Friday 28 April 2023

Thirty Years Ago - March and April 1993

A very lean two months given the madness of the previous two years:

3rd March:

The Enfield Ring-billed Gull was around the Poly grounds in Ponders End and this was the first of several visits to the fields.

14th March:

A trip to Fishers Green ostensibly to by a new scope [Eds: a solid body angles Optolyth TBS 80 I think!] produced seven singing Chiffchaffs and good views of Kingfishers.

15th March:

I spent the morning at Fairlop Waters unloading Yellow Pages phone books from huge articulated lorries [Eds: well that dates it! Six people, three lorries, 40 tonne each]  for people to go and deliver as well as loading up my own Morris Marina for my own delivery routes.   Suddenly I could hear the familiar sound of Avocets and from my elevated position I could see two of them flying around the lake before eventually landing on the water.  Once home [Eds: no mobiles back then] I phoned Alan Bell and once he had calmed down he told me that they were the first for the site.  Fortunately he saw them that evening.

29th March: 

A wander round the Chase with Ian Woodward produced a male Pintail which was a quality site tick for me while two Chiffchaff and four Fieldfare showed the mix of seasons.

2nd April:

Dad woke me to say that a Willow Warbler singing in the garden. It did not linger and was the first for four years. Later on I did Fishers Green with Paul Whiteman and around Hall Marsh there were Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, a male Yellow Wagtail and two mad Little Ringed Plovers.

4th April:

A traditional spring visit to the Brecks with Pete G saw Thetford Warren as our first stop.  Bramblings and Siskin were in song and the invisible Golden Pheasants were very vocal while a male Sparrowhawk displayed overhead. A little later on we bumped into a fine male Goshawk near to Mayday and a Woodlark which was a welcome year tick. Lackford was visited as usual [Eds: not a SWT reserve back then] but there was not a single hirundine to be seen although we did see two Yellow Wagtails.

10th April:

The Chase was ridiculously quiet with just a few Willow Warblers.  Where are the hirundines?  I have not seen a Sand Martin yet?

12th April:

A trip down to Hengistbury Head with Adrian Wander saw us soon watching a fine male Subalpine Warbler of the Western race in a small hedge with a male Dartford Warbler and both Whitethroats for company. Two Tree Pipits flew over calling as we walked around but found little other than a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and an obvious passage of Linnets.  The local Heronry was very noisy and a single Swallow was seen as we had seconds of the Sub-alp.

Western Subalpine Warbler

Being not far from the New Forest gave us the opportunity to go to Boulderwood to search for Firecrests.  The Holly understorey by the huge Wellingtonias eventually gave us to vigorously singing males and was well worth getting wet feet for.  They were my first ever in the New Forest. A walk around Denny Wood resulted in a nice collection of species on a recently burnt are with Chaffinches, Skylarks, Woodlarks,  Wheatears, Stonechats and both Meadow and Tree Pipits all foraging there.  With the weather turning grotty we headed for home.

16th April:

A very mixed day that started with missing another Subalpine in East Norfolk [Eds: not even sure where that was!] before picking up Garden, Reed and Sedge Warblers at Cley and Sand Martins, Swallows and two Whimbrel at the East Bank. As the Rutland Water Cattle Egret was to be our last stop we opted to do the Brecks on the way over. The Stone Curlews lurked in the grass at Weeting and a lingering male Ring Ouzel was quickly seen at Grimes Graves but we could not find the Great Grey Shrike or Woodlarks but a singing male Redstart was a fine bonus. Paul had a business call in Peterborough on the way over and by the time we reached Rutland negative news had come out about the Egret which was annoying. A lone Egyptian Goose and a flotilla of Goldeneye were scant compensation.

27th to 30th April:

Pembroke Geomorphology Field Trip.  We were staying in a grotty holiday park in less than desirable chalets. The food was horrible but the coastal scenery was wonderful.  Birdwise it was fairly quiet with the usual Peregrine and Ravens but with very few migrants bar a few Whimbrel, Wheatears and Warblers. Some fine flora was seen with smelly Wild Garlic, Early Purple and Common Spotted Orchids and cliff tops of pale blue Spring Squill.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Kentish Nature Walks - #71 - Great Crabbles Wood - 19th April 2023

A day spent catching up with pc, packing and housework prior to escaping to Lesvos tomorrow saw me in need of some air and so with the sun shining and blue sky at about 3pm I ventured out to Crabbles Bottom Orchard and Great Crabbles Wood for a short walk.

I just wanted a spring flower fix with one species in mind – my first Early Purple Orchids of the year and although many were still in bud one or two were standing proud.  As usual with this site some have plain and others spotted leaves.

Early Purple Orchid

Bluebells were starting to open up and the Chestnut coppice floor was carpet of fresh green leaves dotted with patches of blue along with sulphur Lesser Celandines and snowy pink Wood Anemones.

Wood Anemones

Lesser Celandines


Wild Strawberry

Clumps of Lords and Ladies leaves towered over the other flora and like the Orchids, some with and without spots.  A small clump of Cowslips contained one plant with curiously orangey petals.


Cowslips - a delightful varient

It was not particularly warm in the chill easterly wind but in sheltered spots I found a few insects including Episyrphus balteatus (my first for ages), Syprhus ribesii, Eupeodes corollae and Platycheirus albimanus and a nine Bombylius major keeping low and visiting the Celandines while what think were Nomada zonata (tiny!) and Nomada goodeniana. A couple of hardy Peacocks cruised around but no other species – it was cold!

Nomada zonata - not sure - am making enquiries

Nomada goodeniana

Twenty minutes later and I was back at the car replete with a mini wildlife lift.

Tuesday 18 April 2023

A Suffolk Weekender - Day 2 - 16th April 2023 Suffolk adventure:

It was a misty start and damp underfoot although the air was dry which was a little peculiar. We met at Carlton Marshes and walked out along the footpath towards Petos.  Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Chiffchaffs were all in song and a Cetti’s shouted over the top of them.  I had just remarked about the chance of a Barn Owl when one appeared in front of us and effortlessly hunting the damp pasture.  From looking at our pictures it looks like it may have lost its left eye which could explain it rather ropey landings!

Barn Owl

Wood Pigeon

One of the Sedge Warblers eventually showed itself which was a relief after the little buggers hiding all day yesterday and a couple of Meadow Pipits were engaged in half hearted parachuting.  The dead Reed and Great Willowherb stems were festooned with the drooping webs of Larinioides cornutus webs which were covered in droplets from the mist that was slowly lifting.

Dancing Midges

Furrow Orb Weaver web - Larinioides cornutus

Misty Cows - Enid Barrie

Furrow Orb Weaver web - Larinioides cornutus - Enid Barrie

Sedge Warbler - Philippa Carr

Chinese Water Deer glared at us from the Sedges while Rooks and Jackdaws probed around them and Brown Hares lolloped from one clump to the next. A pair of Stonechats popped up and Reed buntings were considering getting started but the chill grey conditions were obviously stymying any enthusiasm.

Chinese Water Deer

Pond Rush

Once down at Petos a Great White Egret was predictably on view and we spent the next couple of hours scanning the pools and scrapes in ever improving light.  A couple of Swallows twittered over and Lapwing, Redshank and Avocet were all displaying across the marsh.  The hunt for Wagtails only gave us a solitary Pied but all that looking did produced two Little Ringed Plovers, five hidden Snipe and a smattering of Wigeon and Teal and pleasingly, a drake Garganey that must have had a snorkel given the amount of time it spent with its head under the water!

Great White Egret

Greylag, Canacle and Barnacle

Avocet bust up and unamused Shovelers

Two Bitterns were booming from the west side of the track – one of which was quite close and two male Wheatears were stop-start running around the field, gleaming with peachiness.  Two Bitterns suddenly came out of the distant reeds and performed a lengthy chase across the marsh before both dropping out of view. Regardless of the distance, it was still a great encounter.


Sedge Warblers were now warming up and some were engaging in display flights while a melancholy Mistle Thrush sung from the north side of the river.  Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were always on view and it was blue sky by the time we turned back and a gleaming russet Red Kite was added to the list along with two Kestrels. A second Great White Egret dropped in and in the ditch below the Water Soldier was almost at the surface for another season.  I used to have this in my pond at home when I was a kid.

Water Soldier

Great White Egret

Red Kite

A couple of Peacocks drifted by and a Nursery Web Spider lounged on a leaf but was not quite ready for action. Chironomid Midges danced in clouds of thousands along the path and a couple of newly emerged Alder Flies alighted on me as we walked along.  The Cigar Galls of Lipara lucens were evident in the Phragmites wherever we looked.

Lipara lucens 

Lipara lucens - the cigar gall

The Grasshopper Warblers refused to sing but we did find a couple of hidden pinging Bearded Tits and several musical Linnets but with the appearance of the sun, the site was becoming very busy very quickly and so we retreated for a coffee and cake after a successful morning out.

Brown Hare - Antony Wren

North just a short way to Gunton Woods where the sun was now beating down at a heady 15c and a short circuit of this cliff top site was most productive with at least one male Firecrest being seen well and heard singing and taking a string dislike to the pair of Goldcrests that we found building a nest in some Ivy on a sapling. A glance up as a small bird flew in gave us all good views of a female Brambling which is always a bonus addition on a mid-April day out.  Greenfinches wheezed overhead and punters screamed in Pleasurewood Hills beyond.


There was a fine mix of quite aged native trees with some interesting flora beneath including native Tutsan, Primroses, Wood Anemone and Comfrey and non-native Alexanders, Few-flowered Garlic and Flowering Currant.  The Rabbit cropped edged had Early Forget-me-Not and Storksbill and attending Hoverflies and Dark-edged Bee-flies but a male Brimstone was the only Butterfly seen.

Early Forget-me-Not


Wood Anemone


Green Alkanet

Tutsan - two stem ridges

Young Horse Chestnut leaves

Few-flowered Garlic - great taste!

Flowering Currant



Melangyna cincta - a new one for me

Syrphus sp - male

Bombylius major

Lunch in the car park and then across the road to Gunton Warren.  It was pretty bird free (although Antony and I did hear a Whitethroat as we pulled up).  The potential for migrant landfall here is amazing with cliff top and undercliff to search in the right conditions.  I was just amazed I had not been pointed at it before.  It is largely an area of Bracken, Gorse and open areas dotted with Ectoedemia heringella infested Holm Oaks and the odd Rowan, Sycamore and Hawthorn.  It felt ‘rare’.

Ectoedemia heringella

Norway Maple flowers

Sea Buckthorn

Insects held most of our attention with several Emperor Moths attracted easily and feisty Green Tiger Beetles dashing across the bare areas before flying a short way and starting again. As usual they were difficult to track. We crossed the road and came back through the very warm and sheltered  Pine, Aspen and Poplar belt and in this sun trap we found a wealth of insects on the highly scented Alexanders.

Emperor Moth

Green Tiger Beetle

Green Tiger Beetle - so cryptic

There was a good selection of commoner Hoverflies with the bonus of only my second Didea fasciata. Calliphora vicina was common along with several almost bronzy Eudasyphora cyanella and a small Gymnocheta viridis.  

Didea fasciata

Didea fasciata

possibly a male Platycheirus albimanus

female Platycheirus albimanus -  Antony Wren

Myathropa florea

Eristalis pertinax

Syrphus ribesii - hind leg seen well

Helophilus pendulus

Epistrophe eligans

Eupeodes corollae

Eudasyphora cyanella

Eudasyphora cyanella

Eudasyphora cyanella

Eudasyphora cyanella

Gymnocheta viridis

Calliphora vicina

Calliphora vicina

A few Bee-flies were seen and Bombus pascuorum, terrestris and lapidarius were cruising around along with Andrena flavipes and a nice orangey Andrena nitida. A single Nomada goodeniana was seen on a sandy area.

Andrena nitida - Antony Wren

 Bombus pascuorum

Nomada goodeniana

It was so good to feel warm!

On again back into Lowestoft to Ness Point for the outside chance of a late Purple Sandpiper.  In fact we were lucky and found two although they were feeding alone behind the bulk of the breakwater and we only saw them when a large wave pushed them off towards the harbour.  The Turnstones were a little more photogenic and posed on the slipway and outside the Birds Eye gates as usual!

lounging Turnstones - Antony Wren

Chilled Turnstone - Antony Wren

This left us with one final stop in the middle of town to get up close to the Kittiwakes.  They were utilising the newish plank stack on the side of a building as well as every other available space in the entire block that also included the main church and all its ledges and crenelations. The noise was wondrous and incredibly loud as it echoed off the houses and offices and came with that unique fishy seabird colony smell.  The only difference between Lowestoft and Bempton Kittiwake watching is the looking up rather than looking down.

Should have taken down the scaffolding earlier!

Kittiwakes from the car park roof - Antony Wren

It was a fitting end to another fine day in the field.

The following morning there were some moths in the trap back at the Wrens which also suggested that the season are finally changing and even the Anthophora plumipes were back whizzing around the garden although it was a little chilly once again.  A brief stop at Abberton Reservoir on the way home gave me both Common and Lesser Whitethroats by the Centre and Yellow Wagtails and my first Common Terns from the Layer de la Haye causeway.  Now to get sorted for Lesvos on Thursday.  

Early Grey 

Frosted Green

Hebrew Character

Brindled Beauty

Powdered Quaker

Garden Carpet

March Moth

March Tubic

Swallow Prominent

Swallow Prominent

Puss Moth

Puss Moth