July is normally a quieter month but still able to throw up the occasional surprise. On the 9th a drake Scaup was discovered on Benacre broad, this increased to two on 13th-17th. On the 1st a Cattle Egret flew south over Minsmere whilst another was present at Carlton marshes on the 3rd along with four Great Egrets plus one at North Warren on the 6th, another Cattle Egret flew south over Minsmere on the 18th and what was possibly the same bird flew south over Sizewell on the 20th. At the close of the month a Purple Heron was seen at Carlton marshes, Two Manx Shearwaters past Southwold and a Sooty Shearwater past Minsmere on the 30th, are hopefully signs of more to come over the next couple of months. Reports of scarcer raptors were few and far between during the month, most notable were a White-tailed Eagle reported over Bradwell on the 4th and a Black Kite at Wangford on the 13th. A Red-necked Phalarope remained at Minsmere on the 1st having been present the preceding day, fifteen Spotted Redshanks were counted at Minsmere on the 14th, star wader of the month though was a White-rumped Sandpiper present at Minsmere 19th-23rd with two Curlew Sandpipers there on the 23rd and a Pectoral Sandpiper present there on the 31st. An Arctic Skua flew past Southwold on the 30th, on the 16th an unseasonal juvenile Glaucous Gull was seen on the Blyth estuary on the 16th and on the same day twelve Little Gulls were seen at Minsmere. Roseate Terns and Arctic Terns continued to be reported in ones and twos at Minsmere during the month with three Black Terns present there on the 20th, two Roseate Terns flew north past Lowestoft on the 1st. Bird of the month, at least for those who saw it, was an adult Gull-billed Tern present for about one hour on Minsmere scrape on the morning of the 26th, the bird departed to the north late morning and was then relocated feeding over Peto’s marsh at Carlton marshes in the afternoon were it remained for about one and a half hours. Oddity of the month was a House Finch discovered on the bird feeders at Dunwich coastguard cottages on the 2nd, this North American species soon attracted a few admirers but disappointment was just around the corner when it was discovered to be sporting a green leg ring, this fugitive from an aviary then relocated to Southwold where it remained through the month, obviously a better class of sunflower hearts in Southwold.
Reports of Purple Herons featured at the beginning and at the end of this months sightings, on the 5th a first summer was seen at Carlton marshes and an adult was seen further down the coast at Walberswick, the latter bird bird being seen infrequently until the 9th, a probable was also reported at Minsmere on the 6th. At the end of the month a first summer Purple Heron was reported daily at Minsmere 24th-29th, on the 4th six Common Cranes flew west over Reydon and on the 6th at the same location three White Storks were reported flying north. On the 5th a first summer male Red-footed Falcon was discovered at Westwood marshes Walberswick and remained until the 7th, an Osprey flew south over Dunwich on the 4th and a Honey Buzzard flew north at Minsmere on the 13th. A Collared Pratincole tracked north over Minsmere and Southwold before settling to spend the day at Peto’s marsh at Carlton marshes on the 12th, at the end of the month a Red-necked Phalarope spent the day at Minsmere on the 30th where two days before 13 Spotted Redshanks were counted. Roseate Tern was another species which featured heavily in this months reports starting off with a single bird at Minsmere on the 7th, numbers fluctuated throughout the month peaking at an amazing total of five together on the 25th. There was also a scattering of reports of Arctic Terns, mainly at Minsmere, throughout the month where a Black Tern was also present on the 25th. A first summer Caspian Gull on the scrape at Minsmere was this months only notable gull report. Two European Bee-eaters flew north over Aldeburgh 12th, the next day on the 13th a flock of 9 European Bee-eaters flew south-west over Carlton marshes, a few days later what was obviously the same flock of nine birds was discovered at Great Yarmouth where they entertained many admirers on the 21st-22nd. A male Red-backed Shrike spent the day in an area between Dunwich and Westleton on the 5th and a Golden Oriole flew north over Minsmere the same day. A Rose-coloured Starling was a nice find in the Common Starling roost at Hamilton dock Lowestoft on the 10th, sadly it was a one off and was not subsequently seen despite searching. Finally a singing male Common Rosefinch was briefly present at Southwold boating lake on the 7th.
Wildfowl records were sparse this month, two Garganey at Minsmere on the 15th and a Pink-footed Goose at Reydon on the 22nd were the pick. May is not usually a month associated with a lot of action offshore so four Manx Shearwaters south off Dunwich on the 21st, followed by three south at the same location the next day was of interest. There were several reports of Common Cranes and Spoonbills during the month, five Common Cranes over Dunwich (29th) and five Spoonbills at Minsmere (8th) being the maximum counts. The only other heron of note was a Cattle Egret at Carlton marshes on 25th. Raptors stole the show this month with a few sightings of Black Kite which possibly concerned the same individual, on the 2nd over Reydon at 13:50 and later over Carlton marshes at 16:50, on the 3rd over Carlton marshes again and on the 5th over Minsmere. Some sightings of Honey Buzzard mid month may also have concerned the same individual, on the 13th over Minsmere at 11:30 then over Aldeburgh at 11:57, on the 14th over Dunwich heath. A White-tailed Eagle was reported over Kessingland on the 23rd, a ringtail Montagu’s Harrier was at Tinkers marsh Walberswick on the 25th and an Osprey at Minsmere the same day, another Honey Buzzard was seen over North Warren on the 26th.
A couple of exceptional wader sightings occurred during the month, the first involved a summer plumaged Buff-breasted Sandpiper on Peto’s marsh at Carlton marshes on the 6th-7th, visiting birders were treated to the rare sight of seeing this bird displaying. Not quite so rare but again another interesting record involved a summer plumaged Pectoral Sandpiper at Minsmere on the 18th. A Curlew Sandpiper on Peto’s marsh on the 6th-7th though nice to see was much more expected at this time of the year. On the 8th a Pomarine Skua was seen off Thorpeness and on the 21st a Great Skua was seen off Dunwich, on the 22nd a Puffin flew past Dunwich and Southwold.
On the 1st a fairly elusive Hoopoe was present near the visitor centre at Carlton marshes, just down the road at Worlingham marshes the same day three lovely Ring Ouzels were sharing a meadow with some departing Fieldfares. A Wryneck was reported at Kessingland denes on the 9th and a Grey-headed Wagtail was seen at Southwold on the 11th. A very flighty Woodchat Shrike spent the afternoon of the 28th on the south denes at Kessingland, a Bluethroat was reported at Goleston on the 8th. On the 17th a Golden Oriole was heard by the Canopy hide at Minsmere, on the 25th-26th an elusive first summer male Golden Oriole was singing around the South belt at Minsmere. A female Pied Flycatcher was seen in the sluice bushes at Minsmere on the 3rd and a Wood Warbler was singing at Southwold sewage works on the 15th.
Just a stones throw outside the recording area along the river Alde at Iken there was a trio of rarities at the same location starting with a Kentish Plover on the 3rd-4th, a Broad-billed Sandpiper on the 5th-6th and a Caspian Tern on the 14th.
April was a rather cool month dominated by winds from a northerly direction, migration was slowed to a bare trickle but increased towards the end of the month. Garganey began to appear early with several reports from various sites, peak counts were 4 on Peto’s marsh at Carlton marshes on the 3rd and 3 at Minsmere on 6th. The overwintering Long-tailed Duck on Covehithe broad was last reported on the 2nd, 6 Velvet Scoters flew south off Covehithe on the 8th. The Taiga Bean Goose in the Reydon/Hen reedbeds area was reported up to the 13th, casting doubts on its authenticity as a wild bird. Red-throated Divers were in evidence offshore for most of the month with a strong passage off corton on the 9th with 3000+ north in one hour, Black-throated Divers were seen flying north off Southwold on 10th and 25th. A strong northerly passage of Gannets also occurred on 9th off Corton with c1200 in one hour, two first winter Shags were seen on the groynes along Lowestoft North beach on the 17th.
This month saw fewer reports of Great Egrets, peak counts were 3 at Dunwich on the 18th and 5 at Carlton marshes on the 21st and 22nd. Reports of Cattle Egrets increased however with one at Framlingham on the 10th, a summer plumaged adult at Bungay on the 17th and 2 in the Carlton and Oulton marshes area 21st – 24th. A single Spoonbill was at Minsmere 12th – 13th. White-tailed Eagles continued to roam the skies over Suffolk earlier in the month, on the 4th one toured north over Minsmere, Dunwich, Benacre and Carlton marshes and presumably the same bird was seen over the North denes at Lowestoft on the 6th. Goshawks were seen over Minsmere on 13th and Southwold on 24th, a migrating Rough-legged Buzzard was seen over Buss creek marshes, Reydon on the 27th. Raptor of the month was the Black kite seen over Peto’s Marsh at Carlton on the 29th, presumably the same bird was at North Warren on the 30th where it spent a short time perched on the marshes before flying off south over Aldeburgh. Common Cranes were also very much in evidence this month, which is never a bad thing, a few records from mainly coastal locations with maximum counts of 3 south over Dunwich on the 7th and 3 south-west over Carlton marshes then Benacre on the 27th. Most notable amongst this months wader reports were 2 Grey Phalaropes with one at Minsmere 7th – 10th and another at Southwold town marshes 8th – 12th, a handful of Wood Sandpipers were seen with 3 at Carlton marshes on the 30th, a month maximum of 8 Purple Sandpipers were seen at the Ness point, Lowestoft on the 15th.
Reports of skuas were understandably few this month with Great Skuas at Covehithe and Southwold and a Pomarine Skua at the latter site, all on the 25th. Several Little Gulls were reported with 3 first summer birds at Carlton marshes on the 20th, the long-staying Iceland Gull remained in the Lowestoft area until the 14th. The first Sandwich Terns (3) returned to Minsmere on 2nd and the first Little Terns (2) also at Minsmere on the 21st, Arctic Terns were also on the move with Carlton marshes bagging the lions share, the impressive Peto’s marsh played host to 7 on the 21st. The only report of a marsh tern concerned a single Black Tern seen along the river Waveney at Castle marsh on the 29th.
Swifts began to trickle in at the tail end of the month with 2 at Carlton marshes on the 25th, this reserve just keeps attracting the birds with a Hoopoe discovered by the visitor centre late on the 29th which then promptly disappeared. April proved to be a good month for Wrynecks with one at Gunton on the 13th, one along Breydon south wall on the 21st, one in a private Kessingland garden on the 25th and one in Southwold on the 26th. Notable passerines during the month included several Ring Ouzels with 2 at Westleton heath on 25th, 3 at Walberswick on 29th – 30th and 2 at Worlingham marshes also on the 30th, 6 Black Redstarts were at Kessingland sluice on the 4th. The first singing Nightingale for the year in our area was at Westleton heath on the 12th, a Pied Flycatcher was reported from a garden near Bungay on the 1st and a Hooded Crow was seen on Aldeburgh town marshes on the 29th.
Wild swans still figured in several reports this month, especially from the Minsmere area where a small number of both Whooper Swans and Bewick’s swans were reported, three Whooper Swans remained at Barsham marshes on the 1st but had departed the next day and 5 were at Carlton marshes on the 6th. European White-fronted Geese were still present in the area but in reduced numbers, peak counts were 30 over Benacre (2nd), 250 at North Warren (7th), 62 at Walberswick (9th) and 32 at Reydon (14th). An adult Taiga Bean Goose was discovered in fields adjacent to the Hen Reedbeds on the 9th, a very rare bird around these parts. Associating with Greylag Geese it remained until the end of the month, well past the date that this species usually departs the British Isles. Velvet Scoter continued to be seen on the sea off Dunwich in various small numbers, counts being 3 (7th), 4 (9th), 2 (15th). The drake long-tailed Duck remained at Covehithe Broad all month, just north of here at Benacre Broad two drake Scaup were present on 4th until the 14th. The redhead Smew continued to be reported sporadically during the month at Minsmere, peak count of Goosanders was 5 at Aldeburgh marshes on the 26th. The first Garganey of the year was a drake at Minsmere on the 26th, with 2 drakes present on the 31st.
Seabird reports this month featured mostly passage Gannets and the occasional Fulmar. A Shag was at Lake Nothing on the 7th. Great Egrets continued to be reported from several localities but a count of 12 leaving their roost site at Carlton marshes on the 6th is an amazing record. Spoonbills also began to feature this month at sites from Carlton marshes to North Warren, peak count being 5 at the latter site on the 27th. Mid month saw a large movement of Red Kites through the area, counts of 4 together over Leiston and 5 together over Wrentham on the 14th being most notable. White-tailed Eagles featured hugely (Pun intended!) in reports this month, it appears that at least two birds were involved, one from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme and the other(s) wild. Reports came from several localities and on several dates starting at Carlton marshes on the 15th and involved mobile birds generally flying north or south. Hen Harriers were also seen on several dates and mostly involved ringtails though males were seen at Reydon on the 19th and Covehithe on the 24th. Common Cranes are always an exciting and uplifting sight, 11 over Brandeston early on the 5th had reduced to 9 by the time they arrived at Minsmere when they were then tracked north along the coast. Two more were seen at Minsmere on the 9th, and then tracked south last being seen over North Warren, 3 over Benacre on the 24th and a single passed up the coast on the 25th.
A total of 18 Purple Sandpipers at Ness Point, Lowestoft on the 2nd was a good total, though this was surpassed on the 9th when 24 were counted. Spotted Redshanks were seen on the river Alde at Snape and at the Hen Reedbeds, 6 Ruff at Barsham on the 3rd, 4 Jack Snipe were at the Dingle marshes on the 9th and a Little Ringed Plover at Kessingland on 12th. The first winter Iceland Gull continued to be seen in the Lowestoft area throughout the month and another was seen at Minsmere on the 15th, a Little Gull was at Minsmere on the 31st and Caspian Gulls were reported mainly from Southwold, Minsmere and Sizewell. A Short-eared Owl at Blythburgh on the 25th was the only report of this species during the month.
The first Northern Wheatear of the year was seen at Minsmere on the 25th, 2 Water Pipits and 2 White Wagtails were at Southwold on the 9th, 7 Twite at Dunwich also on the 9th, 5 Snow Buntings at Kessingland on the 19th, 18 Hawfinches in Sotterley park on the 2nd, Common (Mealy) Redpoll at Minsmere on the 28th, 2 Firecrest at Aldeburgh on the 26th and a Swallow at North Warren on the 15th. Finally, the one that got away involved a probable Alpine Swift reported between Sizewell and Thorpeness on the 31st.
February is generally a quiet month and this year, with the added restrictions of lockdown, was no exception. There were fewer reports of geese this month the only notable reports involving European White-frontrd Geese, 12 at Homersfield on 11th with 9 remaining until the 15th and c500 at Aldeburgh town marsh on the 21st. Winter swan records were mainly centred around the greater Minsmere area with maximum counts of 4 Whooper Swans at Minsmere and 7 Bewick’s swans at Hinton, at the flooded Barsham marshes 14 Whooper Swans arrived on the 1st and remained until the 28th. At Minsmere the redhead Smew continued throughout the month, Goosander numbers declined this month with the maximum count reported involving 9 at Minsmere on the 17th. Scaup records involved a drake at Benacre broad 24th – 28th and a female at Minsmere on the same dates, Pochard is an increasingly scarce species in the area covered in this report so 15 (9 drakes) at Barsham was pleasing. The drake Long-tailed Duck remained at Covehithe broad throughout slowly moulting to become a very smart bird, 9 Velvet Scoter were reported offshore from Aldeburgh on the 11th.
Representitives of the three scarcer grebe species were recorded this month with Red-necked Grebe at Minsmere 1st – 21st, Black-necked Grebe offshore at Benacre on the 16th and Slavonian Grebe at Breydon water on the 5th and 23rd. 2 Shags were seen on Lake Lothing on the 21st. Great White Egret sightings continue to increase with several reports of single birds the maximum single site count being 3 at Dunwich on the 20th, Spoonbills began to reappear in the area this month with 5 at Aldeburgh on the 23rd and 3 at North Warren on the 27th. Raptor reports mainly involved Red Kites, Peregrines and Hen Harriers with the latter species being seen mainly in the Minsmere area, the Star of this particular show was an immature White-tailed Eagle in the Blythburgh/Westleton area on 27th and 28th, last seen flying north over the Hen Reedbeds on the last date. 2 Common Cranes were seen at Walberswick on the 21st and what was almost certainly the same two birds flew over Reydon on the 23rd. Reports of waders remained low, 7 Purple Sandpipers at Ness Point on 16th and Spotted Redshank and 2 Ruff at Barsham on the 22nd being the best. The cold snap mid month saw a predictable increase in reports of Woodcock escaping the bitter conditions across north Europe, a sad downside to this was the high counts of tideline corpses reported of this and other species which perished in the North Sea. The first winter Iceland Gull in the Lowestoft area continued to be seen sporadically particularly around Gunton, the same or another bird was seen at Covehithe on the 4th. Caspian Gulls continued to be seen mainly at coastal sites and adjacent pig fields, Little Gulls were seen at Southwold on the 14th (1), Kessingland on the 21st (1) and Benacre on the 16th (2). Short-eared Owl reports came from Walberswick on 11th and Westleton Heath on the 28th.
Snow Buntings were seen at Aldeburgh/North Warren and Kessingland, highest tallies being 3 at North Warren on the 7th and 11 at Kessingland on the 21st. Hawfinches continued to be seen in the Sotterley area though remained generally elusive, 21 on the 15th and 14 on the 22nd. 9 Common Crossbills were seen perched briefly in a small roadside tree at Ellough on the 20th, 8 Twite were along the beach at Dunwich on the 20th. A single Black Redstart was seen at Kessingland on the 18th/19th and 28th, a Water Pipit was seen at Covehithe broad from mid month with 2 at Dingle marshes on the 20th. Those looking hopefully for signs of an impending spring may take pleasure from the sighting of a Sand Martin seen over Peto’s marsh at Carlton marshes on 27th.
The first day of January is traditionally the day when many birders like to get out in the field and start their year lists, little did everybody know how short-lived this freedom would be this month. Those who got out early in the month were able to see 25 Tundra Bean Geese at Wenhaston, present since the 7th December their stay in to 2021 lasted just two days. Other sightings of Tundra Bean Geese during the month came from Minsmere and Dunwich on the 9th, where 7 were tracked flying north. European White-fronted Geese reports came from the Blyth estuary with 28 on the 7th and Reydon with 25 on the 29th, the biggest counts by far though were c650 at North Warren on the 15th and presumably the same flock at Aldeburgh town marshes on the 25th and 30th. On the 1st a flock of 100 Pink-footed Geese were observed flying in off the sea at Benacre, another 2 birds discovered at Aldringham on the 3rd remained util the 28th at least. A solitary Pale-bellied Brent Goose was observed on Aldeburgh town marshes on the 30th. Winter swans were mostly reported from coastal sites, maximum counts were 8 Whooper swans west over Wrentham on the 2nd and a maximum of 4 at Minsmere during the month, Bewick’s swans were reported from Minsmere and Hinton with a maximum of 4 at both sites, further inland another 4 were at Gillingham on the 19th. The Long-tailed Duck at Covehithe Broad extended its stay in to 2021 remaining until the months end at least, another two were seen on the sea at Dunwich on the 9th. 6 Velvet Scoter were seen offshore at Dunwich on 2nd with a single bird being seen with c250 Common Scoter at the same place on the 6th. The now regular flock of wintering Goosanders in the Thorpeness/Minsmere area peaked at 15 on Thorpeness mere on the 4th, the only other species of sawbill duck reported was a Smew at Minsmere on the 31st.
A Red-necked Grebe was discovered on the south scrape at Minsmere on the 22nd and remained until the end of the month, this species is far from annual in north-east Suffolk these days. Much more regular in the area now is Glossy Ibis, one frequented the flooded marshes at Barsham on the 25th and 26th. Great Egrets were reported from a few sites on several days with the maximum count being 3 at Dunwich. Traditional winter raptors were very thin on the ground this month, a few lucky observers caught up with Hen Harrier, ring-tails being seen at Oulton Broad, Reydon, Walberswick and the Minsmere area whilst a male was at Aldeburgh marshes on the 15th. A juvenile Common Crane was at Walberswick on 8th before flying off north, it was seen later the same day flying north at Reydon and on the 9th was present at Rushmere. The only wader reports concerned Purple Sandpiper with 3 at Ness point, Lowestoft on the 3rd and a single at Southwold on the 11th-13th, Green Sandpipers at Blythburgh and Barsham and 2 Spotted Redshank at Dunwich on the 21st. A Great Skua was offshore at Dunwich on the 2nd whilst a first winter Iceland Gull was seen in the Lowestoft harbour and Lake Lothing areas very infrequently during the month, a 3rd calendar year Caspian Gull was at Minsmere on the 24th. The only report of Short-eared Owl was one at Minsmere on the 9th.
The male Eastern Yellow Wagtail continued to frequent Peto’s marsh at Carlton marshes on a few dates throughout the month, Water Pipits were also reported from here (3) and at Minsmere (2). A single Firecrest was seen at Aldeburgh on the 15th. Hawfinches were recorded on several dates around Sotterley and Ellough with c25 at the former on the 15th and c20 at the latter on the 18th. At Minsmere 5 Common Crossbills were seen on the 18th, further up the coast at Dunwich 8 Twite and 16 Snow Bunting were seen on the9th.
As is to be expected in December winter wildfowl figured highly in observers reports, slightly more unusual were the numbers in which some species were reported. Tundra Bean Goose is a species that visits Suffolk in small numbers most winters, 8 were seen at North Warren on the 1st then 22 were discovered in a field at Wenhaston by the A12 on the 7th. These birds at Wenhaston remained through the month with their number increasing to 25 on the 13th, this is possibly the largest flock that has occurred in Suffolk since 1984. Although these birds occasionally decamped to the marshes around Southwold, another flock of 11 on Minsmere south levels on the 12th were probably different birds. European White-fronted Geese were also present at a few sites in the area with maximum counts of 85 over Southwold on the 6th, 196 at Harrow Lane, Leiston on the 7th, c280 over Leiston on 15th, 205 at North Warren on the 28th and 78 in fields at Benacre on the 12th. Rather surprisingly the only report of Pink-footed Goose was a singleton with the White-fronts at Leiston. Wild swans were also a bit scarce with 5 Whooper Swans at Minsmere on the 3rd and 6 Bewick’s Swans west at Southwold and 11 over Leiston both on 25th. Scaup were reported from a few locations including Minsmere, Southwold, Covehithe and Carlton Marshes. An immature drake Long-tailed Duck was discovered on Covehithe Broad on 4th, this bird remained through the month accompanied for a few days by a fine drake Scaup. Velvet Scoters were seen offshore at a couple of sites usually accompanying flocks of Common Scoter with 7 being reported off Covehithe on the 28th. Over the past two or three winters Goosanders seem to have become more prevalent in the area, Thorpeness Meare and Minsmere being the principal sites, the east scrape at Minsmere is a favoured roost site with maximum counts of 19 on the 14th and 20 on the 22nd. 6 Pochards on Minsmere east scrape 0n the 8th was noteworthy.
On the 6th a large southerly offshore passage of Red-throated Divers was noted with 2100 at Lowestoft and 5158 at Thorpeness, a Great Northern Diver was seen on the Alde at Slaughden 22-23rd. On the 5th an incredible 2300 Cormorants were counted offshore from Minsmere. Great Egrets continue to be noted mainly at North Warren, Minsmere, Dunwich and Carlton marshes, on the 2nd a Glossy Ibis was seen over Breydon water flying towards Burgh Castle. A thin scattering of Hen Harrier reports over the period came mostly from the Minsmere and Dunwich area and Carlton marshes, a Merlin was seen on Westleton heath on 27th. Among the few wader reports included over the period were Spotted Redshank at Dunwich, Purple Sandpipers at Lowestoft, 300 Golden Plover at St James on the 9th and a probable Grey Phalarope off Southwold on the 28th. Notable gull records were 6 Caspian Gulls at Minsmere on the 5th and a brief Iceland Gull at Oulton Broad on the 30th. Occasional Great Skuas were reported and single Pomarine Skuas were seen at Minsmere on the 24th and Covehithe on the 30th, 2 Little Auks and a Razorbill were seen from Southwold on the 24th.
Moving on to passerines a late Swallow was seen at Corporation marshes, Walberswick on the 2nd. At Carlton marshes the male Eastern Yellow Wagtail was seen again on Peto’s marsh on the 5th having not been seen for almost a week, it continued to be seen intermittently for the rest of the month. Twite continued to be reported occasionally along the beach between Walberswick and Dunwich with a maximum of 11 on the 13th, Snow Buntings were also reported from the same area with their maximum count being 21 on the 5th. An elusive Lapland Bunting was seen on Kessingland beach on the 5th.
Wishing you all a brighter, happier and safer new year.
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!
What was arguably, for a small group of people at least, bird of the period if not the year, was the adult Black-browed Albatross that flew south on the afternoon of the 28th September. Seen by about seven lucky people at 4 locations between Lowestoft and Thorpeness this bird remained, sadly for most, distant on the horizon. Other less astonishing seabird reports involved Sooty Shearwaters with singles north at Dunwich (12 Oct) and Minsmere (14 Oct), a Leach’s Petrel flew north off Southwold on 2 Oct.
Great White Egrets were reported from a few mainly coastal sites and a Cattle Egret flew south over Reydon on the 26 Sept. There were very few reports of less common raptors over the period mainly involving Ospreys, a Honey Buzzard south over Lowestoft north beach on the 3 October was notable. Wader migration was now beginning to slow to a trickle with the occasional Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper being reported, more exciting was the very showy Grey Phalarope present at Benacre pit on the afternoon of 27 September and remaining until the afternoon of the following day. Another Grey Phalarope was seen flying south offshore from Benacre on the 5 Oct. On the afternoon of the 27 September a juvenile Sabine’s Gull was discovered on the beach pools at Kessingland and showed very well for its short stay, another juvenile flew north close in at Minsmere stopping briefly on the scrape on the 2 October, an adult north off Southwold on the same day was more typically distant. At Benacre Broad 11 Caspian gulls were noted on the 23 September with 15 Yellow-legged Gulls present there the next day, an adult Baltic Gull was seen in the pig fields at Covehithe on the 6 Oct. The only tern of note was a winter adult White-winged Black Tern seen briefly at North Warren on 4 Oct, whilst on the 14th Arctic, Pomarine and Long-tailed skuas were all seen at Minsmere. A lack of really stormy weather during the period resulted in few reports of auks, 2 Puffins north off Gunton on 26 September and 2 Little Auks north off Southwold on 15 October and one south on the 16th were the pick.
At the end of September passerines began to figure in reports with a Barred Warbler south of Minsmere sluice on 21st, a probable Siberian Chiffchaff at Kessingland on the 29th and a probable Eastern Yellow Wagtail heard at Walberswick on the 30th, interestingly at the same location as last years bird. But it was in October that the action really kicked off starting on the 3rd with the discovery of a Rustic Bunting in Lowestoft by the Links Road car park early morning. Initially elusive in beach Marram before flying to roadside brambles where it became more showy, it then flew down on to the tarmac road where it amazed admirers by feeding down to within a few feet. Also on the 3rd a Radde’s Warbler was seen along the Gunton old railway track, a Booted Warbler was discovered in the Sycamores in front of the Sizewell A station and Great Grey Shrikes were seen at Kessingland and Southwold. On the 4th the Rustic Bunting was present early morning only before flying off south, another Radde’s Warbler was discovered at Southwold campsite, the Booted Warbler was seen again at Sizewell, the Great Grey Shrike remained at Kessingland and a second bird was discovered nearby at Benacre. This second shrike was photographed and after later viewing of the images was re-identified as Suffolk’s third record of Steppe Grey Shrike. On the 5th both shrikes remained at Benacre, the Great Grey Shrike having relocated to south of the river with the Steppe Grey Shrike showing very well in a hedgerow near Beach Farm. Another Radde’s Warbler was found in the north bushes at Minsmere and the Southwold campsite bird remained, a Red-breasted Flycatcher was seen briefly at Lowestoft north denes. Both shrikes remained at Benacre 6-7th but the Steppe Grey Shrike had departed on the 8th, both Radde’s Warblers remained on the 6th and a Pallid Swift was seen over Walberswick and Southwold harbour on the 8th. The Southwold Radde’s Warbler remained up to and including the 11th, although frequently elusive towards the end of its stay it occasionally gave prolonged and close views. Reports of Yellow-browed Warblers became too numerous to list them all here, Pallas’s Warblers also began to appear with the following birds reported at Corton new sewerage works on 14th and 17th, Corton old rail track and Gunton old rail track on 16th, Gordon Street Lowestoft on 17th, in a Kirkley garden on 22nd and Pakefield park on 23rd. On the 15-16th a Great Grey Shrike was at Benacre to the west of Beach Farm, a new bird or the bird remaining from earlier in the month? A possible Dusky Warbler was heard along the Gunton old rail track on 16th and a Siberian Chiffchaff was seen on the Lowestoft north denes, a Dusky Warbler was discovered in the sluice bushes at Minsmere. On the 17th the Dusky Warbler was seen again at Minsmere, a Barred Warbler was seen at Dunwich and on the 22nd a female Parrot Crossbill flew over Dip Farm Lowestoft.
Seabirds again dominated the reports from this period, Sooty Shearwaters and Manx Shearwaters were recorded on several dates with a peak of 10 south and 3 north off Corton for the latter species. Balearic Shearwater was recorded on 17th September with 2 north at Southwold and 3 north at Lowestoft, which included the 2 reported earlier at Southwold. Also on the 17th September a Cory’s Shearwater flew south off Lowestoft and on the 19th a Great Shearwater flew north at Southwold 08:40-08:50 and then off Lowestoft 09:58, in total five species of shearwater were recorded off the Suffolk coast in three days, a rare event! On the 18th September a Leach’s Storm Petrel flew north close inshore at Minsmere, a real treat for the few lucky observers present to see it. Great White Egrets were seen on several dates during the period with peak counts of 3 at the Dunwich shore pools on 2nd and 4 at Minsmere on 15th, both September. Ospreys were noted at a few sites on several dates with 2 lingering at the favoured stopover site of the Blyth estuary 6th to 10th September and a single remaining thereafter, sea watchers reported the occasional raptor offshore with Merlins making landfall at Dunwich on 27 August and Southwold on the 30th August with another seen at Benacre on the 10th September. A Common Crane flew west over Lowestoft on the 16th September and shortly after 2 were seen flying over Carlton Marshes.
Wader migration gathered pace during the period with many of the regular species being reported but no real rarities were discovered, though some wader hot spots were suffering from reduced water levels after the long hot end to the summer. Curlew Sandpipers were well represented with peak counts of 12 reported at Minsmere on the 12th September and 8 on the Blyth estuary on the 14th, most were juveniles. Little Stints were also seen at a few sites with 4 at Minsmere on the 17th September and a particularly obliging individual at Easton Broad 12th-19th September, Wood Sandpiper numbers fell after the peak of the previous period with 2 at Carlton Marshes on 31 August along with 4 Little Ringed Plovers.
Sea watching produced several reports of skuas with all four regular species being recorded. Long-tailed Skuas were particularly evident during the period though that may involve a small amount of duplication. Reports were as follows, 1 north at Corton and 2 north at Southwold on 27th August with an juvenile on the Lucky pool at Minsmere on the same day, 3 north at Southwold on 29th, 6 at Southwold, 2 at Corton and 1 at Covehithe on 30th, 1 off Covehithe on 17th September and 1 off Minsmere on the 18th. 3 Great Skuas flew south at Lowestoft on the 17th and a Pomarine Skua flew south at Southwold on the same day. There were also a few scattered reports of Arctic Skuas. Notable gull records were 2 Caspian Gulls and 37 Yellow-legged Gulls in the pig fields at Blythburgh 23rd August, 3 first winter Caspian Gulls at Lowestoft north beach on 6th September. Sea watchers logged a juvenile Sabine’s gull north at Lowestoft and an adult Sabine’s gull north at Southwold, both on the 30th August. Tern numbers were very low by the end of the period with most reports being of birds passing offshore, 2 juvenile Arctic Terns flew south at Southwold on 30th August. Coastal birders also began reporting the first Short-eared Owls beginning to arrive off the sea during this period.
Passerine migration was also in full swing with records of Pied Flycatchers, Whinchats and Common Redstarts amongst the reports. Less common birds observed included a first winter Red-backed Shrike at Minsmere on the 23rd August with another first winter seen at Gunton on 24th and 28th. A Wood Warbler was seen in the north bushes at Minsmere on 28th August and a typically skulking Barred Warbler was seen in brambles along Lowestoft north beach on 8th September. Sightings of Ravens are increasing in the county generally and in our recording area there were three reports during September, a single over Southwold on the 1st, 2 over Minsmere on the 4th and another single at Benacre on the 8th.
Seabirds began to appear in birders reports with a Balearic Shearwater north off Minsmere on the 14th, also at Minsmere two Arctic Skuas flew north with four Arctic Skuas and a Pomarine Skua north off Lowestoft on the same day. On the 15th two Balearic Shearwaters flew north off Southwold and a single Balearic Shearwater flew north off Corton, a Roseate Tern and a Great Skua were seen flying south off Lowestoft. Another Balearic Shearwater and two Black Terns flew south off Ness Point, Lowestoft on the 19th and thirteen Fulmars flew south off Minsmere on the 21st.
Great White Egrets were noted regularly at Minsmere during the period with two together at Island Mere on the 13th, five Spoonbills flew south over Lowestoft on the 18th with two south over Carlton Marshes on the 20th. Records of Red Kites and Hobbies were noted during the period, Osprey south over Beccles on 11th and single Honey Buzzards over Lowestoft on 18th and Benacre on the 20th.
Waders started to return in numbers with Wood Sandpipers being reported at both Carlton Marshes and Minsmere, peak count for this species was six on the 13th at the rapidly developing Carlton Marshes. The afore mentioned site also hosted twenty-five plus Green Sandpipers on the 11th along with thirteen Common Sandpipers and five Wood Sandpipers, firmly putting this exciting reserve on the wader map. At Minsmere thirteen Whimbrel flew south on the 12th whilst on the afternoon of the 20th the scrapes played host to ten Greenshank, twenty-six Redshank, forty-seven Ringed Plover, four Knot, ten Ruff, four Sanderling, Grey Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit. Three Green Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper were seen at Redgrave Fen on 16th. There were a few reports of Little Gulls but notable were juvenile Caspian Gulls observed in Southwold harbour on 12th (2) and the 21st (1).
Passerine migrants were observed in small numbers with the occasional Pied Flycatcher, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail and Crossbills being noted. However, it all kicked off on the 15th during a period of north-easterlies when a total of 150+ Pied Flycatchers were found in Suffolk as a whole, peak counts in the north-east of the county were thirty around the Southwold area and twelve around the Minsmere area. A juvenile Red-backed Shrike was discovered by the water tower at Southwold the same day and remained on site up to and including the 20th when another juvenile was found at Minsmere. Excitement continued on the 16th when a Wood Warbler was found at Gunton, observers on site then heard and saw briefly a very elusive Greenish Warbler which quickly disappeared, another Wood Warbler was discovered in Maltsters Score, Lowestoft the same day. Exotica was provided by two Ring-necked Parakeets around Corton and Gunton on the 14th and 15th, two parakeets which flew north over the sluice at Minsmere on the 16th were presumably this species.
Exciting as it is to see all these arrivals it must also be noted that several species have now departed, Swifts made their usual mass exodus and have now mostly departed from our towns and villages. The numbers of juvenile Cuckoos arriving at the coast preparing to follow the adults south has now decreased, whilst two late Nightingales were seen on Westleton Common on the 19th. Some species however are still in the throes of breeding with Stone Curlews with chicks and possibly even eggs being reported.
On a sad note a juvenile Sowerby’s Beaked Whale washed up dead on Lowestoft north beach on the morning of the 22nd, the previous day this unfortunate creature had live stranded on the beach at Caister-on-sea from where it had been refloated.