The Messenger - Serving Gislingham, Mellis and the Thornhams

Nature Notes - April

Date: 14 April 2020

We stayed near Ambleside and visited Elterwater in Langdale, Harrup Tarn near Thirlmere lake, Derwent Water and Ullswater. We were so lucky with the weather, which was dry and mostly sunny and bright throughout our stay, if a little cold. In fact the weather was perfect for walking and admiring the sights. One particular spot that I wanted to visit was Harrup Tarn, a small body of water near Thirlmere. Potentially, this offered great views across Thirlmere to the Helvellyn mountain with an attractive footbridge in the foreground. In the event, things didn’t go quite according to plan.  Although Harrup Tarn is only half a mile or so from the lakeside car park, the trail is quite steep and, in winter, more of a rocky stream in places than a path! And unfortunately, when I arrived at the top, the peak of Helvellyn was shrouded in low cloud! Never mind, I felt a sense of achievement having climbed up there and bagged a photograph. Whilst I only met one other walker at Harrup Tarn, it was a different story at Elterwater where even on a February morning at 10:00 a.m. the National Trust car park was full! Happily, the surrounding area is large enough to easily accommodate all the people. On our final day, we stopped briefly at Glenrdiding on Ullswater on our way home and admired the boats coming and going from the pier.  The water was becoming quite choppy by now and this was to be a portent of things to come - Storm Ciara was coming!  We were glad to return home to the relatively mild weather of Suffolk, and especially so having since seen the disruption and damage done by storms Ciara and Dennis in the North West.

Sometimes nature can be seen to administer justice to those who like to take liberties and that is what happened at Welney Washes in January. The Welney Wetland Centre near Wisbech is a popular wildlife centre, especially in winter when many kinds of waterfowl visit including Whooper Swans - those with bright yellow beaks - visiting from Iceland.
The area is prone to flooding and locals know to avoid certain roads in winter. This appears not to have been known by a number of individuals apparently attempting to engage in the illegal activity of Hare coursing and when their two 4x4 vehicles became water logged they and their dogs had to swim for it! I wonder if they went back for their vehicles? Perhaps under cover of darkness. In my quest to find places to see owls I recently came across the interesting story of Mabel the Tawny Owl. Mabel made her home in a tree in Christchurch Park in Ipswich in 2007 and was a popular local sight for many years until she sadly disappeared in 2017. At that time, a small statue of Mabel was placed by her favourite tree as a memento. Last November, however, it appeared that Mabel had returned! Whilst this is a nice thought, it would be extraordinary for a Tawny to live so long in the wild. Perhaps it’s one of Mabel’s offspring? Whatever, I think it might be worth a look!
Back in the garden, our feeding station has been very busy indeed. So much so that to save me a little work topping up the feeders, I decided to add a new one, so doubling up the amount of sunflower hearts on offer. Hopefully, I’d then be topping them up half as frequently. Wrong! We now have twice as many birds so I’m back where I started! We haven’t had so many Starlings lately so I’ve resumed putting out the fat filled coconut shells - its nice to see the smaller birds enjoying a tasty snack. I’ve been waiting for the winds to drop a little before venturing out to RSPB Minsmere. Hopefully I’ll be reporting on that next month, when a visit to the North Norfolk coast is also planned.

Nature Notes - April

Date: 29 April 2019

Towards the end of April Jenny and I spent a week at the North Norfolk coast, officially an area of outstanding natural beauty, a haven for all kinds of wildlife and well known to many readers of the Messenger. We popped in to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s visitor centre at Cley Marshes and, first things first, I’m pleased to report that the bacon sandwiches are as good as ever! Tearing ourselves away from the Centre’s café, books and all kinds of wildlife related paraphernalia, we explored some of the trails through the marshes where we spotted many of the area’s iconic birds including Marsh Harrier, Avocet and, most thrilling of all, Bearded Tits. The Tits caused a great deal of hushed excitement in one of the hides as they appeared in the gently swaying reeds close to one of the windows. The hide was quite busy at the time and to everyone’s credit, people processed around so that everyone could get a good view of these handsome little birds. When my turn came around I was able to get some pleasing photos, especially of a male bird that sports the unmistakable “moustache”.  On another day, we visited Blakeney and had a most pleasant stroll around the salt marshes where the area’s landscape and famed “big skies” really made an impression. 

Spring is all around us now and the number of butterfly species to be seen is on the increase. My tally now stands at five, with Large and Small Whites and Peacock being recently added. The species that I’ve seen the most of has been the Brimstone, with their unmistakable large size and bright lime green colour. Other kinds that can be expected to be seen now are Green Veined White, Holly Blue, Orange Tip and Comma – ones to watch out for.
Another sign of Spring is the appearance of fledglings in our gardens and Marion & Glyn in Gislingham saw their first, a Starling, on 3rd April, as well as an adult Yellowhammer. Just along the road, Graham & Bar have Blue Tits in one of their nest boxes again and this is providing much entertainment as Graham has installed a camera in the nest box to enable their behaviour to be watched on his TV.
Meanwhile, Tony Clarke’s detailed list of birds seen in Gislingham: 1st 2x Yellowhammer , 2x Meadow Pipits , 70+ Fieldfare - Fields behind school - Mill st - Burgate rd - Mellis rd . Residents in song included Greenfinch , Skylark ,Chaffinch , Wren and Song Thrush . 5th 30x Fieldfare , 10x Pied Wagtail , 5x Linnet at the waterworks , Thornham rd . 15x Fieldfare , 20x Starling , 2x Linnet - horse paddock , Burgate rd . 5x Buzzard over copse north of Thornham rd and east of water works . 18th 50+ Fieldfare , Buzzard , Meadow Pipit and Yellowhammer -Fields adjacent to High st , Gislingham rd and Coldham lane . Residents in song included Greenfinch , Chaffinch , Skylark , Goldfinch , Blackbird , Robin , Wren and Song Thrush . 26th first Chiff Chaff of the spring , *Marsh Tit * ( retirement list no 60 and the first I've had in the village ) , Buzzard , Green Woodpecker . Residents in song as above . - Footpath over railway line from fields off of Coldham lane . 27th 7x Fieldfare , 2x Yellowhammer , 10x Linnet , 2x Chiff Chaff , Green Woodpecker . Residents in song as above . - Burgate rd , bridle way , Mellis rd . 29th 2x Grey Partridge , Chiff Chaff , Buzzard , Kestral . Residents in song as above . - Footpath over railway line as above plus fields adjacent to High st . A transitional month with the larger winter flocks of Gulls , Plovers and Thrushes dispersing . Fieldfares are still hanging on plus summer migrant Chiff Chaffs are coming in .