Monday 13 February 2023

East Anglian Borderlands - Day 1 - 11th-12th February 2023

Another East Anglian weekend…

The drive up on Friday was fairly uneventful although a short stop at Blakes Wood on the Danbury Ridge was quite pleasant albeit a bit chilly.  I found no Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers but did get the other two along with Nuthatches and Treecreepers, a few Siskins and a noisy flock of chattering Redwings in the leaf litter while a Firecrest greeted me back at the car although I could not find it in the Holly.  A stop at the Bradnums and then onto Lowestoft.

11th February:

I met the crew at Rollesby Broad at 8am and with good light and no real wind we managed a good scan of the broads and although there were plenty of Pochard and Tufted Ducks, I could find nothing different bar some splendid Goldeneye once again so it was a loop around the block to Filby where the good light was actually causing a haze along the back edge where most of the duck had been lurking and unlike my last visit I could not find the Ferruginous Ducks.  Suddenly small parties of duck started to fly out from the far left corner with groups of Goldeneye, Pochard and Tufted Duck.  I had a small flock in my scope and could clearly see the male Fudge amongst them.  I took my eye down to point at them for the others but somehow followed the wrong small flock into the closest corner where only Tufties could frustratingly be seen.  Despite scanning we could not find it and to compound matters a local arrived and told us he had seen the female Ring-necked Duck from the other side! 

Goldeneye - Antony Wren

We did not even know that access was possible and so with grateful directions we headed for the village hall car park and set out for what was to become a splendid circuit through the back of the old Fleggburgh.  It was a delightful loop that took us through the edge of the farmland, alongside gardens complete with wheezing Greenfinches, Goldcrests and Redwings foraging amongst the numerous Molehills.




Phytomyza ilicis on Holly - certainly the easiest fly mine to id and record

The cleared area alongside the Broad offered good views but the light from here was very poor and I could find nothing different in the duckage department although I did hear a Bittern booming from the margins and the Great Crested Grebes were thinking about displaying.

After consulting the map I decided to continue on which took us past the quaint and dinky thatched cottages in shades of pastel blue, pink and yellow with amazing gardens and surrounded by Alder and Willow Carr, fields of Juncus and lush ponds.  It was idyllic and all of us could imagine living there although we suspected the Mossies would have been interesting!

The Ivy covering must have been amazing!

Redwing - Richard Hanman

The usual Bramble moth leaf mines were located and Antony showed us the cocoon of Pammene regiana that is found under loose Sycamore bark and Mertzneria lappella that lives inside Burdock seedheads while there was lots of evidence of Limnaecia phragmitella that is so beloved in the winter by Penduline and Blue Tits.

Mertzneria lappella

Stigmella aurella

Pammene regiana 

Limnaecia phragmitella evidence

We adhered to the warning - Richard Hanman

A small stand outside one cottage had lovely little pots of Snowdrops for sale at 50p so we bought all six between us and thanked an invisible Sue who would probably have been surprised to find them all gone!

Snowdrops - these were huge flowered forms

A Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the Willows and Treecreeper, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Robins, Wren and Dunnocks were all in song.  It was the first hint of a spring-like day. Our loop took us past a fodder field of some unidentified legume that was full of twittering Linnets and gleaming Chaffinches while Song Thrushes, Blackbirds and Redwings were feeding in a ploughed field.

The footpath took us between some larger properties and then back along Rugg’s Lane where a couple more Greenfinches were heard and a Buzzard and Red Kite were added to the Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk seen a little earlier.

Winter Aconites, Snowdrops and Sweet Violets were in bloom in the verges as we followed the last bit of road back to the cars.  It is so pleasing to discover somewhere new.

Sweet Violets

Winter Aconites & Snowdrops

Blackbird - Antony Wren

From here we dropped back down to Great Yarmouth and the ASDA car park for our approach to Breydon Water.  I have not stopped here for many years and just for once our tide planning proved spot on with just half hour go till high water.  Unlike the shelter of Fleggburgh it was bitterly cold and breezy on the bank and the inside of the hide was, if anything, even colder but we persevered and were treated to a spectacular display of waders and wildfowl that had been pushed to the last remaining corner of mud and only saltmarsh on the whole expanse.

There were a couple of thousand Wigeon spread out over the water where they fed on presumably floating seeds pushed up by the tide and amongst them where Shelduck, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler and the best part of a hundred Pintail.


A bronze carpet of Golden Plover formed a dense mat that periodically spooked and took to the wings showing the true number while peripheral flocks were made up of Oystercatchers and Lapwings (on the saltmarsh), a raft of 300 Avocet, an island of Redshanks and Black-tailed Godwits and actively feeding groups of scurrying Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits.  Curlews wandered at will wherever they fancied.

Golden Plover


Golden Plover


Golden Plover

Golden Plover

Male and female Marsh Harriers put the whole mass to wing on several occasions but it felt that the sheer numbers bewildered their potential attackers and they flew straight through.

A wavy flock of Pink-feet flew north and a single bobbed amongst the Wigeon as we headed back to the warmth of our cars with several Rock Pipits seen on the way.

South again to Ness Point for lunch (to let the tide drop a smidge) before successfully finding two Purple Sandpipers amongst the throng of Turnstones on the rocky breakwaters and slippery lower platform.  Two adult Med Gulls drifted north along the front and two Rock Pipits were seen on the concrete sea wall with a couple of clockwork Pied Wagtails.  A Red-throated Diver was the best I could do offshore and it would seem that the Sprat shoals have moved on.


Turnstones - Antony Wren

Turnstones - Antony Wren


Purple Sandpiper clinging on

Purple Sandpiper - Antony Wren

Med Gull

Med Gull

As expected the Carlton Colville Waxwings were a no show so we headed to Carlton Marshes for the rest of the afternoon. The huge newish visitor centre and environs were thronging with families and hounds but the trail network was quiet and I was quite taken aback by the scale of the reserve which quite literally disappeared into the distance which ever way you looked. It was immense.

I did pop in to show them the ATM Bittern! - Enid Barrie

The main Peto’s Marsh with its shiny electric fence was alive with birds with a all the regular dabbling duck and a good selection of waders including Lapwing, Golden Plover, 40 Snipe, 55 Black-tailed Godwits, three Ruff and two Redshank.  The Snipe were happily probing full in the open while around the margins there were at least three Water Pipits and several Pied Wagtails but I did not seen any sign of the Eastern Yellow Wag.


Water Pipit - Antony Wren

Three Barnacle Geese were in with the Canadas and Greylags and Egyptian Geese noisily circled.  Buzzard and Kestrels were seen perched up and Marsh Harriers quartered.  A large flock of several hundred Pink-feet drifted to a distant field and Little Egrets dotted the marsh which was also home to numerous Chinese Water Deer. I am not sure of the ecological impact of so many of this delightful but non-native species.  Exmoor and Konik ponies were working the meadows and a pair of Stonechats were feeding actively around a corral.

Limnaecia phragmitella 

Goose trio

Chinese Water Deer - 'I got in so I must be able to get out...'

Chinese Water Deer - Richard Hanman








Distant Pinkies, Buzzard and Chinese Water Deer

We timed our walk back perfectly for Barn Owls and had two hunting the marshes – both were very pale individuals but we were also hoping for a Short-eared Owl or two but perhaps should have stayed just a little later. Rooks and Jackdaw were gathering in the fields nearest the Centre and a small group of Linnets was attempting to roost in some path side brambles as we neared the cars.  

Barn Owl

It was still once again and Song Thrushes and Robins sang as we packed up for the night after a very successful adventure around the Norfolk – Suffolk borderlands.

Spring Usher - one of three not long after the trap went on in Pakefield

and three Pale Brindled Beauties too - both new to me

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