Long-billed Dowitcher at Dickleburgh Moor and weekend botany, 24 & 25 July 2021

We took the jaloppy down into north Essex for a one night stopover on a farm near Earls Colne on Saturday. Stopping in the middle of Colchester on the way down I had a date with a very rare plant. In the less than natural surroundings of some cobbled pavement by a busy roundabout I found it growing in some numbers - Jersey Cudweed. Nearby I also found Small-leaved Lime, Trailing Bellflower and some no-doubt dodgy Larkspur. At Chappel viaduct while taking photos I found a nice patch of Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea before we decided on a walk in Chalkney Wood. This lovely ancient wood held Small Melillot, Wild Basil, Enchanter's Nightshade, Red Bartsia, Yellow Pimpernel and some nice flowering Hornbeams amongst the more common stuff.

That evening around our farm home I had Yellow Wagtail, Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Musk Mallow and some nice Hedge Woundwort.

In the morning things started off (and continued) badly as I somehow managed to scratch my eyeball while washing my face! I struggled on in a lot of pain as we headed homeward via a stop a Great Waldringfield airfield near Sudbury. This is one of very few sites for Spreading Hedge Parsley and with some directions I quickly found plenty. In the same spot there was also quite a bit of Round-leaved Cranesbill. As we left the site I got news of a Long-billed Dowitcher at Dickleburgh so despite my eye I drove home as fast as the motorhome would let me. A quick dash to the moor and I was soon watching a gorgeous summer plumaged bird plus a nearby Common Sandpiper but due to my eye I didn't hang about.        

                                                                                                                                   Jersey Cudweed
                                                                                                                                Trailing Bellflower
                                                                                                                               Small-leaved Lime
                                                                                                                  Narrow-leaved Everlasting Pea
                                                                                                                                 Red Bartsia
                                                                                                                             Enchanter's Nightshade
                                                                                                                                   Yellow Pimpernel
                                                                                                                                  Wild Basil
                                                                                                                                     Small Melillot

                                                                                                                         Spreading Hedge Parsley
                                                                                                                           Round-leaved Cranesbill

                                                                                                                                Long-billed Dowitcher

Finningham/Gislingham, 21 July 2021

Thanks to some directions from my friend Meg who has been scouring the local fields farmed by her family I spent a thoroughly enjoyable short visit there on Wednesday.

There were 2 main species of plant that she'd given me spot-on directions to and with permission I could walk the fields and explore those hidden headlands. The species in question were Dwarf Spurge and Round-leaved Fluellen and I found both with ease in the 2 different places. The latter in particular was growing in abundance in one field corner and was a real sight to behold. Some curious purple-flowered Scarlet Pimpernels were another highlight just yards from the spurge.     

                                                                                                                                    Dwarf Spurge

                                                                                                                             Round-leaved Fluellen
                                                                                                     Scarlet Pimpernel with purple flowers!

A weekend in the Suffolk Sandlings, 16 - 18 July 2021

This past weekend we had a 2-night 'wild' camping trip down into the Suffolk Sandlings in our motorhome. Setting off mid-afternoon on Friday and returning mid-afternoon on Sunday we spent one night in the Dunwich Forest and the 2nd night in the Tunstall Forest near Snape. The weather was hot and sunny and our chosen locations both really nice. 

It's a real joy to be so close to the action and watch Nightjars almost from the van with numerous Noctule Bats swirling around. Out on the same piece of heath by the carpark I also had Dartford Warbler, Stonechat, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Whitethroat, Yellowhammer and an amazing movement of c5000 Jackdaws! In the vicinity the plants were quite interesting too with one new one for me - Trailing St John's-wort plus Common Cudweed, Scarlet Pimpernel, Woodland Germander and Sticky Groundsel. Our 2 walks in the area produced Ruddy Darters, Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker, Common Blue Damselfly, Small Copper, my first Grayling and Gatekeeper of the year together with Red Admiral, Large White, Peacock, Ringlet, Meadow Brown, Comma, Small Skipper, Large Skipper and Essex Skipper. A single Silver-washed Fritillary passed through the carpark but didn't stop. 

When we re-located to the south we stopped by at Theberton Woods as it was en-route. Here a handful of Silver-washed Fritillaries and a single White Admiral were seen plus Dotted Loosestrife and Enchanters Nightshade.     

From our camping spot in the Tunstall Forest we had distant churring Nightjars and the added bonus of 2 Purple Hairstreaks in the top of an oak enjoying the last rays of sunlight of the day - as were we! 

On Sunday we walked and then visited Snape Maltings where Pantaloon Bee and Ruby-tailed Wasp were both seen at their holes on the sandy carpark

                                                                                                                              Trailing St John's-wort
                                                                                                                                             Ruddy Darter
                                                                                                                                   Dotted Loosestrife

                                                                                                                           Silver-washed Fritillary
                                                                                                                                            Pantaloon Bee

Two new plants in mid-Suffolk, 11 July 2021

Yellow Vetchling is a scarce and declining species that has been on my to do list for a little while. It survives in just a few spots in Suffolk, notably on a couple of roadside nature reserves within easy reach of home. It was to one of these not far from Stowmarket that I made for on Sunday. After a winding route through the lanes I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of it on a lovely flower-packed verge - along with Meadow Vetchling, Agrimony, Pyramidal Orchids and Greater Knapweed

On the way home we called into another spot near Gislingham where Meg Miller had kindly given me a location for Sharp-leaved Fluellen. It was found easily on the edge of a cereal field together with Common Orache, Scarlet Pimpernel and Redshank.

On Friday while at work in Pulham St Mary a surprise Spotted Flycatcher popped up on a chimney while I was up some scaffolding and on Monday I stopped to investigate some roadside plants beside the A140 roundabout to find they were the scarce Spiny Restharrow rather than it's commoner cousin.  

                                                                                                                                     Yellow Vetchling
                                                                                                                               Sharp-leaved Fluellen
                                                                                                                                Spotted Flycatcher
                                                                                                                                   Spiny Restharrow

Speaking in Tongues! 4 July 2021

An email received completely out of the blue leads to yet another rare tongue orchid - this time much closer to home - in Suffolk!

The email in question came from someone I don't know but he had been reading this blog and was kind enough to write to me about an orchid he'd found a week previously that he thought I might be interested in. From the attached slightly blurry photograph it was clearly a plant I was very interested in taking a closer look at! He gave me some directions and the following morning I was at the site. Even with the directions it took a few minute to find a plant, and then a second plant just a couple of feet away. I was 99% sure they were Small-flowered Tongue Orchid, Serapia parviflora but having never seen this species before I had no real experience. Both plants were slightly past their best too and this made it a bit more tricky. I sent pics to a couple of friends and when I got home posted them to the wider Twitter community. After several different suggestions the view crystalised and in the end all were happy that my initial id had been correct. Having tried but failed to get any access to the ones found on a London rooftop recently this was a sweet moment indeed - and my 51st UK orchid sp! A Red Kite has earlier sailed over on our approach to the site.      

After doing some family-related visits in Wetherden we ventured to the Sudbury area where I'd been given directsions to some Deptford Pinks which were duly bagged with some Wild Basil at the same spot also very nice to see.

                                                                                                                   Small-flowered Tongue Orchid

                                                                                                                                    Deptford Pink

Shingle and Saltmarsh, 2 & 3 July 2021

This Friday Belinda and I took our new motorhome out on it's maiden voyage! For a while I've wanted our first night of 'wild' camping to be at the lonely Shingle Street so that's where we headed on Friday afternoon after kitting the van out with some essentials. 

Upon arrival at about 16.00 we found a nice level pitch close to the carpark and began our first experience of van life! 

We did a walk that evening taking in the area around the coastguard cottages and area to the north. My main target plant for this site was Yellow Vetch and I found some pretty quickly just north of the cottages. Other coastal plants seen included Sea Pea, Sea Kale, Yellow-horned Poppy, Curled Dock, Vipers Bugloss, Red Valerian, Haresfoot Clover, Biting Stonecrop, English Stonecrop, Sea Campion, Spear-leaved Orache, Greater Quaking Grass, Sea Mouse-ear, Great Mullien and Lady's Bedstraw

The sunset over the marshes with a glass of wine in hand was superb - I'd not felt so chilled for a long time. We went to sleep to the bubbling sound of Curlew.

                                                                                                                                   Yellow Vetch
                                                                                                                                   Sea Mouse-ear
                                                                                                                                      Sea Campion
                                                                                                                                    Sea Pea
  Greater Quaking Grass

                                                                                                                               English Stonecrop

                                                                                                                                    Great Mullien


After a thankfully peaceful and uneventful night we had some breakfast and moved the van to another spot just north along the road and set our for a morning walk north to Hollesley Marshes and in particular Simpson's Saltings. The plant at the top of my list was the rare Sea Heath and I found 2 small patches. Into the bargain there was plenty of other interest too - Sea Clubrush, Knotted Hedge Parsley, Slender Thistle, a very welcome find of Lax-flowered Sea Lavender, Greater Sea Spurrey, Lesser Sea Spurrey, Hoary Cress and Perennial Ryegrass. A massive Emperor Moth caterpillar was also a nice spot. Back by the van I then found a good-sized patch of Narrow-leaved Ragwort, only the 2nd time I've seen this scarcity.

                                                                                                                                Sea Heath
                                                                                                                             Knotted Hedge Parsley
                                                                                                                     Lax-flowered Sea Lavender
                                                                                                                         Emperor Moth caterpillar
                                                                                                                           Narrow-leaved Ragwort