Page 1

SUFFOLK BÊRDS 1995

• 1994 Bird Report • Pallas's Warblers • Rarity Descriptions • Ringing Report • Breeding Bird Conférence Papers


West Area Recorder: Colin Jakes, Yewtree Cottage, 16 The Street, GAZELEY, NEWMARKET

North-East Area Recorder: Richard Waiden, 21 Kilbrack, BECCLES NR349SH Tel: 01502 713521

South-East Area Recorder: Michael James, 296 Walton High Street, FELIXSTOWE IP11 9EB oo Tel: 01394 276540


SUFFOLK BIRDS 1995 VOL. 44 incorporating the County Bird Report of 1994

Editor R. W. Rafe Assistant Editor R W. Murphy Photographic and Artwork Editor T. P. Kerridge

Published by SUFFOLK NATURALISAS' SOCIETY 1


Published by The Suffolk Naturalists' Society, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich IP1 3QH Š The Suffolk Naturalists' Society 1996 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the Copyright owners.

The SNS is a Registered Charity No. 206084

ISSB 0264-5793

Printed by C. H. Healey, 49-55 Fore Street, Suffolk IP4 1JL 2


CONTENTS Page Notice to Contributors 4 Addresses 4 Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee 4 Editorial Richard Rafe 5 Suffolk Naturalists' Society Conference 1994 Digging for Bitterns — Reshaping Minsmere's Scrape Geoff Welch 7 Management and Birds in Woodland Nature Reserves Dr Rob Fuller . . . . 9 Golden Orioles in the Fens Paul Mason and Martin Raines 11 Breeding Birds in Farmland Dr Peter Lack 13 Birds of Prey in Suffolk Derek Moore 15 [The BTO Atlas — Recent Trends Dr David Gibbons] 19 [The Stone Curlew in East Anglia Dr Rhys Green] 19 The 1994 Influx of Pallas's Warblers in Suffolk Richard Rafe 21 Weather Trends and their Effect on the County's Avifauna Adam Bimpson . . 23 The 1994 Suffolk Bird Report Introduction 28 Systematic List 30 Appendix 1: Category D Species 141 Appendix 2: Escapees 141 Appendix 3: List of Non-Accepted Records 143 Référencés 144 List of Contributors 145 Earliest and Latest Dates of Summer Migrants 147 Rarities in Suffolk 1994 Mike Crewe 148 Red-flanked Bluetail Nigei Odin 150 Blyth's Pipit Nigel Odin and Mike Marsh 151 Pied Wheatear Mark Smith 153 Sardinian Warbler Mike Marsh 154 Orientai Pratincole Cari Cornish 156 White-billed Diver John Cawston 156 Radde's Warbler C D Darby 157 A Guide to Recording Birds in Suffolk 159 Suffolk Ringing Report 1994 Mike Marsh 162 List of Colour Illustrations

The copyright remains that of the photographers.


NOTICE TO CONTRIBUTORS Suffolk Birds is an annual publication of records and papers on all aspects of Suffolk ornithology. Except for records and field descriptions submitted through the County Recorders, all material should be original. It should not have been published elsewhere or offered complete or in part to any other journal. Authors should study this issue and follow the style of presentation, especially in relation to references and tables. Where relevant, nomenclature (English and scientific) and order should follow Dr K. H. Voous's List of Recent Holarctic Bird Species. Manuscripts should be typed, double spaced, with wide margins, on one side of the paper only. They must be in the final form for publication. In most cases the Editor will be able to accept papers on computer disc. Photographs and line drawings are required to complement each issue. Suitable photographs of birds, preferably taken in Suffolk, should ideally be in the form of 35mm transparencies. A payment of £10 will be made to the photographer for each photograph published and £5 for each drawing. Every possible effort will be made to take care of the original photographs and artwork. However, photographers and artists are reminded that neither the Editor nor the SNS can be held responsible in the unlikely event that loss or damage do occur. Authors may wish to illustrate their own articles but this will be subject to the illustrations being of the standard required by the Editor, and the decision on such matters will rest with him. Material submitted for publication should be sent to the Editor no later than March 1 st of each year. ADDRESSES Papers, drawings and photographs: The Editor (Suffolk Birds), The Suffolk Naturalists' Society, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich, IP1 3QH. Records: To the appropriate Recorder, as indicated on inside front cover. Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee — information: The Secretary, SORC, c/o The Museum. High Street, Ipswich, IP1 3QH. SUFFOLK ORNITHOLOGICAL RECORDS COMMITTEE (membership during 1994/5 for the consideration of most 1994 records) Chair: Dr Anne Brenchley. Secretary: David Walsh. Area County Recorders: Colin Jakes, Richard Waiden, Michael James. Editor, Suffolk Birds: Richard Rafe. Committee Members: John Cawston, Mike Crewe, Derek Moore, Dr David Pearson, Steve Piotrowski, Brian Small, Geoff Welch, Malcolm Wright.

4


EDITORIAL This has been my first and last year as Editor of Suffolk Birds. The task has proven more onerous than I had, perhaps naively, expected, and incompatible with a morethan-full-time job, a family and a desire, albeit latent during much of this year, to go birding. This Report is substantially later than 1 would have wished, and to ail Suffolk birders waiting expectantly and patiently (?), I apologise. I should like to plot out the process by which this Report was produced, identify some of the pitfalls and problems that have arisen, and highlight changes that may help the process in future years. In my opinion changes are essential if bird recording in the County is to stay active, topical and useful. Bird records are submitted by observers to the three County Recorders, who undertake a preliminary assessment and sift, before sending the records on to the Suffolk Biological Records Centre for inputting into the computer; the records are stored here both on a long term basis for future use and to provide the records from which the current year's Bird Report is produced. For the latter, a full listing by species of ail records is produced for the Bird Report Editor who parcels them off to volunteers to write draft sections of the Systematic List; this is then refined by the Editors. 1994 saw the submission of some 24000 records to the Records Centre. The sheer volume of records and the number of links in the chain lead to inévitable transcription inaccuracies, hopefully kept to a minimum by later checking of the drafts by the Regional Recorders. But are all 24000 records useful? The answer has to be no. The recording of a Great Northern Diver on Alton Water by 20 separate observers on the same day is unnecessary duplication, but because these records come in scattered throughout the year, it would require considérable technical capabilities to edit down so that just a single record is processed. Similarly, ad hoc recording of common species does little to help paint a picture of population changes or trends. Nonetheless, the sheer volume of records is not the real problem, and I feel we should be encouraging not limiting birdwatchers in the submission of their records. What we need is more focused recording in order to supply information that can be interpreted to produce meaningful comment and a more efficient system for the collation of the records through to the production of a Bird Report. The latter of these two issues is being addressed within Suffolk, with the introduction of computerisation for the three County Recorders so that they have a much greater control over the editing and input of records. The Storage and collation of records should become more accurate and efficient but the writing of the Bird Report itself will still be a mammoth undertaking. So what is the value of the Bird Report anyway? I estimate that this year the production of Suffolk Birds will have taken over 500 hours of volunteer time, together with the direct costs of publication. The Report is a balance between a semi-scientific journal and a populär bird report. Scientific papers of relevance to the County are welcomed but rarely volunteered. The Systematic List attempts both to record the population trends of the commoner species and to act as a rarity report. I can foresee no reason why this should change; the balance works well, if a little uneasily sometimes but there is a definite need for more focused recording to provide a clearer picture of population changes among the commoner species. To my mind, the wardened nature reserves around the County and the dedicated locai patch watchers should provide the backbone to year on year information enabling comparisons between years and the récognition of long term locai trends. We need to encourage greater degrees of recording, monitoring and submission of records from the reserves and encourage more locai patch watchers to submit their records and recognise 5


the valuĂŠ of information comparable from year to year. The other major problem in producing the Bird Report is timeliness. To retain its topicality the County Bird Report must be published in the following year. This is perfectly feasible if the collated records are available for analysis at an early stage in the year. This year, records from 1994 were still being input into the system in June 1995; many of the initial drafts of the Systematic List had to be substantially rewritten because of the volume of subsequently available records. To speed this process, all observers are requested to submit their records at regular intervals throughout the year, say monthly or quarterly, and to ensure the final batch of records reaches the Recorders during January and no later. With earlier submission of records, a more efficient system for storage and retrieval of the information, and a greater emphasis on encouraging birdwatchers to submit comparable year to year information, then the future of Suffolk Birds will have clear direction; but these changes will take time to come into effect, and in the meantime I offer my best wishes to whomsoever takes over as Editor for next year. Finally, I should like to say thanks to the many people without whom Suffolk Birds 1995 would not have been possible. First the hundreds of observers without whose records there would be no starting point. My particular thanks go to all those who helped with the writing of sections of the Report; they are acknowledged by Ăąame elsewhere but particularly Philip Murphy who has done a sterling job in helping to ensure accuracy and context to the records. The three County Recorders also gave up their time to offer comment on the Systematic List within a very tight and unreasonable deadline, set by the Editor. Nonetheless, I remain responsible for any errors, inaccuracies or omissions. Finally, thanks to my wife, Brenda, who not only undertook much of the typographical editing but also provided much needed support and tolerance during periods when Suffolk Birds dominated family life.


SUFFOLK NATURALISTS' SOCIETY CONFERENCE, 29TH OCTOBER 1994 BREEDING BIRDS OF EAST ANGLIA The Annual Conference was held on Saturday 29th October 1994, at Ipswich School Conference Centre. The conference was sponsored by Anglian Water, together with the British Trust for Ornithology, English Nature, Forest Enterprise, Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk Wildlife Trust. A synopsis of the papers presented at the conference is given below.

DIGGING FOR BITTERNS - RE-SHAPING MINSMERE'S SCRAPE Geoff Welch As a British breeding bird, the Bittern has had a very chequered history. In the 17th century its range extended throughout England, Wales and southern Scotland and at this time shooting parties in the Fens would bag 20-30 birds in a morning and roast Bittern was the Fenman's traditional Sunday lunch! However, persecution and habitat loss through drainage reduced numbers and by the mid-1800s Bitterns were restricted to the Norfolk Broads. The last nest was found in 1868 and the last young bird killed in 1886. Birds continued to be recorded as passage or winter visitors but breeding was not proved again until 1911, at Hickling Broad. Thanks to enthusiastic protection, numbers began to increase, to reach a peak of around 70 pairs by the late 1960s, but since then there has been a steady decline to just 16 booming males in 1994. Research The RSPB has been aware of, and concerned by, this decline for some time, and in the early 1980s it carried out a great deal of work on its reedbed reserves, opening up ditch systems to provide more feeding edge. However, it was not until 1988 that a detailed investigation into the species' ecology and habitat requirements was started. One of the greatest problems proved to be how to study a bird which is hardly ever seen! This was tackled in two ways — radio tracking and 'voice fingerprinting'. By fitting small radio transmitters to the legs of three birds at the RSPB's Leighton Moss reserve in Lancashire, it was shown that male Bitterns move around a reedbed far more than was originally thought, and may have several booming sites within their territory. The latter fact is very significant, as in the past Bitterns were censused by mapping boom sites — but if males are highly mobile there is a real risk of over-estimating the number of males present. Radio tracking also revealed that rather than feeding along ditch edges. Bitterns frequently feed a few metres in from the ditch, in the reedbed. But this is only possible when water levels in the ditches and reedbed are high enough for fish, eels and frogs to swim out of the ditches and through the reeds where the Bitterns can catch them. Basically, Bitterns need really wet reedbeds! Linking in with the radio tracking, the RSPB, working closely with Nottingham University, has found that the boom of each male is individually recognisable if good quality tape recordings are used to produce a visual representation of the boom, known as a sonogram. Given recordings of all the booming birds, an accurate assessment of the number of males can be made and an annual census of booming males by this technique now forms a major part of the ongoing study of the species. What is not yet clear is whether all males keep the same boom pattern from year to 7


year. If they do, this will provide valuable information on site fidelity and any movements between breeding sites. Linked to the direct study of the species, the RSPB has also been examining various environmental and physical characteristics of reedbeds currently and historically occupied by Bitterns. Characteristics studied have included prey availability (by electro-fishing), relative areas of scrub, reed and open water on each site, water depth, length of ditch/pool edge and an assessment of reed quality and stem density. Habitat Management Based on the findings of the research, size of reedbed and site wetness come out as very important and much of the current work taking place on reserves is aimed at these. In Suffolk, the majority of the coastal reedbeds, especially Bittern at Minsmere and Walberswick, were formed during the Second World War when areas of grazing marsh were flooded as an anti-invasion measure. At Minsmere most management in the 1970s and 1980s focused on scrub removal, but the problem of accumulating leaf litter, which was making parts of the reedbed too dry for Bitterns, was not tackled until 1991. The problem has been tackled in two ways. The first has been to set up an experimental seven year rotational cutting programme over a quarter of the main reedbed at Minsmere. Each winter several small blocks of reed, scattered throughout the reedbed and measuring up to 0.5 hectare, are cut. The reed is cut using a brushcutter or Iseki mower, and is then raked up and burnt. Each area is then re-raked to remove as much of the leaf litter as possible, and the rakings are piled around the edges of each block to provide invertebrate habitat. A narrow fringe of reed around each block is left uncut, and this provides some screening whilst also linking the cut area to the surrounding reedbed. The process in effect creates a series of small, shallow pools within the reedbed which are gradually encroached by reed. They appear to be providing ideal feeding areas for Bitterns as reserve staff and visitors have observed birds using the managed blocks. However, in some areas litter is so dense that management by cutting is not sufficient — and then the second, more drastic method is employed. At both North Warren and Minsmere contractors are being used to dig out up to 25 hectares of dry reedbed at each site over a period of five years. Ground levels are being lowered by up to 60 cm and the resulting spoil is being used to create new banks to improve water control. As with the cutting, reed will gradually recolonise each area, but 8


where the reedbed was dry and the reed oĂ­d, thin and stunted, growth will now be young, vigorous and tall, with the ground below very wet providing prime habitat for one of this country's rarest breeding birds. With one third of the British Bittern population breeding in Suffolk, hopefully these efforts will not prove to be too late. Geoff Welch, RSPB. Minsmere, Westleton, Saxmundham 1P17 3BY

M A N A G E M E N T A N D B I R D S IN W O O D L A N D N A T U R E R E S E R V E S : F R O M C O P P I C E T O N A T U R A L FOREST. Dr Robert J Fuller Woodland supports more species of breeding birds than any other vegetation type in Britain, yet surprisingly few woodland species are nationally rare (Fuller 1995). Perhaps it is partly for this reason that woodland has become increasingly regarded as a relatively low priority habitat for bird conservation. Nonetheless, woodland birds have great appeal and managers of woodland nature reserves frequently aim to treat their woods in ways that enhance bird populations. There can, however, be few woodland nature reserves in lowland England that are managed purely for birds. The aims of conservation management within the majority of woodland reserves are to encourage a diversity of wildlife of which birds are a part. Substantial numbers of ancient woods have been acquired as nature reserves over the past 20 years. The demand for information about how best to manage these sites has grown accordingly because it is widely assumed that management is necessary to maintain an interesting and diverse wildlife. Habitat management will always be a cornerstone of nature conservation within woodland but I suggest that there is room for a more critical approach. Too seldom are the reasons for intervention clearly defined and it is not always appreciated that there are interesting and valid alternatives to traditional management systems. Birds provide several useful examples in developing these ideas. Coppicing: advantages and problems Coppicing is the most widely practised form of conservation management in woods. One justification is that the patchiness of a coppiced wood benefits a large number of species. In Bradfield Woods, for example, a range of bird species is sustained by the various growth stages (Fuller & Henderson 1992). Recently cut coppice is colonised by birds such as Whitethroat and Dunnock. As the coppice thickens these give way to Willow Warblers, Garden Warblers, Blackcaps and Nightingales. From an ornithological viewpoint the most striking feature of well managed coppice is the extremely high breeding densities of these summer visitors. Soon after canopyclosure (typically at 6-8 years of growth) these migrant species disappear, to be replaced by Robins and several species of tits. Provided that new areas of coppice are cut regularly, coppicing can sustain habitats for a large number of birds and other species within a wood. For coppicing to succeed, however, the density of large standard trees must not be too high, otherwise the shade will suppress the coppice regrowth to the detriment of breeding Nightingales and warblers. Even where coppicing is carried out correctly there are increasing difficulties of achieving good regeneration. Numbers of deer especially Roe Deer and Muntjac, are rising in lowland England and their impact on coppice can be devastating. At Bradfield Woods, for example, Roe Deer became a serious problem in the late 1980s when it was realised that without action the future of coppicing at this historie site was in jeopardy. A two-fold approach was taken by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust which 9


involved reduction of the deer population, with the aid of a professional stalker, and the erection of tall, dense brushwood fences around newly cut patches of coppice. This action has successfully reduced damage to the coppiced woods. The increased pressure from deer in Bradfield Woods in the late 1980s may have contributed to the decline of Nightingales from an estimated 17 territories in 1987 to less than ten in 1994. In those areas not protected by robust brushwood fences, heavy deer browsing has inhibited coppice regrowth such that a very open canopy and dense field layer have persisted many years after cutting. This vegetation structure is poor Nightingale habitat; the birds need a dense shrub layer or thicket, combined with patches of bare ground for feeding. It will be interesting to see whether the Nightingale in Bradfield Woods recovers in future years now that all young coppice is being effectively protected from severe browsing. The case for coppicing is especially strong where there has been a recent or continuous history of coppicing, as at Bradfield Woods, or where it has only recently ceased (Fuller & Peterken 1995). Such woods are most likely to have retained those early successional plant and invertebrate species that depend on continuity of management. Where there has been a long break in coppicing it is less probable that a rich community of coppice plants and animals can be restored though the more mobile species, including several warblers, may rapidly colonise. Coppicing is labour intensive and, in addition to the problems of deer, there are substantial difficulties in marketing the products of coppice. Striking a balance in woodland management High forest — woodland managed on longer rotations with the aim of producing timber trees — supports bird communities which are broadly complementary to those of coppice. Notwithstanding the fact that bird communities in individual woods vary enormously in response to many different factors (Fuller 1995), stands dominated by mature broadleaves will hold larger populations of Nuthatches, Treecreepers, tits and woodpeckers than will coppiced stands. Rarely, however, does English high forest support the high densities of summer visitors often found in coppice. It is entirely appropriate that some woodland reserves should be managed as high forest and that others should not be managed at all. Natural temperate woodland is characterised by the presence of massive trees, large amounts of dead wood and treefall gaps of various sizes. Exceedingly few English woods have a structure that could be regarded as remotely natural; even dead wood is scarce in many woods. Nature reserves offer exciting long-term opportunities for allowing more natural structures to develop within English woodland (Fuller & Peterken 1995). Derelict coppice within reserves could form the basis for an expanded area of high forest and creation of a modest number of natural woods. Coppice, scrub, wood-pasture, high forest and natural woodland all have a place in English nature reserves. Each supports complementary communities of birds and other wildlife. Given the large area of protected woodland in lowland England there would seem to be scope for developing an integrated approach to woodlands whereby different woods offered substantial examples of different management systems and woodland habitats. A diversity of woodland treatments is desirable but, in general, this is better achieved through treating different woods in different ways, rather than trying to achieve too much within individual woods. The BTO's work on woodland birds is partly funded by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (on behalf of English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, The Countryside Council for Wales and DoE Northern Ireland).


References Füller, R J (1995) Birdlife of Woodland and Forest. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Fuller, R J & Henderson, A C B (1992). Distribution of breeding songbirds in Bradfield Woods, Suffolk, in relation to végétation and coppice management. Bird Study 39: 73-88. Fuller, R J & Peterken, G F (1995). Woodland and scrub. In Habitat Management for Conservation. Editors: W J Sutherland & D A Hill. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Dr Robert J Fuller, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU

G O L D E N O R I O L E S IN T H E FENS Paul Mason and Martin Raines Golden Orioles started to breed in appréciable numbers in East Anglia in 1967 when two pairs were found in the Bryant and May poplar plantation near Lakenheath in Suffolk. The matchmaking company had embarked on a homegrown wood project which would eventually encompass some 700 acres. The number of breeding birds reached around 14 pairs by 1981, by which time the company changed its policy and sold the land. The new owners embarked on a programme to return the business to agriculture and tree felling proceeded until 1989-90 when an agreement between the owners and the RSPB resulted in 100 acres being left in hybrid poplar production, on a rotational basis. We hope that this will resuit in two or three pairs of Golden Orioles having a reasonably safe future there. Düring the tree felling, which was spread over several years, concerned individuáis, who had been watching the birds and the subsequent disappearance of the habitat with foreboding, came together and formed a 'Golden Oriole Group'. This body was to study what happened to the displaced birds. Would they disappear to where they originated — thought by now (1994) to be the Low Countries, or would they disperse into smaller poplar plantations in other parts of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire? Thankfully, it was found to be the latter which occurred. It is not known exactly when the birds moved into areas of SW Norfolk, but a breeding pair reached Cambridgeshire in 1982, and the numbers gradually increased until nine sites were identified, though these breeding sites were not all used every year. A large number of breeding sites was found in Norfolk, and two new ones in West Suffolk. Having located a number of sites and some potential ones, some 30-35 in ali, the Group, together with the RSPB, decided to investigate the birds' habitat requirements in more detail. There are several différent cultivars of hybrid poplars and it was found that whilst ali cultivars are used for foraging, only a few are used for nesting by the Golden Orioles, mainly the early and large leaved cultivars. With the help of a grant from the Environmental Research Foundation, researchers from the University of Oxford assessed invertebrate populations on the various cultivars. The height and orientation of nests were recorded. Nest watches were established to find when the parents were feeding their young and various feeding rotas were noted. Areas of foraging and the distances travelled in doing so were appraised and the minimum number of trees needed was estimated. Behaviour is being studied, partly through photography undertaken by Malcolm Raines and Chris Knights. A ringing programme commenced in 1987 and 50 pulii and one adult have been ringed. It is impossible to ring ali pulii as many nests are inaccessible, being as high as 25m and often on flimsy branches. Two recoveries and two controls have resulted; a high rate of return. Evidence is being obtained of the age of breeding females, site fidelity and direction of migration, together with the possible origin of the population. 11


Breeding success is, of course, recorded, showing the number of breeding pairs peaking in two years, (i) 1987, when several were known to fail subsequently because of incessant rain in June, and (ii) 1993, which is believed to have produced record numbers of young. Ironically, the worst season seems to have been 1994, when cold wet weather and violent thunderstorms together caused pairs to desert their nests. In 1994, a grant was received from English Nature to survey Golden Orioles on a national basis, including mapping poplar plantations in the core Fenland Basin breeding area. Volunteers throughout England agreed to keep a watchful eye. Unfortunately, owing to the inclement summer weather, poor results were obtained. The décision has been taken to extend the survey into 1995. As for the future, there is good reason to be optimistic. Since the departure of Bryant and May and its décision to use imported wood, the market for poplar has declined. Present uses are mainly for pallet making, spills for schools and for protective packaging for transporting high-quality specialised bricks. Fresh uses for poplar wood are gradually being found, such as the manufacture of specialised musical instruments and some furniture. New cultivars of hybrid poplar have been produced in Belgium. These are quicker growing, making cultivation more commercially viable, and they have been found to be suitable for more uses, including timber for roof trusses and furniture veneers. As a resuit of this work higher quality premiums for such wood can be expected. The Golden Oriole Group is investigating which of these cultivars are also good for Golden Orioles. Two members visited Belgium in 1992, and another visit is planned. So far it seems that the birds are using plantations of the new cultivars, so the future is promising. Several landowners have planted new shelter belts of poplars to prevent soil érosion, and in Cambridgeshire a new wood of nine acres is to be planted as an amenity for local people. This is a joint venture between Haddenham Conservation Society, the Woodland Trust and the Cambridgeshire Woodland Fund. The project was awarded £6,000 by Anglian Water under their 'Caring for the Environment Award Scheme 1994'. Planting of three varieties of poplar is planned, with a screen of native fenland trees and suitable understorey. We hope that Golden Orioles will use it in 8-10 years' time. It will then be the only Golden Oriole site legally open to the general public. In other parts of the country the Golden Oriole only breeds sporadically. In the southern counties poplars are largely scorned in favour of mature oak cover with a chestnut coppice understorey. This fact, together with ringing recovery evidence, leads us to believe such birds are from a différent population, probably based in Iberia or Western France. Some 150 birds are recorded in most years along our coastlines, but most seem to filter inland or disappear back to the Continental mainland and are therefore regarded as vagrants or migrants. Breeding has occurred, however, in places as far apart as Kent, Somerset, Fife and Yorkshire. The Scottish and Yorkshire birds which bred in poplars might be of Low Countries' origin. Further research will be carried out and the possibility of investigating song patterns is being considered. Regular reports are being sent to English Nature, the Rare Breeding Birds Panel and the RSPB. The Golden Oriole Group is prepared to give other organisations similar, and perhaps more detailed exhibitions than was possible at the Ipswich Conférence in 1994. Please contact Malcolm Raines on 01366 377233 or at Mantons Farm, Ten Mile Bank, Downham Market, Norfolk, PE38 0EW. A small charge will be made and the money used to help with the Golden Oriole Group's research costs. Paul Mason, Highfield House, Hillrow, Haddenham, Ely, Cambridgeshire.

CB6 3TJ


B R E E D I N G BIRDS IN F A R M L A N D Dr Peter Lack Farmland occupies about 70% of the land surface of Britain and is an important habitat for many birds and other wildlife. It is very varied and, apart from the fields, contains a high diversity of small pieces of many other habitat types such as hedges, woodland, ponds and farm buildings. Management is often heรกvy, especially on the fields and their immediate surrounds, and the practices adopted can have major effects on the birds and other wildlife, although in some cases there are straightforward and not too costly ways of alleviating some of these. The following does not attempt to cover all the possible aspects of how farming affects the birds which live in the habitat but picks out a few of those topics which we know most about. The populations of many birds in farmland have been declining steadily, especially over the last 20 years or so (Marchant et al 1990), and more so than in any other major habitat type (Gibbons et al 1993). However not all groups are affected to the same degree and seed-eating species such as some finches and buntings seem to be particularly badly hit. Furthermore some recent work has shown that the declines of seed-eaters have been more pronounced in areas where arable farming is predominant compared with areas of predominantly grass and livestock farming (Marchant & Gregory in press). Some of the declines can be related to modern farming practices such as the increased use of pesticides. Despite the British Trust for Ornithology and others working on birds in farmland for some years, there is still much to learn about exactly what each species needs from farmland, and about how the different species actually use the various habitats of which farmland is composed. The remainder of this article summarises some of our current knowledge on crop preferences and on hedges and their management. The preferences of some birds for different field types is quite well known, for example wader species such as Snipe Gallinago gallinago and Redshank Tringa totanus are almost restricted to wet or damp permanent grassland when nesting inland and, as a consequence, their numbers have often declined following drainage (Gibbons et al 1993). Only a few species nest in arable fields and most show some preferences between crop types. Most prefer crops which are sown in the spring to those sown in the autumn, for example Skylark Alauda arvensis and Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, probably because the vegetation is much lower at the stage when the birds are looking to nest. The latter species has been the subject of several detailed studies. The BTO survey of England and Wales in 1987 showed a very strong preference for spring sown arable fields for nests, but Lapwings also additionally prefer those fields adjacent to areas of grass probably because this latter is the preferred field type for their chicks (Shrubb & Lack 1991). 'I Reed Bunting 13


Birds nesting in hedgerows, by contrast, show a rather different pattern of preferences. There are more bird territories adjacent to oilseed rape fields than other crops and Dunnock Prunella modularĂ­s, Blackbird Turdus merula and Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus show a particularly strong preference (Lack 1992). Indeed the Dunnock and Reed Bunting have been found nesting actually within rape fields. Several species nesting in hedges do forage in the fields and the reason for the preference for rape fields may be that the ground under that crop is much more open than under cereals, thus allowing more feeding opportunities. This suggestion of access being a critical factor is strengthened by the observation that birds are often seen to use the 'tramlines' left by passes of the tractors as a means of gaining access to all types of crop. Hedges are arguably the most important habitat feature for birds in farmland. However it is essential that the hedges are managed. Unmanaged hedges often quickly become less suitable as they tend to become thin near the base. The 'best' type of hedge is large, tall and wide, contains a variety of shrub species and has a ditch alongside. It appears that the presence of thick vegetation near the base is especially important for many species, but one of the easiest ways to increase the numbers of birds is to have some trees, although it is not clear exactly what many of the birds use the trees for. Even small trees can have a beneficial effect, but not all bird species like them. Blue Tits Parus caeruleus and Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla for example are much commoner if trees are present, but Dunnocks and Yellowhammers Emberiza citrinella seem to occur equally commonly whether there are trees in the hedge or not. Management of hedges can be done in several ways. The ideal is not to do any cutting until after any berries have been eaten in the autumn and not too frequently. Regular trimming every year or two with a mechanical flail is the most common

Blue Tit 14


method, but other methods include laying or a severe cut, even what amounts to coppicing, every ten years or so, perhaps with minor trims between. The latter method clearly will make a hedge less attractive in the short term but in the longer term can be beneficial in ensuring a thick base is re-established. Two recent papers (Green et al 1994, Parish et al 1994) spell out much of this in more detail. Overall in farmland it is clear that each bird species has particular requirements of its habitat, and although there are some practices which will benefit a range of species, any management is likely to result in both gains and losses. It is essential to decide on objectives and set out the priorities before any management is done. It is also clear that, until recently, farmland has been relatively neglected as a habitat by conservationists. Changes in agricultural practices can occur very rapidly, often as a result of political decisions not agricultural ones, and can affect very large numbers of birds. It is vital therefore that birds and other wildlife continuĂŠ to be monitored there, and that we find out more about their food and other requirements. References Gibbons, D W, Reid J B & Chapman R 1993. The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland: 1988-1991. T & A D Poyser, London Green, R E, Osborne, P E & Sears, E J 1994. The distribution of passerine birds in hedgerows during the breeding season in relation to characteristics of the hedgerow and adjacent farmland. Journal of Applied Ecology 31: 677-692. Lack, P C 1992 Birds on Lowland Farms. HMSO, London. Marchant, J H, Hudson, R, CĂĄrter S P & Whittington, P S 1990. Population Trends in British Birds. British Trust for Ornithology, Tring. Marchant, J H & Gregory, R D (in press) Recent population changes among seed-eating passerines in the United Kingdom. Proc. 12th Int. Conf. of IBCC and EOAC, The Netherlands. Parish, T, Lakhani, K H & Sparks, T H 1994. Modelling the relationship between bird population variables and hedgerow and other field margin attributes. I. Species richness of winter, summer and breeding birds. Journal of Applied Ecology 31: 764-775. Shrubb, M & Lack, P C 1991. The numbers and distribution of Lapwings V. vanellus nesting in England and Wales in 1987. Bird Study 38: 20-37.

Dr Peter Lack, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 2PU

B I R D S O F P R E Y IN S U F F O L K Derek Moore Marsh Harrier Historically, the Marsh Harrier probably did not breed in East Anglia this century until during the Second World War. It is reasonable to speculate that this species must have been numerous centuries ago when the fens were flooded and considerable suitable habitat existed. Ticehurst, however, in 1932 (A History of the Birds of Suffolk) stated that he could find no evidence of Marsh Harriers breeding in Suffolk for the past 100 years. Since the 1940s the situation has changed. Numbers were reasonably steady at about a dozen nests until 1971 when only one pair was present in the country at Minsmere. The reason for the sudden decline is attributed to organochlorine pesticides rather than losses of habitat. Indeed in Suffolk, reedbeds increased after the Second World War because of deliberate flooding. The withdrawal of harmful pesticides saw a steady increase in Marsh Harriers and this may have coincided with a population explosion in the Netherlands during 15


2 3 z(0 .c (n Ol c LU ©

V

polder création. The new habit of females wintering in Britain is perhaps also significant, as well as the increased polygamous behaviour of maies. The recent increases mean that probably at least 100 nests occur each year in south-eastern England. Habitat preference is reedbeds with good areas of feeding nearby, i.e. grazing marshes or estuary. Minsmere has had Marsh Harriers breeding in every season for the last 40 years. In Norfolk arable crops are increasingly used, but no records of such habitat use have yet been submitted for Suffolk.

Goshawk For such a large bird of prey the Goshawk is incredibly elusive and, as such, may be under-recorded. Mythical stories from the west of Suffolk reached the birding hard core sitting comfortably on the coast back in the early 1970s that these splendid birds might be nesting. This proved to be the truth and this population is still strong today and slowly increasing. Additionally what were at first thought to be winter visitors from the Continent were proved to be breeding on the Suffolk coast. The large Forestry Commission plantations are Marsh Harrier splendid habitat for this species. The origins of this expanding British population are interesting. There is no doubt that many birds were released by falconers presumably to provide a regulär supply of wild-bred birds. Thus individuate showing characteristics of différent races are often found in small areas. One assumes that some birds from the Continent will have joined the East Anglian population. The situation in Suffolk is difficult to assess accurately. Apart from the now wellknown Breckland birds there is firm evidence of birds nesting on the coast, and strong suspicions of isolated pairs at various sites in the south of the County. Nesting Goshawks are very shy. After early display high above the territory they retreat to thick cover. Sparrowhawk This is another species which declined sharply during the period of organochlorine pesticides. This was particularly marked in lowland Britain where arable farming was concentrated. The Suffolk population reduced to the point where only a handful of pairs still nested. The best chance of seeing this species during the 1960s and 1970s was in winter when Continental immigrants graced the Suffolk countryside. With the abandonment of the harmful chemicals and the sanctuary of forestry pines the Sparrowhawk began a rapid comeback. Today it is possible to see this species daily as you journey around the County. Nesting not only takes place within 16


Sparrowhawk the countryside but also in large urban areas. This species is recorded more than almost any other raptor now. With a recent decline in small passerines, many claims have arisen that the Sparrowhawk is the main culprit. In fact most of the preferred prey species are holding steady or increasing while the decline of some species is much more likely to have been caused by modem intensive agriculture. If you are a cynic like me you will not be surprised that most of the antagonists have a vested interest in shooting game birds. They would dearly love to see a rĂŠduction in the population of this species. Kestrel This species is generally assumed to be the most numerous raptor in the County. Indeed, this may be the case, but the Sparrowhawk may be catching up. Recent evidence suggests a small increase in the population of south-east England, but this may not be the case in Suffolk. Current farming practice reduces the habitat for small mammals and a shortage of voles would speli disaster for the Kestrel. The Kestrel is adapted to life in a variety of habitats, including very urban areas where its diet may feature more small birds. It nests in old buildings and purposebuilt nest boxes, as well as more naturai sites such as a hole in a tree, or sometimes the old nest of a crow. Hobby There has been a rapid and recent increase of this species throughout Britain, including Suffolk. Pairs of this dashing falcon have been recorded nesting in Suffolk over a number of years and, indeed, may often have been overlooked as a breeding 17

i


bird. Juveniles seen on the Suffolk coast in August were often in the past considered to be of Continental origin but were probably local. This species is incredibly secretive once incubation begins. I have searched territories thoroughly and never found the birds until the young have hatched. Hobbies do nest in other habitats besides heathland. One pair regularly breeds in south-central Suffolk in an area of arable and ancient woodland on clay soils. Other territories are in river valleys and by coastal lagoons. Old nests of crows are normally utilised. Studies at one heathland site have seen the birds use trees within 800 metres of each other for six successive seasons. They have produced three fledged young in all but two seasons, with one and two in the lean years. Since the October 1987 hurricane the heathland sites are more open and may be more acceptable to this species. There is no doubt in my mind that a co-ordinated search in early August when the fledged young are noisily present would reveal a significant population, maybe as many as 25 pairs.

What of the Future? Montagu's Harrier This species bred successfully in Suffolk in 1967 and maybe again in 1981. The recent colonisation of part of Norfolk and welcome success of nine pairs in 1994 offers optimism that this graceful species might return to Suffolk. It has nested both at heathland and reedbed sites in Suffolk. Ironically, the great success of Marsh Harriers in the latter habitat might make it difficult for the smaller Montagu's. Buzzard We normally associate the Buzzard with rolling wooded country of the west and north. In the Netherlands and Belgium, Buzzards nest in habitat similar to that in East Anglia, yet this species has been unable to get established here, although it is possible that Buzzards have bred undetected in recent years. I cannot help thinking that if those with game interests took a more positive attitude then this bird could flourish here. Honey Buzzard Rumours are rife that this species has nested recently in Suffolk. It may be true and, given that this species has bred regularly in small numbers in Norfolk in the last decade or so, there is always the possibility. Indeed, there are ancient records which suggest that this species has bred in the past. Although one of the commonest raptors in the World this species has a small but patchy distribution in Britain. This bird cannot tolerate disturbance when nesting and it is believed that some nests are unreported. Honey Buzzards may be increasing. Keep looking!

And now for two flippant suggestions . . . Osprey The great increase in Ospreys nesting in Scotland in recent years means that many more pass through southern Britain on migration. In some areas birds have lingered throughout the summer, notably two birds together at Lackford recently. There has been much success in the USA and Germany from erecting artificial nest sites. Indeed many of the pairs now breeding in Scotland are using artificial sites. Should we have a go and put up some artificial nest sites in the hope that one day a pair might stay? 18


Peregrine This species last bred in Suffolk in the tower of Corton Church in the early nineteenth Century. Severely hit in the pesticide era, this species has now recovered dramatically. Peregrines are once again annual in Suffolk on passage and in winter, and recently up to two have used the Orwell Bridge as a roosting and plucking site. A carefully placed nest box might do the trick! Continuai persécution Despite strict and total protection under the law our birds of prey are still persecuted in this country. They still suffer from the attentions of egg collectors and falconers. Sadly, some shooting estâtes still ignore the current législation and destroy these beautiful birds. The success of many of the raptor species in itself leads some to cry for their control. The Sparrowhawk for example. Recently I heard a Suffolk farmer renowned for his good conservation record suggest that there were now too many Marsh Harriers for their own good. I was horrified to see a car sticker in Wales recently which bore the slogan "Half a million songbirds killed by hawks each year — bring back the death penalty". Some serious but misguided people have suggested to me that we should organise a culi of Sparrowhawks. What messages would we send to the rest of the European Community if we did? Some of us have been fighting hard to persuade French, Italians, Maltese and Cypriots to stop shooting birds of prey on migration. What would they think of us? Derek Moore, Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Brooke House, The Green, Ashbocking, near Ipswich, Suffolk IP6 9JY

THE BTO ATLAS — RECENT TRENDS Dr David

Gibbons

David Gibbons' présentation was based on previously published material available as follows:Gibbons, D W (1991) The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland — An overview. Sitta 5: 11-18. Gibbons, D W (1993) The New Atlas of Breeding Birds — An overview of Methods and Results. British Wildlife 4: 360-366. Gibbons, D W, Reid, J B & Chapman, R A (1993) The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland: 1988-1991. T & A D Poyser.

Dr David Gibbons, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk. 1P24 2PU

T H E S T O N E C U R L E W IN E A S T A N G L I A Dr Rhys Green Rhys Green's presentation was based on previously published material available as follows:Green, R E & Bowden, C G R (1986) Field characters for ageing and sexing Stone Curlews. British Birds 79: 419-422. Green, R E (1988) Stone Curlew conservation. RSPB Consen'ation Review 2: 30-33 Green, R E & Tyler, G A (1989) Determination of the diet of the Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus by faecal analysis. Journal ofZoology, London. 217: 311-320.


Green, R E (1993) Stone Curlew. In D W Gibbons, J B Reid & R A Chapman, The New Alias of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland: 1988-1991. T & A D Poyser, London. Green, R E & Griffiths, C H (1994) Use of preferred nesting habitat by Stone Curlews Burhinus oedicnemus in relation to Vegetation structure. Journal of Zoology, London 233: 457-471. Green, R E (1995). Monitoring of Stone Curlew numbers and breeding success. In Carter, S P (Ed) Britain's birds in 1991-1992: the conservation and monitoring review. BTO & JNCC, Thetford. Green, R E & Taylor, C R (in press) Changes in Stone Curlew distribution and abundance and Vegetation height on chalk grassland at Porton Down, Wiltshire. Bird Study.

Dr Rhys Green, RSPB, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire. SG19 2DL


THE 1994 INFLUX OF PALLAS'S WARBLERS IN SUFFOLK Richard Rafe

The Pallas's Warbler is the smallest and most beautiful Phylloscopus in the Western Palearctic, and with its combination of head pattern, wing bars and pale rump is easily recognisable. The Pallas's Warbler breeds in taiga and mixed woodlands, often at altitudes of up to 3000 metres, in Asia from the Russian Altai to Sakhalin, south to central China, the Himalayas and the borders of Afghanistan. It winters in southern China, India and Indochina. On passage Pallas's Warbler is common in riverine woodlands, often joining mixed flocks of tits Parus sp. and Goldcrests Regulus regulus. The Pallas's Warbler is a rare vagrant to Britain from Siberia. Occurrences involve mostly first-years and probably result chiefly from westward displacement in anticyclonic conditions, with reverse migration as a possible additional factor. Prior to 1962 there were only six records in Britain. During the following 20 years, 178 were recorded, mostly in eastern and southern Britain, and then in the autumn of 1982 an amazing 127 were recorded (but none in Suffolk). By the end of 1990, over 500 had been recorded, and the species ceased to be an official "BB" rarity. Despite the increase in occurrence, Pallas's Warblers retain their enigmatic charm and remain a much sought-after vagrant. The history of the Pallas's Warbler in Suffolk closely mirrors the national picture. Following singles in 1963, 1966 and 1977, numbers have gradually increased (table 1), with occasional good years when several have been recorded, but still with many blank years. Table 1: Yearly totals of Pallas's Warblers in Suffolk since 1980 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 0 3 0 0 1 0 0 6 0 4 2 3 0 5

The Suffolk total up to the end of 1993 stood at 27. Most of these had been recorded from well-watched migration hotspots along the coast, with Landguard, Benacre and Lowestoft particularly favoured, and with the bulk of records in the period from late October through November. There has been only one record away from the immediate coast, a bird at Iken in 1989. 1994 saw an exceptional influx of Pallas's Warblers into Britain with somewhere around 180 birds being recorded, nearly all in the peak period of late October and early November. Millington writing in Birding World (vol 7, no 11) suggests that 25 were recorded in Suffolk, including 16 around Felixstowe alone. Now that the full records are available, this is probably an over-estimate but at least 22 were recorded in the County (see species account in the 1994 Bird Report, and table 2), almost doubling the previous total recorded over the \ last 30 years. 21

x

-s>M5 PaUas

>s

Warbier


Table 2: Pallas's Warbler records in Suffolk, 1994 OCTOBER Lowestoft Southwold Dunwich Minsmere Bawdsey Adastral Close, Felixstowe Landguard, Felixstowe Fagbury, Trimley St. Mary Golf Road, Felixstowe

16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 1 3 2 2 1

1 1

1

1 1

1 1

1

1 1

2

5

7

8

9

10 11 12 13 14 15 16

1

1

3

2

NOVEMBER 1 Lowestoft Southwold Dunwich Minsmere Bawdsey Adastral Close, Felixstowe Landguard, Felixstowe Fagbury, Trimley St. Mary Golf Road, Felixstowe

2

3

4

5

6

1

1

1

1

1 1

1

2

1 1

1

1

1

1

The bulk of the records came from the two ends of the coastal belt, around Felixstowe and Lowestoft, and there were several sightings of two or more birds together with probable maxima of five at Fagbury and three in Lowestoft. Eight separate individuals were ringed at Fagbury, with a total of at least nine birds recorded. There were no records away from the coastal belt. The first bird was recorded on October 16th and the last on November 16th, following the traditional peak period for this species of late October and early November. 1994 provided many Suffolk birders with an opportunity to see one or more Pallas's Warblers in the County, and with the species being such an attractive jewel of a bird, it is to be hoped that future years provide a repeat of such an extravaganza.

22


WEATHER TRENDS AND THE BIRD YEAR 1994 Adam Bimpson (and Richard

Rafe)

January: The end of 1993 had seen a mild spell and this continued into 1994 with the month being very mild overall. This was reflected in the fact that the month's daily temperatures were above the seasonal normal on 22 days within the month. There were only five recorded air frosts. Broom's Barn at Barrow in the west of the County recorded a total of 74 hours of sunshine, 20 hours greater than is usual and this would have undoubtedly been of great benefit to the commoner species allowing more time for successful feeding. There was a build up of Red-throated Divers off the coast which led to record breaking counts of over 2700 off Covehithe and 1200 off Minsmere, possibly the highest ever totals in the Western Palearctic: a similar pattern occurred for Great Crested Grebes with a County record total of 280 off Dunwich. Overwintering Pomarine and Arctic Skuas were also noted off the coast. Other notable counts were 3000 Brent Geese on the Deben, 550 Guillemots off Minsmere and 101 Mute Swans at Falkenham, the year's highest count for a wintering herd. Bewick's Swans peaked at 55, Shipmeadow, 37, Minsmere and 23, Sudbourne. Two of the year's highest counts of Pied Wagtails occurred at sewage works, at Long Melford and Kessingland. Although winter species characteristic of hard weather were scarce as a result of the mild conditions there was a reasonable spread of birds to be seen with all three rarer grebes and three divers being recorded in the County; two Black-throated Divers on Alton Water and a Great Northern Diver on the Orwell were long-stayers and much admired. Other winter species included both white-winged gulls (though elusive), some large Brambling flocks and the now almost annual occurrence of a Continental race Dipper. The recent dramatic increase in Little Egrets within the UK was reflected by the presence of an individual in the County during January. The last ten days of the month saw an influx of Bean Geese and Pink-footed Geese. February: February began in a similar vein to January with the mild weather persisting until mid-month. The conditions were so mild that it was almost spring like at the start of the month, giving rise to an early start to the growing season with many shrubs producing new growth much earlier than usual. This, however, was relatively short-lived as a result of freezing weather driven in by winds originating in north-west Russia. The temperatures in mid-month plunged to below freezing. This change in the conditions was reflected in the County's birds. Along with the species that had remained since January, new species included more traditional winter visitors such as Smew, Rough-legged Buzzard and Grey Phalarope. However the cold snap was short-lived and numbers of such species were kept to ones or twos, ensuring a lean time for the County's birders, but a profitable time for the County's bird populations which did not suffer any significant cold weather kills. The total of 1000 Goldfinches near Mildenhall is the largest feeding flock ever recorded in the County, and 8000 Lapwings at Brantham was the largest flock of the year. There were good numbers of Peregrines and Buzzards around during the first winter period. The second half of the month saw an influx of Woodlarks back onto their breeding grounds. March: The mild spell continued giving above-average temperatures on 24 days. The most dominant feature was the strong winds which were persistent throughout the month; gale force winds were recorded on six days during the month with the strongest winds being recorded at RAF Wattisham with a maximum gust of l l O k p h on 31st.


The weather conditions probably did not help the start of the migration period, but Whimbrel and Redstart both managed exceptionally early arrivais; there was a scattering of other early arrivais and an obvious lull in the unfavourable conditions during the last week of the month when several summer visitors were seen for the first time or in larger numbers than previously. The first Stone Curlew was back in Breckland on 5th, the earliest record since 1972. A long-staying Red-necked Grebe in the Gipping Valley attracted attention, and the year's largest roost count of Hen Harriers was nine at Westwood Marsh. Aprii: If March was unhelpful to the start of the migration period then this month began almost diabolically. Many places in Suffolk recorded the coldest Aprii for 16 years, attributed to a dominance of arctic air from Scandinavia. Although conditions were similar to late winter the early part of the month saw many of the winter visitors departing including the Westleton Heath Great Grey Shrike last seen on the 6th. The northerly winds persisted for the first two weeks and coincided with the occurrence of a Continental race of Coal Tit, the first in the County for several years. In stark contrast to this a Hoopoe and a singing male Serin at Southwold during the first two weeks of the month seemed out of place in the almost wintry conditions. Migration was virtually halted during this period. Mid-month saw a dramatic change in the weather with a speli of warm and sunny conditions which came as the resuit of a southerly dominated airstream. Températures rose sharply and resulted in 25°C being recorded on the 29th, when Suffolk was warmer than both Athens and Rome. This southerly airflow allowed the influx of summer visitors to proceed apace. With weather more reminiscent of southern Europe, a further Hoopoe and Alpine Swift added flavour for the rarity enthusiast. Offshore, Aprii saw the peak passage of Gannets in a record year for this species, with good numbers of Arctic Skuas, Common Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls. There was a record spring passage of Fulmars in Aprii and May, but in contrast there was again no successful breeding at Bawdsey. May: Anticlimax was probably the best way to describe the start of the month after the promising end to Aprii. Overall the month was dull and cool with the long-term average temperature of 17°C only exceeded on five days. Although the weather did not appear to be promising at the beginning, the month turned out to be a vintage one; in the second half of the month another run of southerly winds produced a stunning display of birds. Summer visitors arrived in force, and there were several flocks of Swifts in excess of 2000. The scarcer migrants included Red-rumped Swallows, Bluethroats, Marsh Warblers, Icterine Warblers, Subalpine Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Redbacked Shrikes, Serin and Ortolan Bunting. The accolade of "bird of the month" undoubtedly went to the adult male Sardinian Warbler found at Landguard, constituting the first County record. The month saw a strong wader passage through the County, with species such as Knot, Dunlin, Grey Piover and Common Sandpiper being evident, together with a passage of the northern race of Ringed Piover. There was the largest ever spring passage of Ruff in the County, with 228 at Minsmere being the highest site total in the County since 1965. June: June provided excellent conditions for the County's breeding birds with warm sunny weather for much of the month. Températures rose to a high of 27°C by the month end. Thunderstorms provided the only hindrance to this but thankfully these were short-lived. The warm weather was provided by a fairly stable system 24


of high pressure which did not move very far throughout the month. The month saw the beginnings of the build up of good numbers of Little Egrets and up to four Purple Herons in late May/early June. Rarities were provided by the County's seventh record of Melodious Warbler and a singing immature male Common Rosefinch. There were an estimated 8781 breeding pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Orfordness and another record year for the Kittiwakes at Lowestoft. A pair of Roseate Terns at Minsmere provided expectation by nest scraping and copulating at Minsmere but failed to take things further. Numbers of breeding Little Terns in the County were the lowest for ten years, but had better success than recently despite heavy prÊdation at Minsmere from Moorhens, and at Landguard from a Kestrel; in contrast the breeding Common Terns at Trimley Marshes failed completely. A build up of Common Scoters off Minsmere and Dunwich hopefully heralds the return of the summering flock. The month also saw the beginnings of the return wader passage. July: If June was warm then July was positively sweltering; indeed it was the second hottest July since the 1600s. A maximum temperature of 33°C was recorded at RAF Lakenheath. Accompanying the high temperatures, Broom's Barn recorded the highest evaporation rate since the exceptionally hot and dry year of 1976. A total of 300 hours of sunshine was recorded during the month, and while the hot weather was most welcome by the human population, a prolonged spell of hot, dry weather may lead to problems for birds later in the autumn as insufficient moisture may lead to reduced supplies of berries, which form a major food source for migrating species such as warblers. With the weather still dominated by a stable flow of Mediterranean air, it was somewhat surprising to find four Common Scoters at Lackford, four Scaup on Benacre Broad and an unseasonable Razorbill, also at Benacre. A singing Icterine Warbler at Landguard was also out of place. July also saw the start of the autumn seabird passage with records of Sooty and Manx Shearwaters, and the beginnings of the build up of Gannet numbers. Wader passage was well underway during the month with records of Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Whimbrel, Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Turnstone. August: This month at last saw a change to the hot spell which had lasted for 49 days. North-easterly winds appeared on the 9th but were quickly replaced by a return to warmer conditions for the remainder of the month. There was, however, an increase in the amount of rain, primarily as a result of thundery conditions which included a very powerful lightning strike which killed 22 cows near Thetford. Raptors continued to be well reported, including an interesting report of a juvenile Montagu's Harrier sparring with a wing-tagged Red Kite. The combination of dry weather and later rain had left many areas looking good for wader passage, but there were no real rarities although more interesting records included Kentish Plover, Temminck's Stint, Pectoral Sandpiper and an inland record of Grey Plover. August and September produced the peak passage of Pomarine and Arctic Skuas, and the peak passage of Little Gulls. Autumn migration was also underway for passerines with August and September producing the peak counts of Willow Warblers at Landguard and Fagbury. Although there was a lack of easterly-dominated weather, a range of scarcer species included Icterine and Barred Warblers, and Wryneck. September: The month was dull and cool with periods of more easterly-dominated 25


weather. The change to unsettled weather led to a fairly typical but not outstanding month for bird records. The 1st produced a good passage of Black Terns, both coastal and inland, and seawatching during the month also revealed the peak passage for Sooty Shearwaters and Great Skuas. September also produced the largest hirundine gatherings of the year, with flocks of 1000 Swallows and Sand Martins being recorded. September also saw the peak passage period for many passerines, such as Sedge and Reed Warblers, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Pied Flycatcher. Wrynecks were found in good numbers with a total of 15 being recorded during the month, as part of the best autumn for the species since 1989. A Continental race Great Spotted Woodpecker was trapped at Landguard. Rarities included Penduline Tit and Woodchat Shrike, and a scattering of scarce migrants such as Hoopoe, Icterine Warbler, Barred Warbler and Red-backed Shrike October: This month saw a return to warmer and drier conditions. This period of stable high pressure prevented rarity-bearing weather from appearing for most of the month, and as a result ornithological activity was rather subdued for a large part of the month. However in the last ten days, conditions changed to bring easterly winds with an airstream originating from well into eastern Europe. October is traditionally the time of change, with massed comings and goings in the bird world. The month started with a pre-emigration flock of 50 Stone Curlews in Breckland. October witnessed the main passage of many departing summer visitors, movements of resident or Continental birds such as Robins and Blackbirds, post-breeding dispersal of Bearded Tits, together with the arrival of many winter species such as Fieldfare, Twite and Great Grey Shrike. There was an obvious immigration of Woodcock during October and November. The Starling roost at Landguard peaked at 10000 towards the end of the month. Those still staring out to sea during all this activity recorded Suffolk's latest ever Cory's Shearwater. One of the major ornithological events of the year was the Pallas's Warbler invasion spanning the period from mid-October to mid-November which produced a total of at least 22 birds in the County, quite phenomenal when compared with the County's previous all-time total of just 27. Yellow-browed Warblers followed a similar pattern but not in such great numbers. Extreme rarities were also to be found including additions to the Suffolk list in the form of a female Pied Wheatear at Felixstowe Docks on the 24th and an adult male Red-flanked Bluetail at Landguard on the 26th. October 1995 will also be remembered for another invasion. Not since 1974 has the country as a whole seen such a large scale influx of Rough-legged Buzzards, and during late October to early November Suffolk was host to perhaps 15-20 individuals, but most quickly passed through and only three were seen in December. October had been hectic; not many birders could have been unhappy with the autumn so far. November: The year had begun with a predominance of mild conditions, and with the mildest November since 1659 it looked like the year would end that way. After the exciting end to October many birders would have been content with a return to more traditional fare, but the rarest bird of the year was still to come. A large pipit found at Landguard early in the month was initially thought to be a Richard's but soon confirmed as a Blyth's Pipit, the first fully accepted British record since 1882, and understandably attracting some 2000 observers during its week-long stay. This was the icing on the cake for south-east Suffolk which was probably the premier site in England for rare birds this autumn. Other rarities during the month included a Radde's Warbler and more Pallas's Warblers, with an array 26


of traditional late-autumn migrants such as Firecrest. While the greatest amount of interest was being generated from Siberia, life wouldn't be the same if the Americans were not involved, and the spectre of shipassistance was resurrected when an American Robin was picked, up in Felixstowe Docks; unfortunately it was freshly dead so untickable!. Substantial passage continued throughout the month, including 11500 Brent Geese past Minsmere on 3rd, 127 Avocets past Landguard on 6th and 747 Shelduck past Landguard on 19th. Perhaps most remarkable was the passage of Stock Doves and Woodpigeons along the coast during October and November, with 3000+ Stock Doves being the largest movement since at least 1959, and the heaviest southerly passage ever of Woodpigeons including a massive day count of 30600 past Landguard on November 2nd. Winter flocks were building up with 2000 Golden Plovers at Livermere being the highest year count, and the regular winter roost of Rooks at Great Bealings reaching 2000. There were up to 20 Water Pipits at Minsmere (up to 26 in December), and 1000+ Feral Pigeons around Cliff Quay Power Station in Ipswich just before it was demolished — where are they all now? While thoughts were turning to winter the persisting mild weather allowed some very late summer migrants to be found, including Swift, Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler and Willow Warbler. December: Surprise, surprise! The year finished as it began with mild conditions and a maximum temperature of 14°C recorded on the 28th. The month remained mild until just before Christmas, when temperatures dropped to below freezing before unsettled but milder weather returned. A good range of winter species could be found in the County despite the unseasonable conditions. Wildfowl counts during the month were impressive with 264 Shovelers at North Warren (the highest count in the County in the last decade), and at Alton Water, 832 Pochard (the highest count in the County since 1979), 1682 Tufted Ducks (the highest site total ever in Suffolk) and an exceptional count of 1427 Coot. There were also 4253 Grey Plovers counted on the Stour (the second highest site total ever in Suffolk), but where did all the Great Crested Grebes and Knot go from the Stour, both species showing a dramatic drop in numbers between the November and December WeBS counts? The very last remnants of summer were found in a late Reed Warbler on 2nd (Suffolk's latest ever record), House Martin on 3rd and a small group of Swallows on 22nd (Suffolk's second latest ever record). 1994 saw few Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, no Little Auks, no Waxwings and was a poor year for Lapland Buntings, but there were up to 26 Shore Larks at Minsmere in December, a good showing after the meagre numbers of recent years.


THE 1994 SUFFOLK BIRD REPORT Submission and assessment of records All records should be submitted to the Regional Recorders as indicated on the inside front cover of this report. If in doubt, any incidental records from casual or visiting observers should be sent to Colin Jakes who will channel records to the appropriate Recorder. In order to ensure that we can produce Suffolk Birds in reasonable time, we regret that any records received after January 31st cannot be guaranteed inclusion in that year's Report. All records of locally and nationally rare species come under the scrutiny of the Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee (SORC) and for most of these species verification will be sought i.e. photographs, witnesses, field sketches and, most importantly, written descriptions. The SORC's policy for vagrants classified as national rarities is that records should be channelled through the County Recorders to be considered by the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC). Its decisions are accepted by SORC, with very few exceptions. The Guide to Recording Birds in Suffolk (pages 159 to 161) gives an indication of the species records that the County Recorders would wish to receive, together with the level of detail required. The Recorders or SORC may also request additional information regarding any record that, in their opinion, is out of context, in terms of season, habitat or numbers. A list of records which have not been accepted for publication can be found in the appendices and includes those which have been circulated to the respective committees, but were considered unacceptable due to either the identification not being fully established, or, more rarely, a genuine mistake having been made. Observers are reminded that Suffolk bird recording works to Watsonian vicecounty boundaries, taking in areas that are now administered as Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex. The most significant area affected is that of Lothingland, the northern limits of which follow the River Yare and include the south side of Breydon Water. We have retained these original boundaries in an attempt to retain so far as possible consistency of recording within the County. To aid the processing of records by the Regional Recorders and subsequent inputting of the data at the Suffolk Biological Records Centre, Ipswich Museum, we request that observers submit their records monthly or quarterly. The 1994 Systematic List The order and nomenclature of birds in the 1994 Bird Report follow the Birding World Complete List of the Birds of the Western Palearctic. All records refer to a single bird unless otherwise stated. Subspecies are listed under the main species' heading, which includes the scientific name. With scarcer species, all records are listed, usually by parish, followed by a more exact location where known; some larger sites, such as the estuaries, Walberswick NNR, Minsmere, Orfordness, Alton Water etc, and some of the better known sites around the County, e.g. Havergate Island and Lackford W.R. are listed in their own right. Some records of rare breeding birds are listed under generalised, not specific, locations. Unless otherwise stated the tabulated sets of counts for some waterfowl and waders are from the co-ordinated Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) [formerly Birds of the Estuaries Enquiry, BoEE]. Where no count is available this is indicated by n/c; a dashed entry represents a zero figure. Counts from North Warren include Thorpeness Meare, Church Farm Marshes and the seashore between Thorpeness and Aldeburgh; the Aide/Ore includes the complex of the Aide, Ore and Butley rivers as well as Orfordness, Gedgrave Reservoir and Havergate Island; the Orwell includes 28


Trimley Marshes, Loompit Lake and Bourne Park Water Meadows and the Stour includes both the Suffolk and Essex sides of the estuary. Abbreviations are kept to a minimum; the following are used in the Systematic List:imm = immature G.P. = gravel pit res = reservoir juv = juvenile G.C. = golf course W.P. = Water Park NNR = National Nature Reserve W.R. = Wildfowl Reserve R. - river The following définitions are intended as a guide to the comments on status listed for each species. abundant: occurs in large numbers in suitable habitat and season common: occurs regularly or widely distributed in suitable habitat fairly common: occurs in small numbers in suitable habitat and season uncommon: occurs annually but in small numbers scarce: one or two records per year, or restricted to specific habitats rare: occurs less than annually very rare: less than 15 records in the past 30 years accidentai: less than three records in the past 30 years Acknowledgements The initial draft of the Systematic List for 1994 was largely compiled by a Willing, and not so Willing, band of volunteers; to these people we offer many thanks:divers — Shag: Paul Gowen Bittern — geese: Adam Bimpson ducks: Malcolm Wright raptors: Darren Underwood (and Richard Rafe) game birds — rails: Anne Brenchley waders; Oystercatcher — Ruff: Philip Murphy waders; Snipe to phalaropes: Andrew Gregory skuas — gulls: Chris Gregory terns — auks: Philip Murphy pigeons — woodpeckers: Stuart Ling larks — Dunnock: Darren Underwood Robin — thrushes: Nigel Odin warblers — flycatchers: Nigel Odin tits — shrikes: David Walsh and David Craven Jay — Starling: Anne Brenchley sparrows — buntings: Rob Macklin category D and escapees: Mike Crewe Thanks are also due obviously to the many observers who continue to submit their records and make the compilation of the Bird Report possible.

29

Suffolk Birds 1995 Part 1  

Volume 44

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you