Thursday 29 February 2024

Thirty Years Ago - February 1994

6th February:

A cold crisp day with a covering of ice and frost greeted Roy W, Pete G and I at Fowlmere and after an hour’s wait the smart male Rustic Bunting obliged and popped up in the hedge. A very chestnut individual with a well developed head pattern. He was sharing the hedge with Yellowhammers, Corn Buntings, Corn Buntings and a few finches that included a couple of Bramblings.

Rustic Bunting

A walk around the nice dry boardwalk produced a single Water Rail. With the day still young we headed north to Fen Drayton GP where a Spotted Sandpiper had taken up residence prior to Christmas. A bit of patience and some intent searching produced good if somewhat distant views. A hyperactive wader with cold grey brown upperparts, a prominent supercilium and obvious yellowy legs.  A couple of Green Sands shared the pit while two Chiffchaffs called from the hedges but remained invisible.  With nothing else about we came home pleased with a morning well spent.

7th-10th February:

My Jurassic Coast Hillslope Analysis Fieldtrip with Uni was thoroughly enjoyable and I got to visit many sites west of Weymouth that I have not been to before [Eds or in fact since].  Black Redstarts were seen in Lyme Regis and at Durdle Door along with a Peregrine.

20th February:

Pete and I wiggled our way along the north Kent coast seeing may Thrushes in the orchards, Golden Plover, Lapwings, Avocets and Pintail around Funton Creek before arrived at our destination of Harty Marshes.  There were thousands of Geese [Eds: yes, there used to be huge flocks each winter] – mostly Russian White-fronts but amongst them were a few Barnacles, a Taiga Bean, some Canada and Greylags and the hoped for adult Lesser White-fronted Goose which I managed to find on three occasions.  A herd of 45 Bewick’s Swans fed over the back before eventually flying closer but there were no Whoopers amongst them.

Marsh and Hen Harriers performed well including a fine male of the latter that quartered the closest reed filled ditches. The top field near the farm held its usual winter flock of Ruff and they are definitely becoming a more regular sight at this time of year.

27th February:

Back down to Kent again with Pete with Greatstone being our first port of call and within ten minutes I had found the first-winter Ring-billed Bill. A very distinctive bird with a heavily mottled head and underparts and a stout black-tipped pink bill. My best views of this age so far.

Ring-billed Bill

On to Dunge where the pits provided us with 35 Smew [Eds: not one last year in all of Kent…], many Goldeneye, Black-necked Grebe and Black-throated Diver. A check of the gulls failed to produce the Glauc but I did find and adult Yellow-legged Gull.

Folkestone next and the expected Med Gulls were easily seen with three adults, two 1w and a 2w bird around the cliff top while a 2w Iceland Gull was loafing offshore which was a good bonus. [Eds: in the early 1990s Folkestone was probably one of the easiest places to see winter Med Gulls along with Mike at the end of Southend Pier.  Things changed very quickly from then on…]

Med Gulls with two Black-heads

From here we dashed to Dover to some curious little park on the north of town where we soon found the Black-bellied Dipper on the bubbling clear chalk stream.  It was quite confiding and two Grey Wagtails added a touch of further class.  Having cleared up we headed for home.

Black-bellied Dipper

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Lowestoft Life - 25th-27th February 2024

Sunday was a pleasant if chilly day with the first frost and ice for some time and  the Broadland circuit called.  It was not that there were any specific birds to go for but I fancied poking around random garden centres for additions to the developing plots.

We travelled a bit further north this time, pausing at the Roman Fort ruins in Caister and swung back towards the coast in North Walsham and re-joined it at Mundesley.  

Parking up in by the by All Saint’s clifftop church resulted in a fine view across a flat North Sea dotted with wind turbines and oil rings but nothing else whatsoever while a Chiffchaff called from the upsurging green Alexanders (which I hope I have removed from my garden…).  A free spot to park for lunch was something of a bonus.

I had a walk around the churchyard with graves that went back to at least the 1750.  Many were Granite rather Sandstone and there were fewer lichens this close to the sea.  I could not find any Luffia Lapidella but once again found the curious little black casing with ginger at each end.  Antony is still trying to work out what they are. 

Don't look away and don't blink...

There was lots of Pellitory on the church amongst the flints but Cosmopterix pulchrimella does not seem to have got this far up the coast yet.


Following the coast back south took us through Happisburgh where the Where’s Wally lighthouse was gleaming against a blue sky.  The fields held several herds of Mute Swans and a group of 13 Whoopers.

A stop at Waxham Barns gave me time for a scan from the dunes as usual but there were no Cranes or Pinkfeet but the most obvious bird was Wood Pigeon with large flocks in many of the fields. In fact flocks were seen all day picking their way through fresh winter crops and I suspect that they have recently returned from their winter sojourn further to the south.

A Ten-spot Ladybird was found inside the car but wildlife outside at Waxham was somewhat poor with a deathly quiet sea and just a party of foraging Long-tailed Tits in the Sycamores.

Ten-spot Ladybird 

On again passing three Roe Deer near Horsey before a layby stop before West Somerton gave me two distant flying Cranes and several Buzzards and Marsh Harriers all off towards Hickling.

With rain in the air I headed through Lowestoft where the sound of Kittiwakes reached me through closed windows and a short stop in the town centre allowed me to satisfy my need to watch these delightful ocean wanderers.  About forty were on the old telephone exchange and immediate rooves while the church had birds swirling around it proclaiming their return.  Interestingly the following day there was not one bird in the town and they had all headed back out to sea once again after their first touchdown of the season.


Yesterday was bitterly cold and very windy and I tinkered once again around the garden after popping into town as I try to do jobs now that will allow the garden to get going while I am away for most of March.

My find of the day - NN#1 an immaculate 4th edition in a charity shop for £1

Today was much of the same but after lunch it was looking bright and still so I dragged Mr W out for a couple of hours to visit North Cove nature reserve inland along the Waveney. It was delightful; a wonderfully wet Alder Carr woodland managed by the Beccles Wildlife Group.  Wellies are definitely needed at the moment but it was well worth the squidge.  Antony says that it is magnificent for insects and so some spring and summer visits will be required.

Gleaming Scarlet Elf Cups poked up through the leaf litter and huge tussocks of Sedge looking for all the world like Cousin It dotted the site amongst the mossy logs and stumps.  

Scarlet Elf Cups

Scarlet Elf Cups

A fine spotty Lords and Ladies

Cousin It Sedge - over to Enid!

Cousin It Sedge

There were plenty of woodland birds too and the feeding station was particularly active.  If you visit consider taking a back of food with you to top up the tin in the hide. There were so many Blue and Great Tits along with Coal Tits and several Marsh Tits in attendance. It is funny how we dismiss our common birds and barely give them a glance but Great and Blues are almost at their best this time of year and seriously give some of the gaudy foreign species a serious run for their money if only we took the time to actually look at them.

Treecreepers were singing and scampering up the Alders and yet again it was another site that screamed Willow Tit and Lesser Spot. Siskins and a couple of Lesser Redpolls were in the canopy and Robins popped up alongside us from time to time.

Four Peacocks were found hibernating in one of the hides

Chromatomyia aprilina on Honeysuckle 

Stigmella aurella

The whole site was crisscrossed with Muntjac tracks and we had in fact seen one as we arrived.  The adjacent path took us out on to marshes toward the Waveney much in the manner of Worlingham to the west.  The copper steeple of St Margaret’s gleamed in the distance and we had to search the map to discover what it was and that it was in north Lowestoft!

Three Stonechats and two Meadow Pipits were on the pasture and a very pale male Marsh Harrier was busy spooking Snipe and Pigeons and a single Chinese Water Deer was seen.

Marsh Harrier 

St Margaret’s

With our time up we headed back to the car and home.  I will certainly be back.