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)