The Messenger - Serving Gislingham, Mellis and the Thornhams

Nature Notes - February 2020

Date: 10 March 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. Until next month….. Happy Wildlife Watching!

January 1st Burgate - Mellis roads via the water works ; c100+mixed Fieldfare , Redwing and Starling flock , 4x Golden Plover over , 6x Grey partridge , Common and Black Headed Gulls , Buzzard , Green Woodpecker , Goldcrest , Coal Tit . A total of 31 species seen for the day . 7th Fields adjacent to Back street and High street ; Sparrowhawk , Kestral , Buzzard , 4x Yellowhammers , 6+ Greenfinches , double figure Blackbird flock ( migrants following the Fieldfares and Redwings ) * GREAT BLACK BACKED GULL * over - village bird No 73 9th Mill street ; Barn Owl 16:20 13th Broadfields road ; Juvenile Sparrowhawk 27th Mellis - Burgate roads via waterworks ; 30+ Pied Wagtails , Grey Wagtail , c200+ mixed Fieldfare , Redwing and Starling flock , singing Skylark , 4x Common Gulls , Wren , Goldcrest , Tit flocks inc Blue , Great and Long tailed , c6 Chaffinch , c6 Greenfinch 29th Thornham road ; 6x Red legged Partridge 31st Garden , Broadfields road ; A nice surprise ( for us , not the birds ) was a male Sparrowhawk sitting in our boundary hedge before zooming off ( without his lunch ! ) February 2nd Barn owl seen over Rickinghall road at 16:40 8th Fields and horse paddock between Mill street and Back street ; Little Owl , 2x skylarks in song , 2x Green Woodpeckers , 10x blackbirds , 2x redwings , 1x Song thrush - the last three all in the horse paddock , Great tit , stock dove and robin all in song . 18th Garden , Broadfields road ; Male sparrowhawk 19th Mill street ; Big double figure Rook flock with many wood pigeon and odd black headed gull . 22nd Barn owl seen at Finningham road at 18:15