Wednesday 6 December 2023

Lowestoft Life - 6th December 2023

After three days of almost non-stop rain and perpetual gloom when it felt like the sun never rose or set it was pleasing to wake up to a frosty crisp morning once again.  Ice flowers and creepers crept across the car windows as I made my way round to pick up Antony for his appointment at the fracture clinic. 

Unfortunately I picked him up so early that we had to go birding first at Oulton Broad to look for the trio of Divers.  As we reached the Swan gathering spot a big dog Otter broke the surface and sinuously made its way towards the boats.  We followed him round but he was determined to keep going.   What a wondrous sight so close to home.  One of the park keepers said that he would kill it if he could as it takes ‘his’ fish. Tongues were bit…


The Red-throated Diver was gleaming off towards the dead end and several Little Grebes were dotted about as we crossed back over the road to view Mutford Lock.  There were no Divers under the bridges so we followed the path that I took on Saturday but saw nothing all the way up to the old bridge over the railway where we could see several more Little Grebes and two Great Crested Grebes.  Redshanks and Turnstones were on the edges and a single Skylark flew over as we retraced our steps.

Little Grebes


The Black-throated Diver was soon found snorkelling exactly where I saw it last time although the view was somewhat better with some sunshine to make it shine but we could not find the Great Northern.  Back at the road bridge we saw the former even better along with a couple of Kingfishers.


Black-throated Diver

With time creeping on we headed north and I threw Antony out at the hospital lights and continued on up to Breydon Water, opting to try the southern shore accessed from the Rugby club.  The tide was fully out and great splodges of avian bodies dotted the glistening mud.  There were thousands of Wigeon and Teal with flocks of Curlew and Black-tailed Godwits amongst them while the Golden Plover remained separate and shimmered like a puddle of amber mercury. 

Wigeon, Teal, Curlew and Godwits

The whole vista leant itself to similes and adjectives.  Groups of Pintail fed isolated from the other wildfowl and while most waders roosted up, the Dunlin, Knot, Ringed and Grey Plovers that I saw were all scurrying, scything or stop-run-stopping as they actively fed. 

A ridiculously low flying small plane set everything up as it flew down the middle of the estuary.  I am sure that there must be a low fly limit over such an important bird rich area? 

Antony’s appointment did not take as long as expected and I was soon heading back to collect him before yet another attempt to see the Purple Sandpipers at Ness Point.  Having failed six times so far this I was not optimistic but within a few minutes two appeared with the Turnstones on the main jetty and we had some great views as they probed like sewing machines at the invisible life in the tiny trapped pools of water.  As usual, unlike the Turnstones, they were completely unphased by the waves and stayed put while their cousins decided that something from the Bird’s Eye scrap bins was an easier option.

Purple Sandpiper


A subsequent search around the base of Gulliver for Black Redstart was successful with a cracking adult male around the parked cars, shivering that fiery tail while several, undoubtedly wintering Robins were dotted around the flower beds and out buildings.  Pied Wagtails scurried on clockwork legs along the prom and two Meadow Pipits were having a bath in the puddles at the base of the mighty Gulliver.

First time I have seen a Robin on a Whimbrel

Black Redstart 

Time for lunch after a most successful hospital visit…

Saturday 2 December 2023

Lowestoft Life - 30th November to 2nd December 2023

On Thursday morning I took myself back down to Pakefield Beach for an hour after breakfast.  It was cold with a cutting northerly but it was worth the effort once again with lots of duck on the move and I logged four Eider, 125 Common Scoter, 76 Teal, 21 Wigeon, ten Shoveler and two Great Crested Grebe all north, a pair of Velvet Scoter in the Bay and 18 Red-throated Diver and 12 adult Gannet out with the throng of Cormorants.

I picked up Antony at 10.30 and popped up the road to have a look around Fen Park for the first time.  I meant to get into here in the autumn but it never happened.  Ostensibly it was a moth leaf mine walk and we found 19 species including several on Alder and Willow that were new to me.

Phyllocnistis saligna on Willow 

Phyllonorycter viminiella on Willow 

Phyllonorycter froelichiella on Alder

Phyllonorycter klemannella on Alder 

Phyllonorycter rajella on Alder

Phyllonorycter rajella on Alder

The duckweed covered lake held a family of Mute Swans with one of the two cygnets being a striking Polish bird with white plumage, a pinky bill and legs.  There were Mallards and quite a few Moorhens which add to my chance of an over the garden bird one night at some point in the spring!


I had not really noticed the tiny feathers shaped like little snowflakes in the black knob of a male Mute Swan

Polish juv Mute Swan

Kingfishers called from the pools in the wet wood and a couple of parties of Long-tailed Tit totalling at least 30 birds along with a Chiffchaff, a few Blue and Great Tits and Goldcrests.  Five Waxwings zipped over and I imagine that there are Woodcock lurking in here too.

Pittosporum I think

Winter Heliorope

Phytomyza ilicis 

Yesterday - 1st December - was glorious and I took the invalided Antony (he has broken his arm) to Carlton Marshes in the hope that we would both at last get chance of seeing the Eastern Yellow Wagtail that appears to have returned for the winter.  Amazingly Andrew E found a second, first-winter with it yesterday.  My track record last winter was appalling with one flight view and a call being all I got for me efforts.

As usual it was quiet on the walk down to Peto’s although a pair of Stonechats were obliging and the Chinese Water Deer were dotted across the marshes with their thick winter coats exacerbating the Wombatish faces.

Chinese Water Deer 


Starling and

Pheasant - two species that birders rarely look at - stunning

We slipped and skidded our way down the icy path to Peto’s which looked completely frozen.  There were a couple of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails on the ice and then we both saw a pale yellow Wagtail drop in behind the reeds which was frustrating but moments later we picked up the frosty grey and white bird on the ice.  It looked the part and when it came closer you could see the overly long hind claw.  It even pooed on the ice but there was no way of going out to get it!

I called once and then another answered with another buzzy call from the left and in flew the slightly brighter bird.  The light was hard which seemed to bleach out some of the colour that was visible in Andrew’s images but the little smudge of darker yellow on the neck side seemed to suggest that we had not found another Eastern Yellow Wagtail!

Eastern Yellow Wagtail - the crisp first-winter

Eastern Yellow Wagtail - the presumed returning bird

Eastern Yellow Wagtail - not the best of shots but you can see the huge hind claws

Although never in the same spot both birds were visible at the same time although the new one did seem to like the company of the rather dapper Pied Wags.

Carl Buttle joined us for the Wagtail show as we tracked them across the closest field before they all flew off into the middle of the marsh. There were still hundreds of duck and several Marsh Harriers were giving them constant grief.  It was good to see an adult male as well this time.  A Buzzard was on the usual gate out in the middle and a Red Kite was hunting distantly while a Great White Egret behind us looked rather fed up with the cold weather.

Great White Egret

Pink-feet filled the sky and we estimated that about 800 were present but a spot count of one picture of the whole flock produced 1190!  A further 173 then came in giving a total of 1363. Not sure how good a count that is for Suffolk?

1190 Pink-feet

With no need to walk all the way out to the Turnpike Hide where the light would have been poor we headed back for a coffee only to find the visitors centre closed again.  Sam Shippey was not far from my thoughts on this day, the third anniversary of his sudden passing and he would loved our morning walk in the winter sun with the big vistas, swirling duck and whiffling geese.

The weather turned yesterday evening and by this morning it was dank, icy, foggy and still below freezing at lunchtime.  I still dragged myself out for an explore from the Wherry down river past Mutford Lock towards the stone railway bridge at Leathes Ham as both Black-throated and Great Northern Divers had been seen the day before.

A Great Black Backed was on the big post at the lock and surveying for snacks but the Turnstones, Redshanks and Oystercatchers were probably safe although the Little Grebes looked a little nervous.  Two Egyptian Geese watched me warily from the Wherry green.

Egyptian Geese 

Great Black Backed Gull and Cormorant

I followed the narrow path between the marinas, boatyards and warehouses in a similar route to the track through Hoo back in North Kent.  A Kingfisher darted off a piece of Heras fencing and Sparrows chattered from a Bramble clump.  I found Cosmopterix pulchrimella on the Pellitory-of-the-Railway-Wall and Stigmella aceris and Phyllonorycter geniculella on Sycamore and Phyllonorycter rajella on Alder as I walked along.  I found Andrew Easton looming out of the murk and had had both Divers just drifting back the way I had come.

Stigmella aceris

House Sparrow

Cosmopterix pulchrimella




With a little patience they both headed back our way and could be seen feeding in the main channel although the boats and fog made it a useful lesson in judging shape and posture.  Very much an ‘essence of’ experience.

Atmospheric Black-throated Diver

I ambled back but could not find the Otter seen by others and crossed the road to have a look from the Commodore beer garden for the Red-throated Diver which was dutifully paddling up and down.  I am used to seeing them winging their way up and down the coast but it was good to watch one of flat calm fresh water for a change. A Kingfisher was sat one one of the picnic benches.

Red-throated Diver

The cold was getting through my layers so I headed home.  I still find it amazing that all these places are so close to home.