The Messenger - Serving Gislingham, Mellis and the Thornhams

Nature Notes - July

Date: 3 July 2020

First up, we have a photo of a Goldcrest (overleaf) from Jean Kemp at Spring Farm. Jean has had a pair of these little birds nesting near her kitchen window and has been watching their comings and goings. This is the UK’s smallest bird, weighing in at just 6 grams. Still at Spring Farm, I had a call from Jean to say that they had a Wren’s nest in their porch. I popped over to take a look to find a parent bird busy feeding the one baby remaining in the nest. But all was not well - the tiny youngster didn’t seem able to move around properly and a careful investigation revealed that the bird had some twine entangled around one of its legs. The Kemp family deftly removed this and order was restored!
Regular readers may recall me expressing some frustration at having seen evidence of hedgehogs in the garden but not one of the prickly characters themselves. This spurred us into action and an investment was made in a “Trail Camera”. This camera can be setup to take photographs or video automatically when something moves in front of its lens, and at day or night. After a few days of disappointment - success, this little hoglet has now become a regular nocturnal visitor! A little further afield, at Lopham Fen, Peter Cottee came across a pair of dragonflies in the reeds. I’m no expert on dragonflies but I think that these are Emperor Dragonflies. These impressively large creatures grow up to nearly 8 cms in length and make an impressive sight when they’re zooming around. However, these two appear to have something else on their minds… Our next contributor’s photo this month comes from Eddie Prior who came across a Chaffinch that had unfortunately had a close encounter with a window pane. As Eddie writes, …”the little chap winded himself by flying into a window. After a bit of a cuddle he decided to hang around and we had quite a conversation before he decided it was time to go.”
Next up we have a trio of photos from Mike Heath, including a splendid Yellowhammer, taken from the footpath that runs from Mill Street towards the school. These colourful birds are, unfortunately, endangered, their numbers having been in decline for many years. Mike has also come across a Turtle Dove in Gislingham. Sadly, this beautiful bird is another on the endangered list. Loss of habitat and their food sources are amongst the problems they face, together with predation by, amongst others, birds of prey and domestic cats. This week we found on our lawn the tell-tale sign of a ring of grey feathers - probably once belonging to a Collared Dove. Locally, we do have several birds of prey around, including Kestral, Red Kite, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. And, as if that wasn’t enough, in May, Tony Clarke saw a Peregrine flying over the village! Finally from Mike we have a delightful photo of a House Sparrow feeding one of its young. When I was a nipper, Sparrows were so commonplace no one took any notice of them - sadly, they are much less common these days, although they do seem to be making a rather noisy comeback along Mill Street!
Back in late June on a particularly hot day I ventured out on a butterfly safari to Bradfield Woods. This turned out to be pretty successful with a great number of Silver Washed Fritillarys being seen fluttering about. I was also fortunate to see several of my other target species - the White Admiral. Indeed, whilst discussing the day’s results with the Warden, we watched as a Spotted Flycatcher swooped down to take one in flight!

Nature Notes - July

Date: 15 August 2019

As Mike says, whilst looking attractive they are a pest with Rosemary, Lavender, Sage and Thyme foliage being their particular targets. The RHS is asking that sightings be reported to them via their website so that their distribution can be evaluated – see  These beetles are believed to have arrived in London from southern Europe in the mid-1990’s and have since been expanding their territory.

A more common and garden-friendly insect is the humble Ladybird and I’m pleased to say that we have seen quite a few in the garden recently in search of their favourite food – Aphids. The Ladybird’s ally in this respect are the Blue and Great Tits and they have provided much entertainment as they forage acrobatically amongst the roses - good on them!

It continues to be a good year for butterfly sightings and my list of species seen now stands at 20, which is one more than the whole of last year. Numerous Painted Ladies have appeared in the garden, mostly on Lavender flowers. As others have noted, these butterflies appear to be very pale in colour and also quite ragged-looking, suggesting they have recently arrived in the UK on their migration trial. It’ll be interesting to see how successful they are at breeding when the next generation appear around September time.

A couple of notable recent sightings include the Brown Argus and Silver Studded Blue (shown here on Bell Heather), both seen in July on Westleton Heath, near Dunwich. A visit to Bradfield Woods also paid off with good views of Silver Washed Fritillary but, alas, no sign of the Purple Emperor!

Tony Clarke’s list of birds seen in Gislingham during June:

3rd *CUCKOO* heard again from our garden in the vicinity of High street ( see also 21/05 )

9th footpath , fields , woods s/e of Coldham lane ; 3x *TREECREEPERS* ( village list no. 70 ) 1x Turtle dove , 4+ Skylark , 2+ Yellowhammer , 3+ Blackcap , 2x Whitethroat , Chiff Chaff , 6+ Swift , displaying Buzzard , Nuthatch , Kestral , Long tailed tit with young , Great tit with young . Good numbers of nesting House Martin's including three pairs in Broadfields road with one pair on our house!

18th Footpath , fields adjacent to Back street ; 1+ *SPOTTED FLYCATCHER* ( village list no. 71 ) 2x Turtle dove including display flight which is encouraging , Skylark , Yellowhammer , 2+ Blackcap , 2x Whitethroat , Chiff Chaff , Great Spotted Woodpecker , 2x Green Woodpecker , 1+ Bullfinch , 2+ Swallow ( numbers are down this year ) 4+ Swift , 6+ House Martin , 6x Lesser Blacked Gulls over - wanderers can be seen regularly now .

28th fields , bridle way to North of Mill street across to Mellis road ; In song : Yellowhammer , Skylark , Blackcap , Whitethroat , Chaffinch , Greenfinch , Goldfinch , Linnet , Song Thrush , Wren plus Bullfinch , Green Woodpecker , Kestral , Swift and House Martin

Finally, like many of us, I’m always on the lookout for owls when driving across Mellis Common at dusk and recently came across this Little Owl sitting on the old tree trunk remains near Hall Farm. Happily he was still there after I’d collected my camera from home! Happy Wildlife Watching!