Early signs of spring, 27 March 2021

Determined to get some serious walking mileage under our belts we ventured once again to our nearest stretch of coast. Parking along the lane to Westwood Lodge on the edge of Walberswick I was just getting out of the car when a Woodlark serenaded us - a nice start! Our circular walk initially took us down through Hoist Covert and down onto the beach via Dingle Marshes. It was very obvious that Chiffchaffs have now arrived en-masse with singers everywhere. Apart from that there was very little else to make it seem like spring.

Or walk continued over Dingle Hill and eventually down into Dunwich village, west along Sandy Lane before heading north through Dunwich Forest and Newdelight Covert and back via Westwood Lodge. The Daffodils at Dingle Hill were an amazing spectacle, a patch of Small Nettle less so (but they sting like a bitch so probably don't care!) In Dunwich Forest I located 3 singing Firecrests in an area I've had them before. One showed extremely well making me wish I had my camera with me! A little further on, inspection of a noisy flock of Siskins in birches revealed c15 Lesser Redpolls with them. Near Westwood Lodge the fields on both sides of the track held a total of 8 'tenebrosis' Pheasants (those that look like Green Pheasants apart from the lack of a pale grey rump).

A small detour on the way home took us to Hen Reedbeds for a quick coffee break. Here I walked a short way along the path by Wolsey Creek and found the Taiga Bean Goose in a distant field with Greylags. Then I noticed a chattering above my head and c30 Sand Martins were watched well hawking over the reeds - always a fantastic site to herald spring and ealier than I see them most years. Back near the car careful litfing of the corrugated iron sheets revealed 2 Grass Snakes, one of which was very inquisitive and showed very nicely, often coming very close to check us out!

                                                                                                                             'tenebrosis' Pheasant
                                                                                                                                           Grass Snake
                                                                                                                           how many Daffodils?!
                                                                                                                                         Small Nettle

Fingered Speedwell, a red data list species on the brink, 25 March 2021

Fingered Speedwell is one of four rare Breckland speedwells (the others being Breckland, Spiked and Spring) and it clings on to a precarious existence on small remnants of it's former range. One of those is a 'managed' verge that is now in the middle of a modern housing estate. It was here I looked yesterday while out on a work visit nearby. I scoured the small area, walking backwards and forwards along the pavement and had no luck at all. Then my eye was caught by some interesting looking plants behind some railings and closer inspection through bins revealed they were indeed Fingered Speedwells. The problem is they were actually in someone's garden and I needed to get closer for some photographs! Never being one to let things like that deter me I stepped over a low rail and on hands and knees began taking a few pics. Then the house owner came out to her car and spotted me! To her credit she asked if I was OK and when I explained what I was doing she was happy for me to continue! He toddler looked on bemused as I clicked away. Having seen Breckland Speedwell here in the past I was very pleased to see this species too, albeit tinged with sadness that probably some of the last plants in the UK are now actually in a garden and so vulnerable. A buzzing (presumed) Lesser Redpoll flew over while I was there. 

With a little time to spare I visited another nearby site and was able to see several wild Grape Hyacinchs and some good patches of Oregon Grape.

On the drive home a roadside casualty caught my eye so I parked and walked back to confirm my suspicions - it was a freshly dead Western Polecat

                                                                                                                                Fingered Speedwell
                                                                                                                               Wild Grape Hyacinth
                                                                                                                                         Oregon Grape

                                                                                                                                 Western Polecat

Dickleburgh Moor, 24 March 2021

A quick hour down on the patch this afternoon. 

Highlights were the female Goldeneye found a few days ago still present (and a new site bird for me) plus c20 Gadwall, 4 Teal, c10 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebes and 3 Little Egrets. The 2 pairs of Oystercatchers were still about and a glimpse of spring in the form of  Chiffchaff singing along the western edge of the reserve.

It was nice to bump into Ben the warden and have a catch up too.


Tawny family, 23 March 2021

With some directions and handy nearby parking Belinda and I took our middle grandaughter and her friend out to see a Tawny Owl family after school yesterday. They were delighted to see 3 'cute and fluffy' but full size youngsters being watched over by a single adult bird. I was pretty delighted too as they sat very chilled and relaxed allowing me to get some nice pics!


Knettishall Heath, 21 March 2021

A long walk around Knettishall Heath CP on a rather dull Sunday. 

After c6 Lesser Redpolls and a few Siskins at the start of our walk it was very quiet for most of the time. Towards the end however it was pleasing to note 2 singing Chiffchaffs close to the river and some nice fungi including a birch log absolutely covered in Hoof Fungus, still a scarce species in East Anglia. Some Cramp Balls and Velvet Shanks were also seen and as we neared the carpark along the riverbank a lovely Water Vole showed very nicely swimming in the water. Walking a circuit of more open ground near where we had parked then gave us 2 Woodlarks

On the way home we stopped at Market Weston Fen for another walk noting one more Chiffchaff, Yellowhammer and 2 Reed Buntings but little else.

                                                                                                                                           Hoof Fungus

The coast at last! 19 March 2021

A sunny Friday off work for both of us so we safely headed to our nearest stretch of coast.

This is of course the Southwold area but knowing the town may well have been packed we stopped short andf went for a short wander at Hen Reedbeds. The whole place was full of early spring activity with Bearded Tits and Reed Buntings much in evidence plus 3 Cetti's Warblers and 3 Marsh Harriers with displaying and gathering of nest material seen. The bird I wanted to see however remained elusive for some while until it finally swam into view on a pool in the reeds - my first Taiga Bean Goose ever outside the Yare Valley.

Our main exercise was however a long walk at nearby Covehithe. Along an ivy-covered hedge I was surprised to find a very early Small White and down at Covehithe Broad the wintering male Long-tailed Duck was still present and looking a bit nicer than it was in December. A single drake Shoveler was also on the broad and I also had several flight/calling views of a Water Pipit which favoured the reeds on the near edge. We also found some good patches of Wild Daffodils along the lanes inland of Beach Farm.

On Saturday, visiting Mum in Norwich I stopped by a Mangreen Quarry where 2 Green Sandpipers were seen easily and well.

                                                                                                                                  Taiga Bean Goose

                                                                                                                                      Marsh Harriers
                                                                                                                                  Long-tailed Duck
                                                                                                                                         Small White

                                                                                                                                   Wild Daffodils

Avocet at Dickleburgh Moor - a local mega! 16 March 2021

With our local grapevine working a treat I dashed down to Dickleburgh after work this afternoon. John Marchant was on the distant Avocet as I arrived which was excellent. It was on the far southern shore and in the time I was there it didn't move an inch! Into the bargain there was also a Shelduck present, another great local bird, plus 4 Oystercatchers and a pair of Egyptian Geese with a single small chick that continues to survive.

Waveney Forest, 14 March 2021

With lockdown easing slightly we ventured a little further for our Sunday walk. One day soon we might even get to see the sea again! 

Jeremy Gaskell had found and kindly given me precise directions to some flowering Spring Starflowers in the forest which gave our walk some purpose. These scarce naturalised plants were found nice and easily at the start of our walk and were looking lovely on the edge of a forest track. Further round our long walk we were put onto a basking Adder which was docile and allowed some nice  lose photographs. 2 Red Kites, numerous Siskins a few Lesser Redpolls and some Wild Daffodils were also seen in the forest and on our loop out to St Olaves and back via the Angles Way.

After visiting my Great Grandmother's grave at Somerleyton church and laying some Mothers Day flowers we walked down to the river from the village. Beside the first flood of Herringfleet Marshes was a nice bright male White Wagtail hinting that spring is just around the corner...


                                                                                                                                    Spring Starflower
                                                                                                                                        Wild Daffodil

Two carparks, two ducks! 13 March 2021

After helping my Mum out in Norwich (well it is Mothers Day tomorrow!) I made a couple of short detours in the vicinity. The first of the two carparks in question were the main one at Whitlingham CP where the dowdy 1w female Scaup was quickly located on Great Broad almost opposite said carpark.

The second carpark was the small one at Wroxham Broad where the drake Eider of the last couple of days was rather more tricky to see. Mainly because it favours the northern end of the broad and the helpful yacht club there have put a fence up meaning viewing that end is rather limited. After a little while however I got onto the very smart looking bird - my first inland Eider ever!   

The Tas Valley, 7 March 2021

We have 2 local rivers - the Waveney and the Tas. The Tas is the smaller and probably less well known river. It rises as 2 tributaries in Hempnall and Carelton Rode which join in Newton Flotman from where the river snakes northward to eventually join the Yare at Trowse. 

On Sunday we did a some ambling around in the lower stretches of the Tas Valley. Firstly round the roman settlement of Venta Icenorum, now known as Caister St Edmund. There were a few people about and after initially failing to find them on our walk I eventually located the 6 Eurasian White-fronted Geese a little further north from near Markshall Bridge. A bit of fieldcraft (aka tresspassing!) and I managed some shots of them as they fed and preened completely unconcerned by my presence.

Another walk around the back of Dunston Hall revealed Nuthatch and Siskins but little else until an alarm-calling Blackbird caught my attention and lo and behold I found a roosting Tawny Owl dozing mostly out of sight in a dead tree. 

Our final walk was a quick lap of Smockmill Common to get our steps up - here I found a couple of fungi of interest, Split Porecrust and an impressive branch full of Blushing Brackets.

                                                                                                             Eurasian White-fronted Geese
                                                                                                                                            Tawny Owl

                                                                                                                                  Blushing Brackets

Sweetbriar Marshes, Norwich, 6 March 2021

Armed with some superb directions from Jeremy Bartlett we waited until we had to go to Norwich and  stopped off at Sweetbriar Marshes on the way through.

Along the riverside path I quickly found my main target of Alder Goblet on Alder catkins beside the path. Jeremy did so well to find these as they are about 1mm across! Along the same stretch a patch of Scarlet Elf Cups were also beside the path. Many were past their best but one was an absolute stunner.



Crikey - a twitch! 5 March 2021

With the local grapevine working a treat I ventured the whole 3 miles down to Dickleburgh Moor late this afternoon. Stephen Howell had earlier found an adult drake Scaup on the moor and being a local tick I wanted to see it. Upon arrival it took some finding but I eventually located it in the far SE corner and the reason for it being elusive was apparant - it was diving constantly so was probably under water each time I scanned past it! 

Very little else of note except 3 Gadwall, 2 Oystercatchers, c50 Lapwings and 3 Great Crested Grebes.


Weekend wanderings and botanical ticks, 27 & 28 February 2021

We are very fortunate to live where we do and one of our favourite local places for a walk is the Waveney Valley. The section near Mendham is one we do regularly and it was gorgeous in the sun on Saturday. We had already had a female Bullfinch in the garden feeding on fruit buds before we left and not far into the walk a Chiffchaff started singing from the woodland on Target Hill. By far my earliest singer and on a day when many were reported it has to be an early migrant rather than a wintering bird. In the wood further along towards Homersfield we stopped to pick a few Wild Garlic leaves (later made into a delicious wild garlic and rocket pesto) and I was delighted to find a new plant for my list - Spurge Laurel. Returning via the lane I was then even more surprised to find a singing Tree Sparrow that was in a hedge running away from the road! Other birds on the walk included Treecreeper, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpecker, Stock Dove, 2 Little Egrets and 3 Common Buzzards. It was also intereting to find the miniscule female flowers of Common Hazel amongst the very much more obvious male catkins.

Another walk at St Cross gave us a few Fieldfares and my 4th butterfly species before the end of February in the form of a Comma.

                                                                                                                      Spurge Laurel
                                                                                                           Common Hazel, male catkins
                                                                                                            Common Hazel, female flowers


On Sunday I did a little homework on snowdrops and their id before heading out for our daily walk. And it paid off as I managed to find and photograph both Greater Snowdrop and Green Snowdrop amongst many Common Snowdrops


                                                                                                                                  Green Snowdrops

                                                                                                                                Greater Snowdrops