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SUFFOLK: Cannabalistic Magpies and a Marvellous Roller

13th June 2011

Firstly I do apologise if a) if you read a lot of East Anglian blogs and have heard about the Roller 20 times, and b) if you live in East Anglia but couldn't go and see it. You have my sympathies.

Anyway. At lunchtime I checked BirdGuides and found that a Roller had gone through the punctuation marks ("?" - We're not sure if this is genuine. "!" - Oh goodness, it is genuine). Birds seen on Mondays tend to be frustrating, because it means I have to hope that they stay until the next weekend for me to have a chance of seeing them. The difference with the Roller was that it envoked the "IT'S BLUE FOR HEAVENS SAKE" arguement, and whether genuinely excited or simply humouring me, Cathy & Margaret agreed to give me a lift into Suffolk to see this most delightful of birds.

On the way through deepest Suffolk we arrived at Blythburgh, where my attention was grabbed by what appeared to be a black, white and red bird. What the hell is that? I thought, until my brain caught up and I realised it was a recently deceased Magpie. Cathy said it was a shame that one of a pair had died (another Magpie was sat by the road) and I was about to agree, until it ran into the road and grabbed some giblets from the recently deceased bird, then squabbled over the juiceiest bits with another Magpie! I know Magpies often commit cannabalistic infanticide, but this is the first time I've seen one actually eat another adult bird.

We arrived at Upper Hollesley Common and the Roller was immediately visible, gleefully found by Cathy with the naked eye whilst I was scanning the fence with my 'scope. It proceeded to give great views at mid-distance, spending most of its time perched on a fence or small tree, with occasional feeding forays onto the ground. This sparked an interesting debate with Cathy, who whilst being initially excited to see the Roller, didn't understand why I would want to keep watching the bird just sitting there for so long, when it "wasn't doing anything interesting". I was just happy it was sat out in the open (hours spent watching scrub waiting for Barred, Dusky and Radde's Warblers still give me flashbacks). My sincere thanks to the finders of this amazing bird.

The best of my many record attempts, this one being unusual in that it is in focus. If you don't know what a Roller looks like you really should take the time to find out. For much better pictures of the bird see

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