Monday, 14 November 2022

Suffolk Weekender - 12th-13th November 2022

The drive up to Lowestoft on Friday was without problems but frustratingly I missed the Walberswick Red-rumped Swallows by ten minutes and they had not returned in my allotted hour.  I spent my time watching the Barnacle Geese and a splendid Little Egret while catching up with friends lingering on the river wall.   A couple of Common Darters and a Red Admiral were there to fool us in to thinking it was not November.

Little Egret

Saturday 12th November:

In retrospect I should have tweaked the starting point for Saturday morning and begun at the Swallows (which we would then have seen) but hindsight is a wonderful thing and I stuck to my plan to begin south and head north and we met in the main car park at North Warren at 0800.  It was a glorious morning with a lovely sunrise that illuminated the marshes inland in a golden light that made the assembled duck simply glow.

The number of Pintail was especially pleasing and you could even see a little of that seldom seen green and purple glow in the cheeks of the males.  There were Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and a couple of Mallard and singles of Pink-foot and Canada amongst the Greylags while the large Barnacle flock was keeping to itself in with the cattle.


Pintail - Mark Vale

Pintail - Mark Vale

Mute Swans - Mark Vale

Barnacle Geese

Snipe and Lapwing were out on the pools and a Little Egret was foot shuffling in the shallows.  Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were out there too but there were also quite a few on the shingle beach where Greenfinches, Linnets and the odd Goldfinch fed.

The bushes held strangely showy but still shouty Cetti’s Warblers, a brief Dartford Warbler, Robins, Dunnocks, Wrens and Stonechats and all were keeping an eye on the hovering Kestrel along the verge.



Stonechat - Mark Vale

Kestrel - Marion Bertuzzo

Jackdaw - Antony Wren

House in the Clouds - Thorpeness - Antony Wren

The Swallows were meant to be next but they had already departed so after some faffing around (sorry Marion) we went to Westleton Heath instead.  Layers were removed for the walk – it was warm, still and clear but our circuit was rather oddly quiet with just a couple of Stonechats out on the heather and not a hint of a Dartford Warbler until we were almost back at the car where a Long-tailed Tit flock with a couple of Goldcrests detained us and somehow drew in both Stonechats and a fine male Darty which showed rather nicely.


The lack of birdlife was made up for by regular encounters with basking Common Darters on the paths along with a single Migrant Hawker and three Butterfly species with Red Admiral, two Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell still on the wing.  The Gorse was in full flower in places and was even warm enough to be giving off its coconut scent.  The Honey Bees and a few Bombus terrestris and lapidarius seemed happy to find it.

Common Darter



There were a few fungi around the edges including some Fly Agaric that had gone over.  They looked  a little odd as these ones would have come up in the rain, hence soil still on top. The white bits had then washed off, and the red pigment, being water-soluble had washed out to orange. Thanks to Antony and Su for their input.

Fly Agaric 

Needless to say, where there are leaves there are moth mines and there were plenty to find which kept Antony happy and allowed him to share his knowledge with the group too.  Soon enough everyone was finding green islands in the Sweet Chestnut, Birch and Oak leaves.  I found one that he was particularly pleased with on an Oak leaf - Tischeria dodonaea – which looks a bit like a ring of concentric circles and was only the second he had seen.

Tischeria dodonaea and Ectoedemia subbimaculella 

Ectoedemia albifasciella on English Oak 

Ectoedemia occultella on Birch

Gypsonoma dealbana on English Oak

Stigmella confusella on Birch

Stigmella luteella on Birch

Stigmella luteella on Birch

Tischeria ekebladella on English Oak

All the above mines taken and identified by Antony Wren

I opted for lunch at Dunwich Beach (always good to know where toilets are and of course Antony wanted to check for moths…) but despite being able to sit on the shingle bank and eat lunch there were almost no birds to be seen out on the marshes with just two Black-headed Gulls and a Carrion Crow!

An Adonis Ladybird landed on my shoulder and subsequently performed for the camera. This was a new species for everyone else.  Just before we left an immature male Marsh Harrier put on a show over the closest reedbed and Reed Buntings and Stonechats flitted about the Phragmites heads.

Adonis Ladybird -  Antony Wren 

News that the Swallows were back had us heading for Walberswick once more but they had moved and after some quality convoying we arrived at the car park for Westwood Marshes to the south of the village.  The walk down through the trees was full of fungi including a couple of red Fly Agarics.  The light had changed and everything was becoming grey and hazy but I think we were all surprised to pop out into the open and find ourselves in the midst of a vast reedbed that quite literally stretched as far as we could see. 

Fly Agaric - that's better!

Of the errant Swallows there was no sign (quelle surprise!) but Marsh Harriers quartered back and forth and Reed Buntings flicked around.  There must be Bitterns, Water Rails and Bearded Tits galore lurking therein!

I had a vague hope that they would head to the Ferry area so we ambled back through the woods seeing Goldcrests and hearing Treecreepers, Coal Tits and a Bullfinch – there may have been some more leafmine action.

1 Tischeria dodonaea, 2 Ectoedemia subbimaculella and 3 Tischeria ekebladella on Oak

Ectoedemia quinquella on Oak - tiny wiggles in green islands. Amazing to think that the tiny moth grub gives out enzymes that keep it green!

Ectoedemia subbimaculella on English Oak

Phyllonorycter ulmifoliella on Birch 

Stigmella viscerella on Elm

The last hour of the day was spent at Walberswick where of course the Swallows never returned (and we even dipped out on Ed Sheeran) but Antony found a brute of an adult Caspian Gull with the other species on the harbour wall and amongst the horde of Barnacle Geese I picked up a very small Canada Goose that appeared to tick all the right boxes but unfortunately may still show one or two signs that at some stage it had Barnacle Goose in its parentage.

Caspian Gull 

Annoying small goose

Barnacle Geese - Mark Vale

Barnacle Geese 

Seeing such a huge flock of these striking Geese is always special and watching them lift off and circle the marshes took me back to Caerlaverock all those years ago.

Barnacle Geese - that small Canada too

With the light fading before sunset we called it a day.

13th November:

Sunday was a lazy day Chez Wren but there were nine immigrant Blackbirds with a Song Thrush in the trees beyond the garden first thing and a trio of gems from the moth trap – two of which I had not seen before.

December Moth - looks like a Musk Ox

December Moth

Merveille de Jour

Merveille de Jour

Cypress Carpet

Cypress Carpet

Antony and I pottered out before dinner down to Kessingland Beach through The Hollies.  Annoyingly a Swallow flying around distantly stubbornly refused to be a Red-rumped while high above 22 spooked Snow Bunting circled with two noisy Dunlin before dropping down onto that amazing beach below.

Eight Barnacle Geese headed north and offshore it soon became apparent that the wildfowl movement that had been noted during the day by others was ongoing and in that forty minutes before 4.30 we counted 308 Dark-bellied Brent Geese in snaky lines heading south along with two Greylags, 146 Wigeon, 78 Pintail, ten Teal, four Mallard and a Shelduck.  A distant high flock of Geese felt like they were going to be grey geese and despite the failing light we could just make out the dark belly bars on some as 50 Russian White-fronts tracked down the coast.  Given that the sun was merely pinking up the sky it was an absolute joy to witness even the tail end of the day’s passage.

Mostly Pintail, two Greylags and some Brents

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Russian White-fronted Geese 

Russian White-fronted Geese - the sun had set

Sun Dog

Amazing how quickly the colours changed 

Hundreds of gulls were drifting in to roost on the sea and an adult Med Gull was amongst them before we decided that we should really tackle the steep steps back up to the top with some vestige of light remaining.  Winter song Robins welcomed the night as we made our way back to the car and the roast lamb dinner awaiting us back home.

We both made it back to the top without stopping - stupid boys

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