Monday, 20 February 2017

Alton Water - a multi-functional reservoir


My small Lumix camera has not coped well with the low light, but it was good to see several pairs of Great Crested Grebes on the reservoir at Alton Water Park on the Shotley peninsula in Suffolk. We also spotted Moorhen, Coot, Mallard and a single Tufted Duck.

The ducks below have thrown me: I had initially assumed that they were two of the Goldeneye that will be leaving soon for their breeding ground, but I am just wondering whether they are in fact female Tufted Ducks, the far one being a white-vented variant. Do tell me what you think: I have a hunch that I may have overlooked the obvious!  


There were loud twitterings from the bushes, but most of the small birds kept to the thicket, the one below being an exception. A pair of Bullfinches could be seen flitting to and fro through a dense mass of twigs. 


The light, such as it was, began to fade, and we headed back to the start of the trail. This was the scene at our turning point:


The tower is part of the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook.

Alton Water is a reservoir. It is used for recreation by wildlife enthusiasts, cyclists, dog walkers and sailors. You can read more about the spring wildlife here.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Spring sunshine, flowers and insects at NT Ickworth (still too early for lambs...)

The Rotunda

We visited NT Ickworth for the first time this season, hoping to see some early colour in the spring sunshine. The Aconites and Snowdrops were at their best.


Nuthatch - you can just about make it out...
We saw our first Nuthatch of 2017, high, high up in one of the trees. We have seen Nuthatch and Treecreeper here on previous visits, so we knew where to look.

The next three Nuthatch photos were taken here last year: I am re-posting them just to give a better idea of colour and shape. These are such fine birds.




The lovely photo below was taken by David this afternoon...


... while I spotted this branch of early blossom.


There were plenty of catkins on the trees...


... and tiny clumps of a plant that I had assumed was a form of miniature Comfrey or Lungwort, but I suspect it is something else altogether. Any ideas, please? I feel the black spots on the leaves ought to provide a clue.


We saw one Great-spotted Woodpecker in flight and heard drumming in the wood. The hole below, taken with a zoom lens, was high up on a trunk. I'm still wondering what is inside... 


You can see the snaking path of Snowdrops and Aconites. We were looking for the Woodpecker...


The spring flowers were magnificent...


... in their clumps and swathes.


We were particularly surprised to see several bees hard at work in the Aconites.


They were not the only ones who had been beavering away. The wood sculpture took us by surprise as it is a new feature, and as yet an unfinished one.


We found this board, telling us more about it.


The sculpture was well done, but I was not entirely sure that I  felt it fitted the ambience of this otherwise unadorned woodland walk.


This bee in the photo above has evidently 'bagged' a good amount of pollen. I wonder if these bees are from a local hive.

My thanks to David for the photo below...



And finally, what mammals did we see (apart from the sheep who are expected to produce over 1000 lambs in the coming weeks)? Well, two Grey Squirrels... and deer, or at least these rather fun recycled log-and-stick deer, egged on by a pair of log-snowmen!



We made a couple of purchases at the secondhand bookstall before leaving Ickworth in the glow of late afternoon sunshine, rejoicing in the knowledge that longer lighter evenings lie ahead of us.


Friday, 17 February 2017

My First Moth Sighting of 2017


We have noticed a few more moths about this week. The (as yet unidentified) one in the photographs spent a day on our window, but I am guessing that it may have a broken wing. I wonder if the photos suggest the same scenario to you? Having seen the photo of the Lunar Underwing here (if you scroll down the linked page), I am wondering if an encounter with a spider's web might also be the reason for the misplaced wing for the moth in my photo. It was on the outside of the glass: the top picture shows the underside - and antennae.

I understand that moths like the Spring Usher and the Early Moth would normally be taking to the wing at about this time of year.


Monday, 13 February 2017

First Treecreeper Sighting of 2017


Treecreeper (I took this photo some time ago)

I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of the little Treecreeper in the photo below on a recent visit to Christchurch Park. We had hoped to see Mabel the Tawny Owl, but she had gone AWOL; so this lovely little bird made up for her absence.


You can just make out the (2017) Treecreeper, with its long bill

I rather like the West Country nickname of Tree Mouse for this quiet but distinctive passerine.

Winter sunlight in Christchurch Park, Ipswich, 2017

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Another Woodpecker...

Photo: 10 Feb 2017

We are having a wonderful spell of Woodpecker visitations. This one, you will notice, does not bear a prominent red patch on the nape of the neck, making her a female. I hope there will be young Woodies on the way in due course...



Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Green Woodpecker


After the excitement of yesterday's visitor, look who showed up today! 


Do you think it was after ants, grubs or other insects? I imagine its proximity to my bug hotels was purely coincidental...


Monday, 6 February 2017

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Male - on account of red nape of neck

Look who showed up after the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch!

The woodpeckers have started drumming. I wonder whether we will have a male and female as regular garden visitors again this year.

Can anyone tell me why we have the Great Spotted Woodpecker ('Great' as opposed to 'Greater') when we also have the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, here in the UK, please?  



Saturday, 28 January 2017

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017




The photo above shows one of the feisty Robins, and one of the first birds to clock-in to the count.



At this point I would like to point to the RSPB's rationale behind the Bird Count: facts and figures can be fun (or not), but this key annual survey began with a purpose in mind, as you will see if you click this link. You might also find this page helpful, which mentions the conservation status that can be assessed for individual species when numbers are known and charted.

I did the bird survey between noon and 13.00 hours this morning, about an hour later than a year ago and I sense the later time produced fewer results. My hunch is that the birds in our Suffolk garden are active early in the morning and shortly before dusk.

So who failed to show up? Well, the Wren, the Starlings, most of the Magpies, the Jay, the Great spotted Woodpecker (who has not been around often of late) - and a fine male Bullfinch who was here yesterday.

Sadly the Greenfinches who were around when we moved in four years ago are rarely seen. The lone Redwing was here a few days ago.

As for the survey section on 'other wildlife', I was able to to say that I have seen stag beetles, foxes, hedgehogs and a stoat 'less than monthly' in the last year here in the garden. There was not a box for the Grey Squirrel who comes to the berry-and-fat feeder most days.

I wonder how your surveying went - or will go if you have yet to take part before the end of this weekend. My results have been submitted to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch site.

I see I got seven this year out of the top ten birds on last year's list.

These are a few of the other birds who put in an appearance today...

Female Blackbird

Blue tit

Great tit

Long-tailed tit

And here is the one who got away (by showing up a day early)...

male Bullfinch


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Gold(finches) for a Grey Day

All these photos were taken in poor conditions through double glazing - sorry!






 What a grey day. 

The car thermometer registered two degrees, but it felt more like zero in the damp air and relatively thick fog. It has been a good day for bird sightings. Thus far I have spotted the following...
  • a charm of 19+ Goldfinches on the Silver Birch, presumably feeding off its winged seeds.
  • One Starling on the coconut fat-feeder
  • Several Blue tits
  • At least two female Blackbirds, and a male on the coconut fat-feeder
  • A Wren among the dead stems near the window
  • A couple of Great tits on the feeder
  • At least a couple of Long-tailed tits on the feeder
  • At least five Wood Pigeons
  • A Robin
  • A Magpie on the next roof

I wonder why we see so few Chaffinches here. As I was tidying up this post a flock of about 20 Crows flew past, presumably in advance of the evening's roost.

I am hoping that some of these species will stay to be counted in the forthcoming RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.

Incidentally, a few Waxwings apparently made a brief appearance less than a mile up the road earlier this morning...


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Shingle Street - What No Owls?


There are times when you learn as much about wildlife by failing to see something (and sadly the crab above will never again see out of these vacant eye sockets) as by spotting a bird or animal successfully at a given place.

We have been on a Short-Eared Owl quest for some weeks, having enjoyed wonderful photos taken by others of this bird we have yet to see for the first time. Once again it eluded us this afternoon.

But the desire to look made us go out in the cold to see what was about. We noticed a few Cormorants in formation and a Little Egret in a brackish stream. There were gulls and corvids.

We scanned the sea at Shingle Street for seals, but there were no seal heads bobbing about today. However, there are always unexpected treasures on a beach... such as the mermaid's purse, the oyster shell and whelk in the pictures below.





Shingle Street is an evocative place, out on 'the edge'. It was particularly eerie this afternoon with the fading light, the empty shore and above all the tolling of the bell. But this was not Dunwich where some are sure that they have heard the bells from the succession of churches claimed by the tide. This bell off Shingle Street resides in the buoy in the next photo, warning all within earshot of the perilous Orfordness sandbanks. It brought to mind words from a poem I encountered at school many years ago, 'The Inchcape Rock', by Robert Southey. Here is the verse that rang in my ear:

The Abbot of Aberbrothok
Had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock;
On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
And over the waves its warning rung.


You can read more about the Inchcape Rock and the lighthouse here. The poignant fact, from my point of view, is that while Inchcape is many miles from here, off the east coast of Scotland, the distinctive red and white lighthouse at Orfordness, recently abandoned to its watery fate, can still be seen from Shingle Street. 


We waited for the sun to set, then turned for home, passing a couple of deer on the way.


The photo above shows the shoreline and the one below, the flat meadow and marsh on the landward side of the Shingle Street lane.