Thursday 28 December 2023

2023 - a review

A trip down memory lane for 2023…

January:

The year started with a few days down in the Somerset Levels to see the amazing Starling murmuration along with the now expected Egret-fest, Bitterns, Cranes and vast flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plovers, wisps of Snipe and swirling duck that this year included a fine drake American Wigeon.

Starlings

American Wigeon


To be honest the stars of the trip and one of the high points of the whole year where randomly choosing the right spot on Salisbury Plain for the Great Bustards with 22 of these imposing beasts strutting through the oilseed and powerfully flying through a landscape quite literally geologically made for them. 

Great Bustards

Great Bustards

A weekend in the Broads allowed us to do the Corvid roost one day and the Cranes at Hickling the next. Both were successful and epic in their own way but it was perhaps the arrival of four stately Taiga Bean Geese at St Benet's that was equally pleasing.  It had been many years since I had seen them so well and with no birds in the Yare Valley these were to be savoured.

Rooks and Jackdaws

Taiga Bean Geese


A trip to Dungeness was likewise populated with three Egret species along with a trio of prehistoric looking Glossy Ibis.  The beach was littered with Mermaid’s Purses following the recent storms.


Glossy Ibis


A few days in Norfolk added Shorelarks at Holkham and a last gasp view of the Pallid Harrier at Warham before the Cackling Goose was encountered the next morning prior to a fantastic Bittern encounter at Titchwell.  Some lovely Waxwings in Reydon and a potter around Lowestoft sowed the seeds for a potential move to my half-home county – Dad is from Felixstowe.

Shorelarks 

Bittern

Cackling Goose - Jim Lawrence


Waxwing


February:

A couple of crisp winter days saw me along the north Kent coast where Brent Geese grumbled and a Spotted Redshank was very obliging at Bloors Wharf which my visitors appreciated.  Little did I now that my days of living in Kent were numbered. Three estate agents were invited round to value the house in Strood. We went with one of them and was advised to put it on the market immediately. Within two weeks we had sold it. Oh…

Spotted Redshank


With Lowestoft being the target location it meant that several trips were required to look for somewhere new to live which of course also gave more wildlife watching opportunities along the way.  At this stage it did not feel real that this part of the Suffolk coast could be my new home but there was no turning back now.

The Purple Sandpipers obliged at Ness Point and Wombat-faced Chinese water Deer were encountered at Carlton Marshes where the Eastern Yellow Wagtail eluded me efforts while three Cranes were seen circling over St Benet’s Abbey after a look at some houses around Hemsby (yes, I know…).  Down at North Warren the Russian White-fronted Geese gave a command performance.

Purple Sandpiper

Russian White-fronted Geese

Chinese water Deer - look at those tusks

Cranes


A wet visit to the Snettisham high tide roost was spectacular as ever with swirling clouds of comingled Knot, Dunlin and Bar-tailed Godwits and a young female Goshawk was a surprise as it hunted Woodpigeons from the inland skeletal winter copses while a session in the Brecks was successful with awesome Goshawk encounters, Woodlarks and a last gasp Hawfinch.

 



Back in Kent a vaguely spring-like day saw me take one of my last walks around Ranscombe Farm from home.  The Fallow Deer bucks were out in the meadow looking mighty fine and the Hazel flowers were starting to appear with their little red anemone-like tentacles. 

Hazel flowers

Fallow Deer


Ranscombe will always be important to me. I am ashamed of the fact that I lived alongside it for over twenty years but it took the combination of Furlough and Covid Lockdowns to force me to go out and explore what had been on my doorstep for all those years. It became one of the catalysts that allowed the re-evaluation of what my life should and could be like.  It brought me ‘back to nature’ and offered me the opportunity to share my love and knowledge with others, firstly through my near daily blog posts and then over time with others once more in the field; something that had been inexorably removed from my daily working life with the RSPB over the previous eight years. A year after I went back to Rainham, I once again left but this time of my own volition and I have never looked back.

March:

Mid-month saw me undertake my first trip for Oriole Birding with a two base tip to the Forest of Dean and Somerset Levels.  Somehow we dodged the worst of the weather and had a splendid few days with singing Firecrests and Hawfinches, gaudy Mandarins, Dippers, Goshawks and even a Wild Boar and her little stripy piglets.

Dipper

Mandarin


Wild Boar


A Lesser Scaup was the rarity down in the Levels and frisky Great White Egrets, booming Bitterns, squeaking Otters and even a cloud of early Sand Martins to make us think it was actually spring.  There was even time for a pre-breakfast walk around Wells Cathedral.

Bittern - Andy Buck

Lesser Scaup

Scarlet Elf Cups

The Sweet Track - created in 3807BC



A Breckland visit showed some signs of spring but still no Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers but Firecrests were buzzing and the mellifluous sound of spiralling Woodlarks and mournful Mistle Thrushes could be heard.  Hundreds of Colletes succinctus were busy burrowing in their prepared field and the first Brimstones were on the wing as the temperature began to climb.

Colletes succinctus - Enid Barrie

Offers were rejected on two properties which in hindsight was a good thing…

With so many Alpine Swifts in the country it would have been rude not to head just down the road to wait for a roosting bird on the estate at Larkfield (yes, the Golden Winged Warbler one) to wake up.  Certainly one of the more bizarre twitches I have been on.  It then put on a grand display over the lakes while Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs welcomed in the spring before the rain began to fall.

Alpine Swift


A similarly wet day down at Dungeness before the end of the month produced zero Wheatears but we had a good seawatch and there were Firecrests in the Moat before the female Ring-necked Duck gave itself up at Stodmarsh.

Ring-necked Duck


The following day it was back up house hunting in Lowestoft and by the end of that day we had an offer accepted.  Time to be get packing.  It was all getting a little real.

April:

A pre-birthday walk at Ranscombe saw lots of basking insect life on the Ash and Sweet Chestnut trunks with freshly emerged Commas and one of my favourite flies, the spiky bummed Gymnocheta viridis.  Marsh Tits were singing and gave excellent views. 

Forever the view where I sat with Sam Shippey for a coffee...

Gymnocheta viridis

Marsh Tit

Comma


A circuit of Old Lodge on the 12th provided us with the first Redstarts back on territory and Woodlarks and Dartford Warblers were heard as we circled around avoiding the speeding spring showers while back in north Kent the first Early Purple Orchids were starting to open at Crabbles Bottom.

Redstart


Early Purple Orchid


A few days in Suffolk on trips saw my first walk around Minsmere for an age where a hybrid Black-headed x Med Gull was my favourite find as it displayed to both its parent species. The Gorse smelt of rich warm Coconut and Emperor moths, Dartford Warblers and Woodlarks put on a good show up on the heath. 

hybrid Black-headed x Med Gull 

Dartford Warbler


It was my first chance to go and have a look at the Kittiwake colony in Lowestoft with hundreds of pairs nesting across the town centre on the church, houses, theatres and even in drainpipes and on lampposts. The sound echoed between the building and if anything was louder than being at Bempton.



Kittiwakes 


Antony, as ever had the moth trap running and a Puss Moth was the first of many mothy highlights as the year went on.

Puss Moth


Before the notion of moving was contemplated I had made the point that I was probably not around much this spring and towards the end of the month Lesvos beckoned.  As ever it was a magical week with a crowd of island virgins – that sounds wrong but you know what I mean.  The usual spread of eastern Med species were encountered and we somehow managed to see Roller, Olive Tree Warbler and my first Egyptian Vulture for the island.  I was quite excited!  The flowers were spectacular and a there were lots of lovely Butterflies.  Two Booted Eagles and a Dalmatian Pelican added more big bird quality.




Spur-winged Plover

Squacco

Egyptian Vulture

Collared Flycatcher

Bee-eater

Eastern Dappled Whites

Chukar

Papaver nigrotinctum 

Tuberaria guttata


I only had one day after returning home and then it was off to Heathrow and on to Malaga for the start of two epic weeks touring Spain with Wings and the esteemed John Muddeman and a two busses full of eager Americans.  We started down in the Straits with magnificent views across the water to Morocco beyond and watched incoming waves of Honey Buzzards, Vultures, Black Kites and smaller Eagles. Bald Ibises flared shaggy head plumes from their cliff ledges and Iberian Magpies chattered in the groves, before wending our way up the coast to the wonders of Coto Donana that, despite the drought, still provided us with countless waterbirds including Marbled and White Headed Ducks, Red-knobbed Coot, a flock of feeding Razorbills a week before the Ancient Murrelet joined them, tick-tocking Red-necked Nightjars and vineyard Bushchats and Black Shouldered Kites.

Bald Ibises

Collared Pratincole

Med Chameleon

White Headed Ducks

Thekla's Lark

Iberian Magpie

Rufous Bushchat

Razorbill


A large Buprestid


The Skytrain


Extremadura and Monfrag├╝e delivered with spectacular Black Vulture and Spanish Eagle encounters, White Rumped Swifts and the plains full of a wall of Calandra and Short-toed Larks, bubbling Sandgrouse and strutting Bustards and box nesting Rollers.  It was breath-taking.




Spanish Imperial Eagle


Black Vulture

Griffon Vultures

Calandra Lark

Great Bustards

Roller

Griffon Vultures - seeing this was a highlight of my year

Black Vultures

Banded Groundling

Broad Scarlet

Spanish Purple Hairstreak

Sharp-ribbed Newt - A monster from the deep

Limoniastrum monopetalum 


On again through wetland thronged with Little Bitterns, Savi’s Warblers, alien finches and the only Bearded Tits in the region before climbing up into the Gredos with it completely different suite of woodland and upland moor birds.  Iberian Pied Flycatchers and Woodpeckers, Bluethroats, Water Pipits, Rock Thrushes and the all-important Iberian Dunnocks were seen along with a wealth of Butterflies and Spanish Ibex.

The best hotel plates ever!


Iberian Pied Flycatcher

Rock Bunting

Yellow Bee Orchid

De Prunner's Ringlet 


On through Segovia with its Red-billed Choughs and Roman viaduct to the high plains of Villaseca where our world was once again filled with Larks including the peculiar song of the critically declining Dupont’s.  It was a magical place to spend dusk.



The next day we push up into the Picos for the last three days where our excursion up to the high tops saw falling snow, biting cold and some truly special birds in a moonscape of vertical rock and tumbling scree.  Alpine Accentors, Black Redstarts and Water Pipits were joined by Snowfinches both Chough species and a Lammergeier that swung majestically through the snow and back into the clouds.  




Alpine Accentor

Alpine Chough


We called this The Mandrill


The low growing flora was delightfully with rich blue Gentians, Toadflax, Rock Jasmine and Pasque Flowers. A final day in the rain chasing Middle Spotted Woodpeckers and then it was time to head back to Madrid and home.



Redstart

Eurrhypis pollinalis  

Pink Butterfly Orchid


Once again I was home for only one day and then it was back to Heathrow and off to Finland for a very short break helping three New Yorkers to see as much as possible.  Two full days and two half days was all we had and I had a guide – the remarkable Janne – for just one of those.  He got us Great Grey, Pygmy and Ural Owl along with Black and White-backed Woodpeckers, Rustic Buntings and Capercaille while our subsequent birding produced Grey Headed Woodpeckers, tens of thousands of Barnacle Geese, Thrush Nightingales and Wrynecks.  It was a memorable trip but I would like a slightly more relaxed approach the next time I visit!



Wood Warbler

Black Grouse

Ural Owl

Great Grey Owl

Common Cranes 

White-backed Woodpecker

Barnacle Geese

White-tailed Eagle

Black Woodpecker

Grey-headed Woodpecker

Thrush Nightingale


And breath – or rather pack.  Things were progressing with the move and we actually exchanged contracts before the end of the month but there was still time for a long weekend back up in East Anglia where a Caspian Tern, Cranes, Bitterns, Spoonbills and the first gleaming Swallowtail of the year made for a superb Broadland visit while an Orchid day on the Kentish Downs produced all the hoped for species including both Butterflies, Monkey, Lady and Bee along with some quality inverts such as Duke of Burgandy Metalmarks, Adonis Blues and the rare Conopid - Conops vesicularis.

Stonechat

Caspian Tern

Common Cranes

Swallowtail 

Monkey Orchid

Adonis Blue

Conops vesicularis


A moving date was set for the 17th July but there were still adventures to be had and Brazil beckoned…

Alabonia geoffrella from Antony's garden


June:

And suddenly I was in Cuiaba in Brazil and stepping out into the scorching lunchtime sunshine.  The next two weeks were simply astonishing.  We began in the Cerrado and almost everything we saw  was new.  There were Parrots ranging from giant Macaws to tiny Parrotlets, Puffbirds and Hummingbirds, Curl Crested Jays, cryptic Flycatchers, punky Manakins, gregarious White Woodpeckers, funky Finches, prehistorically scary Seriamas and the very odd Pheasant Cuckoo.  

Coal Crested Finch

Curl Crested Jays

Puma tracks

Red-legged Seriama

Band-tailed Manakin





Wedge-tailed Grassbird

White Woodpecker

Guira Cuckoo

Helmeted Manakin

Pheasant Cuckoo


It was a great introduction before heading back to Cuiaba and the start of the Transpantaneira – gateway to the Pantanal. It was almost too much on that first day on the road at it was overwhelming at times with the sky and marshes simply burgeoning with Herons, Egrets, Storks and Ibises of all shapes and sizes, eagle-like Screamers with big thick legs, wailing Limpkins, scores of quartering Snail Kites and other Hawks, diving Kingfishers and a multitude of Flycatchers and their relatives.


Black Vulture

Capped Heron

Jabiru



The next few days were variations on this theme and it never got dull; there was always something new to see.  The dry woodlands and marshy edges contained Antshrikes and Antbirds, Woodcreepers, Woodpeckers, Conebills, Nacunda Nighthawks by the hundred, Tody-Tyrants, Troupials, Toucans, Tanagers, Hummingbirds and Spinetails.


Crimson Crested Woodpecker

Red-billed Scythebill

Orange Backed Troupial

Nanday Parakeets

Roadside Hawk

Toco Toucan

Hyacinth Macaw

 Yellow-collared Macaw and Blue-crowned Parakeet 

Nacunda Nighthawk

Vermillion Flycatcher

Pale Crested Woodpecker


Add Yacara Caiman, Capybaras, strutting Rheas, clouds of Butterflies and Crab-eating Foxes and there was something to see. Several boat trips added Sunbittern and the tiny Zig-zag Heron, 5000 Snail Kites heading to roost, flocks of Band-tailed Nighthawks at dusk and a sandbank covered in Black Skimmers and Terns.



Yacara Caiman

Capybara and Giant Cowbird

Yacara Caiman

Large Billed Tern

Black Skimmer

Black Skimmer

Greater Rhea


Needless to say we got our big cat rewards with three Jaguars including one swimming across in front of the boat and a family of enormous Giant Otters frolicking in the water below their den.  There were many smiles that evening.

male Jaguar

female Jaguar

Giant Otters

Giant Otters


The sublime Pied Lapwing


The most ludicrous Skipper 


Our final three days were back well east at Jardim – a remnant of the Atlantic Rainforest.  The lodge was remote and set in magical surrounding with the river sliding on by and a crystal clear forest swimming pool fed by the natural springs.  And the wildlife!  The bird species here were so different that they were not even in our Pantanal book. Antthingies thronged in the forest and every time we went out we added more to the tally – Antthrushes, shrikes, pipits, wrens, birds and vireos. Some of the names alone were a mouthful but Rondoinia Warbling Antbird and amongst the numerous new Flycatchers, Flammulated Bamboo Pygmy-Tyrant won the best moniker competition.  Santaren and Orange Cheeked Parrots were seen and our boat trip afforded us wonderful views of the very localised Cone-billed Tanagers along with such wonders as Screaming Piha and Razor Crested Curassow.

Point Tailed Palmcreeper

Cone-billed Tanager

Rufous Tailed Jacamar

The worlds smallest passerine - the Short-tailed Pygmy-Tyrant

Red-necked Woodpecker

Swallow-Tanager - one of many gaudy species seen


There were other delights including Black-tailed Marmosets and the cuddly looking Meittemeir’s Tapajos Saki monkeys which we watched whilst in the forest pool!  The weather turned very odd for the last two days dropping from over 30c to below 10c at dawn.  It was grey and cold and we escaped back to Cuiaba and the route home before the heavens opened. 

Black-tailed Marmoset

Meittemeir’s Tapajos Saki

I simply can’t wait to go back.

The rest of June was spent seriously packing up the Darnley Road house and seeing how much more of my garden I could take with me. The Wrens assisted with moving van loads of stuff to storage in Lowestoft in preparation for the final move.  A final pre-move visit to Lowestoft for me to do a weekend allowed a brief sunny interlude at Blaxhall Common where Silver Studded Blues were still on the wing and a wonderful last hour of the evening on Westleton Heath where Nightjars glided around our heads and churred from branches, Stone-curlews wailed, Roe Deer barked and a tardy Dartford Warbler churred before bedtime.

Caterpillar-hunting Wasp

Silver Studded Blue

Poplar and Pine Hawkmoth


July:

With the move looming, I still had time for some summer days out including a lovely walk along the Great Stour at Fordwich with its Dragons and Butterflies and so much Beaver evidence before sneaking in the Dainty Damselflies at Oare at sunbathing Wall Lizards at Ospringe church.  

Chalcosyrphus nemorum  a new hoverfly for me

White Admiral

Dainty Damselfly

Wall Lizard


The New Forest was my final outing with five days guiding for Oriole Birding.  The weather was challenging at times but the crew persevered and despite the cool conditions we found a good selection of insects including Silver Studded Blues, cryptic Graylings, the imposing Golden Ringed Dragonfly, tiny chirping Wood Crickets and gleaming Rose Chafers.  Nightjars were heard churring and Woodlarks and Dartford Warblers were out on the heaths.

Dark Green Fritillary

Silver-washed Fritillary

 Raft Spiderling

 Bog Bush Cricket

Fleabane Tortoise Bug 

 Silver Studded Blue

 Rose Chafer

Thomisus onustus  - one of my favourite finds of the year

Sundews


I got home with two days left to ensure that we were good to vacate Darnley Road on the 17th.  It all went without a hitch and I locked the door for the last time, said farewell to my lovely garden and headed north.

Those first couple of weeks were somewhat manic as you can imagine with a new catio to be built, cats retrieved and a very full 30 foot container to empty.  The weather was incredibly wet and windy but there were some wildlife interludes courtesy of Antony’s moth trap with a splendid Dark Crimson Underwing being my favourite.

A blank garden canvas

Dark Crimson Underwing


August:

It was month of finding my feet around Lowestoft. Pakefield Beach is just over a mile from my house and I decided to ‘take it’ as my patch.  There is wonderful habitat to the south (Kessingland) and north (The Denes and Gunton Warren) but they are well watched so I mapped out a stretch that runs from the Jolly Sailors down to the boulder sea defences and inland to Arbor Lane McDonalds and back through the houses.  The wide beach is covered in maritime herbage and the escarpment is well vegetated and has small shaped Elm copse, several Sycamores and Apple trees and is backed onto by some fine gardens.  It may well be a very popular spot with legions of dog walkers but it is now my patch and I will persevere.  Those first few visits gave me Med Gulls and Kittiwakes over the beach and Grey Seals loafing offshore and a host of insects on the Tansy bank.




I wonder where this Red-headed Quelea came from? Boat hopped from Africa?


I even found a couple of scarce moth mines on Hop to put the place of the lepidoptera map. There was more Lowestoft mothing to be had and a loaned trap saw me re-start my own mothing journey and plenty of other local invert life to discover.

Caloptilia fidella

Cosmopterix zieglerella 

Neomyia cornicina

Villa modesta - a great find on Caister beach


Wasp Spider

Stomhorina lunata - the Locust Blowfly

Canary-shouldered Thorn

Choreutis nemorana - Fig Leaf Skeletonizer

Clifden Nonpareil

Clifden Nonpareil - always wanted to see one

Coleophora ahenella - a new moth (well larva) for Norfolk

Convolvulus Hawkmoth

Convolvulus Hawkmoth

Dewick's Pluisa

Garden Tiger

Goldspot

Palpita vitrealis

Thrift Clearwing - a first for Suffolk and possibly the whole East coast

Tree Lichen Beauty


September and October:

It was scorching hot for the first couple of weeks and there was almost no immigration bar a Red-backed Shrike at the Net Posts for a few hours.  There were some cool moths though in both our gardens and a spectacular sunrise over Benacre while checking some moth traps on the estate early one sultry morning.

Red-backed Shrike - took me a whole six minutes to get there!

Argyresthia goedartella

Autumnal Rustic

Black Rustic

Bloxworth Snout

Caloptilia semifascia 

Cyprus Pug

Dark Spectacle

L-album Wainscot

Large Ranunculus

Palpita vitrealis

The Gem

Araneus quadratus



Two weeks on Lesvos began on the 21st and even there was hotter than usual but it was a fine trip with a host of Shrikes, Willow Warblers, Flycatchers and Chats along with some quality big bird action.  Dalmatian Pelicans cruised across the pans and four juvenile White Pelicans became my first for the Island as they circled to the north while Raptor passage was superb and the best I had witnessed here.


Spotted Flycatcher

A very dark Willow Warbler
White Pelicans


There were many Honey Buzzards and flocks of silvery Red-foots along with Booted Eagles, Pallid Harrier, Levant Sparrowhawk, Eleonora’s Falcons and my first Great Spotted Eagle here – my third new bird for Lesvos in 2023.  

Several Praying Mantises were found along with a smart Geomatrician and the expected Violet Dropwings and butterflies.  Staying into the first week of October was certainly a good move.  I would still like to do a proper winter visit sometime.

Geomatrician 

Kingfisher


Violet Dropwing

I may have missed out on the mega-American autumn during that time away and yes, I would have loved to have seen some of those windblown warbler waifs but would I actually have driven myself if I had been sat at home?  Undoubtedly not and I have not been part of a twitching crew for many years now.  I have always twitched and I still will.  I have not suddenly thought it a pointless part of my birding but I suspect that my enjoyment of my hobby is a little simpler that it used to be and more often than not, either closer to home or completely the opposite and out of the country!

I only had one autumn visit to a very quiet Norfolk coast but that was a grand day out with two White-tailed Eagles, flocks of Egrets, Pinkfeet and swirling late Terns, Gulls and even Manx Shearwaters around a bait ball off Cley.

Common Terns off Cley 


The rest of my time was spent with the odd hour here and there at my Pakefield Patch where I slowly began to amass a fine selection of species with many Waders, Wildfowl, Gulls, Divers and Skuas with a female Surf Scoter on the 19th being the highlight especially as it was picked up four more times as it headed south.  

Surf Scoter - amazingly a second for Suffolk

Thrashing waves over the sandbar with Gannets and Cormorants

Little Gull


Ring Ouzel and Hawfinch were the pick of the passerines and it was wonderful to watch Blackbirds, Starlings, Pipits, Skylarks and even Woodcock coming in off the sea.

A Grey Phalarope showed wonderfully well at Kessingland Beach and a Pied Wheatear at the Net Posts timed its arrival perfectly so as not to disrupt a breakfast engagement while a Dusky Warbler tacked a little further up the coast.


Grey Phalarope

Pied Wheatear 


Merville de Jour

Mallow 

Feathered Ranunculus

Black, Vine's, Clancy's Rustics & Lunar Underwing

However, perhaps the highlight for me was a flock of 42 Pinkfeet that called over the house on the morning of the 25th. I was always jealous of my friends who had them over the house and I had now joined the club.

Pinkfeet 


November:

With the Broads just up the road now, it was nice to be able to visit the Corvid roost at Buckenham and witness the swirling spectacle as dread clouds of Jackdaws and Rooks swirled into their chosen trees while 10,000 Pinkfeet poured into the marsh.  I never tire of such mass gatherings.


Pinkfeet and Starlings


Short-eared Owls ignored the toggers at St Benet’s Abbey and put on a wonderful show just for me while they were moaning about how far away the birds were and Lowestoft was graced with an ever increasing flock of Waxwings that made it to over forty before they dispersed further south.  I suspect we have not seen the last of the this winter.  A Pallid Swift at Winterton church was my first in the UK since 1998!

Waxwing


Waxwing

Short-eared Owl


A female Velvet Scoter at Mutford Lock was much appreciated as it crunched its way through molluscs and an immature Shag there had been ringed on the Isle of May that summer.  Until this point I do not think I had appreciated that Oulton Broad was under a mile from my front door!

Velvet Scoter 


A trip down to Essex on the 11th started well with an adult Bonaparte’s Gull over my head at Goldhanger and the subsequent finding of a cracking drake Canvasback at Abberton in the afternoon sealed it as most memorable day out.  It was one of those ‘surely not? Moments and I was very relieved when we re-found it a couple of hours later.  It has been very well appreciated over the subsequent weeks.

The Canvasback was a little challenging on the first afternoon

Canvasback - John Pringle


A Lesser Yellowlegs was seen tottering around Southwold Town Marsh with hoards of Barnacle Geese and two small Greylags.  Given that one of the Barnies was from Cumbria perhaps these two had accompanied it?  A fine Caspian Gull patrolled the beach while Shorelarks and Snow Buntings swirled around Kessingland Beach to the north.

Barnacle Geese

Barnacle Geese and the two small Greylags

Caspian Gull





December:

The final month of 2023 started with a fine crisp day – a bit of a novelty and a walk out onto Carlton Marshes gave great views of both Eastern Yellow Wagtails as they skated around on the ice with Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails.  Marsh Harriers spooked the duck and over 1300 Pink-feet dropped into the marshes off towards Oulton while the following day could not have been any different with thick freezing fog that did not prevent me seeing all three Divers around Mutford Lock along with a couple of Kingfishers.


Eastern Yellow Wagtail



They had the decency to stay a while longer and the Black and Red-throats were seen again in sunshine a few days later along with a large dog Otter that swam across the Broad.  Another pinch myself moment that all this is now literally on my doorstep.  And after several cursory visits even the Purple Sandpipers at Ness Point gave themselves up while I was pleased to add Little Auk to my Pakefield Beach list along with my first local Great Skua.

Purple Sandpiper


A day up on the Norfolk coast gave close views of 13 Shorelarks scurrying along the beach and the Pallid Harrier had the decency to arrive early at Garden Drove and put on a show before the rain returned.

Shorelarks

The subsequent run up to Christmas was grim with wet and windy weather almost throughout and little in the way of wildlife encounters but it was actually the sky that brought the most joy with proper wintery weather way above the misery below producing the most beautiful nacreous cloud forming multicoloured blocks of  rainbowed ice crystals while the black low clouds scudded by.




There was even a second chance to witness this rare phenomena away from the Arctic just two days later on the 23rd which a patch glowing bright turquoise at its heart within a fiery Cambridgeshire sunset.



Giant Turnstone on the beach realigning sea defences on the 20th.


Where I live...


Being up here even encouraged a venture out on Boxing Day with a circuit of the coastal Broads.  No Cranes this time but huge flocks of grazing Pinkfeet were in the beet fields and even bigger crowds of people where gathered on the dune ridge to stare at the Seals on Horsey Beach.  A coffee, watching 15 Whooper and a single Bewick’s Swan at Ludham made for a pleasant change from sitting around eating on this particular day.

Bewick’s Swan on the right

A final post Christmas walk along Kessingland Beach in the gale on the 27th with John Muddeman who was over from Spain resulted in much talking walking and at the last gasp a fine flock of 60 Snow Buntings getting blown back north.

Another year comes to an end. A year of exploration, adventures and life changes. Blue Eyed Birder is still ticking along nicely and a year ago I could only have dreamt of visiting Lesvos, Spain, Finland and Brazil in just a few short weeks.  My 2024 season is potentially even more packed with avian delights with my first chances to go east to Asia and further south into Africa with the assistance of Bird’s Wildlife and Nature, Oriole Birding and Wings.  I just have to muster up some interest for my UK days out!