Sunday 8 November 2020

A Spot of Birding

The Mourning After

Yesterday morning I was lounging around with nothing to do but wait for builders to arrive when I got a message from Howard about a couple of Eastern Yellow Wagtails which had been seen at Dingle Marshes near Dunwich.  Having not gone to see the long-staying individual last year,  I had planned a trip for these birds but it would not be on this sunny Saturday morning.  Moments later a text from Peter brought news of another bird in the same location; a  Greater Yellowlegs. Now this was not what I wanted to hear... I absolutely HAD to stay in to wait for the builders, didn't I? Well no, I could've left but my conscience wouldn't allow it. There was a lot of stuff to clear out of the way and I couldn't keep putting it off.

The four of us set to and cleared the garden ready for the builders but rather frustratingly they still didn't arrive...

With news of the Greater Yellowlegs showing well,  together with Short-eared OwlsMerlin, Snow Bunting and White-fronted Geese all putting in appearances,  the day continued to frustrate and disappoint, especially with news that the Yellowlegs decided to leave the area at 2.05pm flying North without any further sightings.  Eventually the sun set and STILL NO BUILDERS!

With thoughts of what could've been I decided that I would make an early trip on Sunday morning to look for the Wagtails. At 6.30am I set off in damp conditions wondering if it was really worth the bother; a quick look at the forecast promised only a small chance of sunshine and a fair chance of showers.  I seemed to be setting myself up for disappointment!

I arrived at Dunwich Beach at 7am and had the place to myself. As I started the long trudge North towards the last-known location of the Wagtails, the sun started to break through just above the horizon 

Dawn breaks

I continued slowly heading up coast in the socially distant company of a chap who had also missed out on the chance of the Yellowlegs the day before due to work.  Looking back the way we had come it appeared that we had this stretch of coastline all to ourselves and in the gloomy light over the marshes I picked up a Kingfisher and a Great White Egret while skeins of several hundred Barnacle Geese honked over our heads.

A Lonely View

The Suffolk Barnacles 
Great White in the Gloom

Kingfisher, but only just!

There was plenty of movement over the sea early on with several small flocks of geese and hundreds of gulls. Teal and Wigeon were flying just off the beach.

Suddenly it was like someone turned on the lights as the sun rose high enough to illuminate the marshes and birds began to rise from their slumber. Godwits stretched whilst large herons of grey and white varieties floated lazily over the reedbeds.

Black-tailed Godwits 

Grey Heron 

Great White Egret, one of 2 Birds 

Approximately 2km north of the carpark the chap I was with (we never exchanged names!) pointed out a distant wader which didn't seem to have fully awoken. We exchanged ideas about what we thought it was and in spite of us both being resigned to the fact it had long since departed, came to the conclusion that it had to be the Greater Yellowlegs! We watched it as it first began to feed and then, after regurgitating an uncomfortably large pellet went back to sleep!  I put the news on the Suffolk WhatsApp group and almost immediately, the small group of birders about half a kilometre north of us, presumably watching the Eastern Yellow Wagtails,  dispersed and headed towards us. 

Could it be? Yes! Greater Yellowlegs 

I exchanged a few pleasantries but left them to watch the Yellowlegs and continued northward to search for the 2 Wagtails.  
Again,  I had most of the beach to myself as I mooched along the edge of the marshes watching Linnets, Skylarks and a couple of Pipit species going about their business however the only Wagtail I found was a smart Pied.  Just then a call caught my attention and it was a Wagtail. Unfortunately,  even though I couldn't see it being anything other than one of the Eastern Yellow Wagtails, it dropped out of sight over one of the shingle ridges.  I slowly edged forwards hoping to look along the back of the ridge hoping not to spook the bird.  I didn't spook it, on the contrary,  this juvenile bird was completely indifferent to my presence and gradually picked its way towards me delicately flitting over the stones and mud, in and out of the reeds catching midges and crawling insects.  A few times it brazenly stood out in the open less than 6 metres from me!

Skulking Wagtail 

Showy Wagtail 

The bird gradually worked its easy out of sight to the far right end of the pool just as two more birds dropped in and immediately started squabbling. An adult and a different juvenile Eastern Yellow Wagtail then spent about ten minutes entering myself and aforementioned unnamed man. 

Aerial disputes

The adult Wagtail soon chased off the youngster and hung about for some lovely views for several minutes. 

Adult Eastern Yellow Wagtail 

And again...

With a long yomp back along the beach still ahead of me,  I decided to rejoin the ever increasing number of socially distanced birders enjoying the confiding Greater Yellowlegs in glorious mid-morning sunshine. It had been closer during my absence but watching it feed for a while alongside Redshanks seemed the right thing to do before heading back to the car. 

Back for Seconds...

...and the Yellowlegs showed superbly 

Driving back along the Dunwich Road with a rather large grin on my face,  I realised the time was getting close to 11am on this Remembrance Sunday so I pulled into a car park and listened to the coverage of the ceremony at the Cenotaph whilst looking over the fields along the Westleton Road. About 6000 Starlings murmurated in the distance and a Buzzard lazily glided low over the fields with the accompanying soundtrack of Big Ben's chimes,  a 21 gun salute and the melancholic Last Post...

My Last Post

Monday 15 June 2020

First For Suffolk

Westleton Heath 13.6.2020

The weather in early June had been a continuation of April with warm sunny days and cool, clear nights.  With the country having been in the grip of COVID lockdown for months, moth trapping in my Lowestoft garden had been frustrating to say the least! By the second week of the month, temperatures started to hold up around double figures and the species counts began to rise steadily; things were starting to look up.  With lockdown restrictions being relaxed, the chance to get back out into the field for the first time since March was very appealing.  After a good catch at home the night before, we decided to head out on the 13th June.

Peter Follett and I have been trapping together for a few years now and we have a short list of sites where we trap regularly but on this occasion we decided to try somewhere new.  We picked a spot a few kilometers from one of our usual spots, right on the edge of Westleton Heath and Dunwich Forest.  We travelled light and only took one 125w MV Robinson trap and a couple of our homemade traps fitted with LEDs and 20w Wemlite bulbs. 

Dusk at Westleton 

After setting up shortly before dusk, there was just enough light to check the area for leaf mines and larval feeding signs to get the list going.  Cydia conicolana emergence holes and the feeding signs of Broad-bordered Bee Hawk were particularly pleasing.  As it got dark, the lights went on and the moths began to arrive.  At first it appeared that the MV was going to perform best; lots of Brown Silver-line, Brimstone, Double-striped Pug and a couple of Fox Moth arrived early around the trap.  However, the temperature dipped lower than I had hoped under clear skies.  The arrival of moths slowed down although I was pleased to spot a Grass Emerald in a Gorse bush by torch light; a new moth for both of us.  It was too cool to sit outside so we sat, socially distanced, in our own cars chatting through open windows and drinking coffee before doing the final round of the traps and packing up.  The most numerous moth of the night was True Lover’s Knot with 67 but only a few other species reached double figures; Brown Silver-line, Neofaculta ericetella and Scoparia basistrigalis. 

Feeding signs of Broad-bordered Bee Hawk 

Pot shot of the Grass Emerald 

Fox Moth

We packed up The MV and one of the 20w Wemlite traps first, leaving the ‘Ark’ trap until last.  This duel-funnel trap was fitted with 7w LED and 20w Wemlite lamps powered by a motorcycle battery.  Having been situated near the heath, the trap was mainly full of True Lover’s Knot and Neofaculta ericetella but there were plenty of moths of interest such as Clouded Buff, Cream-spot Tiger and Grass Wave.

True Lover's Knot

Grass Wave

By the time we going through the last few egg trays it was really quite cold and damp and the main objective was to pack up quickly.  We motored on through the last few egg trays, potting up anything that we were not sure of in order to identify later.  A small moth similar in size to a Marbled White-spot caught our eyes but neither of us could immediately put a name to it.  It looked like it should have been obvious, but tiredness had kicked in and the coffee was wearing off!  Peter said, “just tube it” and so into a pot it went for later scrutiny.  We packed up and headed home around 1am, pleased with a decent list of around 80 species including a few to check. 

When I got home, I quickly checked my garden traps but another cool, clear night meant reduced numbers on the previous few nights and a slightly disappointing end to the night… or was it?  As I sorted out the potted moths from the field trip, I remembered the odd noctuid from the last trap.  I flicked through a book and was surprised that I could not immediately match it to anything obvious.  Luckily, my wife had woken up and had joined me at the kitchen table to help with my mystery moth.  Having excluded all the commoner moths we decided that it had to be a Pretty Marbled Deltote deceptoria, however a quick glance at the Suffolk Moths website showed no records or photos.  

Mystery moth on the Kitchen Table 

Knowing how new the website was, I assumed that any previous records had yet to be uploaded but I pinged a photo across to Neil Sherman, the county moth recorder, to verify my identification.  At 4am, Neil responded with “well done, it’s new to Suffolk!”.  Only after a few hours sleep and a bit of research did I find out what a great record it was; there had only been 20 previous records for Britain! 

Pretty Marbled,  the first record for Suffolk 

Sunday 15 March 2020

A Long Wait! Dunwich 7.3.20

Return to Dunwich 

I haven't done a blog for ages; mainly due to a lack of time during the busy season last year and this year hadn't really got going... 

It's been a very frustrating spring so far with almost constant wet and windy weather which has prevented us from getting out and about.  In my Lowestoft garden there have been few surprises and most of the species on our 2020 list have been from early stages and a couple of brief trips to Worlingham and Frostenden Woods. That said,  we have seen some a few lovely moths on those occasions. These Small Brindled Beauty were a nice surprise at Frostenden on a night we went to Dunwich but had to turn back because of a fallen tree blocking our way to the trap site.
Small Brindled  Beauty 

We also had a good trip to Worlingham earlier in the winter where overwintering moths stole the show including this fantastic Buttoned Snout:

Buttoned Snout 

Other highlights of our winter sessions are as follows: 

Acrolepia autumnitella - Worlingham 

Satellite - Worlingham 

Acrolepia autumnitella - Worlingham 

Dotted Border, female - Frostenden 

Spring Usher - Frostenden 

Winter Moth, female - Frostenden 

Alucita hexadactyla - Worlingham 

Coleophora artemisicolella - Lowestoft 

So, our species list by the end of February stood at nearly 50 species which is pretty good considering the relentlessly poor conditions.  We really needed some good weather for a proper session in the woods.  Luckily the weather for Saturday 7th March. Although breezy,  the forecast was for mild temperatures and no rain so we were Dunwich bound at last! 

A Good Start

After setting up at our usual spot I took the opportunity to look for early stages and turned up a new species almost immediately; Stigmella suberivora on Holm Oak 

Moths weren't quick to arrive but first in was one of the target species,  Hellow Horned. The night produced over 60 of these lovely moths. 

There were a few moths flying but it was a slow start in blustery conditions. As I followed one unidentified moth in an unsuccessful attempt to net it, I spotted something on the floor.  Amazingly it was a Brown Long-eared Bat! Clearly stunned,  we ushered it up a nearby tree to recover. It seemed fine so we carried on moth-ing...

After a brief rest with a cuppa were did a round of the traps. As expected, the MVs on the rides were attracting the most moths but not necessarily the most variety... under the canopy of the trees, our homemade LED traps had a great range of species including these:

March Moth 

Common Quaker 

Yellow Horned 

Diurnea fagella 

Double-striped Pug 

There were two stand out moths on the night; the first was a nice surprise but one we'd caught at this location last year and that was a Dotted Chestnut; a moth that seems to be on the increase and spreading quickly. 

Dotted Chestnut 

As wonderful as it was to catch a Dotted Chestnut,  the biggest surprise of the night wasn't a particularly rare moth but one we would never have expected to come to light: a stunning Orange Underwing,  a day-flying moth!

Orange Underwing 

And another...

So a couple of cracking moths on a great night it in the woods. 

The full list to follow...