work and family issues will improve but I think that is unlikely, hopefully after this years difficulties I will be better able to deal with what life will throw at me. I still have my wildlife though and I have plans for pelagic trips, butterfly trips and bird life ticks along with saving up to buy a Swarovski telescope - Happy New Year!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Eastern Black Redstart, Mousehole

It was off to Penzance on the train on December 22nd for a days birding on what was a cold but mostly bright day (although I did get soaked during a brief but heavy rain shower). I had planned to get an earlier train but surprisingly overslept, something I rarely do.

A nice surprise while waiting for the train on the platform at Plymouth station was a noisy flock of 7 ring necked parakeets flying over towards Central Park with a second flock of 4 noisy birds later flying over too.

On arriving in Penzance at 10:15 I had a quick look off the sea wall by the bus station but the only bird of note was a female type black redstart flitting about amongst the boulders. I caught the bus to nearby Mousehole and following the directions posted on various birding websites I soon found my way to where a first winter male eastern black redstart has made its home, made easier to find by a line of birders with massive cameras and telescopes standing a few feet away from the boulders the bird was frequenting.

Where's the bird?

I soon found the bird flitting about amongst the boulders, appearing quite undisturbed by the nearby crowd, and I managed to get some nice views of a handsome and charismatic bird. It reminded me of the desert wheatear I recently saw at Thurlestone, almost seeming to be curious of the strange creatures staring at it.

A few birds have appeared in the UK this autumn but currently it is deemed a sub species of black redstart although it may be elevated to full species status at some point. There is a lot of debate on birding websites regarding this issue, and so it may become an arm chair life tick for me in the future.

Eastern Black Redstart - 1st Winter male

Eastern Black Redstart, Mousehole

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

Eastern Black Redstart

I had a quick look offshore and picked out a few gannets and 2 Mediterranean gulls amongst the gulls (an adult and a second winter) but after 30 minutes I decided to head back to Penzance on the bus to continue my birding day. I got off the bus at Newlyn and walked towards the Jubilee Pool along Tolcarne beach, seeing a few turnstones amongst the pebbles and the head of a grey seal occassionally popping out of the water.

Summer Plumaged Cormorant, Jubilee Pool

The tide was high and a small flock of waders were roosting on the rocks by the pool - mostly sanderling with dunlin, ringed plover, turnstone and at least 4 purple sandpipers.

Sanderling, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Purple Sandpiper and Turnstone, Jubilee Pool

Ringed Plover and Sanderling

Purple Sandpiper

One of the sanderlings was sporting some fancy plastic on its legs, I have done some research and have found out it was ringed on the north coast of The Netherlands in August 2016 and has been reported around the Penzance area a few times this winter.

Sanderling with Leg Bling

I scanned across the sea with my telescope and managed to find at least 3 great northern divers and a flyby guillemot along with more gannets but there was no sign of the recently reported Pacific diver which has returned again for the winter. I did find a small flock of around 30 common scoters on the sea with around 10 birds flying off and then dispersing seperately around the Bay. The remaing flock of 20 odd birds were regularly diving and attracting the attentions of passing gulls and seemed to consist of just one male bird with females /juveniles.

I headed off to buy some candied orange slices from a shop in Penzance before heading back to the sea wall by the bus station for another scan around. There was no sign of the black redstart seen earlier but offshore I managed to eventually find the reported 4 velvet scoters, distant views in harsh light and choppy seas and with the birds constantly diving but showing their distinct white wing line at times.

I caught the bus to St.Erth and walked down to the Hayle Estuary to view the mudflats from the causeway bridge. There were good numbers of lapwing, golden plover and dunlin present, many more than on my visit back in October but there was no sign of the still present spoonbill. A few redshank and curlew were seen and there were 6 black tailed godwits feeding on Ryans Field.

A large flock of distant teal were roosting on the mud and I scanned through them looking for the male green winged teal still present since October but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. However I eventually found it sleeping amongst the flock much to my surprise and delight, my second sighting of one ever, but the estuary birds were then spooked by something and all took off (except the gulls) and I lost sight of it. A short time later I refound it nearer to me and awake but again the birds were spooked and all flew off and I never saw it again.

1st Winter Green Winged Teal amongst Teal, Hayle Estuary

Green Winged Teal - Zoomed in 

I had a good scan of the roosting and preening gulls out on the saltmarsh and found a few mobile and restless Mediterranean gulls amongst the black headed, herring, great black back and lesser black back gulls but there was no sign of any Caspian gulls recently seen here.

Gulls with a Wigeon

Gulls

Gulls

There were 2 interesting gulls I picked up amongst the gull flock, unfortunately distant, with the first an adult bird that looked like a yellow legged gull, being paler than the nearby adult lesser black backed gulls but a little too dark for a yellow legged gull, and with a very clean and white looking head. 

 Adult Yellow Legged Gull (Centre)?

The second bird also looked like an adult yellow legged gull, being darker than nearby herring gulls but paler than nearby lesser black backed gulls but paler backed and smudgier headed than the above bird and with a yellow tinge to pink looking legs - maybe a hybrid bird or an argentatus herring gull rather than the usual argenteus?


Adult Yellow Legged Gull (Upper Right)?

A little egret showed very well just below the causeway bridge before flying off but it was soon time to head back to St.Erth to catch the train back to Plymouth but it had been a very enjoyable and successful days birding.

Little Egret, Hayle



Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas Time

Saturday 17th December was the night of the wards Christmas Do and for the first time ever in the 14 Christmases I have worked there I actually went along! It was held in the Officers Mess at the Royal Marine Barracks in Stonehouse, Plymouth, and it was a really enjoyable night - everybody dressed up, the food was very nice, the setting very interesting and historical and the Mess bar was ridiculously cheap.

December 20th and it was off to The Two Bridges Hotel on Dartmoor for afternoon tea to celebrate Mother-in-laws 80th birthday, a subdued and emotional affair with a brief visit from sister-in-law post her transplant and the physical if not mental prescence of father-in-law in a wheelchair on a few hours leave from Mount Gould Hospital.

December 21st and my plan was to visit Ford Park Cemetery to look for the ring necked parakeets after meeting my friend Monica for coffee on Mutley Plain but the forecast was for rain so I gave it a miss. On the walk up to Mutley Plain I had a brief view of a yellow browed warbler in Beaumont Park along with a nuthatch, a coal tit, 2 goldcrests and blue, great and long tailed tits but on the walk home I had much better views of a very vocal bird snaffling down a large bluebottle fly before having a good old preen while a second bird was heard calling nearby. A grey squirrel was also seen with no tail, maybe a genetic abnormality or maybe from an injury?

The forecasted rain had still not arrived by the time I got home and so with reports of a female eider off Mountbatten I headed off to Fishermans Nose on Plymouth Hoe to have a look for it. I quickly found the eider diving regularly off Turnchapel where it was attracting the attentions of passing gulls but the views were distant and the light was very gloomy - still it was nice to see only my second Plymouth eider and just before the rain finally arrived.

December 22nd and the last day of 2016 that I will probably have to do some proper birding and so I decided to head off to the Penzance area by train, managing to get the back of my hand off my forehead and my arse of the sofa and I'm very glad I did..........

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Yellow Browed Warblers in Beaumont Park, Plymouth

A female type black redstart and a grey wagtail feeding on the rooftops at Derriford Hospital brightened up my tea break at work on Monday 12th December, as viewed from the staff room window - it's always nice to see black redstarts, their quivering red tails providing a flash of colour on dark winter days, and grey wagtails are pretty smart looking too.

A walk from Mount Batten to Bovisands with my recently retired from the ward friend Jan on December 16th was pleasent and interesting. I've never done this walk before and it gave some lovely and different views of Plymouth Sound. It was very mild and I wished I hadn't worn my winter coat as I soon overheated, this December is yet again unusually warm, not a good sign of the state of the world. I even saw a red admiral butterfly flitting past but the only bird of note was a flyover raven.

Saturday 17th December and I had a walk around Beaumont Park to try and find the yellow browed warblers again. It was sunny and mild and I saw 2 small tortoiseshells flying together and checking each other out, presumably 2 males. A jay calling in the tree tops before flying off was a surpise, the first time I have seen one in the park, and I also found a female type black redstart in the lower branches of a tree before it flew off, only my second park sighting.

I soon found the long tailed tit flock feeding in the tree tops and quickly found a yellow browed warbler with them - the tit flock moved off but the warbler stayed behind, frequenting the trees near the north gate of the park and mostly staying in the higher branches. It called a few times and was then seen chasing off a second yellow browed warbler before resuming its feeding foray. I later refound the second bird feeding in the higher branches of the trees in the centre of the park but I spent most of my time watching the bird by the north gate which was much more showy and vocal. I even managed to get a few rubbishy record shots of it as it continually moved through the tangled branches of the trees but distance and lighting and branches hampered getting a good photo.

 YBW playing Hide and Seek amongst the branches

 YBWarbler

 YBWarbler

 YBWarbler

YBWarbler

YBWarbler - My best shot

Also seen were a nuthatch, a coal tit, at least 4 goldcrests, goldfinches and blue and great tits, and the grey squirrels were very tame and inquisitive as they scurried over towards me to see if I had any food for them.

 Young Grey Squirrel with short tail

 Adult Grey Squirrel

Grey Squirrel close up

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Waders, Warblers and Wandering around in the Mist

Back to Plymouth and back to reality after a nice time away - the stress of work, family illness's and Christmas all back with a vengence - and with Sunday 4th December being the last day of my week off from work my plan had been to visit Exminster Marshes. However I was a bit disorganised and my heart wasn't really in it and so I had a quick walk along the River Plym and around Saltram Park instead.

It was sunny and cold but not too busy and from The Ride I saw the usual birds along the estuary although there was no sign of any little grebes or greenshanks along the stretch of river I could view. A nice surprise were a flock of around 20 dunlin feeding on the mudflats on the outgoing tide, a rare sight these days on the Plym (a total of 52 birds were reported on the DBWPS website that evening).

The grassy fields in Saltram Park held a large flock of Canada geese, a goose species I didn't see in Suffolk or Scotland, and 2 redwing with 10 song thrush were a nice find feeding together in the grass.

 Canada Geese, Saltram Park

Redwing with Woodpigeon, Saltram Park

With a bit of deduction and some info from a local birder I finally managed to find a Jack snipe. I flushed 2 snipe which both careered off calling noisely but a third snipe flew off silently and landed not far away - birds don't always follow the text books! A 4th snipe flushed appropriately and finally a Jack snipe took off, silent and flying off low for a short distance only and noticeably smaller and shorter billed than the snipe. It landed ahead of me and as I continued walking it flushed again, this time flying higher and further and giving me some nice views before landing out of sight.

Friday 9th December and there was a report of a yellow browed warbler in Beaumont Park, right on my doorstep, and having missed the bird found in the park last November I decided to have a look for it the next morning. It was grey and damp with heavy rain forecasted for later but within 10 minutes of wandering around the park I found the yellow browed warbler feeding in the lower branches of a tree before it moved up higher until I lost sight of it. It was loosely associating with a group of long tailed tits which moved on too and as I carried on walking around the park to refind them I saw a nuthatch, a goldcrest, a coal tit, goldfinches, blue and great tits, robins, wrens and blackbirds and a chiffchaff.

I heard the yellow browed warbler calling and refound it in the low branches of a tree where it gave some nice views and then I seemed to hear it in stereo - a second bird had begun calling nearby which eventually I found in a different tree. Both birds called noisily before the first bird I saw moved off and then both became silent again although the second bird gave some very good views before also moving away. The rain then duly arrived and so I decided to call it a day, hopefully I'll get a chance for another look at them soon.

Sunday 11th December and I headed off to Exminster Marsh for the day but on the train journey I was a little concerned at the dense fog patches that were dotted here and there despite the sunny weather. Dawlish was bathed in sunshine but The Warren and the mouth of the Exe were shrouded in fog and when I arrived by bus at Exminster Marsh it was totally enveloped in fog too.

Black Swan with Cygnets at Dawlish, doing well since I saw them 3 weeks ago

I made the most of the conditions but viewing was quite difficult in the gloom - at one point it started to lift but quickly returned even foggier than before but it did mean that the large numbers of Canada geese, brent geese and wigeon were quite close to the road. A few teal, mallard, shoveler and pintail were also seen along with moorhens and 3 coot and waders were represented by a curlew, a redshank, 2 snipe, lapwings and black tailed godwits.

 Brent Geese in the Gloom, Exminster Marsh

 Dark Bellied Brent Goose

Brent Geese in a brief respite from the mist

Amongst the geese flocks I found 2 barnacle geese, presumably the resident feral birds, but there was no sign of the small flock of up to 24 birds that has been present for a short while which could potentially be wild birds (or birds from the feral flock at Slimbridge?). 4 greylag geese and a pale bellied brent goose amongst the dark bellies were also seen.

Pale Bellied Brent Goose

Pale Bellied Brent Goose with Dark Bellied

I had a look across the River Exe to the Topsham Recreation Ground from the canal path, hoping to see the long tailed duck that has been seen along this stretch of water recently but it was way too gloomy in the fog to see much at all. I did manage to find a little grebe and 7 male and 2 female red breasted mergansers on the river, a flyby adult common gull and a dunlin and 10+ reed buntings feeding on the reed seed heads by the footpath.

 Topsham Ferry before the mist returned

Topsham Rec - the best view I got

Heading back to the bus stop and I also managed to pick out a male stonechat, a male kestrel and a goldcrest in the mist and heading back to Dawlish on the bus we drove out of the fog near Starcross to be met with sunny skies - typical! - and I saw a covey of 10 red legged partridges in a field with pheasents as we drove along.

Long Tailed Tit, Exminster Marsh

I enjoyed some chips for lunch from a chippy in Dawlish (much better than those from Dawlish Warren) and while scanning the sea from the raised railway station platform I managed to find a razorbill diving for fish, a red throated diver preening quite close to shore before moving further out, a second red throated diver flying by towards Brixham along with 2 male and 4 female common scoter, and 2 very smart adult winter plumaged Mediterranean gulls feeding amongst a flock of black headed gulls and herring gulls - not a bad end to the day after a 4 hour wander around Exminster Marsh in the total mist!

Mediterranean Gull, Dawlish

Saturday, 3 December 2016

A Trip to Suffolk via Scotland

After all the excitement of the desert wheatear on Friday 25th November it was off to Edinburgh in Scotland on Saturday 26th with friends Julie and Matt for a few days away. The flight from Exeter was delayed by over an hour due to fog but when we landed in Edinburgh the sun was shining but beginning to set and from the tram to the city centre I managed to see 6 roe deer feeding in fields near the airport.

Edinburgh was interesting but busy, the Christmas market was quite good and we had a  lovely meal at The Dome while enjoying the Christmas decorations. A trip to the Royal Yacht Brittania at Leith provided the best bird sightings of the trip with 2 male and a female red breasted merganser, a female teal, mallard, a grey heron, shag, cormorant and common gull, herring gull, black headed gull and great black backed gull all seen in the harbour from the decks of the boat. I also scanned out across the Firth of Forth from the decks and picked up a distant pair of eider flying low over the water and a distant raft of around 100 common scoter on the water before they split up and flew off in opposite directions.

 Christmas Lights, Edinburgh

 The Dome, Edinburgh

The Dome, Edinburgh

The train journey to Ipswich from Edinburgh via London on November 29th was very enjoyable on a beautiful sunny day and we saw Bass Rock, Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island, The Farne Islands, Dunsterburgh Castle, Coquet Island, The Baltic Centre in Newcastle, Durham Cathedral and York Minster as we whizzed by sipping wine. I managed to see quite a few birds too - stock dove, green woodpecker, sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel, fieldfare, redwing, golden plover, lapwing, redshank, great spotted woodpecker, tufted duck and wigeon were all seen but the highlights were goosanders on the river at Berwick, a small raft of eiders close to the shore off the coast of Northumberland, a flock of around 300 pink footed geese in fields near Morpeth with another flock of around 100 seen near York and a red kite overhead near Peterborough. The journey from London to Ipswich was less interesting as it was getting dark but as we left Liverpool Street but we did see The Shard and The Gherkin.

My plan during my stay in Ipswich while visiting family pre-Christmas was to visit Minsmere for a walk and a look around but I left my RSPB membership card and free visitor passes in Plymouth and so faced with paying £27 admittance for David, Mum and myself I looked for an alternative place to visit. With Tundra bean geese being reported at the RSPB North Warren reserve near to Minsmere we visited there instead on November 30th on another cold but still and sunny day. I have never visited the reserve before and it was also free to visit, we even managed to get a free parking space too!

We walked along the footpath to Aldeburgh over the shingle beach and I regularly scanned the marsh by the roadside as we wandered along. There was a 100+ flock of (presumed feral) barnacle geese and lots of greylag geese and despite not finding any bean geese (or reported pink footed geese) amongst them I did see 50+ white fronted geese.

 White Fronted Goose with Greylag Geese, North Warren

 White Fronted Goose with Greylag Goose

 White Fronted Goose
Barnacle Geese

A cup of coffee at The Brudenell hotel in Aldeburgh (where my lovely Great Uncle Les treated the family to a lovely Christmas break back in 1986) helped to warm us up on a very chilly day before we headed back to the car. A scan offshore on the walk back gave distant views of flyby red throated divers and great crested grebes but none were close to shore. A further scan of the marsh gave some closer views of the white fronted geese but still no bean geese but a female marsh harrier flying over was a nice bonus as it spooked unseen snipe from the ditches.

Marsh Harrier

We moved on to Snape Maltings for some lunch and while Mum and David looked around the shops I took a walk along the river, seeing a kingfisher, 2 little grebes, a little egret and another female marsh harrier. A very large looking female peregrine flew over on a hunting mission, spooking all the birds on the mudflats before being lost from sight but a short while later it flew over again carrying what looked like a redshank in its talons.

That evening we had a nice meal out at Prezzos in Stowmarket with my nephew Jack and my "Uncle" John (my Dads cousin so technically my second cousin) and the next morning it was bright and sunny and frosty again (although it did cloud over later) and so we headed off to Dunwich to visit Dingle Marshes, another RSPB reserve I haven't visited before and which was free to visit and with free parking.

Dingle Marsh, Dunwich

On arriving at the beach car park I headed up the shingle beach to view the sea and immediately found the wintering flock of sea duck offshore, around 2000+ common scoter, but without my telescope I could only find an immature male eider amongst them (no reported velvet scoter, scaup or long tailed ducks). A few distant red throated divers were seen flying past but a lone female common scoter was resting on the sea quite close to shore.

 Scoter Raft, Dunwich

 Female Common Scoter

Common Scoter

The wind was bitingly cold despite the sunshine and Mum and David had soon had enough and I didn't want to push my luck so despite a very distant view of a great white egret flying over the reed beds we started to head off to nearby Yoxford for lunch at Mums friends cafe and a look around antiques shops for David. However Mum surprisingly suggested I stay at Dunwich and she would pick me up later and so I leapt at her suggestion and was very glad I did as I had an amazing walk around the marsh.

I headed off up the beach, seeing a male sparrowhawk perched on a fence post out of the wind as I began my walk. A small flock of finches flew up from the path in front of me, spooked by a flyover carrion crow, and I dismissed them as linnet. However on getting closer to where they had settled I quickly realised they were in fact twite, a very nice surprise - yellow bills, pink rumps of some of the males in flight and a lovely twittering call all noted but they were active and mobile and flighty and eventually flew off and out of sight.

 Twite

 Twite

Twite

My attentions however were soon taken over by 4 snow buntings feeding amongst the pebbles, I almost stood on them as they were so tame and I had some lovely close views of them feeding on seeds along the beach.

 Snow Buntings

 Snow Bunting - well camouflaged

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

Snow Bunting

I carried on along the beach, eventually reaching some open pools where I watched shoveler, teal, gadwall, mallard, wigeon, shelduck, redshank, snipe, a curlew, a dunlin, grey heron, little egret and a very smart looking water pipit but best of all was getting some great views of the great white egret feeding around the pool edges looking very large compared to the little egrets and with a lovely all yellow bill and black feet.

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Great White Egret

Time was ticking on and I headed back to the car park to meet Mum but unfortunately I was a little late - I hadn't realised how far I had walked and walking along the shingle beach was hard going. I also had various avian distractions along the way - a pair of marsh harriers taking it in turns to be mobbed by carrion crows and lovely views of a flyby bittern along with more views of the 4 snow buntings feeding with linnets and skylarks. Unfortunately I couldn't refind the twite but never mind.

Arriving back at the car park late I found Mum waiting but I had a quick look at the scoter flock again and thought I had a brief flight view of a velvet scoter with some common scoters - a brief flash of what I think were white wing patches before the bird turned and flew directly towards me and then splashed down on the sea and was lost from sight.

We headed back to Yoxford to have tea and cake in the G and T cafe run by Mums friends - I had homemade cauliflower and courgette cake which was very tasty - and we picked up David from the antiques shop where he had bought some silver candle holders before we headed back to Ipswich for dinner at The Beagle with Dad after what had been an amazing days birding.

And so all in all it had been a very pleasant if tiring trip with some good bird sightings along the way and a nice break before the horrors of Christmas fully kick in.