Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Years Eve - Felixstowe Ferry

This afternoon we did a good circular walk, down to Kings Fleet and the river wall, along towards the ferry, across the golf course on the Tomlin wall and back to Terry's.  Three and a half miles as measured on Google Earth!

Felixstowe Ferry from the river wall

It was a lovely afternoon, considering the time of year, very mild and pleasantly sunny.  Not much in the bird line though.  There were several parties of cormorants heading across towards Loompit Lake, and a flock or two of golden plover and lapwing on the salt marsh.  The tide was rising and pushing the redshank around, not that they need much excuse to make a fuss.

I had been hoping for a harrier, or maybe even a short-eared owl but not today.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Sperm whale at Hunstanton

You'd think that having nearly 2 weeks off over Christmas would allow at least a few days birding in Norfolk - but it seems that today was going to be the only one free.  As it was we didn't leave the house until after lunch.  We thought we would go to have a look at the sperm whale which was washed up at Old Hunstanton on Christmas Eve, as reported in the EDP:

There were a lot of people there, braving a sharp westerly wind.  I felt it was interesting how the majority were respectful in their behaviour, and it was a great opportunity for the children to realise that wildlife is really out there, not just something to watch on TV.  

By the time we left it was late afternoon and we wanted to see the geese flying to roost at Snettisham.  We had a brisk walk along the beach, seeing a big flock of snow buntings, I would estimate at least 50 birds.  All the usual species out on the mud, and a few goldeneye on the pits.  I was rather taken by a chalet for sale, but don't know if it would be very practical.  I want somewhere I could live in if necessary, not just a holiday home.  

After the sun disappeared we waited for the geese to show.  They were quite late, I think because it had been a bright afternoon, and eventually it was nearly 5pm before the main flocks came over.  It was a bit disappointing though because the majority flew south of the reserve, seeming to head towards the marshes at  Gedney rather than out to the banks.  I suppose they knew as well as we did that the tide was coming in.  Still we did have good views of some birds flying low over the sea from the Hunstanton direction.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Day

We took a short stroll at Felixstowe Ferry before getting back for a late lunch.  It had been a high tide, water well over the marsh, surrounding the wreck of the Enigma and floating the hippo!  

Enigma at Felixstowe Ferry

We walked as far as the corner of the bank where we could overlook the fields beyond the old Home Hill farmhouse.  A flock of lapwings and golden plover flew behind the hill.  A few redshanks and turnstones were just about the only other birds we saw - it was very quiet.  I expect they were keeping out of the wind.

One of the Felixstowe hippos

Terry looking for goldies

Home Hill farmhouse

Felixstowe Ferry footpaths

Monday, 24 October 2011

Suffolk and Norfolk

On Saturday I spent the day at the Suffolk Naturalists Conference, held this year in Woodbridge.  The theme was 'Linking Landscapes - pathways to the future?' and very interesting it was too, with a range of knowledgeable speakers including Richard Mabey, Chris Baines and Oliver Rackham.

It was great to bump into some familiar faces and to make some new connections.  I think I shall have plenty of wildlife to keep me amused, and some new groups to join, when I finally get to take that big step and move down to Suffolk.

I took the opportunity to buy some back numbers of the Suffolk Bird reports and transactions of The Suffolk Naturalists Society from their stall, at the bargain price of 30p each.  I also invested £6 in the 2010 version, mainly because of the photo on the cover of a Noon Fly,  Mesembrina meridiana.  Coincidentally I photographed this species a couple of weeks ago myself but hadn't got round to trying to identify it.

Noon Fly - Mesembrina meridiana

On Sunday I was back in Norfolk, and spent most of the day in the garden tidying up.  On the way back from the tip we had a drive round to see if there were still any stone-curlews about.  I know there have been a few over-wintering the last few years.  We spent some time scanning what I thought was the right pig field without success, and then found another just down the road where T was thrilled to spot 3 stonies pretending to be lumps of mud - a new bird for him.  The 3 birds we saw were lined up along an electric fence, perhaps out of the way of the pigs.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Mild October morning

Marsh Lane, Felixstowe

After the early morning rain it turned out sunny and mild.

During a short walk down the lane to the old house, and back we saw:

At least 6 pairs of Common Darter and several singles

Several Red Admirals

1 Golden plover calling overhead

Skylarks singing

2 Swallows feeding over the fields

Small flocks of starlings

2 Wheatears feeding on the edge of the ploughed field

2 young Grey Herons

1 old fox

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Migration morning

Landguard Bird Observatory held a bird migration walk today.

1st October and we should be in the middle of migration season, so what happens? Southerly air stream, mist and 27 degrees. Consequently no birds.

We did see one of the resident little owls, which posed nicely.

So we resorted to looking at the moths trapped overnight. I only know a few moths by sight, but I am interested to learn more. Several of the species seen this morning were migratory, including this one which is apparently widespread in southern Europe.

Palpita vitrealis

Friday, 30 September 2011

Hornet mimic

At least 4 gorgeous red admirals on the flowering ivy this afternoon when we returned to T's house at Felixstowe.  When I went for a closer look I spotted a very large hoverfly with a yellow face which was also feeding busily.

Volucella zonaria

Volucella zonaria

This is Volucella zonaria, the hornet mimic hoverfly, another species of insect which has become more common recently.  The adults are migratory, very large, and resemble hornets in their yellow and brown colouring.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Sea-watching at Shingle Street

17th September

With thoughts of recent shearwater etc sightings, I suggested a visit to Shingle Street this afternoon.  I also thought there might be some butterflies and/or dragonflies about, but in the event we only saw 1 red admiral which seemed to be determined to find it's way over to Belgium.

The beach here is well vegetated with sea kale, yellow horned poppy, sea pea and sea campion.  The sea kale held an amazing number of snails, of all sizes and various colours.  The sea pea was seeding but must have been  a colourful sight earlier in the season.

We had good views of a couple of wheatears perching on the wire fence beyond the cottages, there were also several meadow pipits and sky larks in this area.

The seawatching was not particularly productive but we did see 2 small flocks of wigeon flying south, and around 40 brent geese.  A small number of terns were seen but these were too far out to identify to species.  3 sanderling flew south just off the beach. Otherwise that was about it apart from a few gulls and a cormorant.

It had been quite pleasant sitting on the beach in the sunshine, even with a moderate breeze, but after about an hour an obvious storm cloud was gathering to windward so we thought it was time to go.

Photos to follow

Friday, 16 September 2011

Titchwell 15th September

It would have been nice if the Little Bittern had still been around, but it was not to be.  However it was too nice a day to mope at home, so we decided to go and have a look at Titchwell anyway.  I was interested to see what was happening with the project to breach the seawall.

Common Darters 

The boardwalk round to Fen Hide was popular with Common Darter dragonflies.  Several males were patrolling territory and were quite easy to photograph as they kept  returning to their favoured spots.  This pair were on the handrail and very approachable.  

Some larger dragonflies were very active over the first pools beside the main path, these seemed to be Migrant Hawkers but it was difficult to get a good view.

The fresh marsh from Parrinder hide mostly contained a selection of waterfowl.  A small group of waders visible through the haze in the furthest corner contained at least a few curlew sandpipers, and one little stint. A flock of golden plover flew over, and also several small skeins of pink-footed geese were seen passing through.  It was nice to watch meadow pipits and goldfinches coming down to bath just in front of the hide, they would have made a nice picture if I had brought my digiscope attachment!

The brackish marsh was quite interesting.  The recent high tide had obviously flooded in and it had left some areas of water, it will fascinating  to see how this develops.  Waders seen included 2 avocet, a curlew and a few redshanks.  At least 2 very nice yellow wagtails were putting on a good show in the corner near to the bank, with a number of pied wagtails including some juveniles.  

The tide was well out when we reached the beach, but there were plenty of birds along the waterline.  These included the usual oystercatchers, both godwits, dunlin etc.  I was pleased to see a small flock of knot feeding along the edge, but only picked out a single sanderling.  There may have been more if we had walked a bit further but time was getting short so we called it a day.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

More dragonflies

Friday 9th September
Walked down the lane from T's house to the bushes where we watched sedge warblers and white-throats earlier this year.  Lots of dragonflies about, mostly migrant hawkers and common darters, with 1 southern hawker.  

Saturday 10th September
Newbourne Springs
My first visit here for nearly 10 years.  Saw a comma and a few red admirals.  Quite a lot of common darters but the only one I managed to photograph was this female.  It does show the pale stripe on the legs quite well though.

Common Darter

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Waders and Deer at Levington Creek

Saturday afternoon

With showers threatening we parked up thinking it wouldn't be too far to walk back if it turned wet.  As it was the sun came out and there were some marvellous cloud-scapes.  The rain came later when we were in the supermarket, followed by a brilliant double rainbow.

A flock of Canada geese were in the stubble field beside the track together with a number of lapwing.  A small herd of deer then emerged from the scrub and long grass which led to much discussion of their identity.  They were very dark, much too dark I thought for fallow.  They included a young male with simple spiked antlers, and 3 females with half grown young.

Fallow deer in the stubble field

However I was wrong, as examination of my photo later showed the long tails, and also some spots on their backs.  It seems fallow come in a number of colour forms, and these are of the dark or melanistic type -as opposed to the white ones I am familiar with from Houghton Park in Norfolk.

The tide was out showing a large extent of mud, and in the creek there were more lapwing, lots of black-headed gulls already without their black heads for the winter, and a few black-tailed godwit.  Where the creek meets the river Orwell there were good numbers of curlew, redshank, b-t godwit and a very nice flock of golden plover.  I estimated about 100 on the ground, but when they all took off and had a fly around there must have been nearer 400.  Some still had vestiges of black from the summer plumage, but not nearly as smart as the 2 grey plovers also there which were still in almost full summer dress.

R Orwell from Levington Creek

I recognised the call of a green sandpiper flying over which went down towards the lagoon, and was visible from the sea wall further along, together with a little egret.  There was no sign of the spotted redshank which had been reported from the creek, but the state of the tide meant that many of the waders were a long way off, down by the waters edge, and there are also many little gullies for birds to hide in so we could easily have missed it.  I made a mental note that next time I would try to time my visit for a rising tide which should push the birds closer.

Levington lagoon

Saturday, 27 August 2011

A birding morning at Landguard

Finding I had a morning to myself, down in Felixstowe, I decided to go for a walk around Landguard.  Walking in from the north car park there seemed to be little about, apart from droves of dog walkers.  The flowers were nice though, I was impressed by the carpet of common stork's-bill Erodium cicutarium.  Further along I noticed that there were many white flowers among the more usual pink ones.

Common Stork's-bill

A small upright bird on the ground nearly caught me out, thinking it would be a wheatear, but the strong eye stripe and streaky back made me look again in time to see that it was a whinchat.  A wheatear was present further along just for comparison.

I walked along the nice new boardwalk to the point, where a purple sandpiper popped out from under the timbers.  So I got a chance to play at digiscoping.  It was a bit dark under there so not brilliant results,but a bit better when it came up higher and spent some time having a good preen.

Purple sandpiper

Walking back towards the fort I almost missed the juvenile dunlin feeding quite happily just on the seaward side of the wall.  It was very approachable, nicely marked AND in good light so I'm a bit happier with this shot.  It's not easy this digiscoping - I find it very difficult to see the screen to check the focusing - maybe I need to get a different camera (any excuse).


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A trip up river

High numbers of curlew on the edge of the salt marsh

A high tide, a fine afternoon and a couple of hours to spare - what nicer than a short cruise up the River Deben looking for waders and anything else that might make a good photograph?

Kirton Creek

Lots of black-tailed godwit, lapwing, redshank, a few avocet, 2 common sandpiper, 1 green sandpiper, greenshank calling, little egret.  A kingfisher flew across the river while we were drinking tea, and a marsh harrier flew low over The Ferry as we returned to the mooring.

Black-tailed godwit

Felixstowe Ferry

Monday, 22 August 2011

Holywells Park - Bat walk

The Friends of Holywells Park organised a Bat Walk for Saturday evening.  T was keen to come along with me, as he lived close to the Park when he was a boy and spent a lot of time there.

I had expected a small group of keen bat watchers but was amazed by the number of people who turned up, including several families with small children, which was very nice to see.  It was a lovely mild and calm evening so pretty much perfect conditions.

We gathered around the 'Bat Tree' which was saved from felling by The Friends when they discovered roosting pipistrelles, and we were very lucky to see a number of common pipistrelles flying around the tree well before dusk.  We set off on our walk around the park but were not so lucky with noctule bats, which I would have liked to have seen.  My detector only picked up crickets in the low frequency noctule range!

However this was soon forgotten when we arrived at the ponds where there seemed to be bats everywhere.  Large numbers of soprano pipistrelles were hunting low over the water, coming close enough to be seen, and easily heard on the several detectors we had with us.

An added highlight for me was the transit overhead of the International Space Station, which was very bright. I shall look out for this again in future.  Transit times can be downloaded from

Thanks are due to our knowledgeable leader, Peter Scotcher, who kept us well-informed and entertained throughout the evening.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Badger or fox?

Looking back through the photos I took at the weekend has reminded me that I wanted to write about a rather unusual thing I saw.  On Saturday evening we went for a stroll after supper and in the side of a bank T spotted a sizeable hole where a wasps' nest had been dug out and destroyed.  The nest had been quite large, it's remains were quite visible and a few of the former residents were still crawling and buzzing around so I didn't get too close.

T is of the opinion that a badger was responsible.  Badgers are in the area and he saw one not far away from the spot about two years ago.  I don't know that a fox would tackle a wasps' nest, although we think  a fox visiting his garden back in May dug out a small nest of early bumblebees Bombus pratorum.  

At the top of the field near the road we found some nice footprints which I think must be badger.

Further down the field we disturbed a fox which had been resting in a secluded spot.  Talking to T's neighbour the next day she told us she had seen a family of fox cubs when she had been walking her dogs that morning.  So there are plenty in the area.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Spreading north

Towards the end of summer last year I found my first wasp spider.  It had strung it's web between some taller vegetation amongst the grass on top of the sea wall as you walk upstream from Felixstowe Ferry.

I was keen to go back again this year to see if I could find another and hopefully get some photos.  We walked along the path on top of the  bank looking for suitable spots.  The vegetation seems to be a lot more lush this year, with masses of bristly ox-tongue near the Ferry, and loads of wild carrot further along.

Saltmarshes Felixstowe Ferry

I had hoped to see a few waders on the mud but apart from a few very distant dunlin and some gulls, the only bird seen was a little egret.
I was starting to think we were going to miss out on interesting finds when I spotted a Roesel's bush-cricket perched on a leaf.  These handsome crickets have expanded their range north in the last few years, as have several other similar species.

Eventually we spotted a large spider in a web, it wasn't a wasp spider but I sat down to try to get some pictures and lo and behold there was a wasp spider close by.

Wasp spider

I like this picture.  It shows the habitat, with the river and the saltmarsh in the background and if you look carefully you can see a well-wrapped ladybird and also the stabilimentum, the vertical zig-zag pattern, in the web.  The purpose of this is not really known but it may help to attract insects.

While sitting watching this spider another Roesel's appeared so I think they must be quite numerous in the area.  The wasp spider is also a fairly recent colonist in Suffolk , previously being confined to the south coast.

Wasp spider

Roesel's bush-cricket

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Purdis Heath SSSI

Since I seem to be spending a lot of time in Suffolk nowadays I thought it was about time I joined the Suffolk Naturalists' Society.  I am looking forward to attending their conference in October, in Woodbridge this year - assuming I was in time to get a ticket!

They still have a few field meetings in the programme, and today I met up with some of them to look at Purdis Heath near Ipswich.  This is a nice piece of remnant heath being managed by Butterfly Conservation mainly for Silver-studded blues.  The heather was absolutely gorgeous, mostly Ling, but some Bell-heather still in flower, and absolutely full of bees and hoverflies.

Purdis Heath

I spotted the very distinctive bramble Rubus laciniatus, otherwise known as the Cut-leaved or Parsley-leaved bramble.  This is about the only bramble which I can ID on sight, there are just too many others which all look the same - I'm afraid I don't have the time to be a specialist.  It is said to have very tasty fruit, and I can testify to that.

Cut-leaved Bramble

It was a good day for insects, one of our party managed to catch a Heath Assassin Bug, a very cryptically marked predatory bug which is said to stridulate when handled - well this one didn't - at least if it did no-one could hear it.

Heath Assassin Bug

We also found the first Greyling recorded on the heath since 2005, can you see it in my photo?


I was disappointed that it was too late to see the Silver-studded blues, but we did see a number of Purple hairstreaks in some of the oaks, and we were shown some of their eggs which they lay on the buds at the tips of the twigs.  Makes sense as they over-winter as eggs.

It's on that leaf!

The S-s blues lay their eggs on a variety of plants including the heathers, gorse and Common bird's-foot trefoil.  I didn't see any of the latter but did see several plants of Bird's-foot which is confusingly a completely different species, much smaller with pinkish flowers.  I knew this plant from The Scillies this year where I was looking for the much rarer Orange Bird's-foot, without success.


Not a brilliant picture I'm afraid.  

All in all a very interesting afternoon out, and I hope to do more like it in future, both in Suffolk and nearer home.

Bats and crickets

We took the bat detector for a walk down the lane near T's in Felixstowe at about 9pm on Friday evening.  Picked up the sound of a couple of Noctules and a few Pipistrelles, but were amazed to hear loads of crickets in the hedges and bushes.  When I turned the detector off I could still just hear them, very high pitched, way beyond T's hearing.  After some research on-line I decided they were Dark bush-crickets, and later remembered that I saw one last autumn in his bathroom.

When I first moved to Swaffham they were quite numerous in my garden which was thoroughly overgrown, but I am afraid I only see the occasional one now since I have tidied it up.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Bat survey

We went out to do an emergence survey last night, at an old barn in west Norfolk.  It was a gorgeous evening after the wind and showers earlier, would you believe it was still 19 degrees at 11pm?  Although it was overcast the sky stayed quite light because the moon is nearly full, so the bats were easily seen.

The only bats we saw were a handful of pipistrelles hunting round the gardens and the big trees in the yard and along the drive.  I was able to use my new bat detector which seems to work very well.  I am intending to take it to T's this weekend to see if we can find some noctules over the marshes.

I also saw 2 swifts at about 8pm, along with loads of house martins and swallows.  Those were the only swifts I have seen since we saw large numbers heading south over T's garden in Felixstowe about a week ago.  Autumn must be on it's way!

We had a brief view of a barn owl wafting across the farm yard and over the barn, and also heard an owl calling over the meadows making a very spooky noise.  I'm quite glad I had some company.  I think T enjoyed himself too, it was his first bat survey.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Clinks Care Farm in Toft Monks is set to expand

Click here for details

Congratulations Doeke! It's nice to hear that projects one has been involved with are doing well.

(I surveyed the farm for their Higher Level Stewardship application)

Sunday, 31 July 2011

EcoTech Centre action morning

The organic garden at The EcoTech Centre in Swaffham is looking amazing at the moment.  Absolutely full of colour and growth.  I was there with other members of the voluntary Garden Group to help out with some gardening.

While I was there I took 15 minutes to do a butterfly survey:
1 large white
4 gatekeeper
5 peacock
2 red admiral

I had previously seen a skipper, but didn't see it during the timed count.  I am not sure which species it was either.  Lots of bees and hoverflies too.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Butterfly Count

At last - a sunny morning AND time to stop and look!

I spent 15 minutes yesterday morning counting butterflies in T's garden.  It was a bit breezy so the best spot was the big Hebe bush beside the drive which was buzzing with all sorts of insects - bees, wasps, beetles, flies etc etc.  

Final total:
3 gatekeepers - all male - chasing each other around
1 comma
1 large white - there may have been 2 as seen twice, passing through the garden at a rate of knots
1 small white

I hope to do another count nearer to home next weekend.

Photos to be added

Saturday, 23 July 2011

East Coast Sailing

My partner T had been looking forward to taking me for a few days sailing on the east coast for some time.  So eventually I managed to book a few days holiday and with a fair forecast and favourable winds we set off from Felixstowe Ferry on Tuesday lunchtime.

Keeping a look-out

First stop was Walton backwaters, a maze of channels and salt-marsh to the north of Walton-on-the-naze.  We anchored in the channel near Stone Point, at high water.  This is a bird reserve with a shingle beach where there appears to be a good tern colony.  There were lots of Common Terns flying to and fro, but also numbers of Little Terns and a small group of Sandwich Terns, making a lot of fuss.  We didn't land, as I suspect it is discouraged, although not everyone realised this.  

Stone Point at high tide

As the tide was receding fast we moved round into Hamford Water which is much wider, and anchored there for the night.  I was very pleased to see a broad expanse of mud flats appearing with plenty of bird life for me to train my telescope on.  I have recently bought myself a digiscoping adapter and had fun trying it out. However the light was fading fast and the movement of the boat didn't help, but it was good practice!  

Oystercatchers 'piping' on the mud

There were lots of Oystercatchers, Black-tailed Godwits - some still in red summer plumage, Avocets, Curlews, Redshanks, a few Bar-tailed Godwits and a single Greenshank.  I was confused for a while by a large black and white diving duck which turned out to be a male eider in eclipse, one of a group of 3.  Lots of Canada and Greylag geese, and 5 summering Brents.  It was lovely to see a flotilla of 19 young Shelducks in the charge of 2 adults swimming down the river and clambering out onto the mud.  It seems to be a good area for Little Terns which were fishing very close to the boat.  Herring Gulls must have cast iron stomachs - one was finding small crabs in the mud, hauling them out by their claws and swallowing them whole!  A few Common Seals were hauled out on the mud and seen swimming around the boats, apparently it is a renowned spot for them and they can be a nuisance by hauling themselves into peoples' dinghys and causing them to capsize.  

The wind dropped away at dusk leaving a very calm evening and a beautiful sunset.  We sat on deck until it was almost dark when it started to turn rather chilly.

On Wednesday morning we headed off back up the coast to Southwold, taking most of the day to get there against the tide and with a rather fickle wind.  I enjoyed watching the coast glide past and took lots of photos.  Two or three small parties of Curlew were flying south, migration in progress.  The only really good bird of the trip - a skua - put in a brief appearance at the very moment when I was engaged in hauling on a rope and couldn't get to the bins!  I presume it was an Artic - a pale morph - it showed a distinct pale collar and underparts, but I couldn't be sure.  Passing Sizewell power stations the cooling towers were well populated with Kittiwakes which also came near as they were flying in and out.  

Southwold harbour

Lots of Swifts were flying low over the streets in Southwold during the evening and a family party of Reed Warblers showed well beside the dyke across The Common (the road to the harbour).

On Thursday we stayed moored in Southwold and did a circular walk to Walberswick, along the beach, across the marsh and back via the heath.  There was large colony of Little Terns on the shingle beach, roped off against walkers and dogs, but not proof against weasels.  The presence of a weasel was revealed by the agitated terns, Ringed Plovers and Redshanks, presumably all nesting nearby.  I saw it leap up in defiance at an attacking tern, but didn't see if it carried off any prey.  We had a good view of a Bittern flying across near Dingle Great Hill, and also of a pair of Marsh Harriers passing food to the female which then landed in the reeds. 

Old wind pump on Dingle Marsh

On Friday morning we had a fair wind and set off for home at about 10am as the tide started to run in our favour.  We had a lovely sail home arriving back at the Ferry by 3pm.  Not a great deal of bird life to see en route apart from the usual terns and Kittiwakes by the power station.  It was interesting to see a number of butterflies which appeared to be coming in off the sea, mostly large whites but the occasional red admiral, and also a number of bumble bees.

Dinghy park at Felixstowe Ferry