Suffolk sea watchers have experienced an excellent year for unusual sightings as a glance at previous reports will attest, this month it was the ‘one that got away’. On the 1st a possible Brown Booby was seen flying south off Southwold, there have now been a few records of this species in British and European waters so hopefully this is a good candidate for the future. Arguably as exciting but rather more expected, was the increase in winter wildfowl with several reports of Velvet Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks offshore, the latter species was also recorded on coastal waters including Benacre, Covehithe and Minsmere. The first seasonal records of Bewick’s Swans and Whooper swans began to appear along with those of European White-fronted Geese and Goosanders, top count of the latter was 19 on Minsmere east scrape early morning on the 30th. Most interesting was a southerly movement of Greater Scaup during the morning of the 29th, 56 were reported off Ness Point, Lowestoft including flocks of 25 and 19 whilst further south at Southwold 81 were recorded the same day but over a slightly longer timescale. Great Egrets continue to be reported with maximum counts being 4 at Dunwich shore pools on the 14th and 2 at Carlton Marshes on the 26th. On the 4th 3 Glossy Ibis flew south over Dunwich during the morning, subsequent records probably involving these same birds were 2 at Carlton Marshes on the same afternoon and sporadically until the 29th, a single at Burgh Castle from 4th until 7th. Overwintering raptors were recorded from several sites, these included Merlins and the now scarce Hen Harrier, only one sighting so far this winter of Rough-legged Buzzard involved a single seen at Burgh Castle on the 8th.
On the 4th a possible Eastern Yellow Wagtail was reported along the shore pools at Dunwich/Walberswick, the next day 2 birds were found to be present including a male and a first winter bird. These two birds were frequenting the same area that hosted Suffolk’s first record of this species last year, both birds were seen regularly up to the 19th. Birders who took their lockdown exercise along the beach to see these birds during the first couple of days they were present, found themselves repeating the process when a Greater Yellowlegs was discovered on the Dunwich shore pools on the 7th, this attractive Nearctic wader remained until the 19th frequently showing very well. Apart from the Yellowlegs there were very few wader reports with just the occasional Spotted Redshank and Jack Snipe and 11 Purple Sandpipers at Ness Point, Lowestoft on the 2nd. No unusual gulls were reported during the period with just a scattering of Caspian Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls, Great Skuas were logged on several dates with 8 off southwold on the 17th along with 2 Pomarine Skuas, on the 21st a total of 23 Great Skuas were seen off Lowestoft though this probably included some duplication, further south at Thorpeness a total of 8 Pomarine Skuas was reported on the same day, 5 Pomarine Skuas were reported off Minsmere on the 19th. Alcids this month included Little Auks at Lowestoft on the 20th (1), Thorpeness on the 21st (1) and Minsmere 0n 23rd (2). A few Short-eared Owls were seen during the month, the only sighting of a Long-eared Owl involved an individual perched on a groyne at Lowestoft, obviously a freshly arrived migrant.
On the 14th 2 Shorelarks were discovered by the saline pools on Kessingland north beach, 3 birds were reported on the 16th, then 2 birds again on the 17th and 18th. Late House Martins were seen at Aldeburgh on the 17th (2) and Hen reedbeds on 20th (1). Another male Eastern Yellow Wagtail was found on Peto’s marsh at Carlton Marshes on 25th, frequently very elusive and viewed at great distance, this bird remained to the months end, up to 10 Water Pipits were also seen at this location. As is frequently the case, November provided a final flourish of late autumn migrant warblers from much further east. On the 7th a Pallas’s Warbler was located in the sluice bushes at Minsmere, a favourite of most birders this stripey sprite remained on the 8th. Also on the 8th a Hume’s Warbler was found at Gunton meadow, though mostly elusive with patience good views could be obtained, in Lowestoft a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen in Warrenhouse wood. The next day (9th) 2 Dusky Warblers were located, one adjacent to Southwold camp site and the other on Lowestoft north denes, the Southwold bird was still present the next day and the Lowestoft bird remained until the 15th. Just to prove that unusual birds can turn up anywhere, on the 7th a Penduline Tit was seen and photographed at Bramfield, keep watching your gardens! Hawfinches were seen in Sotterley Park on 20th (3) and 22nd (4), Snow Buntings were reported from a few coastal sites with a maximum of 20 at Dunwich on the 28th, a Lapland Bunting was also seen at Dunwich on the 5th and 6th. Twite were also reported from Dunwich, a traditional location for this species, with a maximum count of 9 on the 11th.
A merry Christmas to you all!