I thought you might like to see this. Whilst enjoying a leisurely coffee this morning there was a (mercifully dull) thud on the lounge window. On investigating I found a stunned Treecreeper on the patio. As it was so cold this morning I picked it up in a tea towel to keep it warm whilst it hopefully recovered. About 10 minutes later it started giving its characteristic squeak and so I carefully put it on a pile of tree stumps at the bottom of the garden near the mature trees and stood guard in case Maia (our cat) should appear. About a minute later it flew away seemingly none the worse for the experience.
A very nice addition to my garden list.
Bungay Swift Walk (and maybe swift pint…..) July 20th
In spite of the COVID pandemic, the Swifts have returned to Bungay as usual; and as usual, need counting before they fly back to Africa at the beginning of August.
So, virus not withstanding, we are planning once again to hold our Swift Walk on Monday July 20th, albeit in a different format. The ‘pint’ bit may be possible by then, but at the time of writing (June 23rd) we can’t anticipate this.
Five routes have been mapped out, hopefully hitting all the Swift hotspots, which converge on the Butter Cross in the middle of town from all the edges. The plan is to assemble groups who are willing to walk in from these points on prescribed routes, observing whatever distancing measures are recommended at the time, meeting up more or less at 7.30om at the Butter Cross, where we will compile the numbers.
Walk departure time will be 6.45pm; for those on slightly shorter routes (4 and 5) – take your time!
St John’s Rd (Bungay Medical Centre) – Southend Rd – Laburnham Rd – Botolph St – Lower Olland St – St Mary’s St – Butter Cross
Flixton Rd (Pennyfields) – Boyscott Lane – Castle Lane and up to Castle – Butter Cross
Earsham St (bridge) – Outney Rd – Webster St – Chaucer St – Earsham St – Butter Cross
Bridge St (Smith’s Garage) – Nethergate St – Broad St – Butter Cross
What is important is that we don’t overcrowd, so numbers will be strictly limited to 4 on each route.
Obviously if a group of 4 can be assembled independently (e.g. a family) this would be ideal. However, we really do need to control this, so if you are interested, please email email@example.com where the groups will be assembled.
Please mention your preferred route, but accept that if that is already allocated, we may offer you an alternative.
If all places are already taken, we hope you will not be too disappointed and hopefully by next year we can do it again with less restriction.
We will contact you with confirmation ASAP and your email address will only be used for the purposes of this event.
It is suggested you allow 35-40 minutes to walk the routes, but by all means take longer if you want to.
Binoculars are not really necessary for Swift counting, but please bring them if you want to do some general birding along the route!
Suffolk’s birding community is still reeling following the sudden loss of our great friend and WBC member Ernie Lucking. I knew Ernie since the early 1990s when we used to meet each morning whilst the team were ringing birds at Fagbury Cliff at Trimley. Ernie walked his little dog, Monty, daily and as he passed our ringing table would stop to have a friendly chat and to see what birds had been trapped that day.
In more recent years, it was always a joy to meet Ernie at Landguard. Several birders gather at the Obs each morning to log the birds that frequent the point and those seen flying offshore. As we gaze into the rising sun, it’s always tough work and anything remotely unusual is shouted out. “Fulmar soouff” in Ernie’s soft London accent always raised a chuckle! However, Ernie’s “Directionlexia” was rarely spot-on and he often muddled noorf and soouff. Fellow watchers would be thrown by Ernie enquiring about the identity of a bird flying souff past the green buoy! “Do you mean the one flying north” you would hear someone say. Ernie was never fazed and with a wry smile accompanied by a giggle, he would reply "Oh yeah that’s wot I meant". Ernie was nearly always accompanied by his long-suffering birding companion Dave Langlois. Ernie, with his impish sense of humour, would never miss a chance to goad Dave, whose hearing is somewhat restricted, especially when the pair was seeking out species such as Grasshopper Warbler. This would always bring out the mischievous side of Ernie and he would ask Dave "Can't you hear it Dave" bringing the response "You know I bloody well can't" again evoking that giggling smile which we all knew and loved. During our walks around the reserve, Ernie would always carry a huge fertiliser bag, to collect litter as we went, and he was party to many rare bird finds.
It was a real privilege to accompany him on three amazing WBC tours - to Georgia/Armenia, Kazakhstan and, last year, to north-east India. Ernie had a kind word for everyone and these trips were not without humorous incidents. Tour members will never forget going through customs on the Armenian/Georgian border. On the Armenian side our passports were checked, but on the Georgian side we had to get out of the minibus and then carry our luggage through the customs office where it was checked for contraband. But where was Ernie? He was not to be seen. Had he popped into the loo – no one knew! We waited but Ernie failed to appear, so the only option was for his travel companions to carry his luggage through and pretend that it belonged to one of us and hope to find Ernie later. As we re-boarded the bus ready for the off, Ernie appeared. He had decided, entirely innocently no doubt, to have a wander through no-man’s-land to admire the view - a wander that was of course unauthorised and very much frowned upon by the grim-faced border guards!
Eric (D’Weasel) Patrick, Carol Elliott, Ali Risborough and Ernie on the right Buddhist monastery, Thupsung Dharge Ling, in NE India on April 1st 2019
Another incident that will live long in our memories happened during our 2019 tour of north-east India. It was a tough, full-on tour as we walked many miles each day along mountain passes and jungle trails. Ernie was having ankle trouble so hobbled has way round without complaint. We birdwatched the Sela Pass (a high-altitude mountain pass at an elevation 4,200m) on one of our days and, like me, Ernie suffered altitude sickness, so both of us remained in the minibus without a care about what the others were seeing!
There were lots of key species that we all wanted to see but a real prize was the stunning pheasant-like Blyth’s Tragopan. It is undoubtedly one of the world’s most beautiful birds, showing vivid colours of crimsons with pale greyish spots, a yellow face and throat and a pale grey lower breast and belly. For days we searched in vain along jungle trails, but this elusive bird remained hidden in dense undergrowth – somewhere!
After a third day of searching, our tour guide heard its distant far-carrying call. It was some way off down a steep and heavily-wooded ravine, but we were determined. Our leader began playing a voice lure and after several minutes we were in no doubt that its call was getting louder. The bird was getting closer, slowly making its way up the slope towards us! We were told to take up position on the opposite side of the road and remain silent. The idea was that we would coax the bird across the road directly in front of us as it was attracted by the tape. Its call got louder and louder and the tension mounted amongst our group. It was now very close but then suddenly it stopped responding. What was happening? Was it still coming?
After a minute of extreme anxiety, we heard Ernie’s quiet voice. “What’s that bird standing in the road behind us?” It was the tragopan and with that we all swung round in unison. Our sudden movement and burst of excitement was too much for the bird and it immediately flew up the slope and was never seen again. Those who had occupied the front line of our group, but were now at the back, had their views blocked by a mass of human bodies so missed the bird (sorry Will Brame). But thank you Ernie as several of us were blessed with a great, albeit brief, view, and we owe this amazing sighting to you.
Ernie was loved and respected by everyone who knew him and his infectious smile will never be forgotten. He will be missed by birdwatchers throughout Suffolk and elsewhere.
I’m delighted to report that Kathy and Rob Gooderham recently attended an exciting meeting with our RSPB partners. It was confirmed that all monies are secured and construction of the AFAP is planned for September 2020. This is subject to planning approval, but discussions to date are extremely positive. Additional exciting news is that along with the path, improvements will be made to the East hide along with enhancements to the scrape area. The idea being to offer more space and to bring nature closer to the hide for all to enjoy.
A public launch event designed to unveil the whole project is scheduled to take place on Sunday Sept 15th at 2pm – venue RSPB’s Discovery Centre.
Once “The Countdown to Construction” has begun, there will be monthly progress meetings and subsequent updates will be made available right up to the commencement of the works in Sept 2020.
We are hoping that you want to share this amazing day and represent WBC. We will have plans, etc., for all to view and, of course, offer refreshments followed by a guided walk along the North Wall to view the route of the path.
The survey is requesting data in three areas: recording Swifts in flight (never easy!); recording traditional next sites, and records of Swifts using provided nest sites (where boxes have been erected).
The BRO site has links to other Swift-related web pages, including the RSPB, Swift Conservation and Action for Swifts.
If you have any confusion telling your Swifts from your Swallows and Martins (which are also in trouble!), you may like to check the BTO’s video highlighting the essential differences:
Those hip young things for whom a PC is an antiquated bit of kit may be interested in the SwiftMapper app for smartphones (Android/IOS). This also links to Swift recording, but there is no need to double-enter data, as the Suffolk survey will be accessing the Mapper numbers at the end of the season. The Swift Mapper will be very handy if you are on the road this summer though, as you can log numbers from wherever you end up.
Look out for further info on the ‘Swift Walk, Swift Pint’ events later in July, when we will be pounding the streets of Waveney Valley towns (Beccles, Bungay and hopefully Harleston) and counting Swifts once this year’s broods are airborne. Then having a pint.
To coincide with this, there will be a ‘just for fun’ Swift-related quiz on the WBC website. You can, of course, award yourselves a prize if you get any of it right…….
Edward Jackson will be giving a talk on the plight of Swifts at Needham Market on June 28th. Details at (paste link into browser) https://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/events/2019-06-28-save-our-suffolk-swifts
BTO Surveys in Suffolk: Opportunities to get involved
Although there are probably more birders per square metre in Suffolk than most other counties in the UK, it’s not always easy for the BTO to get the coverage in terms of surveys that the area so richly deserves.
There’s something very satisfying about survey work; perhaps it’s the ‘concentrated birding’ aspect, or the feeling of giving something back in the way of citizen science and contributing to the overall pot of knowledge. There are many who think they should get involved, but perhaps baulk at the perceived commitment, or think they couldn’t for some other reason.
I jumped in a few years back on a BTO Nightingale Survey, and got the bug for it, taking on a Breeding Bird Survey square the following year. Sure, you have to get a bit organised, but I’ve loved doing it to the extent of taking on a second one this year.
So, for those who think they might like to get involved, here are some of the BTO’s current surveys you can take part in without leaving the county. If you’re tempted, get in touch with the regional representative, Mick Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org
BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Birds Survey (BBS):
This involves two survey visits (usually in mid-to-late April and again in May/June) to a 1km square, with two (roughly parallel) transects being walked. All birds present are recorded, whether by sight, song or call.
Although Suffolk has around 50 squares covered, this only represents about 1% of the county area, so there is more work to do.
The survey produces very robust results, the outcome having a significant influence on Government policy.
There’s still time to take a square for 2019 – just get in touch with Mick at the email above for a list of the currently available squares.
JNCC Seabirds Count: Urban Nesting Gulls
As part of the Seabirds Count census, volunteers across the UK will be participating in surveys during the Spring/Summer of 2019 and 2020, from late March to mid June. The count of urban-nesting gulls (April 23rd to May 7th) will provide valuable information on how the UK population of Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls are faring. This is particularly so in the context of the decline by over 30% in Herring Gull numbers at natural cliff, rocky coast and moorland sites. Is this in any way a result of movement into urban areas, or part of a more general decline?
Again, this count will focus on an allocated 1km square, and be carried out from the ground. Even if the square contains no gulls, the result is important.
One visit is all that will be required, recording apparently-occupied nests, apparently-occupied territory and individual adults, with Herring and Lesser Black-backed reported separately.
Mick really needs help on this one, with 80 random 1km squares to cover!
Farm Woodland Survey
Since 1988 over 22,000 farm woods have been planted in England; usually small and thus quick and easy to survey, checking how these new environments are being colonised.
It involves 4 morning visits between March 15th (it’s now April, so get a move on!) and July 15th, recording all individual birds (and some basic habitat recording). A 1km square may involve a few sites, but several could be covered in a couple of hours.
If checking this one out on the BTO site, it’s found under ‘English-farm-woodland-bird-survey’ in the volunteer surveys pages.
For those who haven’t used this before or have let usage fall away (as I did): the data and site entry has been revised, making it much more straightforward and quick. You can record either a complete list (species plus count) or just a species list, so there’s really no excuse not to do it! This is the basic entry point for anyone considering a bit of ‘citizen science’ and making your birding count!
Please also check out the information on the Rook Survey, which is a separate entry on the News page of this website.
For further information on any of the above, make Mick Wright your first call at the email at the head of this article.
One of the most evocative sights and sounds of Suffolk winter mornings and afternoons are the noisy, black clouds of Rooks and Jackdaws commuting to and from their roosts and daytime feeding grounds – hundreds of Corvid cousins, calling to each other as they struggle against the wind or are blown forward on it.
Soon they will be rediscovering their nest sites – Jackdaws to the chimney pots (and Barn Owl boxes!), and Rooks to the rookeries.
It is at that point that you come in.
Suffolk Ornithologists' Group (SOG) is seeking the help of their brothers and sisters in birding across the county to help in a two-year survey of Suffolk’s Rooks, counting total bird and nest numbers at as many sites as possible.
The last count by SOG (supporting a BTO survey) took place in 1975, with 15,850 nests recorded in 929 rookeries across the county.
Now, generous funding from Suffolk resident Jenifer Bridges-Adams and support from the highly respected naturalist and conservationist Gathorne Gathorne-Hardy, Fifth Earl of Cranbrook has enabled the Rook to once again take centre-stage in this latest survey, taking place in 2019 and 2020.
SOG is hoping that birders will involve their families and particularly any children in the count, as a relatively easy way to engage with the natural world of their own communities. Scout and Guide groups, schools and other local organisations and institutes will be encouraged to participate.
You will be able to submit your counts on the Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service website, where you can accurately map your rookeries and record bird numbers.
It’s that time again – when the great and good minds of Suffolk ornithology temporarily cease outdoing each other with their year lists, and bring it all down to a couple of hours at the Staithe Maltings, Bungay in the challenge that is Bird Brain 2017.
Could it really be a year since the trophy came romping back to the WBC home team after a couple of years at BTO HQ in Thetford?
But there have been some unexpected results since then – Trump, Brexit, Leicester City – so who knows how this one will turn out?
Four teams as usual submitted themselves to the WBC high-tech extravaganza of computers, screens, buzzers, PA equipment and projectors, under the quiz-mastership of Chris McIntyre and the double-scorers of Steve and Kathy Piotrowski who ensured there were no stringy results…..
And here they are:
RSPB: Ian Barthorpe, Adam Rowlands, Jon Evans and Robin Harvey
BTO: Andy Musgrove, Mike Toms, Steve McAvoy, Paul Stancliffe
BINS: Craig Fulcher, Lee Woods, Scott Mason, Craig Holden
WBC: Roger Walsh, Jon Warnes, Steve Howell, Eric ‘D’Weasel’ Patrick
We start at the semi-finals (assuming all the other rounds against lesser mortals have already taken place), with WBC vs RSPB and BTO vs BINS
Two fairly ‘nip n tuck’ rounds ensued, competing on bird i.d., calls and song, chicks and nestlings and general natural history.
But….both champ teams of the past 4 years crashed out, WBC going down 25 points to 20, and BTO by 28 to 21, guaranteeing a new engraving for 2017.
So to an interval, with a superb supper provided by Kathy and Jane Bond, raffle (organised by Jon Evans) and a couple of beers while the finalists applied Oil of Wintergreen and talked tactics.
Round one (identification of mainly warblers) stayed fairly tight, but it was round two where the temperature changed, identifying birds by their eyes only, with BINS streaking away, points-wise.
Perhaps somewhat shaken going into round 3 (identification of Suffolk reserves), Adam Rowlands and Robin Harvey missed their buzzers on an aerial shot of Minsmere, while Jon Evans failed on Dunwich Heath, even though his own house was just out of shot!
By the 4th round (‘What Bird Am I?) it looked like a long way back for RSPB – and that’s how it turned out, with BINS taking the trophy by 42 to 31.
So, it was just to award the prize for the winner of the audience rounds, which went to Ivan Levett, with a very impressive score of 48 out of 60 – of course, a typical birder would spend the rest of the year listing the ones he missed…..
Thanks from WBC to everyone who took part and contributed food, raffle prizes, tech equipment, and particularly Kathy and Jane for the buffet and Chris McIntyre, who annually devotes many, many hours putting the quiz together.
Waveney Bird Club, as well as giving ringing demonstrations at Minsmere during the school holidays, have run craft activities for childrenof all ages and abilities at the Discovery Centre. Here is an update on some of the items they have made
All the activity materials were provided by us and generously sponsored by Viking Optics. We would love to see you there next year - bring your family and join in the fun!
Minutes of AGM held on 21st March 2016 at 7.30pm at The Malting Pavilion, Pinhow Street Ditchingham NR35 2RU
Apologies for absence
Apologies were received from Chris McIntyre, Andrew Green and Rob Parfitt
Minutes of the AGM 2015
The minutes were accepted as a true copy.
There were no matters arising.
Waveney Bird Club continues to be a very vibrant and successful club with stable finances thanks to our Treasurer Stephen Dean.
A wide variety of well supported events were enjoyed this year including an amazing trip to Hungary and long weekends to the Farne Islands and the New Forest, Dorset Heaths and Portland Bill. Many thanks are expressed to the leaders of these trips especially Jon Evans who has been an ever reliable driver. Due to retire this AGM, thanks are expressed to Jon and we are keen to retain his services. Andrew Goodall who held the role of Publicity and Communications officer has retired and we thank him for his work. It has been decided to split this role with Roger Walsh agreeing to focus on Publicity leaving Jon Evans to take on the role of Communications. We hope you will agree with this proposal.
Our involvement with CARP (Campaign Against Raptor Persecution) carries on and we will continue to promote the cause through SOG (Suffolk Ornithological Group). Last March, John Grant and Steve Piotrowski attended the Birders Against Wildlife Crime at Buxton, Derbyshire and this year it was attended by Jon Evans and Sue Alderman in Bristol. All monies donated by members have been passed to SOG for them to manage. Wildlife crime is rife in the uplands in connection with the management of the grouse moors and none of us want to see the extinction of Hen Harriers in this country which used to be common right up to the 1990s. There is no better time to sign Mark Avery’s e-petition (his third on the subject) calling on the Government to ban driven grouse shooting. The petition needs to reach 10,000 signatures to trigger a written response from the Government and 100,000 signatures to trigger a parliamentary debate.
WBC is still heavily involved with the Barn Owl Project, which as a whole manages 1,860 Barn Owl boxes in Suffolk, South Norfolk and North Essex. Management is provided by ten Regional Co-ordinators, eight of whom are active WBC members who collectively oversee the monitoring of over 1,000 of these boxes.
Kathy was thanked for providing her superb suppers and the Membership as a whole for continuing to support the Club ensuring its prolonged success.
The Club started the year with net assets of £4,034.43 and ended the year with net assets of £4,622.14 relating to general funds.
The Club controlled the Biodiversity Action Plan fund (BAP fund) which ended the year with the sum of £5,754.60.
The Club donated £150 to the development of the Kartong Bird Observatory in the Gambia and its monitoring of Palearctic migrant birds. Several WBC members have helped in this development. The money was used to purchase Barn Owl boxes which is very appropriate given the involvement of the club in the community Barn Owl Project.
The Cub has continued to support projects that encourage young people to develop an interest in birds and conservation. £98.33 was donated to a project at Worlingham Primary School. Viking Optical have again generously sponsored the Club’s successful Ringing Events at Minsmere by donating £500.
The BAP fund comprises the Bap projects themselves, the Campaign against Raptor Persecution (CARP) and the Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project (SCBOP). The funds relating to SCBOP (£2411.71) are ring-fenced to be spent on the maintenance of Barn Owl boxes.
The accounts were examined and approved by Andrew Piotrowski FCCA
Membership Secretary’s Report
Membership continues stay at about 140 and events continue to be well attended.
Members are encouraged to submit ideas for future programmes and events are
constantly changing to reflect what members would like.
Project Officer’s Report
Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project: 2016 proved to be a mediocre year with low vole numbers. A total of 1,741 boxes were monitored, of which a record 452 contained Barn Owls but only 475 chicks were ringed.
Kathy Piotrowski has passed over her role of Administrator to Oka Last. The project has received £5,000 in grants which has been spent on nest box replacement and WBC members have also contributed generously. Further grants will be applied for in the next few days.
Heveningham Hall: Members again spent a day cleaning out the 2,000 nest boxes along with 55 scouts and beavers who took part in the treasure hunt devised by Kathy. Mr and Mrs Hunt again kindly donated £1000 to the WBC BAP fund.
Minsmere: Ringing Demonstrations again proved very popular. Children showing keen interest were presented with I-Spy Bird books. Sponsorship was again provided by Viking Optical to support children’s activities.
School’s House Sparrow Project: This project was completed in conjunction with Gen Broad of the Suffolk Biodiversity Action Group. Nest boxes, bird boxes and a fact sheet written by Steve Piotrowski were presented to local schools. Carl Powell will monitor the boxes in 2016 on behalf of the club.
School’s Nest box Project: Allan Smith is championing a project at Worlingham School in which a nature area is being prepared. This year the school has raised funds for a barn owl box which has now been installed.
Peregrine Box: A female Peregrine has frequented St Mary’s Church, Bungay since2014/2015. Since then Club members have made representation to the Church Conservation Trust.The Club has agreed to pay for the box and negotiations are ongoing.
Overhead Cables and Wildfowl: There have been a number of recent incidents involving wildfowl colliding with overhead cables in the Waveney Valley. The club plans to monitor incidents and to record whether or not the cables involved have been fitted with reflectors.
Path for All Project: The RSPB will apply for grants but progress to raise money is slow so far. Any grants will have to be spent in the current financial year.
A presentation was given after the meeting by Roger Walsh on behalf of Chris McIntyre.
Again a very successful year at a number if sites.
A project to fit feral Barnacle Geese with tracking devices at Earsham and the Saints has been put to the the BTO and The River Waveney Trust. This is to be overseen by Roger Walsh.
Report from the Waveney Valley Recorder
presented by Stephen Howell on behalf of Andrew Green.
176 species were recorded during 2015 of which of note were Whooper swans, Scaup, Glaucous gull, Marsh Warbler, Purple Heron, Great Grey Shrike, Lesser Yellowlegs, Cattle Egret and Peregrine.
Election of Officers
The following Officers were re-elected en bloc:
‘It can’t happen again – if they win it three years on the trot, do they get to keep the cup?’
Pre-match nerves before BirdBrain 2016 while setting up ‘the stage’ and awaiting the arrival of the BTO team, which had swept the board in 2014 and 2015.
And here we were once more. Four teams representing some of the most experienced and well-stocked brains in Suffolk birding, with population data, i.d. details and songs/calls almost dripping from their ears as the equipment was tested.
With sound working, projector working, buzzers working (yes they are, Roy!), Quiz Finder General Chris McIntyre took his seat and the lights dimmed for the semi-final draw.
First up was BINS versus Acorn Brown, a new team made up from the former RSPB Minsmere outfit, plus the National Trust. This draw, of course, meant that the previous two years’ finalists would be meeting earlier in the competition….
Semi-final questions featured rounds on ‘What bird is this?’; songs and calls; chicks and nestlings and natural history.
There’s a real science behind translating what you know in the field to identification in this environment; sometimes what you know vanishes somewhere behind your head. A cool head, fast analysis and a quick buzzer finger is what you need, plus the ability to take things out of context. The experienced BINS team came out on top on this occasion.
So to the re-run of last year’s final, as champions BTO took on the revised line-up of WBC under the captaincy of Roger Walsh, with Eric ‘D’Weasel’ Patrick and Lee Gregory joining Mike Marsh.
Same rounds, different questions and – whaddya know! – WBC won a tight contest and got one mandible back on the trophy.
So take your seats for the final…..
This was a real tester, with the ‘which bird is this?’ i.d. round being followed by trying to identify birds just by close-up shots of the eye, identifying East Anglian reserves from one photo, and naming the bird from population/breeding distribution maps. (Every year, I come out of these events thinking I’ve got to pay more attention to this stuff….)
It was tight….it was tense…there was conferring and even D’Weasel managed to whisper….clocks ticked…..but slowly, the home boys started to edge a lead and it ended with a narrow victory by 31 to 26 for WBC.
Of course, being East Anglian birders, there was no raucous chorus of ‘BirdBrain’s comin’ home,’ laps of honour, being carried to the bar shoulder-high: no – just a solid chuck on the shoulder, a firm handshake and a ‘well done, chaps!’ It just wouldn’t do to be too Latin about this kind of thing, would it?
So the final of the audience round, and 25 short clips of music with a bird name in either the title of the piece or the artist. Rock, folk, music hall, funk, pop and classical ensured an even spread, and resulted in the top eight audience scorers stepping up to the quiz tables to sort out the chicks from the 3rd winters….
The prize finally went to Peter Napthine, who received an equally hearty shoulder-chuck, firm handshake etc.
And that was that.
So, huge thanks to all involved:
The teams for putting themselves into the spotlight;
Chris (Quiz Finder General) McIntyre for another example of research, technology and devillry;
Kathy for supplying the prizes and another superb buffet (it’s worth the admission alone!)
The raffle prize donators and especially Jon Evans for including examples of his photographs;
Steve P for hosting the evening (although Graham Norton’s job is probably safe)
And all the other WBC committee members who contributed to another great evening at the Maltings.
PICS BY Sue Alderman (the good ones), Paddy Shaw (the others.....)
BirdTrack (a partnership between the BTO, the RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland, the Scottish Ornithologists’ Club and the Welsh Ornithological Society) is a project that looks at migration movements and distributions of birds throughout Britain and Ireland. BirdTrack provides facilities for observers to store and manage their own personal records as well as using these to support species conservation at local, regional, national and international scales.
The idea behind BirdTrack is that if you have been out birdwatching or simply watching the birds in your garden, records of the birds you have seen can be useful data. The scheme is year-round, and ongoing, and anyone with an interest in birds can contribute. You can enter details of your findings through the BirdTrack website or via apps for iPhone and Android mobiles.
An exciting recent development is the ability to record bird sightings for other countries as well as Britain and Ireland.
Many members of the WBC are actively involved in using BirdTrack and the the committee encourages all members to add their records. As may be expected, there is a bit of a learning curve involved with any new technology and so if you think you would like to use BirdTrack but would like a little help getting to grips with it, WBC member Patrick Barker has offered to host a training day – please register your interest by email to email@example.com.
Well, it was good to find it was all still there – the lighthouse still standing, the Bomb Ballistics building with its observational roof, the Bailey bridge, the ringing hut have all got through another year of weather-beating without collapse.
The ringing team went over on the Saturday morning, driving down to the quayside at Orford in a light shower that turned out to be the last of the weekend. Instead, we had sunshine, occasional cloud cover and a NE wind that was working its magic along the east coast, bringing in Isabelline Shrike, Dusky Warbler and Red-flanked Bluetail to North Norfolk, and continuation of Yellow-browed Warblers and numerous other wind-blown migrants.
As well as providing ringing services to the National Trust, WBC also provide a fairly comprehensive survey of the Ness for the weekend, which involves many a mile of trudging the tracks and beach to capture the range of environments this precious site has to offer.
As had the equivalent weekend in 2014, the sea-watch delivered large numbers of Brent geese, heading for their balmy winter holiday on the south Suffolk and North Essex estuaries, occasionally with a couple of sneaky Wigeon taking up positions in the skeins and hitching a ride on goose-vortex; one flight was accompanied by a leucistic Brent, quite dramatic against his black companions.
Goldcrests seemed to be everywhere in the bushes – tiny, exhausted migrants but still as restless as ever, hopping through the brambles. There were still a few late Wheatear in a couple of spots, presumably waiting for a change in the weather to start heading south, with one down by the lighthouse taking a tremendous pounding from a Robin who obviously took great exception to its presence.
Various nets had been set by the ringers around the Holm oaks, reedbed and bushes and a fairly brisk morning ensued. This however was reduced to concentrated consideration of a pale female stonechat species, with fairly obvious supercilium, white throat and a rusty-red, unstreaked rump.
The Stonechat tribe was formerly considered to be races of the nominate Saxicola torquatus with variations including ‘our own’ hibernans, but also rubicola, stejnegeri and maurus, or Siberian Stonechat. However, taxonomists at the British Ornithologists Union (BOU) have decreed that Stonechats have evolved sufficiently for the Siberian or Eastern race to be split from the nominate, with maurus and stejnegeri grouped together This has put a whole new perception on things as Siberian/Eastern Stonechat is now a tick! Identification involves microscopic inspection, and this bird kept Mike Marsh fairly preoccupied, and it was finally judged to be Siberian. It was after release, when it flew to a nearby hedge top, that you could see how different it appeared to the ‘normal’ female stonechat.
For those out on the survey, bird of the day was possibly a Jack Snipe, which flushed from an area of wet meadow across the airfield. Raptors had been surprisingly rare, other than Marsh Harrier and Kestrel. There had been sightings of Merlin and Peregrine, but none for us on the Saturday, and no presence of the Hen Harriers that had been so obvious the year before. The shingle areas around the Bomb Ballistics building were much lower in numbers of Meadow Pipit and Skylark than in 2014, perhaps due to the prevailing winds, but it was here we were, counting Wigeon, Brent geese and Spoonbill (4) on the pool as the public visitors drifted away to the last boat of the day.
It’s at that point I’m always reminded of 1960s science fiction films, or early William Hartnell ‘Dr Who’: the abandoned military buildings, windswept landscape, big skies – and no people. Just the ringing team furling the nets, the last additions to the survey list before roost-time, the 1940s accommodation block and the Suffolk night approaching.
We’d come prepared this time though – Thai green curry (thanks Kathy!), rice, saag aloo, chana dahl, cucumber raita, naan bread, lime pickle – all prepared before the show and heated in the industrial catering oven, meant we survived the night.
And so to Sunday, and the WBC trip, which swelled the numbers on Ness to over 30 and made it one of the most popular days of the 2015 calendar.
The wind had freshened and chilled a little as we divided up between those who wanted an early-morning seawatch and others who wanted to take a slow stroll across the airfield tracks which cut through wet areas of marsh, reed, rough pasture and pools.
Down by the sea, the Brent resumed their relentless move south. We’d had 1300 in 90 minutes on Saturday, and we added another 300 or so to that. Among other highlights through the day (and another contender for bird of the trip) were Balearic Shearwater, with two Long-tailed Skua and Leach’s Petrel punctuating the Brents, occasional Gannets, Red-throated Divers, Cormorants, Common Scoter, Wigeon and other more regular commuters.
Seawatching isn’t to every birders’ tastes, but – when the conditions are right – there’s nothing quite like the combination of immobility and anticipation, and slowly ‘getting your eye in.’ I couldn’t see the appeal for ages, but now start scanning the weather pages mid-week, looking for those northerlies…
The whole party re-assembled at the accommodation block, where tea-making on an industrial scale took place before snaking our way back down towards the sea via the bushes and the shingle, through the clouds of Goldcrests, always looking for a view of the Siberian Stonechat and the possibility of Ring Ouzel, of which there were reports without any confirmed sightings.
The ever-helpful David Fincham of the National Trust team drove the lunch bags down to the beach so the seawatching continued, before we split the party again at the Bomb Ballistics building, with half the group heading for the roof and the others prepared to put some more work in around the bushes. Halfway up the track, the birds on the pool (having just settled again after being put up by a low-flying helicopter) went up once more. The reason this time was a high-flying Peregrine, which had been spotted earlier in the direction of the pagodas. It didn’t hang around though.
Up at the ringing hut, we had ‘in the hand’ views of Pallas’ Warbler and Firecrest, the latter held side-by-side with a Goldcrest for comparison. It’s not only the markings which contrast these birds – it’s the expression on their face. Goldcrests are cute – Firecrests most definitely aren’t! There’s a punchy aggression about them which is definitely at odds with their size.
By the time we’d taken an afternoon tea break, it was getting time to start the slow meander back across the airfield, and a consideration of the differences there can be from one year to the next.
The 2014 visit had Ring Ouzel, Little Owl, Hen Harrier and quite a varied number of waders. Wader species were definitely restricted in 2015, but there had been Jack Snipe, Pallas’ Warbler, Firecrest, Siberian Stonechat, Long-tailed Skua, Leach’s Petrel, Balearic Shearwater….obviously wind direction/weather is playing a great part in this, along with the prevailing conditions in the weeks before and conditions up north. It is perhaps one of the great aspects of the trip that the players may change, but the great theatre that is Orfordness remains; evolving, decaying, shape-shifting – but essentially the same in spirit.
Pictures: Dave Crawshaw, David Norton, Paddy Shaw
SPECIES LIST SATURDAY:
Bearded Tit 2
Black-headed Gull 200
Blue Tit 4
Carrion Crow 4
Collared Dove 1
Green Sandpiper 1
House Sparrow 2
Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
Marsh Harrier 2
Reed Warbler 2
Rock Pipit 3
Stock Dove 2
Barn Owl 1
Black Redstart 2
Black-tailed Godwit 1
Brent Goose (Dark-bellied) 1565
Canada Goose 25
Common Gull 2
Golden Plover 2
Great Black-backed Gull 31
Green Woodpecker 1
Grey Plover 1
Herring Gull 38
Jack Snipe 1
Lesser Redpoll 12
Little Egret 21
Meadow Pipit 35
Mute Swan 2
Pied Wagtail (yarrellii) 1
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Reed Bunting 10
Siberian Stonechat 1
Song Thrush 2
Woodpigeon 4 Total number of species 71
Around 30 members of WBC together with scouts from Earsham and other friends and family met at Heveningham for the annual Conservation Day.
The estate and its surrounding woodland has 2000 nest boxes, principally for blue, great and coal tit – birds not famed for leaving their accommodation the way they found it.
So, armed with screwdrivers, chalk and rubber gloves, WBC cleans up for them, removing old nest material, re-fixing boxes where possible and generally getting them ready for the breeding season ahead.
In return for this annual spring clean, Heveningham Hall owners Jon and Lois Hunt make a generous donation to the BAPS fund through the bird club – plus supplying the workers with a great lunch (and barrel of Adnams) in the great ambience of the old stable buildings.
After meeting at Huntingfield, we split up into groups and –with almost military precision – set off for our target areas.
Even though we were sharing the territory with cross-country county trials, with muddied, fluorescent runners having their version of fun, this estate is seriously good.
A range of environments exist, from formal parkland to oak woods, meadows and wet woodland, and the opportunity to explore it on foot is a rare one. Tree-planting has been taken very, very seriously, and this visit whets the appetite for the Bio-Blitz later in the year.
With the numbers and dedication to the cause, what is normally a day’s work was over by lunchtime, and a big thanks to all concerned for a successful day.
The team from the British Trust for Ornithology kept their collective grip firmly on the Waveney Bird Club Birdbrains trophy for another year, beating the WBC team by 52 points to 34 in the final at Staithe Maltings on Feb. 16.
Four teams started the evening, coming in at the semi-finals stage, with RSPB Minsmere and the Bird Information Network Service (BINS) narrowly losing out on questions on bird song, eggs and nestlings, natural history and bird close-ups to the home team and the BTO. Last minute substitute for WBC Lee Gregory (for Mike Marsh) saw WBC safely through the final.
Scoring remained tight through the rounds on warblers, identification of Suffolk reserves, and birds of Suffolk. However, the BTO took an unassailable lead in the ‘What Bird am I?’ final round. A series of questions, each with decreasing points, slowly reveal the identity of a bird through its size, habitat, migration etc. drew astonished gasps from the audience as the BTO team of Nick Moran, John Marchant, Neil Calbrade and Andy Musgrove hit the right answer while many of the onlookers were still checking what a 60cm wingspan was by holding their hands apart…..
Chris McIntyre provided his usual sterling service in preparing the quiz and serving as question master, with Kathy performing as WBC’s answer to Carol Vooderman on the electronic scoreboard and Steve doubling the score security with his trusty paper and pencil version (unless it was just a bird list he was doing…..)
Audience participation rounds were won by Sue Alderman, with Jon Evans as raffle-meister – and a big thanks to Kathy for providing the supper!
The technology of computers, projectors, buzzers, scoreboard and PA system all held together too, so another winter social triumph for WBC (unless, of course, you count not actually winning it…..)
WBC: Andrew Green, Roger Walsh, Chris Allen, Lee Gregory
BINS: Scott Mason, Roy Marsh, Lee Woods, Craig Fulcher
RSPB: Jon Evans, Ian Barthorpe, Robin Harvey, Rachel Coombes
BTO: Nick Moran, John Marchant, Neil Calbrade, Andy Musgrove
For those of you that haven’t already heard, Ronnie Ronalde sadly passed away on 13th January. Ronnie and his wife became honorary members of WBC in 2010, but how they became a part of WBC is an interesting story? During a very cold, snowy winter-spell in January 2010, I fed the Blackbirds in our garden on Tesco’s finest apples. At the time, Steve cursed my expenditure and moaned as he was ringing in our garden. During that month, Steve trapped 64 Blackbirds, but he reckoned that they were all too fat to fly anywhere! Well fly they did as one was re-found in Sweden, unfortunately killed by a car in March and two others were trapped by ringers in Finland. The events were reported in the national press, I was thrilled xx!
At the time, Ronnie and Rosemarie Ronalde were still living in Australia, but planning to come back to the UK. Ronnie wrote to me, enclosing a copy of his CD and a lovely letter and told me how he remembered his time in Suffolk (Beccles) with such fondness and all about the song of the Blackbird and how this inspired him. His most famous song “If I were a Blackbird I’d whistle and sing”. He explained that this was a great many years ago, when he was just starting his career. He said that his garden ran down to the River Waveney where he had a boathouse and in it his boat “The Blackbird”. We were able to locate and the current owners who welcomed us and allowed us to put up a nest box in the garden on Ronnie’s behalf. Ronny and Rosemarie were thrilled about this initiative.
Ronnie and Rosemarie came back to the UK a few years ago and joined WBC members for dinner at the Ship Inn, Dunwich to celebrate Steve’s birthday before going to the heath to look for Nightjars. There was no shortage of night jars at the bar and all those who came along enjoyed an evening of entertainment and tales of old from Ronnie. We promptly made them our honorary members and have kept in touch ever since. Needless to say the WBC party saw plenty of Real Nightjars when they eventually got to the heath!
It was therefore with great sadness that I received the note from Rosemarie (please see below). I have of course e-mailed her on WBC’s behalf’s xx
Thank you to Helen and Rob Gooderham for also forwarding the lovely article from the paper (please see below)
In January a team of ringers will be heading to The Gambia to the Kartong Bird Observatory (www.kartongbirdobservatory.org) to continue the annual ringing and recording project of African birds and Western Paleartic migrants. Ringing trips have been running since 2010 and Waveney Ringing Group members Chris McIntyre, Roger Walsh, Patrick Barker, Genevieve Bridgeman and Stephen Flory have all taken part in previous trips. The 2015 trip is being led by Roger Walsh and the team of 8 contains 5 other Suffolk based members Patrick Barker, Chris McIntyre, Mike Marsh, Richard Tomlinson and Lee Gregory.
As part of the trip we look to visit the village of Kartong and the local school. We donate everything that is left at the end of a trip back to our host Colin Cross who along with his wife Binta can give it to people who really need it in The Gambia. We are also trying to help Colin kit out the Kartong Bird Observatory so that he can continue to educate young Gambian boys to be bird guides and wildlife Rangers. The more Colin is able to do with the locals increases the conservation message and should preserve birds, wildlife and habitat for generations to come. For this trip we all have an allocation of 40kg of luggage each do are going to try and push this to the limit with the gear we take out. To that end I would like to issue a plea to everyone to see if they have any of the following items that they might wish to donate or with Christmas approaching if anyone is replacing anything and doesn’t know what to do with the old gear please consider donating it for us to take out.
We are especially interested in the following:
Optics – any old binoculars or optical equipment regardless of age. The last sets donated were given to members of The Gambia Parks and Wildlife Dept as they do not have any of their own and we can help them complete surveys and track poaching with optics.
Football kitsand equipment for adults and children especially premier league and international teams and Ipswich Town and Norwich City. Norwich City shirts are especially useful for cleaning windows and toilets or tearing up for oily rags. Other sports kit and equipment is equally good.
Field guides and wildlife books. Books to assist with the education of young bird guides and wildlife Rangers. Literacy is an issue but books with clear pictures especially African birds or WP migrants. Books with clear pictures of African wildlife including mammals, insects and plants will also help the bird guides in increasing their knowledge further than just birds.
There are other things that we can purchase if anyone would like to make a donation. Roger Walsh currently sponsors two disabled children and is hoping to raise enough funds to sponsor a third. In West Africa disabled children are outcast and the two children Roger supports have been given a new lease of life.
It will be possible to drop off any donations at Waveney Bird Club and SOG Events in December and January or with any of the Suffolk Based members of the trip.
For the second successive year, WBC entered a team in the Santa Hell Run at Heveningham Hall. It is without doubt a “Hell of a Fun Run”, but the route took in some of the best countryside Suffolk has to offer.
Proceedings started with a 3.3km multi-terrain race for all of Santa’s Little Helpers who were encouraged to dress up in their “Elf” or “Fairy” outfit with a prize for the “Best Dressed Elf” and “Best Dressed Fairy”. All runners in the Santa’s Little Helper Race received a medal that doubles as a Christmas Tree Decoration and, after the race, Santa was there to welcome all the Little Helpers into his Grotto.
It was adults only for the main event and all runners had to be dressed in full Santa attire, which included a Santa Suit (hat, heard, coat, trousers and belt), which could be kept as a souvenir of the day. From a spectator’s point of view, the weather was far from ideal with frequent heavy showers, but the runners must have loved it! They were soon off at a gallop and they slid and slithered their way around the 10-km course. WBC supporters waited nervously for their runners to appear and soon realised that the course was more challenging this year than last as last year’s winning time came and went without a sign of a runner in sight! Soon the front-runner appeared and then a few more and then WBC’s first runner, Steve Rendell-Read in a respectable time and in the first 20 to cross the line. Sue-Rendell-Read was next in, then Matthew Dean and then Ann Pocknell and Inis Hoffmann more or less together. I should add that the last two aforementioned ladies were not last and what a superb effort by all our runners? Ann said that “after a long hot bath and a hefty dose of chocolate and mulled wine, I’m now fully recovered!” Well done to you all.
If that wasn’t enough excitement for the day then there was a Christmas Market, which was open to all. There were stalls selling fantastic Christmas gifts as well as hot meals, mince pies, tea, coffee and mulled wine all around the large Christmas tree and open fire situated in the courtyard of the hall. WBC had a stand selling “birdy Christmas hampers” made especially by Kathy Piotrowski and Helen Gooderham for our avian friends. Jon Evans also brought along a display of his superb wildlife photographs. Thank you to Jon, Kathy, Helen and Rob Gooderham and Maureen for helping man the stand.
At the end of proceedings, WBC invited people to join Steve Piotrowski and Andrew Green for a bird walk around the Estate. The weather undoubtedly played its part in deterring people and only one very keen customer turned up for the walk. We carried on regardless and our highlights included a Kingfisher, two Snipe and two Goosanders, the last record constituted a new species for the Wilderness Reserve.
An evening hosted by Waveney Bird Club and SOG enjoyed a lively and interesting talk by Richard Crossley, who flew in from America the previous day to talked to a packed house about his amazing and innovative new ID Books. He went on to answer questions from the audience and applauded both clubs for holding the event in aid of local wildlife projects.
The event also included the launch of the Campaign against Raptor Persecution and talks by Guy Horrocks (RSPB Senior Investigations Officer), shocked and amazed the audience by the horrific crimes taking place against our wildlife. In response, Simon Barnes launched the local project and explained to the audience that nobody can pick and choose what laws we all follow – a crime is a crime and those committing them should be held accountable.
SOG and WBC are very pleased to welcome Simon as the patron CARP.
Proceeds from the evening will fund local conservation projects; a final figure will be announced later.
This Wryneck (Jynx torquilla) was trapped and ringed on 27th August 2014 at RSPB Minsmere, a first for the Ringing Group using our own rings. We went on to ring two more bringing the total to three in eight days.
Most of you will already know that BBC Springwatch is based at Minsmere this year. At the media launch, Minsmere Site Manager, Adam Rowlands, talked about the exceptional range of wildlife, both widespread and rare, found here due to the wide variety of habitats available including sea, beach and dunes, reedbeds, ditches, open shallow waters, woodland, heath and grassland.
Chris Packham spoke about some of the technical challenges involved in getting cameras and cables into place in reedbeds and the huge amount of preparation involved in producing the programme. The BBC ‘Village’ at Minsmere is home to around 100 people involved in all aspects of the production.
Springwatch returns to BBC Two at 8pm on Monday to Thursday from 26 May to 12 June.
Pictures from the first barn owl box monitoring visit, May 31st.
Most boxes occupied by jackdaws, but two (Sibton and Bungay) with tawny owl. Sibton contained one chick; Bungay an adult and a chick. 16 boxes were checked at Heveningham, Sibton, Cockfield Hall and Bungay (Beccles Road).
Following a slightly late arrival this year, it is pleasing to be able to report the return to Fen Farm of the Sand Martins. The nest hole excavation began in early April and has progressed to in excess of 50 nest holes. It was expected that the sight of this years juveniles would be later than previous years, however on a short ringing session during the week of 17th June 4 juveniles were ringed.
The highlight of this session has to be the catch, recording and release of a Sand Martin wearing a French ring, further details of this bird will become available once the details are received via the BTO.
In addition to this, 4 Sand Martins were recorded which had been previously ringed at Fen Farm in July 2012. These birds known as retraps, had returned to our breeding ground following a stay in their winter home of West Africa, an incredible journey for a bird with an average weight of 13 grams.
We also had two control birds wearing rings other than those issued by our own ringing group. The term control refers to the distance a bird has moved between the site of ringing and the site of recapture, for Sand Martins this is greater than 10 km ( 6.16 miles ).
Sand Martin, ringed in France ( photo Harry Read )