Whitlingham CP, a flying visit, 28 April 2018

A very quick 20 minutes at Whitlingham early this afternoon before meeting Jus for the footy.

What I hoped for was a Swift for my yearlist and sure enough I scored. I don't like April to go by without seeing one! The surface of Great Broad was alive with hirundines - there must have been at least 350 birds with 85% of them being Swallows with lesser numbers of House Martins and even less of Sand Martins. All grounded by the bad weather. Then, as I walked back a female Wheatear flew past me and settled on the grass between Little Broad and Great Broad. An unexpected a welcome yeartick and quite an unusual one for the site as Jus later confirmed that he's never seen one there. Other than a couple of singing Blackcaps and c8 Common Terns that was all I had time for.

Yearlist = 192


Local bits, 26 April 2018

Not a huge amount to report due to work commitments but today in Pulham St Mary while working a Grey Wagtail flew over and having heard it singing in the distance I tracked down a Willow Warbler singing at the sewage works (a local rarity). There were also a pair of Stock Doves there and a Common Buzzard.

A quick stroll alongside Ocean Pit at Weybread this evening gave me my first Reed Warbler of the year in the usual spot plus 2 Common Terns, c50 House Martins, c6 Sand Martins, a couple of Swallows but still no Swifts. 3 Brown Hares were amongst the geese on the fields and a Roe Deer was at Starston on the way home.

Yearlist = 190  

Martins' Meadows, Suffolk, 24 April 2018

One of the things I really enjoy in the spring/summer months is a poke around some of the small and little known nature reserves in hidden corners of East Anglia.
Martins' Meadows is a SWT reserve near Framlingham and I spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering around the 3 main meadows and orchards that form the reserve. One of the main attractions here is Snakeshead Fritillary and I found c50 plants in the largest meadow amongst large numbers of Early Purple Orchids in the sea of Cowslips. Around the edge there was also the odd clump of Goldilocks Buttercups.

The main species I wanted to see was eluding me though but during my search I did find a few Green-winged Orchids but with only a singleton in flower. A Common Twayblade was also still a rosette. Eventually my quarry was spotted - a gorgeous Wild Tulip growing beneath a tree. I'd spent ages looking so then spent ages photographing it!

Wild Tulip

Green-winged Orchid

 Snakeshead Fritillary
Goldilocks Buttercup

Early Purple Orchids

Early Purple Orchids and Cowslips


Spring flowers and insects, 22 April 2018

Feeling a little jaded this morning we loafed around the garden as I emptied the moth trap after it's first outing of the year. Around the garden were 3 Holly Blues (the first of the year), Large White, Speckled Wood and Orange Tip while the trap yielded Yellow-barred Brindle, Streamer, Early Thorn, Early Grey, Powdered Quaker, Small Quaker, Clouded Drab and Hebrew Character.

This afternoon we had a leisurely stroll around Ashwellthorpe Wood where there were plenty of Early Purple Orchids in flower plus I noted Barren Strawberry among the huge numbers of Wood Anenome, Lesser Celandine, Dogs Mercury, Bluebells and Wild Garlic. Belinda drew my attention to several snails on tree trunks that turned out to be White-lipped Banded Snails. Butterflies included Comma, Peacock, Orange Tip, Green-veined White and Brimstone. 

A garden rarity in the form of 2 Mistle Thrushes rounded off a lazy day.

Early Thorn

Speckled Wood

White-lipped Banded Snail

Barren Strawberry

Early Purple Orchids

 Orange Tip, female

The orchid season begins...21 April 2018

A quick wander around Tyrrel's Wood this afternoon after having to work on a Saturday morning!
We made our way to the only spot in the wood where Early Purple Orchid occurs to find just 2 plants in flower, a few more were in bud but most were still just rosettes. It was nice to kick the orchid season off as I anticipate a trip to Scotland in June for a few new ones.
Also around the wood were plenty of Common Dog Violets, a few Early Dog Violets and a couple of patches of Wood Sorrel. Birdwise there was a Chiffchaff with an odd song (chiff chaff chaff), Nuthatch and Blackcap plus my first Large White of the year.

A quick look at the roadside nature reserve just outside the wood was a bit too early for Sulphur Clover but there was an impressive clump of 'False Oxlip' (hybrid Cowslip x Primrose) 
In the garden at home we have 2 Blackcaps, 1 Chiffchaff plus today the first Orange Tips, Green-veined White, Bee-flys, Tree Bumblebee, and Tawny Mining Bees.

Early Purple Orchid

Early Purple Orchid rosette

Early Dog Violet

Wood Sorrel

  And she says she's not into orchids!

Three walks - Hardley Flood, Rockland and Surlingham, 15 April 2018

Continuing the walking theme of the weekend we did 3 shorter ones today.

Starting at Hardley Flood this proved to be the highlight with 13 Little Gulls, 1 Arctic Tern and 2 Common Terns gracing the flood. All but one of the Little Gulls were adults most sporting full hoods and lovely pink underparts. Also there were a single Sedge Warbler, Water Rail, Common Buzzard, 2 Shelduck, c40 Sand Martins and a distant singing Willow Warbler on the other side of the River Chet. Then, on the walk back a single Swallow flew over - at last! 3 lingering Redwings were at Langley Abbey on the way past.

Next up was a walk from Rockland Staithe down to the broad to have our lunch. The broad itself was very disappointing but c8 Willow Warblers, 2 Sedge Warblers and 4 Cetti's Warblers were in song and a male Marsh Harrier was very close. I also found a small patch of Few-flowered Garlic, a new plant for me.

Lastly we did a lap of Surlingham Church Marsh. Again it was pretty quiet with c4 Willow Warblers, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Swallows being about it. We also paid homage to Ted Ellis's grave at the ruins of St Saviours Church.

Yearlist = 188

Few-flowered Garlic

       Ted Ellis's grave at the ruins of St Saviours Church, Surlingham

Dunwich, Minsmere, Southwold 14 April 2018

Primarily a walking day where we covered 6 miles around Dunwich Heath, Scottshall Coverts and a circuit of Minsmere reserve.

It was fairly slow bird wise but a reeling Grasshopper Warbler on the north side of North Marsh was my earliest date by 3 days. There were also plenty of Sand Martins back at their breeding cliff while we enjoyed some cafe fayre at Minsmere cafe. On the scrape were plenty of Mediterranean Gulls and around the reserve we also had c4 Bitterns booming, 3 Water Rails squealing, Stonechat, 2 Bearded Tits and a single Sandwich Tern flew over the beach towards the scrape. A sharp-eyed Belinda picked up a lovely Orange Ladybird on a birch tree on the edge of Dunwich Heath and a Comma was my first of the year. Tucked away near the sluice was a clump of very wild looking Daffodils.

Walking back along the entrance road at Dunwich I picked up a gorgeous Firecrest which showed well in a large bush by the road c200 yards north of the clifftop tearooms.

Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are now widespread, including in the garden at home where we also have a Great Spotted Woodpecker excavating a nest hole.

To round the day off an early evening wander down the old railway line at Southwold in the sun and the drake Green-winged Teal found earlier in the day was quickly found on a flash, albeit at the back and asleep!

Yearlist = 185

Orange Ladybird

 Wild Daffodils


American Bittern, Carlton Marshes, 10 April 2018

After a complete lack of enthusiasm for standing in the rain waiting for it on Sunday and work since then I finally dragged myself to Carlton Marshes this afternoon.

After the long walk out to Share Marsh on the western side of the reserve I was stood there scanning and chatting with the Burtons for just 5 minutes when the American Bittern was picked up behind us and gave good flight views along the bank before dropping onto Peto Marsh just over the bank. We hot-footed it back there and from the top of the bank. 15 minutes later it got up from the reed-filled ditch just 10 yards in front of us for some truly amazing views before dropping down into a small patch of reeds near the 'ramp' on the track. From there a little while later it then wandered into view across a grassy strip and went on to show superbly on the deck as it gradually moved away from us along the ditch that runs along the east side of the scrape. My mind was well and truly blown! It was a shame that I'd left my camera in my van expecting distant misty views at best!

Apart from a couple of singing Cetti's Warblers, a single Sedge Warbler, Snipe and several Marsh Harriers that was it. A classic after work twitch and my first American Bittern since 1991

Yearlist = 180

Steve Gantlett's amazing shot of the American Bittern when it flew up right in front of us is here 

   The circuit the American Bittern did today

Kessingland/Benacre/Covehithe trudge, 6 April 2018

A trudge it certainly was. It really was hard work birdwise but if I counted the steps I walked then it must have done me some good!
A Red Kite swooping low over the A143 at Ellingham on the way lulled me into a false sense that it might be a good day! 
The best I could manage at Kessingland was a male Stonechat at the sluice plus Grey Wagtail, c2 Chiffchaffs and Reed Bunting at the sewerage works. Benacre Broad did at least give me yeartick in the form of an adult Little Gull at the west end which quickly got up and was hawking insects above the tree line.
A further walk down to Covehithe Broad was rewarding for c5 White Wagtails with c15 Pied Wagtails in the field to the south of the broad and then on the beach. The flock was really flighty so despite my best efforts I didn't get any shots. 3 Ringed Plover, 3 Shoveler, Little Grebe, c20 Chaffinches and Marsh Harrier were about it. Then on the way out of Covehithe village a gorgeous 'blue' Common Pheasant (tenebrosis) sat in a field for a photo!

Yearlist = 178

'Blue' Common Pheasant

      'Blonde' Brown Rat

Penduline Tit, Leathes Ham, 3 April 2018

An after work sojourn to Lowestoft for this little beauty. Initially I got a brief but good view of the male Penduline Tit in hawthorns right at the bridge end of Leathes Ham but eventually it gave in to some great views in trees along the lower path. Interestingly I never saw it on one of the many bullrushes as it prefered to eat buds in the trees. It was also doing plenty of singing - a very high pitched trill and an equally high 'tsiii' call.

Also there were c4 Chiffchaffs in the reeds, a female Sparrowhawk over, 2 Wigeon lingering on the water and plenty of Little Grebe trilling.

Yearlist = 177

Penduline Tit


A Watery Patch! 2 April 2018

Back down to earth today with a quick walk at the patch (Weybread GPs) with Belinda in the rain this afternoon.
Water levels are insanely high with the Waveney having burst its banks in several places. Our walking was blocked by floods all over the place.
Best was the first singing Blackcap of the year along Watermill Lane with 2 Chiffchaffs, 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Mistle Thrushes being the only other things of note.

  Water, water, everywhere!

American White-winged Scoter twitch, 1 April 2018

This bird was found last weekend and being a new world bird for me it had been bugging me all week! Lack of transport was an issue for me with just my crappy van but luckily Dave Russell was hatching a plan to go during the Easter weekend. With some domestic re-arrangements made Jus joined us too.  There was just one window of opportunity over the weekend when the weather forecast looked good and that was Sunday.

We left Hethersett at 14.30 on Saturday and drove straight up, managing to secure a room in a Travelodge in Musselburgh. Being just 10 minutes away we were on site by 08.00 in the morning and the small group of birders there had already located the drake American White-winged Scoter in a small group of c12 Velvet Scoters. The light was superb so despite the distance of c800 meters we managed some nice views of this subtle bird. Compared to the Velvets it had a noticably larger and more 'upturned' white eye patch and in the field at distance this was the most obvious feature. Closer scrutiny revealed a restricted coloured area on the bill which was a peachy-red colour rather than the yellowy-orange on Velvet and the 'stepped' profile of the head from crown down to bill. A further scan of the area gave us a lovely adult drake Surf Scoter, drake Long-tailed Duck, a total of c70 Velvet Scoter, loads of Eider, Shags, plenty of Goldeneye along the River Esk plus Wigeon, 2 Gadwall, Bar-tailed Godwits and Curlew.

 American White-winged Scoter twitch, Musselburgh


Leaving the site we decided to drive 30 minutes east to Gulane and walk out to Gulane Point clocking a Peregrine near Aberlady en-route. Here the variety wasn't what we'd hoped for but c350 Velvet Scoters amongst 1000s of Common Scoter, 1 Scaup, 2 Fulmars, 2 Gannets, good numbers of Razorbills and a single Guillemot. It had become a 4-scoter morning which is a first for me. After a mega breakfast bap at a cafe in Gulane (square sausage anyone?!) we headed back to Musselburgh for 2nd dabs at the scoter. Sadly the flock was no nearer and with the light much worse we didn't hang around except to gawp at the Surf Scoter again!

Making our way through the traffic around the south side of Edinburgh we arrived at Blackford Pond to locate the drake Ring-necked Duck immediately. It showed amazingly well in superb light with a few Tufted Duck as did a pair of Goosander. It was time to quit Scotland and head down the Northumberland coast.

Ring-necked Duck


The pretty coastal village of Low Newton-by-the-Sea was our next destination. Another Peregrine was seen on the way before we strolled down through the village. Around the back of a barn I then found a female/1yr male Black Redstart on a fence post as we continued on (via a boinus fracas with a couple of bellend geordie birders who I pointed out the Black Redstart too only for them then claim I got in their way - the aggression and ingratitude were amazing, as were their faces when Jus and Dave walked around the corner!). On a flood there our target, a Grey Phalarope was showing very nicely, albeit along the back edge. 2 Dunlin and loads of Redshank were also on the pool as were c15 Purple Sandpipers amongst large numbers of Turnstone on a offshore islet. A Rock Pipit also flew over.

By complete contrast the grim coastal town of Newbiggin was our final port of call. Here the male White-spotted Bluethroat only found earlier in the day was showing on arrival on a very narrow strip of beach below a grassy bank.

 White-spotted Bluethroat

Job done we headed home getting back well after midnight.

Yearlist = 176