Sunday, 31 December 2017

Pan Species 2017

This is the time of year to look back at what was seen over the last 12 months, and to look forward to doing more in the next 12 (where have I heard that before?)  2018 will be my last year of work before I retire at the end of December, so time will still be limited.  Although I do only work a 4 day week, there is always something that needs to be done which eats into PSL time.

Anyway, at the end of 2017 my list stands at 1471, an increase of exactly 100 over the last year, made up as follows:

Fungi: 19

Mostly identified on a local Fungi Foray at Hollesley, in October.  These included the interesting Parasitic Bolete, Pseudoboletus parasiticus on its host the Common Earthball,  Scleroderma citrinum

I also managed to find 3 species of Choke Fungus, Epichloe, which are determined by the species of grass on which they are found.  This one is Epichloe festucae, found on Festuca rubra, on our overgrown garden lawn.

Flowering Plants: 4

I started 2017 on 664, so its not that easy to add plants any more.  However 3 were on a farm walk with Jonny Stone near Ipswich, Persicaria hydropiper, Carex pilulifera and Mentha arvensis which just goes to show the benefit of an expert pair of eyes, and the fourth was a probable garden escape at Flatford Smyrnium perfoliatum.

Spiders: 3

Apart from plants, birds and perhaps butterflies, I have plenty of room for improvement.  I have acquired the new Spider guide this year but have not yet made much use of it.  New for 2017 included Agelena labyrinthica, the Labyrinth Spider, found in my garden and also locally.

Crustaceans: 2

Two woodlice from the garden which I am sure I have seen very many times, but never given a name to Armadillidium vulgare and Philoscia muscorum.

Silverfish: 1

Likewise I remember seeing these as a child, but had never added them to my list.  I found one in our bathroom this year.

Bugs: 6

An assortment of shield bugs and the smart Red and Black Froghopper.  This is Dolycoris baccarum, the Hairy Shield Bug.

Bees etc: 18

2017 was a good year for bees for me, I did a weekend course at Flatford Mill and made contact with some local hymenopterists.  Still plenty to go at though.  We seem to have quite a good garden for bees, I recorded Andrena florea, the Bryony Mining Bee here this year.  Several other new bees were seen on a field trip to Fingringhoe Wick nature reserve in Essex.

Looking over to Felixstowe Ferry from the garden

Beetles: 9

I don't know if I should be worried but these included 2 types of carpet beetle found in the house, and various garden pests such as Figwort Weevil and Rosemary Beetle!

Rosemary Beetle

Flies: 8

An assortment, mainly hovers, but also soldierflies and the aptly named Ivy Waspgrabber, Leopoldius signatus.

Butterflies: 1

I added Large Skipper to the list.  I am sure I have seen this before but recorded one in the garden.

Moths: 28

This is where I intend to make some progress next year, as I now have a moth trap.  In 2017 the majority of new records were from the wall of my office at work where an outside light is left on overnight.  This Garden Tiger Moth was rescued from nearly being run over by the post van!

Lacewings: 1

A Green Lacewing.

I am looking forward to 2018.  I have bought myself a small campervan and intend to use it for short trips and weekends away, where I can concentrate on wildlife.  I have a day course booked with the FSC in Epping Forest, on Spring Moths at the end of April, and I intend to join the PSL weekend down in Cornwall in June.  

Apart from this I am working on a proper Garden List, and there are still plenty of things to get to grips with, not least mosses and lichens!

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Christmas Bongo

Christmas Bongo

Hurray, I have my Bongo back in time for the Christmas holidays!  It originally went to the garage because it wasn't starting well in the cold weather - a whole week and a not inconsiderable sum of money later - it is back and starting really well.  Success!

So today I opened up the roof to give it some air, cleaned the floor and brought the bedding indoors as I don't think I shall be sleeping in it for a while and I didn't want it to get too damp.

Then I took it out for a nice run:

I went to Levington Marina which is not far, but always interesting for a good walk and some birds to look at.

Looking over the marina to the River Orwell

I walked through the woods to Loompit Lake which holds a large colony of Cormorants.  On the way I saw a nice flock of Long-tailed Tits, and there were lots of Redshanks feeding on the edge of the water with a solitary Avocet.

Loompit Lake

I had hoped for perhaps a Great Northern Diver to be hanging about out on the river, but not today.  There have been a few around this winter.  

Looking back to the Marina and the woods.

Not much more to be seen here apart from a Little Egret and a single Brent Goose, so I returned to my van and made a cup of tea - just because I could!  Love my van - looking forward to lots of interesting trips further afield in the New Year!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Santon Downham for Parrot Crossbills Sunday 3rd December 2017

A flock of Parrot Crossbills had been reported from St Helens picnic site at Santon Downham for a couple of weeks.  After checking BirdGuides and finding they had been seen again, I made the decision to go and took the Bongo for a day trip.

I parked in the car park just over the level crossing, where there were several other cars.  Checking with some other birders I was given directions into the woods where I found a number of birders peering up into the tops of some fairly distant pine trees.

I had not bothered to bring my scope as I had been told they were showing 'very well', but a scope was definitely required.  However I had good views through my bins, and looked through a couple of other peoples scopes.  I saw around 10 birds, at one point they all flew around calling which was lovely.  After taking a few record shots with my 300mm zoom lens, I returned to the van for lunch intending to go back afterwards with my scope.

Parrot Crossbills

Parrot Crossbills

I enjoyed my lunch and a chat with a nice couple parked nearby who were very interested in my Bongo.  On returning to have another look at the crossbills they had moved off.  I had a good walk round but didn't see them again.

Spot the Bongo

The walk back alongside the railway line

I wanted to check out the St Helens picnic site with a view to overnight parking there next year.  There is a sign which says No Camping / BBQS with a picture of a tent (!) but no mention of motorhomes or campervans.  I think it would be ok for an occasional wild camp - I noted that the toilets are closed from 1st November to 31st March.  I spotted another Bongo there, the only one I saw all day until one on the A14, nearly back to Felixstowe.

A number of Hawfinches had been seen at Lynford so as I still had a bit of time I drove up to have a look.  I parked in the forestry car park and walked down through the Arboretum.  As I arrived at the paddock there were 6 Hawfinch briefly in the tops of trees across the far side of the field. 3 flew off but the light was not good and they were too far away for pictures.

Note to self: Always take your scope and make sure to keep the holder for my phone in the pocket for digi-scoping distant birds!

Arrived back home about 5.15pm, distance travelled 197km.

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Suffolk wildlife walks

Last weekend I had a good excuse for a night out in my camper.  I had arranged to go on a fungus foray on Hollesley Common on the Sunday morning, so with the forecast predicting a calm and mild night I decided I would have a good walk on Saturday afternoon, and camp out Saturday night near to the start of the walk in the morning.

I set out after lunch on Saturday heading in the general direction of Woodbridge, then had the good idea of a walk at Martlesham Creek.  You can do a nice circular walk from the car park near Martlesham church, to the river wall, then back via the boatyard and through the woods.

Across the sheep field to the river Deben

Martlesham Creek

Looking back to the boatyard

It was a lovely afternoon, the sun came out, and I saw a good variety of birds including curlews, little egrets, a flock of around 30 lapwings, and lots of little grebes.  I saw a colour-ringed black-tailed godwit which I reported to the ringing scheme after I returned home, it will be interesting to find out where it has come from.

Spot the Bongo!
Returning to the car park there were some nice big chestnuts, just waiting to be picked up.  They made a nice snack for later.

After driving around Hollesley Common for a while I found the car park where we were meeting the next day, and decided it would make a good overnight wild camping spot.  I was able to tuck the van behind some trees away from the road, so it was not too visible to passers by, and far enough from the road to be fairly quiet.

Bongo in the woods, the road is behind the trees.
I had a cosy, peaceful night except for some noisy owls, and after breakfast had a little stroll in the forest while I was waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.

Hollesley Common
We had a very interesting walk, with a very knowledgable guide, and saw a good number of fungi considering that the weather had been very warm and dry.  We found a hornet's nest and a nest of wild honey bees.  There were at least 2 woodlarks singing, confused by the warm weather I think, and we saw where the fallow deer had their rutting ground.  I was invited to see some moths trapped the previous night, which was great - I am thinking of getting a moth trap possibly next year, so it was good to see this one which was home-made and very productive.

I drove on to Butley RSPB car park, where I had lunch, and another walk along the river wall to the ferry slipway.  More curlew, godwits, lapwings etc.  This is usually a good place to see a kingfisher but I was not lucky this time.

Butley Creek

Back home about 4pm, a round trip of 70km.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Have camper, will travel

I have always wanted a campervan - the freedom of the open road and all that!  Well now I have one.  OK it's 20 years old, but I love it.  I intend to use it for wildlife and photography trips, even maybe a bit of twitching...

Here it is at East Lane, Bawdsey on my inaugural trial run a couple of weeks ago - I didn't want to go too far from home just in case!  I had a peaceful night except for a few fishermen coming and going from the carpark, and woke up to the fantastic sight of hundreds of swallows and house martins gathering to leave on migration.  

East Lane car park

After a walk along the seawall, I moved on to Hollesley RSPB reserve and then to Boyton marsh.  I had a lovely day out and the van was just what I hoped it would be, comfortable to sleep in, and a great base during the day.  Where to next?