The Messenger - Serving Gislingham, Mellis and the Thornhams

Nature Notes - January 2020

Date: 5 February 2020

This is of course a time when many of us set new year’s resolutions and, although I don’t have a very good track record in keeping them, I think that this year I’ve come up with something that I might be able to stick to. It’s something simple and healthy and  should result in some interesting  photos too - I resolve to get out more! In view of this, it’s a little ironic that my first good wildlife experience of the year was seen from our kitchen! I was sitting having my breakfast when a Greater Spotted Woodpecker appeared on our peanut feeder. We haven’t seen one for a few weeks so I was admiring the scene when suddenly, whoosh! A Sparrowhawk flew down in full attack mode. The two birds swirled and cartwheeled around before the Woody escaped, flying off down the garden. The Sparrowhawk also zoomed off - but flew into our patio doors with a loud bang! Fearing the worst, I crept up to the doors to get a better look. There he was, sitting on the ground, eyes open but clearly dazed. He sat there for 5 minutes or so with me hoping he hadn’t broken a wing, when he lifted himself up and flew off to sit on the fence, when I grabbed a quick photo. After a few more minutes, off he went, seemingly unhurt.  I haven’t seen the Sparrowhawk since but I have recently seen a pair of Greater Spotted Woodys in the garden - something I haven’t seen for a couple of years - so happily they don’t seem to have been put off.
In the last edition of Nature Notes I mentioned visiting Horsey beach to see the seals and their new pups. Since then, I heard some distressing news on the BBC’s Look East programme just before Christmas. A person had let their dog chase a pup into the sea where, because its fur had not yet developed its waterproof properties, it later died of hypothermia. In a similar incident, parents had allowed their children to chase a pup into the sea where it drowned. The representative of the Friends of Horsey Seals who appeared on TV was incredulous that this kind of irresponsible behaviour could take place. Very sad.

For some reason I find myself fascinated by windmills and over the years I’ve photographed a great many of them. A lot have been around the Norfolk Broads and many of those are not really windmills but wind pumps, installed a couple of hundred years ago to help drain the marshes into the rivers and so make the land suitable for grazing animals. Whilst some have been restored to their former glory, many others are derelict. The Heigham Holmes wind pump near Martham Ferry is awaiting restoration and has been fitted with a temporary aluminium cap to keep the worst of the weather away from the machinery inside the tower. In its present state it remains an attractive part of the landscape and has been colonised by a number of Cormorants that like to take a rest there in between their fishing expeditions to the adjacent river Thurne. The wind pump sits on the north bank of the Thurne and that land forms a nature reserve owned by the National Trust. It’s possible to visit the reserve on particular days of the year via the swing bridge at Martham Ferry - see https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/horsey-windpump/heigham-holmes-nature-reserve for details of the guided visits. Detailed below is Tony Clarke’s updated list of birds he saw last November and December within the bounds of Gislingham village. Tony saw 72 different species in 2019 and will no doubt aiming to do even better this year - good luck! Happy Wildlife Watching!

November : 6th circular walk from High street over railway line ; 3x Buzzards , 2x Skylark , 2x Great spotted woodpeckers , Green Woodpecker , Marsh tit , 6+ Red legged partridges , Nuthatch , big double figure Wood Pigeon flock 12th circular footpath North of Mill street ; 25+ Linnet , 2+ Yellowhammer , 6+ Skylark , double figure Wood Pigeon and Black Headed Gulls , Stock Dove , 2x Green Woodpecker , 2x Pied wagtail , Meadow pipit 19th Burgate - Mellis roads via bridle way ; c50 Golden Plover , 3x Mistle thrushes , 3+ Bullfinch , mixed gull flock inc Common and Black Headed , big mixed crow flock inc Rook and Jackdaw , 2x Buzzard , 6+ Skylark , 4x Stock Dove Garden records throughout the month included Goldcrest , Blue , Great , Coal and long tailed tits , Chaffinch , Dunnock , Robin , Starling , Wood Pigeon , Collared dove , House sparrow , Goldfinch and Greenfinch December : 3rd circular footpath North of Mill street ; 40+ Golden Plover , big double figure Black Headed Gulls , all five regular crow species , Grey heron , 2x Green Woodpecker , 10+ Meadow pipit , 6+ yellowhammer , 4+ Skylark , 12+ Goldfinch , 4th Mill street ; Sparrowhawk at dusk 11th circular walk Mellis - Burgate roads via waterworks ; Double figure Fieldfare flock , 2x Mistle Thrush , 1x Song thrush 2x Redwing , double figure Blackbirds , Buzzard , Kestral , 4+ Skylark , Meadow pipit , Common Gulls , 3+ Stock Dove 21st Thornham road ; 10+ Red legged partridge 27th Burgate - Mellis roads via bridle way ; Big double figure Fieldfare + Starling flock , 2x Redwing , 4x Grey partridge , 10x Common Gulls , Buzzard , Great Spotted Woodpecker Interesting garden records in December included Mistle Thrush on 15th and an overwintering male Blackcap on the 13th .