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January 4th 2015

4 Jan

Quite excited as today Lynda and I are off to the Suffolk coast for a spot of birding. The morning is frosty but sunny and cold -1C.

Our first port of call was to be Dunwich Marshes but en-route I picked up 2 new species. By the old gravel pits at Withersdale Street I picked up 2 Egyptian Geese in a field and near the Blythburgh water tower a Song Thrush flew over the road in front of us.

We started walking from the beach car park in Dunwich at 10:20, already there were a few dog walkers out and about. It was strange walking on the shingle defense bank because it was frozen solid. Although lumpy it was actually easier to walk on. I have never experienced it in the state before.  Because of the hard frost most of the standing water on the marsh was frozen but there were still a few areas of open water.

Managed to pick up some new waterfowl for the year plus a few shorebirds but the bird of the morning was Hen Harrier, a fine male quartering over the marsh.

Black-headed Gull (10)
Great Black-backed Gull (3)
Carrion Crow (4)
Cormorant ( 4)
Common Redshank (20)
Skylark (10)
Pheasant (10)
Shelduck (4)
Reed Bunting (2)
Teal (50)
Rock Pipit (1)
Dunlin (20)
Snipe (3)
Greylag Goose (50)
Wigeon (10)
Shoveler (4)
Lapwing (10)
Meadow Pipit (3)
Mute Swan (6)
Herring Gull (6)
Little Grebe (1)
Gadwall (2)

After leaving the marsh we entered Dunwich Forest and returned to Dunwich village. Here we had views into the wood on our right but still had occasional spots where we could scan the marsh.

Chaffinch (2)
Magpie (2)
Carrion Crow (4)
Greylag Goose (6)
Mallard (6)
Lapwing (8)
Marsh Harrier (1)
Teal (8)
Snipe (2)
Long-tailed Tit (2)
Blackbird (2)
Shelduck (4)
Robin (1)
Great Tit (1)
Jackdaw (4)
Hen Harrier (1)
Coal Tit (1)
Pied Wagtail (1)

From here we drove to Shingle Street, this is one of my favourite places on the Suffolk coast. Today the parking bay was full, just too many people. It was mid afternoon when we arrived so fortunately some of the people were leaving. The tide was low revealing more of the shingle banks than I had seen before.  Being so late in the afternoon I was hoping for perhaps another Hen Harrier or a Short-eared Owl.

The first thing which was noticeable was a large gathering of Cormorant out on a shingle bank, 200 birds in total, there were a  few shorebirds in amongst them which meant getting a little closer to positively id even with the scope. Dunlin, Turnstone and Grey Plover. Continuing further along the sea defence bank we got closer and closer to the prison. As I was scanning around a caught a glimpse of a bird just before it dropped below the inner sea wall. I was sure it was a shorty but had to wait a while before it re appeared.  This time it cam our side of the wall flew along and back, occasionally flying much higher. It was a short-eared Owl as if one was not enough it was joined by a second bird and at times they flew together. Fantastic.

Suddenly the light dropped, I thought the sun had dipped behind a cloud, I turned to have a look but it was not a cloud it was a thick bank of fog, it quickly engulfed us the it became very dull and the temperature plumetted. that was pretty much it for the afternoon so we turned and headed back to the car.

Cormorant (200)
Grey Heron (2)
Turnstone (10)
Dunlin (50)
Grey Plover (6)
Herring Gull (10)
Little Egret (2)
Short-eared Owl (2)

This now puts me on 64 species for 2015. Back to work tomorrow but I will be scanning the roadside trees for Little Owl and the roadside fields for partridge and Golden Plover. Every little helps!

January 2nd, 2015

2 Jan

Happy New Year

This is my first posting for the new year. Yesterday was a crap day really, very dull all day with little to see and never moved from home anyway so just clocked 18 species from the garden.

Today, it was mild, glorious and sunny and after a night of strong westerly wind it dropped to a breeze. Lynda and I went for a walk around Redgrave and Lopham Fen in Suffolk, about a 10 minute drive from home.

Redgrave and Lopham Fen is the largest valley fen in England and one of the most important Wetlands in Europe. This special place supports a diverse range of plants and animals, but it’s not just a fen. You can also explore the areas of woodland, heath and even follow the river Waveney that rises here.

With over 270 plant species Redgrave and Lopham Fen boasts a diversity of plant life to satisfy the keenest of botanists. Those interested in birds will not be disappointed either. In the summer you can see hobbies skimming the pools catching dragonflies and an evening walk rewarded with the view of a hunting barn owl. In the winter you might be lucky enough to see the starling roost. In 1956 the fen was the first place the fen raft spider was found in Britain and is still only found in a handful of places.

The pools in the central region of Middle Fen are the habitat of the very rare fen inhabitant Fen Raft Spider (Dolomedes Plantarius). You may be fortunate enough to see a spider at the water’s edge, with cream or white stripes down its sides.

We walked the Waveney Trail, taking us through Fen, Woodland and past some shallow pools very close to the source of the River Waveney.

Birds seen included;

Carrion Crow  (5)
Rook (12)
Magpie (4)
Jay (1)
Wren (2)
Dunnock (1)
Robin (1)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (4)
Water Rail (2 heard)
Grey Heron (1)
Shoveler (6)
Long -tailed Tit (12)
Blackbird (4)
Fieldfare (3)
Moorhen (20)
Mute Swan (6)
Kestrel (2)
Jackdaw (1)
Mallard (8)
Chaffinch (2)
Blue Tit (3)
Great Tit (2)
Pheasant (1)
Common Buzzard (1)
Linnet (1)
Great Spotted Woodpecker (1)

Sunday 28th December 2014

28 Dec

What a fantastic day, a hard frost last night followed by hours and hours of blue sky and sunshine. The breeze was biting this morning as Lynda and I made our way along the shoreline at RSPB Snettisham in Norfolk. We had left home at 06:15 to ensure we arrived on the Norfolk coast in time to watch the pinkies leave their roost on the Wash  We were not disappointed, leaving in waves and stretching out over the sky like scribblings from a calligraphers pen nib (do calligraphers scribble?). We must have easily seen upwards of 30,000 birds all heading off to feed inland on sugar beet tops on any suitable field.

After the spectacle of the geese we walked and looked at shorebirds, though they were spread far and wide due to the fact that the tide was well out leaving a vast expanse of mud.  Lots of Dunlin, maybe 200, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatcher all interspersed by hundreds of Shelduck.

From here we called in at the Thornham Deli for a most agreeable Deli Breakfast then on to RSPB Titchwell. A quick top up of Christmas cards, well they were 50% off and I bought the 2013 Norfolk Bird Report. Dumped these in the car then we set off for the beach and some more birding.

2014-12-28 12.58.14    The beach at RSPB Titchwell looking towards Brancaster

With just an initial quick scan of the scrapes we made our way to the beach to check for shorebirds and sea duck. There were a few Sanderling and a couple of Dunlin and approx 50 Oystercatcher on the shoreline as we walked towards Brancaster. A small flock of Goldfinch were flitting about along the dunes with 3 Linnet in amongst them.  The only birds scopeable on the sea were a couple of Goldeneye.  As we turned to make our return journey the tide was a bit higher and a few more shorebirds were gathering, more Sanderling and a few Turnstone.

We now continued along the beach in the opposite direction walking towards Thornham and Holme Dunes. The sea appeared to be more fruitful with a small group of Long-tailed Duck, more Goldeneye and about 50 Eider. Now on the shoreline we had Turnstone, Sanderling and 30 Bar-tailed Godwit.

2014-12-28 13.10.38 The beach at RSPB Titchwell looking towards Thornham and Holme Dunes.

As we approached the creek which feeds Thornham Harbour there were about 200 Dunlin roosting on a raised sand bar. Gulls included Great Black-backed and Herring.

Re joining the main footpath we walked back past the scrapes this time giving them a more thorough going over. 20 Avocet, 50 Black-tailed Godwit, lots of Redshank, some Lapwing and about 100 Brent Geese.

Full list for today as follows:

Pink-footed Goose 28,000+
Greylag Goose 100
Canada Goose 10
Shelduck 200
Wigeon 150
Mallard 50
Teal 350
Goldeneye 8
Grey Partridge 8
Pheasant 12
Little Grebe 8
Cormorant 30
Grey Heron 1
Little Egret 1
Oystercatcher 350
Grey Plover 6
Golden Plover 200
Lapwing 50
Common Redshank 20
Curlew 100
Dunlin 400
Black-headed Gull 20
Barn Owl 1
Little Owl 1
Jay 1
Magpie 1
Great Tit 4
Blue Tit 6
Wren 1
Robin 1
Blackbird 4
Bullfinch 2
Goldfinch 30
Linnet 8

Saturday 27th December 2014

27 Dec

After a night of heavy rain the sky was blue the sun shone and the wind blew a cold biting blow across the fields. Lynda and I walked from Hinderclay, close to Botesdale, round to Redgrave and back to Hinderclay, about 2.5 miles.

Walking down Cowfen Lane we disturbed a few Blackbirds which were feeding on fallen Crab Apples, otherwise it was quiet down the lane. When we emerged at the end into open countryside we noticed several Black-headed Gulls on and over the fields, there were a few Carrion Crows with the gulls on the ground. A Pied Wagtail flew over and as we continued walking we flushed a small flock of approx 20 Skylark.

The rivers were swollen after the heavy nights downpour with silty water pushing through the bare partially submerged trees. As we approached the edge of the fishing lakes 3 Cormorant  circled overhead.

After yesterday it was pleasing not to have dozens of dogs running around our feet.

Walking past a stretch of wet grassland and sedge I notice the silhouette of a bird flying low over the field it had rapid wing beats and a very direct flight. This was a Kingfisher, I picked it up in my binoculars as it continued flying over the field then noticed that in front of it was a second bird. Always a pleasure seeing one Kingfisher two together was a bonus.

Turning away from Botesdale and walking towards Redgrave another Cormorant flew over and a quick scan, albeit distant, over Redgrave Lake revealed 2 Mute Swan.

In Redgrave we saw a couple of Jay’s about 20 Rook, Chaffinch, Blue and Great Tit. The only remaining highlight for the walk was 6 Roe Deer on a field as we walked home.

Total list for the day including yard birds.

Mute Swan 2,
Cormorant 4
Sparrowhawk 1
Common Buzzard 1
Black-headed Gull 10
Woodpigeon 20
Collared Dove 4
Kingfisher 2
Jay 2
Rook 20
Carrion Crow 8
Skylark 20
Coal Tit 1
Great Tit 3
Blue Tit 6
Wren 1
Robin 2
Blackbird 3
Fieldfare 30
Starling 10
Dunnock 2
Pied Wagtail 2
Chaffinch 10
Greenfinch 1
House Sparrow 3

Boxing Day 2014

27 Dec

Today Lynda and I went for a walk around Knettishall Heath Nature Reserve, as site owned and managed by Suffolk Wildlife Trust. It was Boxing Day and there were a lot of people blowing off the Christmas Day cobwebs and no doubt walking off a few mince pies.

We have linked the Woodland, Heath and River walks together together to make one large circular walk of probably 2.5 miles.  The trust have owned this site for 5 years and now have it listed as a nature reserve as opposed to its former status of Country Park. it is 175 hectares in size and has a few remnants of typical Breckland habitat.

The woodland walk started off very quiet on the bird front, no doubt due to the noise of barking dogs and people shouting and whistling dogs. We did manage to hit upon a small flock of Chaffinch and mixed tits; Blue, Great, Coal and Marsh, also a few Blackbird. Sadly that was it for the entire walk we just encountered more dogs and most of them were off the leash bounding about.

The trust arrange/allow special days for a group calling themselves Hounds of the Heath it has a membership of close to 200, this is very alarming. My assessment of the site on this day is that in 5 years of ownership and management by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust it has gone to the dogs in every sense of the word.

In total we saw around 60 dogs and I do not think 10 were on leads. As a New Years grouse I have emailed the trust to inform  them of my feelings and the fact that I have cancelled my subscription. I have also tweeted and Face booked some comments.  I am appalled by what I witnessed today the trust have ruined a decent site.

Christmas Day 2014

26 Dec

A fantastic sunny morning after a frosty night.

Could not miss the opportunity so Lynda and I went for a walk around our local fens (Hinderclay, Thelnetham, Blo Norton, Webb’s and Parkers Piece). All part of the Little Ouse Headwaters Project (LOHP).

First stop was the duck farm slurry lagoon in the hope of an overwintering Green Sandpiper. No such luck just 8 feeding Teal and a Carrion Crow.  Walking through Hinderlay Fen several wrens were seen along with Blackbird and a few Woodpigeon. Overall it was quiet.  Approaching Thelnetham Fen I scanned the marsh area for Jack Snipe, must be on holiday with the Green Sandpipers, it was void of birds.

From here we crossed the river Little Ouse and continued through Blo Norton Fen. More wrens a few Great Tit and Blue Tit. Then we came across a small tit and finch flock. Blue, Great, Long-tailed and Marsh Tit, with yet more wrens and Chaffinch. Eagerly checking for Brambling but none of those either. Re joining the river we flushed one Little Egret and heard a Great-spotted Woodpecker calling. 2 Pheasants a few more wrens and that was about it until we were walking back into the village. High up I could hear Golden Plover calling but could not locate them, they called again and this time I spotted them, about 60 birds flew over wheeled around and dropped just over the brow of a hill onto a field we had walked past.  It was great to see them as they turned and called the light. They did not stay more than a few minutes then up and over the county boundary into Norfolk

Fairly quiet all in all with goldies being the bird of the day.

Christmas Eve 2014

24 Dec

At home most of the day today. Breezy but lots of sunshine, so nice and clear.

Not  much activity at the bird table just Starling, Blue and Great Tit, Dunnock, Blackbird. Plenty of Lesser Black-backed Gull flying over and several Black Headed. 3 Raptors seen from the garden, frequent views of a Kestrel, a female Sparrowhawk and a quick sighting of a Common Buzzard being chased by Carrion Crows.

Went for a walk very close to the village, plenty of Blackbirds eating the remnants of Crab Apples on the floor, also saw a small party of Long-tailed Tits. Spindle berries have just about dropped off the bushes or been eaten.  Back home now to wait for the International Space Station to fly over.

Merry Christmas

Start to Growing Season

27 Dec

Boxing Day is the traditional date for sowing onions but as I was not at home I kicked my growing season off to a start by sowing Bedford Champion onions and putting them in my airing cupboard this morning (26th December).  They should germinate in about 7 days then I will move them to a light warm room until large enough to transplant into larger pots.

I then went outside and planted my Garlic. This year I am trying the variety; Albigensian Wight. These were purchased the Isle of Wight Garlic Farm.

Boxing Day

27 Dec

I began the day in Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire. I was hoping to catch up with Hawfinch as they usually frequent the grounds around the chapel, but today I was out of luck. It was literally freezing while I waited, scanning the tree tops and listening for thier calls.

Several Nuthatch were active calling and flying from tree to tree, as were a number of Goldcrest.  Stock Dove and Woodpigeon braved the frosty start and were singing.


From here I drove to the village of Lound and walked around a section of the Idle Valley Nature Reserve. the whole complex covers a huge area and is mainly disused gravel pits with alot of willow scrub and a small section of woodland.



View from Neatholme Lane looking North towards Blaco Hill Farm

Waterfowl were well represented with Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Canada and Greylag Goose on all the pits. Large numbers of Coot were also present.  Beyond the River Idle on Hayton Common there were about 80 Mute Swans with a small group of Whooper Swan.  It was very pleasing to see a flock of 30 Lesser Redpoll in Linghurst Wood.

Castleton December 7 2013

23 Dec

Left East Anglia early for a day around Castleton in the Peak District.  We were picked up by other members of our walking club (Norfolk Hillwalking Club) from Swaffham at 07:00.   The weather was OK as we drove across the fens towards the Friendly Farmer cafe which was to be our breakfast stop.  After a hearty breakfast we set off on the final leg of our journey, this time I was at the helm of the minibus.

At just after 10:30 we pulled up in the car park at the rear of the visitor centre in Castleton. There were 9 of us in total and we split in to two groups each doing a slightly different walk.  My plan was to leave Castleton on the Hope road then turn behind Lose Hill Hall and walk up to the top of Lose Hill. From here I planned to walk along the ridge to Hollins Cross, then MamTor.


Looking back towards Lose Hill


A lonesome Pine

The weather forecast was quite respectable for the day, not to cold, fine but windy. If we were really luck we might even see the sun!  There were a lot of people walking the ridge and some, judging by their footwear had just jumped off of one of the many coaches in the car park below.  We stopped for lunch just before reaching the top of Mam Tor. I knew it would be our best chance of shelter from the wind.  Lunch stop was a wise decision. S we approached the top of Mam Tor the wind was so strong people were holding on to each other to keep upright. This reminded me of a similar day a few years earlier in the very same place. It was a far cry from our last visit in August when we introduced our Granddaughter to hills.  Being a Norfolk girl she had never seen a decent hill before.  She was well impressed with the vistas from Mam Torr.

After leaving Mam Tor we made our way over the road heading towards the Limestone Way. From here I was walking towards Cave Dale past Peverill Castle and back in  to Castleton


Walking towards Cavedale

Cave Dale is a small but very pretty dale leading towards the rear of Peverill Castle. As its name suggests there are some small caves which can be sen as you walk through.


Cave Dale

A short walk of just over 8 miles, but it did allow time for a cup of tea in Castleton and a wander through the visitor centre.