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West Area Recorder Colin Jakes, 7 Maltward Avenue, BURY ST EDMUNDS IP33 3XN Tel: 01284 702215 Email:

North-East Area Recorder Andrew Green, 17 Cherrywood, HARLESTON Norfolk IP20 9LP Tel: 07766 900063 Email:

South-East Area Recorder Scott Mayson, 8 St Edmunds Close, Springfields, WOODBRIDGE, IP12 4UY Tel: 01394 385595 Email:


SUFFOLK BIRDS VOL. 59 A review of birds in Suffolk in 2009

Editor Nick Mason

Greatly assisted by Philip Murphy (Systematic List) Adam Gretton (Papers) Bill Baston (Photos) Phil Whittaker (Artwork)

Published by SUFFOLK NATURALISTS' SOCIETY in collaboration with SUFFOLK O R N I T H O L O G I S T S ' G R O U P 2010


Published by The Suffolk Naturalists' Society, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich IP1 3QH Š The Suffolk Naturalists' Society 2010 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.

ISSN 0264—5793

Printed by Healeys Printers Ltd, Unit 10-11, The Sterling Complex, Farthing Road, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 5 AP.


1

CONTENTS Page Editorial: Nick Mason Review of the Year: Adam Gretton and Nick Mason Baikal Teal: 2001 bird accepted by BOURC (new species for Suffolk) Brian Small. Snow Goose: 2008 bird at Ashby accepted as wild (new species for Suffolk) Brian Small Eskimo Curlew: 19th Century record considered unsafe Peter Kennerley Cranes ofLakenheath Fen, 2007-2009: breeding biology Norman Sills Rookery Survey: survey in north-east Suffolk Jamie Brice-Lockhart Nest finding observations, data and records: breeding bird surveys at Sutton, Blaxhall and Tunstall Commons Richard Tomlinson and Graham Button Tony Hurrell: obituary David Pearson The 2009 Suffolk Bird Report: Introduction Systematic List Appendices List of Contributors Gazetteer Earliest and Latest Dates of Summer Migrants A Guide to Recording Birds in Suffolk Rare Birds in Suffolk 2009: David Walsh Suffolk Ringing Report 2009: Simon Evans

5 8 10 13 15 19 26 33 37 39 41 154 158 160 162 163 167 170

The artwork in this Report is by Nick Andrews, Peter Beeson, Su Cough and Brian Small. L i s t of P l a t e s 'late

Facing

lo.

Page

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. S. 9. 0. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

White-fronted Geese Sean Nixon Shelducks Amanda Hayes Baikal Teal Alan Tate Greater Scaup Lee Gregory Ferruginous Duck Jon Evans Black-throated Diver Peter Ransome Great Northern Diver Bill Baston Cattle Egret Stuart Read Squaceo Heran Alan Tate Shag Chris Mayne Purple Heran Adrian Kettle Spoonbills James Kennerley Glossy Ibis Bill Baston Montagu's Harrier James Kennerley Common Buzzard Alan Tate Hobby Bill Baston Black-tailed Godwit Amanda Hayes Little Ringed Piover Stuart Read

Plate No.

19. Sandwich Tern Amanda Hayes 20. Mediterranean Gull Amanda Hayes 21. Roseate Terns and Sandwich Tern Sean Nixon 22. Cuckoo David Hermon 23. Kingfisher Bill Baston 24. Waxwing Rebecca Nason 25. Red-flanked Bluetail Bill Baston 26. Dartford Warbier Bill Baston 27. Pied Wheatear James Kennerley 28. Melodious Warbier Chris Mayne 29. Arctic Warbier Bill Baston 30. Great Grey Shrike David Hermon 31. Penduline Tit Jon Evans 32. Tree Sparrows Lee Gregory 33. Ortolan Bunting Peter Ransome 34. Bullfinch David Hermon 35. Com Bunting Rob Howard

40 40 40 40 40 41 41 41 41 41 80 80 80 80 80 80 81 81

F r o n t c o v e r : N o t e b o o k p a g e o f D u s k y W a r b i e r Brian Small T h e c o p y r i g h t r e m a i n s that o f t h e p h o t o g r a p h e r s a n d artists 3

Facing Page

81 81 81 120 120 121 121 121 121 160 160 160 160 160 161 161 161


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

Notice to Contributors Suffolk Birds is an annual publication of records, notes and papers on ail aspects of Suffoh ornithology. Except for records and field descriptions submitted through the county recorders, ali material should be original. It should not have been published elsewhere cr ; offered complete or in part to any other journal. Authors should carefully study this issue and follow the style of présentation, especially in relation to référencés and tables. Where relevant, nomenclature and order should follow the latest published for The British List by the British Ornithologist's Union and available oi their website at www.bou.org.uk. English names should follow the same list. Contributions should, if possible, be submitted to the editor by email or on a CD/DVD an j written in Microsoft Word. If typed, manuscripts should be double-spaced, with wide margins, on one side of the paper only. They must be in the final form for publication: proofs of longer papers are returned to authors, but altérations must be confined to corrections cf printer's errors. The cost of any other altérations may be charged to the author. Photographs and line drawings are required to complément each issue. Suitable photographs of birds, preferably taken in Suffolk, can be either digital or in the form of 35mri transparencies. A payment of £12 will be made to the photographer for each photograpi published and £12 for each drawing. Every possible effort will be made to take care of the original photographs and artwork. However, photographers and artists are reminded th; t neither the editor nor the SNS can be held responsible in the unlikely event that loss cr damage occur. Authors may wish to illustrate their papers, but this will be subject to the illustrations beine of the standard required by the editor and the décision on such matters will rest with him c r her. Material submitted for publication should be sent to the editor no later than March Ist of each year. Authors of main papers may request up to five free copies of the journal. An y opinions expressed in this Report are those of the contributor and are not necessarily those of the Suffolk Naturalists' Society or the Suffolk Ornithologists' Group.

Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee: Chair: Malcolm Wright. Area County Recorders: Colin Jakes, Andrew Green, Scott Mayson. Bird Report Editor: Nick Mason. Secretary. Justin Zantboer. Other Committee Members: Steve Abbott, Derek Beamish, Richard Drew, Dave Fairhurst, Roger Walsh. BBRC correspondent: Dave Walsh.

ADDRESSES Papers, notes, drawings and photographs: The Editor {Suffolk Birds), The Suffolk Naturalists' Society, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich IP1 3QH. Records: See inside front cover. Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee - correspondence: The Secretary, SORC, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich IP1 3QH.


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

Editorial Nick Mason 2009 was another busy birding year with plenty to go and look at, still lots of Atlas squares (o do and several moves from the "armchair". Of these "armchair" changes the largest ones which will be of most interest (or possibly Bot) to Suffolk birders are the changes in taxonomy of the British list. These mostly affect flie Passerines and have been brought about by the intensive research of forensic scientists, éspecially in genetics, that has been happening over the last couple of decades. We read •bout these changes in our monthly magazines but they are usually relevant to birds in some listant, cloud-covered, mountain range. The new order, in brief, now has, following the l/oodpeckers, shrikes, corvids, crests, tits, larks, hirundines, warblers, nuthatch, starlings, tìirushes, chats, sparrows, pipits and wagtails and then the buntings. If you want to find Long-tailed Tit then you will find it next to Cetti's Warbler! For a detailed look at the ìhanges, and to find out the full reasoning for them, one can go to the BOU website or read Ibis (Taxonomic recommendations for British birds. Sixth report. Ibis 2010,152, 180-186). In the Bird Report we tend to stick to the British Ornithologists Union order and nomenclature. However, on this occasion we have kept to the order from the previous year but do intend to alter the order next year to keep in line with the BOU. This will cause consternation in some quarters, especially when one considers the order in our field guides. Éowever, the modem world moves on and these changes are based on good science. Locally, especially in the Harrier and on the SOG and BINS website, there has been recent debate on the use of names for birds. Again we use the full (modem) BOU name in our species' reports and will continue to do so. A Eurasian Oystercatcher is still an Oystercatcher and will continue to be so in the field and may well be the second time it is mentioned in any particular report. The other "armchair" moves were the acceptance of two birds to the Suffolk list and the removal of another. In this Report Brian Small gives us the reasoning behind the 2001 Baikal Teal being considered to be a wild bird and Peter Kennerley gives the reasoning for the removal of Eskimo Curlew from the Suffolk list. A tick for many and the loss of one for anybody who started their list in the 1850s! Not many of us, however, connected with the Snow Goose, seen with Pink-feet, at Ashby in 2008. This is now accepted as being of wild origin and is added to the Suffolk list. Brian Small has written up this event. SORC has decided on some changes to the status of some species in Suffolk. Turtle Dove, ïellow Wagtail, Marsh Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Nightingale and Com Bunting move from 4 to 3. This means that ali records are requested for these declining species. Aithough stili coded as 4 we would also request any breeding records of the following: Kestrel, Ringed piover, Lapwing, Common Snipe, Curlew, Redshank, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Swift, Sand and House Martin colonies, Swallow, Mistle Thrush, Willow Warbler and Reed Bunting. Mediterranean Gull moves from 2 to 3 as it is now relatively common, especially on the coast. Apart from papers on the individuai species mentioned above there is a write-up on the breeding ecology of the Cranes at Lakenheath by Norman Sills. This interesting research is, of course, ongoing and we look forward to further updates. This species will stay in our Oiinds especially with the development of the Great Fen Project and the WWT release of young Cranes on the Somerset Levels. In 1975 Michael Jeanes and Reg Snook organised and published a breeding survey of the l o o k in Suffolk. Seeing that his area, in the north-east of the county, appeared to lack the species in their survey Jamie Bruce-Lockhart set out to investigate the situation in 2009. tìis paper is included here.


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 Graham Button and Richard Tomlinson have written up their 2009 work on th; breeding birds of the Sandlings heaths during which a great amount of new knowledge has been obtained. Last of the papers is an obituary on Tony Hurrell by his friend and fellow ringer David Pearson. We are lucky that so many of the species section authors continue to do such a good jo ) of writing up what, after ali, is the core of this report. Such continuity is both useful for m: and allows them to pick up changes and trends that might otherwise be missed. After doin z some of the geese last year Gi Grieco has taken on both them and the swans. Androv Green, John Davies, John Grant, Chris Gregory, Mark Nowers, Philip Murphy, James Wright, Andrew Easton, Malcolm Wright, Derek Beamish, Steve Fryett, Phil Whittaker. Rob Macklin and Peter Kennerley have carried on from last year. Andrew Gregory too < over the warblers section after doing the ringing section for two years. I would like to mak; a special mention and say thank you to Andrew for filling in on that task when we could ne I find a ringer to do the job. His efforts were done in his characteristic style and made mue 1 of the report more available to us non-ringers. It was inévitable that the ringing sectioi should return to the ringing fraternity and I am very grateful to Simon Evans for taking 01 the task and, 1 am sure that you will agree he has done an excellent job. As usuai Philip Murphy has given me an amazing amount of assistance in checking my editing, providing data and generally coming up with good ideas. For a publication like this it is important that there is a consistent standard and he certainly is as responsible as anybody for this. Again, this year, Laurie Forsyth has been most helpful in proof-reading much of the te> t and I am most grateful to him. Adam Gretton has given guidance and made suggestions on the papers in the repor Justin Zantboer, as secretary of SORC, has made sure that the reporting of rarer birds is j as accurate as possible while Dave Walsh has overseen the writing of the national rarity reports. In my three years as editor it has been an eye-opener as to how varied the reports c f 1 birds can be. We would request that people submitting reports are as accurate with locatiors ] and dates as possible, including a map référencé where possible. In 2007 there was a national rarity that had three différent locations given but ail for the same bird in the same place! This year we are pleased that Bill Baston has taken on the coordination of the photograpb . and Phil Whittaker the artwork. I am most grateful to both of them. There stili seems to be a lack of artists prepared to submit their work. Whilst what we receive is good, indeed. excellent, it would be preferable to include a wider range. It is important that ail volunteers should feel appreciated. Everybody who has worked on j this Bird Report is one. Thankyou again for ali the effort put in. We should raise a glass to ail volunteers in the wider field of birding and naturai history as well. I should like to apologize for an error in last year's Report. The photograph of the Meado'* Pipit by Stuart Read was wrongly titled Richard's Pipit. There was a reason for the error bui no excuse. There is time for birders to take on the remaining Atlas squares - this is the final year ofi this survey and there is stili plenty to do. Squares are available in the west of the county 1 Please contact Mick Wright to volunteer your services. Some tetrads in the west stili have" no records at ail. And now a discouragement and an encouragement! I'm not sure whether there has been a proper forum in Suffolk to discuss the use of tape-luring. I am sure that a single bird lured out once and then left alone will not come to harm. However, 1 have seen here, and especiall) abroad, the constant use of tapes on vulnérable breeding birds. Maybe SOG, after consultation, could write some guidelines? On the encouragement side - it is clear that not many birders, or naturalists as a whole. take many field notes. By writing such notes, and drawing sketches, one can learn a lot and


Editorial jst the act of doing it will help you to remember features and learn the names of those eatures. It must be useful for you to know your tertials from your retrices and know which acial stripe is which. 1*11 have to make sure I always have my notebook with me now! To elp encourage the use of notes and sketches we have used some of Brian Small's sketches straight from his notebooks. No, yours won't look as good as these but they are there to nake a point. The front cover is a page on the Dusky Warbier from last year, coloured later I wish I could produce something like that.

vin. f / W w . h v V \ .. fitwh ¿00^ Jf jMtr-mt: vu /MU uAti'h

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htnœt iky.i/kUà ¿ArK+'j •pseaiûiA. l fiai • ÀMk ifh--' ^ ¿••Aft CritYwj ivlMf. ' lu*"-»»» hwjt ¡muffii I >V\ â î ktoxkûEh. . h.)

Pied Wheatear Brian Small

7


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

Review of the Year 2009 Adam Gretton/Nick

Mason

Weather summary The year started and ended cold, with January being the coldest for England since 1997; 1 early February brought snow. The spring was generally warm and dry, but with some storms in June. July however wss the wettest on record for England and Wales, with August generally remaining unsettled. The early autumn was much drier. The winter was the coldest for many years, leading to concern about the fortunes for several more-vulnerable species. The New Year's bird race was won by The Pied Twitchers with a total of 123 species, but this was not up to the record 130 reached the year before. Once again there were many sightings of Great Egret around the county. April and May were the only months without a record. A smart male Penduline Tit was present at Lakenheath in late January, with up to three birds then at Dingle Marshes from March 20th to 30th. The regular adult Lesser Yellowlegs was still present at Southwold/Walberswick and was last seen on February 16th. Also in January, three Taiga Bean Geese and one of the year's Green-winged Teals were found. A Cattle Egret was found near Bures on March 9th, where it remained until 26th. Presumably the same bird was seen in Kersey and Polstead parishes from 31st March to 8th April. A drake Ferruginous Duck found at Loompit Lake in mid-March moved on to Trimley and a drake Green-winged Teal was at Mickle Mere on 16th. The increased frequency of Raven sightings continued, with birds seen at Minsmere, North Warren and Benacrtv Covehithe in March, and a further sighting at Fritton Lake in April (following one ova Holbrook in mid-February). A female Black-winged Stilt was at Tinkers Marsh on April 21 st, but only briefly, and two separate Kentish Plovers were seen at Orfordness (one also visited Minsmere). In May a Squacco Heron was at Felixstowe Ferry and Kingsfleet from 18th-20th. No ore expected the sub-adult Golden Eagle, seen from Orford on May 2nd, but unfortunately the origins of the bird remain suspect. A Tawny Pipit on Sutton Common was only identified when photographs were examined by the finder. Unfortunately it was not present the next day. The White-winged Black Tern at Livermere Lake was a second-summer bird. A Shor toed Lark at Landguard only stayed for one day. At the end of the month a male Common Rosefinch was found at Minsmere on 30th. Both Peregrines and Cranes (see article by Norman Sills) nested again. Dartford Warblers did not seem to have suffered in the cold winter weather and numbers continued to rise. June was very quiet, with the highlight being a Woodchat Shrike at Gedgrave near Orford on 21 st. There were three Bee-eater records, following two unconfirmed sightings in May. but one was only heard. There was a peak count of six Roseate Terns at Minsmere on June 18th. July remained quiet, with just a Black Kite and a Cory's Shearwater. The end of August brought a further Ferruginous Duck and Red-footed Falcon, both at Minsmere. An unusually-plumaged Ortolan Bunting at Landguard on 25th caused some head-scratching. Two Ravens over West Stow raised hopes of future colonisation. They are breeding in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire has also seen an increase in records including a pair briefly in 2007. September began with Suffolk's fourth Arctic Warbler at Landguard, followed by a Greenish Warbler 12 days later. Three Glossy Ibis were at various locations during the month, remaining into October. A Lesser Grey Shrike was at Trimley Marshes for a single day midmonth, but was not re-found thereafter. 8


Review of the Year 2009 Seawatching in September brought records of two more Cory's Shearwaters and two ialearic Shearwaters, one of these seen at three sites as it made its way north. John Grant won the Suffolk BINS 'Finders Keepers' cup for the bird of the year: a Redlanked Bluetail at Minsmere on October 14th, which stayed for a week. The runner-up for iird of the year was Sufifolk's second Pied Wheatear at Shingle Street, seen well on just one ay (memories of October 1994 when these two eastern specialities were present imultaneously at Landguard/Fagbury). The month ended with a Red-breasted Goose flying outh at sea off Thorpeness with Brents. Two Radde's Warbiers were present in late October. November was much quieter, with the bird of the month being a Dusky Warbier between nd and 8th at Gunton Warren. There were no national rarities in December, but a latetaying Whinchat, at Alton Water until lOth was notable. The harsh weather at the end of )ecember was presumably responsible for at least seven Great Northern Divers in the southast of the county and up to 11 passing at sea; two Velvet Scoters on the Orwell were also otable.


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

The Baikal Teal at Minsmere in 2001 Brian Small For some time, Baikal Teal Anas formosa had been placed in Category D (a category fori presumed eseapes) by the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee, but followirg acceptance of a record of a juvenile on Fair Isle, Shetland in autumn 1954, a record of En adult male at Caerlaverock, Dumfries & Galloway from 1973, and a first-winter male, shot i at Crom, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland on 13 January 1967, the species was added i o ] Category A of the British and Irish Lists (BOU 1984). However, the Irish specimen was ; later re-aged as an adult and no longer accepted to the main Irish List; whilst tic identification of the Fair Isle record had also been called into question. This prompted tl.e ] BOURC to re-examine ten British records prior to 1973, including a captured female at j Nacton on 10 November 1951, however none seemed to be very convincing records of a first for Britain. Following a publication by Fox et al. (2007), important new evidence supported vagranc \ by Baikal Teal to Western Europe. This was based on a record from Denmark 'collected' n November 2005 and raised the possibility that one British specimen of a maie shot it Tillingham, Essex on 1 January 1906 might be analysed using the same method. It was loaned to National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh to be analysed using a new modem technique of examining stable hydrogen isotopes, which are stored in feathers from their diet as they grow - these isotopes vary according to the location around the world and c; r. give an indication of where the bird might have been as they fed and grew the feathers. The stable hydrogen isotope signatures of feathers from the Baikal Teal collected in Esst x in 1906 reveal marked différences between juvenile feathers grown on the breeding grounds and post-juvenile feathers grown on the wintering grounds. The young feathers it had grown whilst in the natal area had isotope signatures 'consistent with a Central Asian origin and the wintering area signatures consistent with a Western European origin. The most parsimonious explanation of these results are that the Essex 1906 bird was born within the normal range of Baikal Teal and therefore suggests natural vagrancy.' (Votier and Newton, 2010) Additionally, the plumage accorded with the natural moult cycle of this species, ard excluded the possibility that it had been shot in Asia during the autumn then shipped o Europe. For these reasons, BOURC accepted it as the first for Britain (BOURC 2010). This then lead to a review of subséquent records of Baikal Teal in Britain, including a Baikal Teal found at Minsmere by Will Miles in the afternoon of 18th November 2001 where it remained until 29th December. From that evening and over the following m o n i or so, it was closely scrutinised eliminating any hybrid characters, confirming that it was fully-winged, and establishing its behaviour. Its arrivai coincided with that of good numbers of Eurasian Teal, of which over 2000 had been counted at Minsmere during the October j WeBS count. Its feeding behaviour was normal. The BOURC was satisfied that there were no obstacles to the acceptance of this record, and accordingly the Minsmere record became the first post-1949 British record accepted onto Category A of the British List (BOURC 2010). Description of the Minsmere Baikal Teal Structurally, it was a little bigger than the Eurasian Teal (see photo Page 40) with whicli it arrived and resided; being a drake, a number of features were cruciai to the identification, the ageing and the élimination of a hybrid: the head pattern; the pattern of the scapulars flanks, tail, upper-tail and under-tail coverts, the tips of the greater coverts and the secondaries; as well as the leg colour. The head pattern was classic Baikal Teal, and gradually developed into the bright classic 10


The Baikal TeaI at Minsmere in 2001 ìale Baikal head pattern: a dark forehead and high crown (initially very slightly obscured y brownish tips - not visible on many images) 'ran' down through the eye and, as a thin line ike 'mascara tears') crossing a buttery yellow cheek patch onto a black throat - the yellow l front of the eye ran up to a point across the lores, above the level of the eye (many hybrids :nd to show a subtly différent shape to this patch). There was a slightly paler spot at the base f the bill. Narrow white supercilia ran back from the eyes to join at the rear - forming quite prominent white mark - bordered below by glossy green ear-coverts and hind-neck, which 'ere bordered below by a narrow white line. On the upperparts, the scapulars had neat, dark brown centres (but not as pointed as adults erhaps), with pale inner and brown outer edges - the rear scapulars were longer and more ointed than the others (notably on the right side) and hinted little of the longer falcations f an adult. One of the most obvious features on the closed wing, and even more obvious 'hen stretched, was a fairly broad white bar formed by the tips of the secondaries - this is ot often visible, perhaps hidden by the longer rear scapulars. In flight this was also rominent and contrasted with the black spéculum, with glossy green noted on the proximal ige of the inner secondaries. The greater coverts were tipped quite broadly a slightly rufousuff. Below, the breast was a rusty pink-brown, neatly spotted and the flanks were distinctly ìarked with two rows of dark brown scalloped feathers, tipped buff-brown, but with pale iternal areas, almost white on some. There was a restricted white belly patch bordered by line of grey adult-like flank feathers. There was some concern about the lack of the white ank crescent, but by December Ist this feature was beginning to show. The lateral underlil coverts formed a dark bar either side of the base of the tail and the upper edge of these ad a rich cinnamon edge. The upper-tail coverts formed a dark bar across the base of the lil. The legs were pale creamy grey, almost pink in some light especially on the feet. The bill as small - the size and shape of that of a Eurasian Teal, slightly grey, but with a dark :utting) edge and tip. Igeing: Ageing is clearly very difficult on Baikal Teal in the field. Lewington et al. (1991) ate that after the 'post-juvenile moult has been completed (late in the first autumn-winter), 1e plumage seems to be exceptionally difficult to distinguish from the adult male', however, Liring observations, comparison of it with the adult and first-winter male Eurasian Teal resent, it was feit that its plumage was typical of a first-winter. Its state of moult was less ivanced than any of the Eurasian Teal present, with drake Eurasian Teal being very much lore advanced, whilst first-winter birds were very similar to the Baikal Teal, though perhaps ili a little more advanced. Jackson (1991), however, writes that Baikal Teal come out of :lipse by the end of October/early November. The plumage features that were examined were the shape and pattern of the scapulars, hich we felt indicated a young bird - an article by Jackson (1992), has photographs of two ivenile maies taken on the Aleutians, showing similar shaped scapulars and one having ank feathers identical to the Minsmere Baikal. Ogilvie and Young (1998) portray an eclipse ìale that shows somewhat adult-like scapulars. ehaviour: For most of the time spent on the 'Scrape' the bird accompanied Eurasian Teal, reening, swimming and sometimes feeding around the edge of reeds. On at least two :casions I saw it fly off at dusk towards Minsmere and Sizewell levels with other teal, resumably to feed - by the next morning it had returned to the 'Scrape'. he arrivai of the Baikal Teal, with c.2000 Eurasian Teal, is also perhaps of note. Data from ie BTO suggests that, based on ringing recoveries, the north-east/south-westerly migratory athway of Eurasian Teal is the most significant numerically, with ringing recoveries in the K from as far east as 75 degrees East - whilst in Belgium and the Netherlands recoveries ave come from 80E. 11


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

References: Ogilvie and Young, 1998. Photographic Handbook of the WĂŹldfowl of the World. Jackson, Birding, August 1992. Field Identification OfTeal In North America (pp. 214-223). Lewington et al., 1991. A Field Guide to the Rare Birds ofBritain and Europe. Fox, A.D., Christensen, T.K., Bearhop, S., & Newton, J. 2007. Using stable isotope analys s of multiple feather tracts to identify moulting provenance of vagrant birds: a case study â&#x20AC;˘ of Baikal Teal Anas formosa in Denmark. Ibis 149:622-625. Votier, S.C, Bowen G.J & Newton, J. 2009. Stable hydrogen isotope signatures of feathers I suggest natural vagrancy of Baikal Teal Anas formosa to Britain. Brit. Birds 102:69. '-1 699.

Map showing recoveries of British-ringed Eurasian Teal - from BTO website http://blxl.bto.org/ai/

12


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

Snow Goose Herringfleet - 14th January, 2008 Brian Small ackground I Snow Goose Anser caerulescens is a bird that breeds in northern America and northjjastern Siberia and mostly winters from California to Texas. Occasionai birds, usually caught with grey geese flocks, come to winter in Great Britain. They are rare in East Anglia and ne have ever been accepted on to the Suffolk list. The majority of birders in Suffolk will have seen Snow Geese in the county such as the rds recently at Livermere Lake or Mickle Mere or even on the coast. All of these have been regarded as escapes/feral birds and have never shown the wariness of a truly wild Snow (foose. In 2008 there was a Snow Goose in Norfolk mixed with Pink-footed Goose. This bird was presumed to be of wild origin but the record was awaiting acceptance from their records committee. Circumstances I News of the large numbers of Pink-feet in the Somerleyton/Herringfleet area, plus a .Ross's Goose attracted me to the area on January 14th, 2008. Driving through Herringfleet, I could see large numbers of Pink-feet flying to the north, so chose to check the fields north a ong the minor road towards Ashby house. 1 found the geese in fields to the west of the road u here there was already someone watching. Carefully, I got out of the car and set up my I cope to view. Many geese were at the back of the near field, also in the field beyond the hedgerow. The her observer left and I was watching on my own, when I found two white geese appearing it of dead ground in the near field. Expecting to see a Ross's Goose, I found that this white ose was slightly larger than the Pink-feet and equal in size to the White-fronts also present a Snow Goose, something of a nice surprise. A quick check of the other white goose nfirmed it as distinctly smaller - the Ross's Goose. As they fed they slowly emerged out the hollow, and I carefully checked the bill's size and shape of both birds, confirming the fferences, and was happy that the first goose was indeed a [Lesser] Snow Goose and the cond a Ross's. After c.5 minutes the Snow Goose flew over the hedge into the field beyond, M maining visible but obscured. Richard Drew arrived and we had great views of the Ross's H oose, but only had one brief view of the larger white goose in flight (so brief that RD p( ould probably not claim it).

P

Description 5 ize/structure: Notably, the Snow Goose was just bigger than the Pink-feet, and though I did not actually see it alongside the White-fronts, I would say they were bigger than the Pink-feet by the same amount. The head was not as small or as square as the Ross's Goose, a bit more 'muscular' and the bill was classic Snow Goose in shape, with a curving loral edge and wide, dark grin patch, and markedly diffĂŠrent to the tiny bill of the Ross's. flumage: Very smart. All white, except for a small extension of black primaries visible beyond the hanging white coverts and tertials. The head was also very white. In flight, again all white apart from black primaries. lare parts: Typical shape for Snow Goose, pink with black grin patch {iscussion Though I obviously can't be sure, this bird was almost certainly the same bird seen in the 13


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 south Norfolk, Norfolk Broads area and elsewhere. Mixed in with the increasingly larj;e flocks of Pink-feet, it seems very probable that it is a wild bird coming out of Greenland wiih the Pink-feet acting as a 'carrier species', much in the same way that Brent Goose is a 'carrier species' for Red-breasted Goose. I submitted this bird to the SORC, with the knowledge that the identification may well be accepted, but that the provenance would lie more problematic. Following assessment, partly based on the décision of the Norfolk bi d committee, the SORC accepted the Snow Goose as of wild origin. It was just a shame thaï it was not pinned down for many more to see it. SORC Décision There was no problem accepting the Snow Goose as being of that species. SORC did. I however, decide to pend the décision on its provenance until Norfolk had considered it in full.1 This was duly done and the bird was considered to be wild. On this basis SORC made the ! décision that the Ashby bird was the same as that in Norfolk and was, therefore, wild, li became the first Snow Goose to be accepted to the Suffolk list.

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Suffolk Bird Report 2009

The 1852 record of Eskimo Curlew from Woodbridge Peter Kennerley Based on original article by Tim Meiling in British Birds Many reading this report will be aware that the Records Committee of the BOU (BOURC) as recently removed the Suffolk record of two Eskimo Curlews Numenius borealis, shot on îe River Deben near Woodbridge in November 1852, from the list of accepted records. This tort article examines the background to this décision. As part of an ongoing review of species on Category B (those not recorded since 1950) f the British List, BOURC recently reviewed all British records of Eskimo Curlew. Prior i this, the background to each of the then accepted British records was thoroughly ivestigated as a means to establish its authenticity. In addition, the circumstances surroundîg each record were compared with the known détails of the species' behaviour and ligration strategy. Much new and previously unknown information was unearthed, and their :view also draws on the published opinions of leading 19th and early 20th Century •nithologists. Prior to this review there were six accepted British records of Eskimo Curlew involving :ven birds, spanning the period from 1852 to 1887, with the Woodbridge record being the rst. Düring their review, BOURC examined ail six records plus a further undated report om the River Aide which had not been accepted. The détails published below are taken irectly from Meiling (2010), who summarised much of what is known of the histórica! ickground of this fascinating species. istribution and migration Eskimo Curlews were presumed to breed in Alaska and northern Canada, although the îly nests found were on marshy tundra in Canada's Northwest Territories. The principal intering grounds were the pampas grasslands of Argentina and Uruguay. In August and ;ptember, flocks of migrating Eskimo Curlews often associated with American Golden overs Pluvialis dominica, typically in groups of 30-50 birds, although flocks sometimes imbered thousands when grounded by bad weather (Mackay 1892; Gollop et al. 1986). "îor to migration they congregated on the coasts of Labrador and northern New England here they fed largely on Crowberries Empetrum nigrum, although some also fed on tertidal invertebrates at this time of year. Coues (1861) commented; 'Their food consists most entirely of the Crow-berry, which grows on ali the hill-sides in astonishing profusion, is also called the "Bearberry " and "Curlew-berry "... This is their principal and favourite od; and the whole intestine, the vent, legs, bill, throat, and even the plumage are more or sì stained with the deep purple juice. ' Once fattened, they were presumed to make a non-stop flight to the wintering grounds, hich took them out over the North Atlantic where they would be susceptible to autumn arms and hurricanes. Birds were regularly reported passing over Bermuda as well as the indward Islands in the outer Caribbean, although few stopped there unless grounded by id weather (Gollop et al. 1986). The return journey in spring followed a différent route, riving on the coasts of Texas and Louisiana in March and headed north along a relatively irrow migration route along the Valleys of the Mississippi, Missouri and Platte Rivers, rough the prairies of central USA to northwest Canada, mainly through Oklahoma, Kansas, issouri and Nebraska (Gollop et al. 1986). oodbridge, November 1852 The first British record of Eskimo Curlew came from the River Deben near Woodbridge November 1852. Hele (1870) commented that 'An example of this species was killed 15


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

some years since, on the river [Aide in Suffolk], by Captain Ferrand, but was, unfortunates, I not preserved. One in the possession of Mr Hilling of Woodbridge, in very similar drei s, was obtained in the river in that neighbourhood'. Neither record was dated but the fact that Hele mentioned the River Aide record (which is discussed later) first and compared the i! Woodbridge bird with it suggests that the latter was the more recent of the two. Since Hele I lived in Aldeburgh it is likely that he obtained the details from Ferrand and Hilling directly. Ă? as they both lived nearby. These two records were published by Dresser (1871-81), Harting (1872), Dalgleish (1880) and Saunders (1882-84), all citing Hele and giving no dates f)r either record. In his Birds of Suffolk, Churchill Babington (1884-86) stated that two birds were obtained I together at Woodbridge, in November 1852. Babington was perhaps better known as a I classical scholar and archaeologist than an ornithologist (Mullens & Kirke Swann 1917). His | statement was at least 14 years after Hele's published report of a single bird (at Woodbridgel \ and after four authorities had published the record without additional details; it seems odd I that additional detail should materialise that was not available to Hele. Babington was noi I simply confusing the two Suffolk records, as he noted the River Aide record as a third bird. I Babington claimed that two birds were obtained together, but no further details of the second specimen are available. Babington stated that J. H. Gurney jnr had compared the existing;! specimen with an American skin and felt quite satisfied as to its authenticity, adding that il j had clearly been set up from the flesh. (However, if a skin is properly preserved with salt,! and all traces of fat removed, it could have been prepared over a year later yet appear! completely fresh; J. Fishwick pers. comm. to T. Meiling). J. H. Gurney Jnr (son of J. I i i Gurney Snr, founder member of the BOU and after whom Gurney's Pitta Pitta gurneyi was! named) was born in 1848, so any verification must have taken place many years after the ! specimen was apparently obtained; note also that it was Gurney jnr who verified the 1904 j Great Yarmouth 'Citril Finch', later found to be a Cape Canary Serinus canicollis (BOI j 1994; Bourne 1996). Babington noted that the Woodbridge specimen owned by Hilling was later sold toi Vauncey Harpur Crewe, whose collections were subsequently auctioned in six separate sales I in London, at Stevens' Auction Rooms (Chalmers-Hunt 1976). The fifth sale, on 23 rd I February 1926, contained two Eskimo Curlews. It is not known which was the Suffolk I specimen but it seems likely to have been the more expensive one, sold to a Mr Abden foi j 18 Shillings. The other, a female, was sold to an unnamed bidder for 14 Shillings. It is significant that another specimen of Eskimo Curlew had been sourced by Harpur Crew e. showing that this species was 'available' in Britain, presumably by importation. Thel whereabouts of both of Harper Crewe's specimens after 1926 are unknown. Harpur Crewe was a notoriously uncritical but enthusiastic collector of rarities and his zeal may have ma ie him susceptible to fraud. For example, the February 1926 sale also included two Hood 'i Mergansers Lophodytes cucullatus and a Swallow-tailed Kite Elanoides forficatus, a l l claimed to have been taken in Britain. Harpur Crewe may even have perpetrated frauc himself as the auction included a clutch of Black-headed Bunting Emberiza melanocephalo eggs, allegedly taken by Harpur Crewe at Skegness, Lincolnshire (Nicholson 1926). It seems most likely that the collecting date of the Woodbridge Eskimo Curlew was generated to facilitate the sale of the specimen to Harpur Crewe, as were the particulars ot the second Woodbridge bird, and that Babington published these extra details in good faith Babington mentioned that he had corresponded with Gurney jnr and W. M. H. Carthew over the record, but it was Hilling (the vendor) who stood to benefit from the more detailed provenance. Many 19th century rarities, including many of the Hastings Rarities (Nicholson ; & Ferguson-Lees 1962), involved pairs (this appears to reflect the preferences of taxidermists and collectors for birds in pairs rather than an ornithological belief that birds habitually migrated in pairs). Nonetheless, the second Woodbridge bird may have been a ploy to boos' the credibility of the record. 16


The 1852 record of Eskimo Curlew from Woodbridge Dalgleish (1880) questioned the Woodbridge record, suggesting that at least one of his orrespondents had expressed doubts about its authenticity. His correspondents for British ecords were Alfred Newton and H. E. Dresser, both highly respected authorities, although )resser ( 1871 -81 ) appeared not to question the record. If the November date was correct, it rauld be considerably later than all other extralimital records, at a time when the species hould have been on its wintering grounds in South America. Birds normally left Labrador nd New England during August and September with few remaining beyond early September; they were virtually unknown during October in Labrador (Gollop et al. 1986). Uso the estuarine river habitat seems not to match its apparent preference for dry habitats, lthough estuarine feeding was not unknown. Jndated record from the River Aide In addition to the Woodbridge record, Hele ( 1870) reported a bird shot on the River Aide rior to 1870. In this case, the specimen was not preserved, and Ticehurst ( 1932) noted that lele did not see the bird himself. Although this record was accepted by Harting (1872) and launders ( 1882-84), by the 20th century its authenticity was being questioned by Witherby t al. (1938-41) and Bannerman (1961), who both referred to the record as 'alleged'. As here is no specimen available, and without other supporting details, BOURC found it tnpossible to establish whether the bird was identified correctly. This report was not reviously accepted and BOURC did not vote to reinstate it. Acceptable records of Eskimo Curlew in Britain Following the BOURC review, four British records remain acceptable. These are: Cairn Mon Earn, Durris, 6th September 1855; Slains Estate, near Ellon, 28th September 1878; Forest of Birse, near Aboyne, 21st September 1880; Tresco, 10th September 1887. Meiling (2010) includes full details that justify why these four records remain acceptable, here has not been a reliably documented record of Eskimo Curlew in North America since April 1962, when several observers saw three, possibly four, in cattle-grazed pasture on lie western side of Galveston Island, Texas, USA. Rumours persist that a small number till exist, the most recent claim comes from Nova Scotia in September 2006 www.birdersworld.com/brd/default.aspx?c=a&id=972). As yet, Eskimo Curlew has not >een officially deemed extinct, but it seems highly unlikely that the species will ever reach iritain again. iummary Although it is known that a specimen existed for the Woodbridge record and it is believed o have been correctly identified, its provenance remains uncertain. It is not known who ollected it and when, and the specimen was not examined when fresh by a knowledgeable uthority. Furthermore, Dalgleish ( 1880) expressed doubt about the record, and Meiling dded that it seems likely that extra details may have been fabricated to add credibility to the ecord, including an unsubstantiated report of a second bird on the River Deben. This record ias now been removed from the list of accepted records. The Aide report was found to be without foundation and has not been accepted. References ĂŹabington, C. 1884-86. Catalogue of the Birds of Suffolk, with an introduction and remarks on their distribution. Van Voorst, London, iannerman, D. A. 1961. The Birds of the British Isles. Vol. 9. Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh. 17


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 Bourne, W. R. P. 1996. The Booth Museum, the Citril Finch, and the Red-billedTropicbiid Brit. Birds 89:189-190. British Ornithologists' Union (BOU). 1994. Records Committee: Twenty-first Report. Ihns 136:497. Chalmers-Hunt, J. M. 1976. Natural History Auctions 1700-1972: a register of sales in the British Isles. Sotheby Parke Bernet, London. Coues, E. 1861. Notes on the ornithology of Labrador. Academy of Natural Sciences p/1 Philadelphia Proceedings 13: 215-257. Dalgleish, J. J. 1880. List of occurrences of North American Birds in Europe. Bulletin ofthe : Nuttall Ornithological Club 5:210-221. Dresser, H. E. 1871-81.^4 History of the Birds of Europe, IncludingAIl the Species Inhahitiif the Western Region. Privately published, London. Gollop, J. B. 1988. The Eskimo Curlew. In: Chandler, W. J. (ed.), Audubon Wildlife Repin 1988/1989, pp. 583-595. Academic Press, New York. Harting, J. E. 1872. A Handbook of British Birds. Ist edn. Van Voorst. London. Hele, N. F. 1870. Notes orJottings about Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Relating to matters historical antiquarian, ornithological and entomological. John Russell Smith, London. Mackay, G. H. 1892. Habits of the Eskimo Curlew Numenius borealis in New England. A d 10:16-21. Meiling, T. 2010. The Eskimo Curlew in Britain. Brit. Birds 103:80-92. Mullens, W. H., & Kirke Swann, H. 1917. A Bibliography of British Ornithology from the Earliest Times to the end of 1912. Macmillan, London. Nicholson, E. M. 1926. Birds in England. Chapman & Hall, London. Nicholson, E. M., & Ferguson-Lees, I. J. 1962. The Hastings Rarities. Brit. Birds 55:299-384 Saunders, H. 1882-84. Yarrell's British Birds. 4th edn. Vol. 3. Van Voorst. London. Ticehurst, C. B. 1932. Birds of Suffolk. Gurney & Jackson, London. Witherby, H. F., Jourdain, F. C. Râ&#x20AC;&#x17E; Ticehurst, N. F., & Tucker, B. W. 1938-1941. The Handbook of British Birds. Witherby, London.

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Suffolk Bird Report 2009

The Cranes of Lakenheath Fen, 2007 to 2009 Norman Sills Site Manager, RSPB Lakenheath Fen reserve. March 2010 ummary Two pairs of Cranes nested at Lakenheath Fen reserve from 2007 to 2009 and successfully J a r e d one young; their origin is unknown. Their foraging areas were much smaller than in ther European countries where they have been studied. Nest-sites became increasingly SCcluded during the three years, possibly as a response to the presence of Marsh Harriers. he biomass of food suitable for un-fledged young appeared to be higher in ungrazed fen getation than in areas grazed by cattle and sheep. Throughout the year birds foraged in irrounding fields and, periodically in winter, flew to other wetlands in the Fens. In future, sting opportunities can be increased by including specific features into wetland création ojects: some recommendations are made below. Introduction I After an absence of about 400 years, pairs of breeding Cranes have returned to the Fens of eastern England, following an increase in Crane sightings throughout the UK in recent years. In 2007, one pair successfully reared one young at a site on the eastern edge of the m :ns. At the RSPB's Lakenheath Fen reserve in west Suffolk, two pairs nested unsuccessfìilly 9 2007 (Sills 2008) and 2008 but subsequently reared one young in 2009. This paper briefly rtviews the activities of these two pairs since 2007 and describes some of the factors al fecting their lives and their ability to rear young to the Aying stage. It does not cover the rs introduction attempi underway in Somerset. Locáis or foreigners? ; The birds may have emanated from the breeding population in the Norfolk Broads. H owever, it is also possible that they came from the expanding, continental populations such ai in Denmark. The population there increased from four pairs in 1990 to about 105 pairs ir 2009 (Jesper Tofft pers.comm.). In the last ten years the occurrence of Crane sightings throughout the UK (excluding The • roads) has increased. Using the peak-occurrence months of Aprii and May, Cranes were st en at only three and six locations respectively in 1998 and most of those were in Scotland. H om 2004 to 2006 inclusive, the number of Aprii/May locations varied from eight to 19 per f onth and then there was a further increase: 17/29 locations in Aprii/May 2007 and 45/24 ir Aprii/May 2008. (The locations were given in Birdwatching magazine with usually one oi two birds seen at each location). In 2007 and 2008 the majority of locations were east of a line connecting Newcastle, Liverpool and Bournemouth. I ie attempts in 2007 and 2008 9 In 2007 one of the two pairs (pair A) lost their young after one week (due to heavy rain 0 possible prédation by Marsh Harrier) and whilst the other pair (pair B) made a nest, they may not have laid eggs. • In 2008 pair A lost their young after about three days but two weeks later a second clutch j j s laid. The eggs hatched but there was no sign of young with the adults 12 days later; 1 ey did not re-lay. Pair B fared better for a while; the single young reached the age of three 1 ; e ks but was then predateci, almost certainly by a fox. limited success in 2009 • Pair A managed to rear two young to the age of at least 10 weeks, by which time they 19


Suffolk Bird Report

2009

should have been fully-fledged. However, they were clearly not experienced enough to be wary of ground predators. They remained in their large but secluded nest area for all of (he ten plus weeks but, within two or three days of being led to another area, they were preda; ed by a fox. Pair B probably had two chicks for a few days but only one survived long enougli to fly; the adults and their juvenile remained together until late February 2010. Adults' foraging areas on and near the reserve 1. Habitat type Throughout the three years - except when they were caring for their young - the adi Itsl foraged in three main habitats: open areas within the reedbed, grazing marsh and arable! land. The vegetation of the first two have been described in detail elsewhere (Sills 2008i| although since then a variation of 'grazing marsh' has been added: in early 2009, four ara ile fields (33 hectares) were converted to grazed land by blocking the drainage system, creating shallow pools and introducing Highland cattle. Cranes used these fields for foraging as scon] as a cover of arable weeds developed and continued to use them providing that the vegetati on] remained short by either mechanical-topping or grazing. Arable land used for foraging included: ungrazed or uncut fallow especially where! potatoes from a previous commercial crop were beginning to grow; potato crops in 1 ite summer; cereal fields immediately post-harvest; ploughed land awaiting drilling; cer :a fields in which newly-sown grain had recently germinated; and maize strips either standing! or collapsing due to winter weather. 2. Habitat area The area used by the adults for foraging was approximately 20 to 25 hectares per paii ir each of the three years. 2009 typified all three years: each pair used about seven hectares ci grazing marsh on the reserve and about 18 hectares of arable or grazed land within kilometre of the reserve's boundary. The foraging territories were mutually exclusive excipl for infrequent occasions when one pair took advantage of the other pair's absence. Thesa foraging areas were much smaller than in, for example, Estonia, where Leito et al (2006; report adults' foraging territories of 500 to 1,000 hectares. These extended across forest mire and arable with, in some cases, a network of main roads and paths. Adults' foraging areas well beyond the reserve Adult Cranes have been seen in other parts of the Fens in recent years although it was noi until August 2009 that any could be certainly identified as birds from Lakenheath Fen; this was pair B plus their single young. Between August 2009 and February 2010 they w :r periodically seen foraging at Welney Washes and Nene Washes, respectively 10 and 24 mi lea from the reserve. In October 2007, four Cranes were seen at Wissington sugar beet factor (eight miles north of the reserve) and pair B headed in that direction, probably to roost, i January 2010. Sometimes they stayed at these areas for several days, often when h reserve's water areas were frozen. It seems, therefore, that the two resident pairs limit ther foraging to the few suitable wetland areas, plus adjacent arable land, all within the Fens Nest site characteristics Between 2007 and 2009, the two pairs built a total of six nests and five of these were r areas that shared certain characteristics: a complete surround of tall reed; deep-wau channels (several metres wide and two metres deep) around the perimeter; and a shallow poi in which, or next to which, the nest was built. The sixth nest had less than a complex surround of Reed, an incomplete perimeter channel and no shallow pool nearby. Four nes: were between 220 and 260 metres away from a little-used public footpath and the other tv were 90 and 150 metres away from the same path. N o nests were visible from any path o view-point. 20

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The Crânes of Lakenheath Feri, 2007 to 2009 I listance between nests I The distance between the nests of pair A and pair B was 1,200 metres in 2007, 230 metres 2008 and 800 metres in 2009. In 2008, the two nests were unusually close and straddled e approximate démarcation line between the two foraging territories. In Estonia, only 4% I f 128 nests were between 200 and 300 metres apart, the majority (54%) being over a I ilometre apart (Leito et al 2005). 1 Pair A's nests: measured from their nest-site of 2007, their nests in 2008 and 2009 were lîspectively 650 and 80 metres away. Pair B's nests: measured from their 2007 nest, their I ests in 2008 and 2009 were 330 and 410 metres away in the same direction. Therefore, for I ach pair, two of their three nests were only 80 metres apart which suggests favoured I ications. These four nests were 220 to 260 metres from the public footpath and 125 to 200 I ìetres from a track used once or twice per day by RSPB staff or the RSPB's grazier. This I ives some définition to 'a quiet location'.

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i iway from the madding crowd? I An interesting feature of both pairs, during the three years, is that they chose increasingly 1 scluded nest-sites. A measure of this is the clear-view distance from the nest to standing 1 .eed in March. To determine the mean clear-view distance, each site was visited (after the I irds had departed) and, using a compass, the distances from the nest to the nearest old Reed l ' a s measured along eight vectors: north, north-east, east, south-east et seq. For pairs A and I I respectively, the mean clear-view distances from nest to Reed (ie. radius) were 23 and 26 Jietres in 2007, 9.1 and 10.5 metres in 2008 and 2.4 and 4.9 metres in 2009. The most I scluded nest is shown in Figure 1.

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ligure 1. Distances from the most secluded of six nests, measured along eight vectors to the previous year's reed. Mean distance of 2.4 metres from nest to reed. 21


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 This diminution in the open area immediately around the nest may have been a resporse to Marsh Harrier activity: the total number of Marsh Harriers' nests on the reserve was s x. eight and 11 in 2007, 2008 and 2009 respectively. However, this is a crude measure of tie activity of Harriers; only for pair B does the increasing number of Harriers' nests within 5 )0 metres of the crane's nest (nil, three and five for the three years) correlate with their ne itarea size reduction. Created nest-areas After the birds' first summer (2007), the characteristics of their nest-areas were dett rmined. As described above, these were tall Reed and deep water for 100% of the perimet :r. adjacent shallow water and a long view from the nest; the latter is also mentioned in literature. It was clear that there were no more such areas in the quiet parts of the reserve so, in anticipation of the 2007 nest-areas eventually being invaded by reed, two new areas were formed in December 2007. Contractors with tracked excavators were used, at a cost of about ÂŁ1,000 per area. Each area was positioned in a quiet part of the reedbed, but in a place where Reed had rot yet spread to form a complete cover. Each area was just over 0.5 hectare (measured over t le perimeter channels), with the spoil from the channels used to form two or three low islan is that became surrounded by shallow water. Each area was surrounded by existing, untouch ;d Reed. Neither of the two areas was used for nesting in 2008 or 2009. At the first area, and especially in 2008, a wide range of other bird species used the open, un-vegetated area lor resting and feeding during the summer: Herons, Cormorants, Greylag Geese, Egypti in Geese, Carrion Crows, Magpies etc. These may have been the cause of the Cranes nesting 40 metres away in a secluded and much quieter site. However, in 2008 and 2009, the adu ts took their young to the perimeter of the new area for short periods. It remains to be se<:n whether encroaching fen vegetation will eventually lead the birds to regard this created-ar :a as suitable for nesting. At the second area, there is no evidence of Cranes having used it for foraging or roosting. The area is 230 metres away from a path that is very busy with visitors from April to July and this may be the limiting factor. However, in a previous spring (2007), a pair of CraniS used that part of the reserve for foraging and roosting. Since then, four hectares of grazing marsh have been established nearby which, together with eight hectares of adjacent, ungrazed fen, may encourage a pair of cranes to nest in the created area in future. As the reserve's reedbed continues to spread over all areas of ungrazed, shallow water, it will become essential to ensure that some suitable, open areas are created and maintained for nest-sites, using excavators and/or grazing animals to also benefit other species, such as Bittern. Foraging areas for young Cranes In 2009, pair A reared two young to the age when they could fly short distances (but they were predated soon after) and pair B reared one young which is now nearly a year old. For both pairs, nearly all of the pre-flight period (10-11 weeks) was spent in ungrazed, fen vegetation of slightly different types. These foraging areas are briefly described for each pair Pair A: The adults and two young remained in an area of 0.6 hectare for almost all of the fledging period - over ten weeks. The vegetation consisted of eight broad types as shown in table 1Paths were made by the adults amongst most of this vegetation, along which they and their young moved whilst foraging. Nowald (2001) found that dense vegetation under a metre tall did not limit the birds' use of the foraging habitat. The young were then led out of this area (across a wide, deep channel and through dense reeds) into a 2.5-hectare, grazed 22


The Cranes of Lakenheath Fen, 2007 to 2009 ush-meadow. Here, they foraged for no more than a few days before being predated by fox in a nearby area of ungrazed fen. Their total foraging area was thus about 3.1 ectares. Vegetation type Reed Canary-grass (Phalaris arundinacea), tall by August, on damp land Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvense) on damp/dry land Reed Canary-grass in shallow water, crane-cropped to <30cm tall in July Open water up to 30cm deep (eight separate pools) Couch Grass (Elytrigia spp) with Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris) Bulrush (Typha latifolia) with Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus) beneath Nettle (Urtica dioica) on dry land Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) on dry land

% cover 28 18 16 13 12 11 1 1

Table 1. Vegetation types found in the 0.6 hectare area where pair A and its two young foraged for over 10 weeks in 2009. air B: It seems that the one or two young remained at or near the nest for about a week after atching. The nest was a few metres from an open area of about 250 sq m, consisting mainly f open water with tall Reeds on most sides but with Reed Sweet-grass (Glyceria maxima), elery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus sceleratus) etc on a muddy margin and Bulrush in an Jjacent pool. The adults and one young then moved 200 metres (probably swimming along channels) i an area where they remained for eight weeks. This area was nearly two hectares of damp ind where the ungrazed vegetation consisted of Reed Canary- grass, Bulrush, Creeping histle, Nettle, Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) etc but with little open water except for te fringes of a "created nest-area". The adults and young then moved another 350 metres to their third foraging area; an area lecially created to enable visitors to see Cranes on the ground. This was 1.6 hectares of igher land with meadow grasses and patches of Nettles. The perimeter included Reed in ĂŹallow water for 450 metres and the muddy edge of a channel, with short, sparse, fenland lants, for 150 metres. Highland cattle had grazed the area for ten days in late June and ithin three days of the cattle being removed, the adults and young were foraging there, >ing all vegetation types. Here, the adults made short flights seemingly to encourage the iung to fly and within 15 days of moving there, the young bird was able to fly well. To summarise, pair A family used less than a hectare for nearly all of their fledging period id pair B family used about 3.5 hectares. This contrasts with some continental studies in nich a 100+ hectares pre-fledge territory was considered typical and 30 hectares was Âťnsidcred small (Leito et al 2006). However, Leito also states that where a home range vhere they roost as well as forage) is safe and contains drinking water, the pre-fledge rritory may be as small as 1-10 hectares. i he total distances moved, between foraging sites, by pair A and B families were 100 and ^0 metres respectively. Again, this contrasts with foreign studies (Leito et al. 2006) where urs with unfledged young moved two to eight kilometres per day. However, this comparison not totally valid; at Lakenheath Fen the families moved to a new foraging site and stayed ere, whereas in foreign studies the families were constantly on the move (tracked by radioansmitters) and were probably more affected by human disturbance, such as hay-cropping. ood for the young: best where the vegetation is tall or short? A preliminary investigation involved sampling the invertebrates in two differently 23


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 managed habitats: ungrazed fen and meadow grazed by sheep and cattle. In the ungrazed t;n. two areas were selected: a) where Cranes had not foraged and (b) where a pair plus its yot ngl had foraged for eight weeks, resulting - it is assumed - in a depletion of invertebrates Inj the grazed meadow, the off-duty Crane had foraged for only very short time periods dur ri. the incubation phase and not at all once the eggs had hatched so the depletion of invertebi ate numbers, as a result of Crane foraging, was likely to be close to zero. In the ungrazed fen (Cranes absent), four one-square-metre quadrats were randonly placed on the ground and ali invertebrates were collected from the ground and plants' lea /es and stems during a half-hour search. In the ungrazed fen (Cranes present) another f >ui quadrats were examined in the same way and flying insects were caught using a sweep-tietl In the grazed meadow, two quadrats were examined in a typical situation of short-gra;x«| grass abutting 60cm tali Reed Canary-grass. In addition, sweep-netting was carried » around the clumps of Soft Rush (Juncus effuseus), but not in a quantitative way. Tabi : ; summarises the results for the quadrai data.

Date of quadrat examination Mollusca: Oxyloma pfeifferi others Arachnida, spiders Hemiptera, Froghoppers/Shield Bugs Coleóptera including Ladybirds Lepidoptera, adult/larva/pupa Total in 1 sq metre excluding aphids Range

Ungrazed fen: Cranes absent

Ungrazed fen: Cranes present

Late June 28.8 1.3 2.2 9.0 3.8

Early July 6.0 1.5 4.0 3.5 2.5 0.5 18.0 12-24

45.1 24-78

Graze 1 meado' > : Crane; absen Late July j 2.5 1.0 1.5 1.0 0.5 6.5 3-10

Table 2. Mean number of invertebrates per square metre in two types of habitat, t ne of which had Cranes either present or absent. Exeludes aphids. In the quadrats, snails (Oxyloma pfeifferi) were found on the stems and leaves of maini; Creeping Thistle, where they would have been easily available to Cranes. Table 2 sugg :st that they - and the Hemiptera (bugs) - were depleted by foraging Cranes although th j dififerent dates may have had a small effect. Possibly the ground invertebrates (certain specie! of spider and beetle) were hidden and not locateci by the Cranes although Nowald (20013 found that beetles played an important role in Cranes' diet before fledging in Gerru meadows. Aphids sometimes numbered many hundreds on thistle stems in the ungrazed fc (not in the grazed meadow) but it is not known whether Cranes take such tiny items. In addition to the above, sweep-netting in the "ungrazed fen (cranes present)" site showe. that there were large, winged insects that would have avoided capture in the quadraci coneheads and Roesel's Bush-cricket (Orthoptera) and damselflies (Odonata), ali of whid totalled about two per square metre. No sweep-netting was done in the "ungrazed fen (crani absent)" site. In the grazed meadow, casual sweep-netting around the Soft Rush dump showed that (in approximate order of abundance), craneflies, ladybirds, hoverflies, spiderhorseflies, earwigs and soldier beetles occurred in and around the clumps, with the spider plus broods often near the tips of rush leaves. Finally, a single quadrat was examined in the 0.6 hectare area where pair A had foragtThis was in the Crane-cropped, Reed Canary-grass ( 16% of the area, see table 1 ) where. ' a tiny pool 7cm deep, there were 60 snails per square metre in mid-August. They wer 5-20mm and included Oxyloma, Lymnaea and Planorbis spp.

/

24


The Crânes of Lakenheath Fen, 2007 to 2009 • he future for Crânes in the Fens I It appears that Cranes are increasingly visiting the Fens, with some pairs staying in I ibitats suitable for foraging. Whether, and how ofien, they are able to nest successfiilly is I lother matter. Although a pair may make a nest and lay eggs in one of several alternative I etland habitat types, it may be additional factors that determine whether or not the birds • ar fledged young. These include: remoteness from human disturbance; a hidden nest-site I ith protection from ground predators; a high biomass of invertebrates in, it seems, speciesd1 verse, ungrazed végétation; and shallow water for roosting and possibly nesting. I With new, large-scale, wetlands presently being created in the Fens and beyond, it should I ; practical and relatively inexpensive to incorporate ali of these features into the designs. ! hen, within a decade or two, nesting and wintering Cranes should reappear as a charac1 ristic sight in and over the Fens; a sight last seen hundreds of years ago. 4 cknowledgements I Lakenheath Fen staff Katherine Puttick and Steve Wiltshire both recorded the activities • f the Cranes during the three years and several volunteers also noted the birds' whereabouts. 1 ranger Harrison, grazier on the reserve, kindly moved his cattle and sheep according to the 1 :eds of the Cranes. Finally, many birdwatchers elected not to walk along the western half I f the public footpath in summer (to avoid creating disturbance) but, instead, enjoyed I atching Cranes from the purposely-made view-point. References l e i t o , A., Keskpaik, J., Ojaste, I. & Truu, J. 2006. The Eurasiern Crane in Estonia. Eesti I Loodusfoto, Tartu. I cito, A., Ojaste, I., Truu,T. & Palo,A. 2005. Eurasian Crane nest-site selection Omis I fennica 82:44-54 1 owald, G. 2001 Foraging strategies of Common Crane families. Chapter 5, PhD thesis, I University of Osnabmck. I ¡Ils, N. 2008 The Return of Nesting Cranes to the Fens of Eastern England. Suffolk Birds I 57:24-27.

25


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

Four thousand Rooks cannot be wrong: rookeries east of the A12 between the Rivers Blyth and Aide in 1975 and 2009 Jamie

Bruce-Lockhart

This article describes an informal survey undertaken in the spring of 2009 of rooker es in the area between the Blyth and Aide rivers and east of the A12, including an additional 2 to 3 km-wide peripheral zone to the north, west and south where the presence of significant rookeries could affect the populations of the principal target area. At first sight the area appears to be one inhospitable to Rooks - a rĂŠgion of coastal zoi e s l (estuary, marsh and reed beds, and sandy estate lands) marked by low rainfall, a relativi:])! dry and poor soil, with substantial areas of intensive arable (cereal, oilseed rape and be;t)l farming and little pasture but extensive areas of heath and coniferous forest plantation. I :ut 1 apart from the forest and coastal zones it seems that in fact Rooks find it a p e r f e c l y l acceptable location for the propagation of their species, and apparently a more acceptai ile I one today than it was 34 years ago. Method My starting point for this project was the 1975 survey of rookeries in Suffolk (descrit ed j by Michael J. Jeanes and Reg Snook in The Rook in Suffolk, 1975 Survey, Suffi I t i Ornithologists Group, 1975), which indicated a notable absence of rookeries in the area i n i question, namely TMs 35-37 and 45-47 (see Figure 1). Map showing density of Rook nests in Suffolk 1975

GRID

REFERENCE

EASTINGS

Figure 1. Rook Density in Suffolk, 1975 (from Jeanes and Snook, 1975, p. 13). 26


Four thousand Rooks cannot be wrong It had made me wonder what the situation is today. I was also spurred on to investigate îe current state of Rook affaire in my neighbourhood by marked annual changes in the umbers of nests at, and then the eventual disappearance in 2000, of a 20-nest rookery on irmiand near Knodishall, observed in the course of a ten-year sériés of BBS surveys of M 4162. The survey was completed between 28th March and 5th Aprii 2009 with reconnaissance irough February and March. An ideal coverage by regular ten kilométré squares or ubsidiary quadrants (5km sq) of the ten kilométré square (eg upper left, lower right, etc) to itain consistent comparisons with past and other data was unfortunately a bridge too far; ut the area covered can nevertheless be broadly correlated with eleven quadrants of TMs 5-37 and 45-47 (See Fig. 2).

27


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 Rookeries of less than three nests were excluded unless rooks were present to avo d possible confusion with other birds' nests. Rookeries more than 100 to 150 metres apírt were counted separately; but the apparent conglomeration of rookeries into clusters is discussed as a separate issue below. Heights of land above sea level are of minor significan :e in an essentially fíat and even terrain, and were not recorded. There were some, but probab ly not very significant, limitations of coverage due to restrictions on public access (e g. Thorington, Henham). And counts of nests in use in thick fir trees are inevitably less th in reliable. Weather conditions in the spring of 2009 seem to have been generally propitious for t íe breeding colonies, the prolongation of a cold wet winter leading to delays in ploughing a id preparation for spring planting. Food appeared to be in plentiíül supply, with no eviden x of Rooks turning to road casualties or other unusual sources. It was not possible to identify immigrants if any from outside the United Kingdom, or Suffolk or the región. Results The survey showed a total of 52 rookeries in the región which together contained 2,1 )6 nests, giving an average of 42.4 nests to a rookery. Six rookeries contained over 100 nests (and one of these almost 200); another eight rookeries held between 50 to 100 nests, but t ne I 38 smaller rookeries containing between two and 100 nests accounted between them for 10 j per cent of all nests. Table 1: Number of nests in rookeries No of rookeries - as percentage Total of nests - as percentage Compare 1975 Suffolk-wide averages

1-25 21 40% 320 14%

26-50 17 33% 569 26%

51-100 8 15% 541 24%

100-200 6 12% 786 36%

200+ 0 0 0 0

44%

31%

19%

5%

0

Most striking is the high proportion of all nests to be found in the largest rookeries in he area. The opposite was the case in 1975, when the majority of nests (75%) were housec it smaller rookeries. The reasons for this would seem to merit further investigation. Perhaps in general in this relatively inhospitable región Rooks tend to club together for success ful nesting in the most favoured spots. Conglomeration. This change is even more striking if one regards rookeries locateli within between 200 to 400 metres of one another as being part of one single cluster. Table la présents the statistics shown in Table 1 but with rookeries grouped into 38 "clusters' oí colonies rather than listed as 52 individual rookeries. Table la: Number of nests in colonies No. of colonies - as percentage Total of nests - as percentage Compare 1975 Suffolk averages

1-25 12 31.5% 199 10%

26-50 12 31.5% 370 18%

51-100 6 16% 399 19%

100-200 8 21% 1125 54%

200+ 0 0 0 0

44%

31%

19%

5%

0

28


Four thousand Rooks cannot be wrong By such a reckoning over half of ali nests were to be found in the major colonies or . lusters of rookeries in 2009, and only 10% of nests in small rookeries of 25 nests and under the inverse of the situation across Suffolk in 1975. Arbours and trees. 60% of the rookeries surveyed are housed in small stands of trees and p a l i e r copses, and 37% are located in and around larger copses and woodland. Five out of -ix of the largest rookeries fall into the latter category. A striking majority (73%) of rookeries ire built in Oak and Ash trees, while another 20% are in groves of (mature) fir and Aider, llolm Oaks (notably atYoxford) and Lime (in the Sibton-Peasenhall area) figure a few times, ind Willow once, but other tree species occurring, albeit less frequently, in the area are ipparently not used (e.g. Poplar, Holly, Chestnut, Sycamore). It is also apparent that Rooks ivoid older oaks with 'stag-heads' of un-pruned and protruding dead branches which resumably offer no hold for the nests, and leave the crown of the tree too open for comfort ind safety. (The slow death of trees, marked by emergence of'stag-heads', was probably one eason among others for abandonment of the rookery in TM 4126.) Statistics collected by 5-kilometre quadrants show the following average densities of ookeries and nests per square kilometre:able 2:

35UL 35UR 36LR* 36UR* 37LR 45UL* 45UR* 46LL* 46UL* 46UR 47LL* 47LR* 47UL 47UR 57UL

Number of rookeries in quadrant 2 4 10 11 2 1 1 5 3 1 2 3 3 1 3

Density of rookeries per sq km 0.08 0.16 0.40 0.44 0.08 0.04 0.04 0.20 0.12 0.04 0.08 0.12 0.12 0.04 0.12

Number of nests/sq km 2009 116 97 222 317 61 101 52 321 130 11 234 119 57 29 229

1975 67 52 197 247 0 0 42 25 19 0 53 0 4 59 10

Ave. density nests/sq km 2009 4.6 3.9 8.9 12.7 2.4 4.0 2.1 12.8 5.2 0.4 9.4 4.8 2.3 1.2 9.2

1975 2.7 2.1 7.9 9.9 0 0 4.7 1.0 0.8 0 2.1 0 0.2 2.4 1.2

I Quadrants wholly within area surveyed.

Inferences from this table can only be tentative because coverage of some quadrants is nly partial, and the overall statistics are inevitably skewed by the low sample numbers ivolved - for example, the quadrant 45UR which has been surveyed fully contains only one 'okery. Nevertheless, it is apparent that the densest habitation is to be found inland and on e western margins of the area surveyed. The most densely inhabited quadrants today are ^ (which includes the rich Yox river valley) and, rather surprisingly, 46LL which is 'Sentially open terrain east of the A12. In a second group come 36LR, which hosts the 'rtile Sax river valley, and 47LL with rookeries of considérable size in the Darshamra nfield area in the north-west corner of the target zone close to an intensive pig-farming I >ne (see below). I I I I I • •

29


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 Some comparisons with 1975 A comparison with 1975 figures is possible in eight quadrants (marked with an áster; sk in Table 2 above) where there was full coverage in 2009. It shows a substantial increase in the average density of nests per square kilometre in the last thirty five years. There may be a number of separate and combined reasons for this. A general comparison of the present data with results of the 1975 survey (see Fig. 3) las obvious limitations, such as questions of comparable coverage and size of sample da a. Nevertheless, it appears that in broad terms some half dozen rookeries identified in 1975 ; re no longer present, while some twenty new ones have come into being since that time. Wit! in these overall trends, patterns have varied. Rookeries (with total nests of about 112 in 1975) around Glemham Park seem to hf ve rearranged themselves, presumably to more productive locations in the same area, and grown in numbers (to some 188 nests today). There has been similar re-arrangement in the Sibt< nPeasenhall area but with less beneficial results: colonies which used to contain 125 nests nnw contain 104. In Saxmundham three rookeries appear to have shifted, all of them to grourds with apparently better pickings on the valley floor; colonies which contained 128 nests in 1975 now boast 152. And Yoxford has done well from some movement from the periphtry to the centre, with total nests in the colonies around the village rising as a result by tvo thirds from 99 to 169. Similarly, two smaller rookeries (with a total of 35 nests) on the triangle of open arable between Yoxford, Saxmundham and Leiston have disappeared sir ce 1975 but their populations have probably been absorbed into new large colonies which h¡ ve since been established at North Green (119 nests) and Clay Hills (147 nests). Rooks are occasionally still to be observed resting in large numbers on trees at or near the sites of former colonies. Some changes, such as disappearance of rookeries at Oíd Lodge Farm, Benhall and Rot en End, Peasenhall, are minor. More important are new establishments at Leiston Oíd Abb ;y, in oíd fir trees - significant for its reach into the eastern coastal lands - and at Grove Wo >d. Knodishall, also offering access to the ancient sandlands.

30


Four thousand

Rooks cannot be wrong

Other patterns of change can tentatively be identified. Urban expansion and new building in and around Halesworth for instance (eg the Church Farm estate, home in 1975 to major rookeries) may have propelled Rooks south-eastwards to form new colonies in the fertile iramfield Valley (with parkland and pasture). Similarly rookeries at Kelsale seem to have leen pushed by new development to find new homes on the estate sandlands above the i liage. Changes in farming may have played a role too. Rooks have come to live closer to the istern boundaries of the habitable région probably because of the emergence of intensive lig farming on the sandlands along the coast from the Deben to the Blyth, and on the Blois states (including Hinton, Blythburgh and Walberswick) in particular. The marked growth >f rookeries at Bramfield (with no rookeries recorded in 1975) is a likely case in point. With he corresponding réduction in the intensity of arable farming and an increase in grazing, ooks have benefited - as observations of large gatherings of feeding flocks would tend to onfirm. 200-400 feeding birds have been quite a common sight in TMs 46 and 47 this I pring, and on 23rd January 2009 some 1500 plus Rooks were counted on a large pig field I nd adjacent grassland at Hinton on the day after removal of sties and apparatus. I Changes in keepering practice are not easy to quantify although local observers agree I hat keepering on the large estâtes (Blois, Ogilvie) is less intensive now than it was 35 years I go. At the same time some informal keepering to reduce or hold down Rook numbers, by I culi or scaring off at nest building time because of nuisance anxieties, evidently continues I ir some locations. I I I I I I I I I I I • I

ome general observations The present survey indicates that some two thirds of ali rookeries are sited on the edges towns and villages, where suitable feeding grounds, some of them new, appear to icourage successful colonization. Such built-up areas increasingly enjoy, and Rooks with em, minor green belts around them comprising parkland of old estâtes (such as at Yoxford ti Sibton), recreational facilities such as parks, sports and caravan grounds (mostly empty the breeding season), belts of open rough country (especially on Valley floors) and new isture (equestrian and animal rescue for example). AU of these are to be found, for instance, the Saxmundham-Carlton-Kelsale complex. Proximity of rookeries to each other. Noticeable is a rather regular average distance of four lometres (see map 2) from each larger rookery to its nearest significant neighbour in the ntral area surveyed. One wonders whether this average radius would be wider on richer ils'' Preferred distances from one rookery to its neighbours may also relate to generational cretion. In Yoxford in 1975, for instance, there were two rookeries, further removed from I e valley floor in old established sites (both named 'Rookery'). In 2009 there are four l'okeries, spread across copses of noticeably différent character, on lower ground. At North 1 reen, there is one major extension about 300 m to the east of what was evidently the site I ! the originai colony; and a minor one 300 m to the west. The first could have stretched I ' ™ e r (along a line of trees beside a railway track), but petered out. Was a total distance of I v e r 600 yards from the original home too far for comfort? I f he subject of conglomeration of rookeries holds interest. Many of the large colonies, I l r , l c ularly 0 n the western margins of the area surveyed, appear to be in fact Clusters of 1 "Oeries which have developed in Valleys where the landscape provides no single copse of I illicient size to hold the nests of the number of birds which wish to flock together. They I «y be related groups. Joint movements to and from feeding grounds and sources of nest I latenal, and aerial movements over the colony as a whole would seem to support the idea, l'ius the Bramfield Cluster is composed of five or six rookeries, none more than 200-300 from its neighbours; the Yoxford Rook community lives in about five apparently terconnected rookeries; several of the Saxmundham rookeries and the Glemham rookeries e clear ' y connected in some way - as offshoots or related groups.


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 The author ean only speculate as to what factors lie behind this. Are the inhabitants of the rookeries in these Clusters rivais and competitors, or successor générations - or bcth1 Or do extended families of several générations prefer to stay together in clans beca jse feeding is not altogether easy (not as easy, say, as it might be in other areas further west in Suffolk)? The possible reasons for the occasionai disappearance and then re-appearance of rooke ies are also of interest. One rookery formerly sited in a line of tali trees on farm land oui TM4126, for instance, tells a curious taie. This rookery contained (as counted on the secondi week of May in each year) around 20 nests every other year in the period 1995-97, .indi between 15 and 18 nests through the period 1998-2000; but only eight nests in 2002 and wo nests in 2003 (there was no count in 2000 because of Foot & Mouth Disease). Since 2(103 no Rooks have returned. There was no relevant change of land use, but a small number ( say one sixth) of the trees weakened, lost limbs and died, and there might have been seme amateur keepering by the nearby cottage home owner(s) to deter colonization. We sliall never know. Growth and decline in the nest building season. Regulär records kept for about half the 3 rookeries show that the fastest rate of growth was in early March (say 7th-15th March), indi the second fastest period in mid-late March (say 16th-24th March). Nest building was itili actively being continued on the last days of the survey, 3rd-5th April. Thus to equalize r esi counts with figures for 6th-1 Oth April one might add 10% to counts taken in early Mai ch. but only 3% to counts made in late March. In the 2003Norfolk Bird Report, Mark Cockei recommends rookery counts between 6th and 20th April. A handful of instances were also observed of rookeries where nests under aciive construction in early March were abandoned in whole or in part by early April. At issue was probably the resuscitation of old nests rather than the building of fresh structures, but again we can only speculate as to the reasons. One possible explanation might be Rook-buik en being put off by the break up of old nests in spells of bad, especially windy, weather; anoihei possibility might be neighbours poaching nest material for their own nests. The Roc ks reasons for these and other Rook practices observed (or not observed) are elusive, bui whatever their reasons, the Rooks which have chosen to live east of the A12 in this par! of Suffolk seem to have chosen quite well. Acknowledgements Many thanks go to my wife, Flip, for her contributions at every stage of the project; ina I am very grateful to Philip Watson, CEnv, MIAgrE, Landscape Development Officer at the Countryside Service of Suffolk County Council, for his comments on the landscape typolog of the région and generous help with conversion of the data onto a landscape character rr ap I also reeeived kind help from Tony Lancaster in Walberswick, and encouragement fron Andrew Green, north-east Area Recorder, Suffolk Ornithologists' Group. References Jeanes and Snook, Rookeries inAlde-Blyth area, N.E. Suffolk, 1975. Cocker, M (in 2003 Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report), Sample Census and Observation of Breeding Rooks in south-east Norfolk.

32


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

I Nest-finding observations, data and records for 2009 Tunstail, Blaxhall and Sutton Heaths and Commons Richard Tomlinson and Graham Button I I I I I

Introduction by Nick Mason Graham and Tom (and John Dries) have been researching the breeding biology of some f our birds of conservation concern found on the South Sandlings heathland. With funding om SITA Trust, Natural England and other bodies, management work co-ordinated by the uffolk Wildlife Trust has restored large areas of heathland and has created the infrastructure V maintenance of the habitat by livestock grazing.

I Over the years on Sutton, Hollesley and Blaxhall Commons this has enabled the build up II good populations ofStonechat and Woodlark, maintained a steady population of Nightjar I nd created the conditions for the re-colonisation of Dartford Warbler in 1999. This species I uilt up to a very healthy population (40 territories) before the winter of2008/2009. Tree I '¡pits, as everywhere on the coast, have continued to decline. I The work started with colour-ringing of the Dartfords to study their movement, longevity I nd site preference. In the last couple of years it has developed into a study of all the I eathland species. I Graham and Tom have spent many hours in the field on the Commons finding nests. I s'n8 great care and patience they will follow the birds and study their behaviour. When I ie young are ready they call in the ringers (Steve Abbott, Paul Newton, Mick Wright) to I ing the pulii. I Each nest is monitored and notes taken on factors including nest site location and local I Mat details, clutch size, height above ground, aspect of the nest and other relevant details. I his information is then sent to the BTO, along with data collected by other enthusiastic I nateurs; the combined results create a clear record of the "health " of the heathland bird I ••)pulations, which is backed up by solidfacts. In addition, the information collected can be I sed immediately to guide reserve managers in their work.] I I I I I • I I

he Report We got off to a bit of a late start in 2009 on Sutton Heath and Tunstall due to a restrucring of our study area. We anticipated that we would be conducting our work in the Brecks, • Crossbill is one of our favourite species to study. Our early efforts in the Brecks produced >ur breeding pairs of Crossbills and a bonus breeding Siskin. Due to unforeseen circumanees and concerns regarding possible duplication in the area we were allocated the »uthern Suffolk Sandlings area, an area we know fairly well and where we have previously sen involved in monitoring breeding Dartford Warblers, Woodlark etc.

I Voodlark Lullula arborea I Our first visits to the Suffolk Sandlings at Sutton and Tunstall - Blaxhall were from the • ^th March 2009. Lack of rain in these areas resulted in many of the Woodlark holding back I ram breeding (up to four-five weeks in some cases). Insect life was retarded as was fresh I rowth as a result of the arid conditions and early clutch sizes were smaller than we would I o r m ally expect. The knock-on effect of this later breeding meant that the crows had young I roods just as the Woodlark were producing their first clutches. These first breeding attempts l ' e r e heavily predated. We witnessed Carrion Crow Corvus corone with pre-fledged I oodlark chicks in the bill on two occasions on Sutton Heath. On Sutton our first incubating I Voodlark was found on 4th April. At Tunstall it was 10th April. On 17th May a Stoat Mustela I munea was seen to flush a juvenile Woodlark from cover out on to short grass, where it I 'ursued its quarry and took the youngster directly in front of us. We were aware of 22 pairs 33


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 of Woodlark within the Sutton site as a whole, while at Tunstall and Blaxhall at least 18 pairs were noted. Overall 16 nests were found. Woodlark breeding in wheat fields On 16th April at Sutton we watched a pair of Woodlark carry food about 30 metres >ut into a wheat field, and on 19th April we were able to find the nest containing a five day ild chick plus two addled eggs. On 25th April on the opposite side of the Common we foi nd another nest in wheat, again about 30 metres out into the crop. The adults were gather ng food on the Common and travelling over a belt of woodland onto the nest site. This i est contained four young approximately three days old. Another pair of Woodlark was observed carrying food into a wheat field near Blaxl all village. As yet the landowner/farmer is unknown to us so this record was not authentica; ed. The crop height at this time was 20-30 cm. This choice of nest site may have been taken as a result of regular disturbance from d >gs on Sutton Common/Heath; many dog owners do not follow the "dogs to be kept on le id'' notices. We have seen up to six dogs with a single owner, all out of control and hunting md chasing anything that moves. A lack of fresh growth on the usual breeding sites becaus* of the dry spring may have also contributed to this choice of nest site. We will watch this in the I future and see what develops. While watching a male Woodlark singing at Tunstall Common on 11 th June it dropped ind landed on a grass clearing, I soon saw that it had joined with a feeding female a few me res away, and I noticed that she was colour-ringed. After checking the 2007 survey report we found out that this bird was ringed at Weeting Heath - Ring Number TK 19331, in area f 31 The nest of the colour-ringed Woodlark was found containing four young about six days old and the young were ringed. Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata Our first brood of Dartford Warblers was ringed on Sutton Common on 26th April. Otijj Sutton, 37 Dartford Warbler pulii were ringed from ten nest sites, the latest being 17thI August. The first broods on Blaxhall Heath were ringed on 2nd and 3rd May. They did not ยก seem to be phased by the dry spring but most had moved from previously held territorie: on ; the eastern end of Sutton Heath up into the central areas. We feel this was mainly due to the fact that at the previous site the Heather Calluna vulgaris was getting rather rank and had died back over the last year or so. Surprisingly some heather did show signs of reco\ery after a period of wet weather. On Sutton Heath/Common there were around twenty pair; on the site. Dartford Warblers on Tunstall Common were very elusive, and we were lucky enoug i to find one nest on 30th June containing four young about eight days old. We are unsure ยกf| there has previously been any authenticated breeding records at this site. Three broods from two pairs on Blaxhall were also found and colour-ringed. Crossbill Loxia curvirostra As we were late starting on our Suffolk Sandlings sites this year we had missed out on an; real chance of getting to grips with any local breeding Crossbills. Small feeding flocks ol adults were found at Tunstall Forest and also around Sutton Common with birds visiting the sewage works ditches for water. A flock of at least 16 birds were seen throughout May and early June. This flock contained juveniles so we feel quite confident that these were reared within the local area. One of these youngsters dropped a cone that bounced off Graham s head early one morning - most amusing! We are hoping to confirm breeding in 2010. Hobby Falco subbuteo Hobby were seen at all sites from late April. A pair were regularly seen hawking Painted 34


Nest-finding observations, data and records for 2009 dy butterflies Vanessa cardui over Tunstall in May, taking advantage of the massive 2009 flux of migrants. Each of our study areas produced breeding pairs (three nest sites) with cubating females from mid-June. Unfortunately one nest was predated late in incubation the newly hatched stage. At Tunstall a pair reared two young, but we had problems trying procure a climber (or pair of climbers) and the chicks were not ringed. The two juveniles ere still calling close to the nest site on 12th September. At our final nest site three young Âżre raised. They were ringed on the 13th August at 13-16 days old. Special thanks goes to lie landowner for granting us access to this site. nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus Tunstall and Blaxhall held seven or eight singing males that we were aware of. There is very chance that we missed birds on some of the more remote clearings. Sutton ommon/Heath had from eight to ten males. We located three nest sites in all, two at Sutton nd one on Tunstall Common. All nests were predated! The hen was killed and eaten at one if the Sutton nests just after hatching had occurred (probable fox or dog predation), the ther two failed at the egg stage. At Tunstall a female Nightjar was seen on the ground by reshly predated and partially eaten eggs. nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos Tunstall and Blaxhall had reasonable numbers of Nightingales spread over a wide area. U least ten males were heard singing on territory. Some were in hedgerows with ilackthorn Prunus spinosa and bramble Rubus fruticosus agg., others were in areas of lixed woodland with undergrowth consisting of bramble and Rosebay Willowherb pilobium angustifolium. Two males were on the edge of young plantations with a loose ramble understorey. Three nest sites were discovered, two at Tunstall and one on the edge ' Blaxhall Common. The 14 pulii from these three nest sites were ringed on the 5th, 8th nd 17th of June respectively. ree Pipit Anthus trivialis Tree Pipit are very thin on the ground in our study areas, and none were seen on the unstall and Blaxhall sites. Sutton Heath/Common, Upper Hollesley Common and endlesham Forest have a few pairs in most seasons, but numbers have dwindled over the ist few years. Sutton had six or seven pairs from what we could tell, with the majority of rem on Sutton Common. Three nest sites were discovered, two producing nine young, the ther we watched during the early stages of nest building. We returned after ten days and 'though the nest was completed it should by then have had eggs. We can only assume that redation occurred during the early laying period. A brood of four were ringed on 31 st May Ist clutch) and at the other site five pulii were ringed on the 11th July (2nd clutch). In late J| a y Tree Pipit was heard alarm-calling on Upper Hollesley Common, and this bird was -en in the same area on 2nd August. tonechat Saxicola torquatus I he Stonechat population is a reasonably healthy one on Sutton Heath/Common with round 15 pairs spread widely across the site. The first were found nest-building on 20th larch at Blaxhall and on 22nd on Sutton Heath. Overall 54 pulii were ringed from 19 nests iscovered; 46 pulii were from Sutton Heath/Common. The other eight ringed were a first I nd second clutch at Blaxhall. I An adult female was found dead at a nest containing six eggs at Sutton sewage works. We I ere not sure of the reason for her death but maybe it was a heart attack or possibly a bite I om an Adder Vipera berus. We had seen a few in the vicinity. Some birds we have noticed I tow characteristics of the race rubicola, and I have seen others, in the past, on Upper I ollesley Common showing signs ofthat race. 35


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella There is a fair population ofYellowhammer on Sutton Heath/Common, a few on Tunst ill Common, the Blaxhall-Tunstall link area and a number around Blaxhall village where ine heathland habitat adjoins the arable land. We had four nests in all and nine pulii from three nests at Tunstall were ringed. A nest with four eggs at Sutton was predated. Other sightings on patch in 2009 A male Goshawk Accipiter gentilis was seen over Tunstall Common on 10th April. At Sutton Common, opposite the sewage works, on 3rd May, Eddie Marsh had a Tawny Pi nit Anthus campestris. On 17th May in woodland at Sutton a male Nuthatch Sitta europaea v as seen and heard singing and on 18th May a Red Kite Milvus milvus passed over Tunstall. < )n 23rd May a pair of Common Redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus was found at a nest site in a woodpecker's hole 45 feet up in a Scots Pine. Buzzards Buteo buteo have been at all si es and we hope to get some breeding records in 2010. On 2nd June we witnessed an Addei at the nest of a Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus taking the young. A male Marsh Han er Circus aeruginosus was seen hunting over Sutton on a few occasions and an immature female was seen over Tunstall. Male and female Long-eared Owl Asio otus were heard to c all on 15th June at Tunstall. A Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus was calling on 13th Jr ne and we had a European Bee-eater Merops apiaster briefly on power lines at Sutton on 2 'th June. A number of Adders were seen at Sutton Common from the edge of arable land ; nd up on to the Common opposite the sewage works, where three males were seen in close proximity in May. Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur were seen at all sites, with Tuns all Common having five-six pairs using the power lines through the site. No breeding \ 'as confirmed from any of the Kestrels Falco tinnunculiis across the sites. This is probably as a result of the disastrous year for voles and other rodents. We had no sightings at all of ; ny rodents (except Grey Squirrel) during the whole season. Common Lizard Lacerta vivip m were in better shape with high numbers being seen, the highest densities being at Tuns all Common/Forest where the ground in sheltered warm patches was alive with them on se me mornings. Other bits 'n' bobs Two broods of Whitethroats Sylvia communis were ringed, one in Heather Calli â&#x20AC;˘na vulgaris on Sutton Common and one at Tunstall Common. A Garden Warbler Sylvia bcrin with four young was ringed at Blaxhall on 14th June. Paul Newton controlled/recapturtda youngster from this brood two months later at Foxhall, Ipswich. Three broods of Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs, two of Wren Troglodytes troglodytes, two of Linnet Carduelis cannabina, one each of Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus and Dunnock Prunella modularis were also ringed. Special thanks to all our ringers for getting out to us, often at very short notice, to process our finds:- Steve Abbott at Sutton; Mick Wright, Paul Newton and Dean Backhouse at Tunstall/Blaxhall. Photographs (not included here) were taken by Richard Tomlinson - apart from the Hobby chicks that were photographed by Steve Abbott. We also extend our thanks to Simon Leatherdale, Nigel Turner, and staff at the Foresto Commission England, East Anglia Forest District, Sandlings Forest office Tangham and also to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust for their help and cooperation. Additional thanks to Dave Mason, Nick Mason and Andrew Paul for their help through the year. Thanks also go to my daughter Amber Jones for assistance with the final composition of this report. 36


Suffolk Bird Report 2009

Sir Anthony (Tony) Hurrell 1927-2009 David Pearson With the passing last year of Tony Hurrell, Suffolk lost its longest serving and one of its ost enthusiastic bird ringers. His dedicated work at Dunwich set a unique example in astal garden ringing. Over recent years, many of us have enjoyed his hospitality and the perience of'going round the nets' with him, or appreciated being called to see one of the rities he caught from time to time. His regular news on coastal migration is now greatly uissed. Tony enjoyed a long retirement with his garden ringing station, but this capped a highly tive and distinguished professional career that many may not have been aware of. Born and ised in Norfolk, he was educated at Norwich School and St Catharine's College, ambridge. He served abroad with the Royal Army Education Corps, before joining the v il service in 1950. In 1964 he moved to the Overseas Development Department and this ok him on visits to over 80 countries. After a spell as head of the West and North Africa partaient, and a sabbatical year at Harvard, he spent several years in Bangkok as head of e South East Asia Division. He then returned to take charge of British aid to Asia, the ribbean, Latin America and the Pacific, and was attached to the Cabinet Office as a ember of the "Think Tank". In 1983, much to his surprise, he was then appointed bassadorto the former Kingdom of Nepal. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited thmandu during his three-year posting. He was knighted in 1986. Birds were central to Tony's life for over 60 years. He was introduced to ringing in Egypt, ng Potter traps and spring nets. Then, back home in Essex, he was soon catching birds Romford Sewage Farm with Bob Spencer. For several years, with his wife Jean and their ung family, he spent early September in Suffolk, in a caravan at Beach Farm, Benacre, net him there in 1956, experimenting with the first imported Japanese mist-nets. During lemorable fall of Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts and the like, Tony had caught a Barred irbler in one of his new nets, while a Hoopoe had 'bounced'. There were doubts about strange new catching method but we could see that it might have a future! In subsequent ars his September sessions invariably accounted for hundreds of ringed birds, mostly â&#x20AC;˘m nets set along the tank trap and hedge behind the pits, and round the small pond which had planted up with willows. He caught Suffolk's first Common Rosefinch in 1959. en in 1965 he was at the centre of the Great Fall late on 3rd September. He used all his !gs up in three days on hundreds of Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Willow Warblers and I den Warblers, along with 14 Wrynecks, an Ortolan Bunting and a Bluethroat. In Essex, moved to a house at Stock where he modified the large garden to accommodate an array mist-nets. He dug ponds, planted cover and established a mini observatory that was to oduce regular migration records for 20 years. Nets were manned on weekends and Hdays, and a couple of rounds were often fitted in on weekdays before he took the train j London! i ncreasing commitments and travel abroad brought the Benacre years to an end, but in T °ny and Jean returned to retire in Suffolk. He found the ideal six-acre plot at Dunwich, he converted to a permanent ringing station complete with ponds, planted willows and iist-net rides. This he manned daily each spring and autumn, assisted during the later years p <~live Watts, and produced a unique 'constant-effort' record of passerine migration on the [orth-east Suffolk coast. He ringed over 50,000 birds here of more than 100 species, Muding about 20,000 warblers. Recoveries included a Garden Warbler to Morocco, j . a c ^ a P t 0 Spain, Lesser Whitethroat to Egypt, Goldcrest to Holland, Redwing to Finland, P ackbird to Sweden, Robins to Norway and Germany, Linnet to Spain, Swallow to Spain, a series of Sand Martins to Senegal as well as others to France and Spain. Rare birds 37


Suffolk Bird Report 2009 trapped included Subalpine Warbler, Dusky Warbler, Arctic Warbler, Barred Warbler, Li ttle Bunting, Ortolan Bunting, Corncrake, Golden Oriole and several Icterine, Pallas's ind I Yellow-browed Warblers. Tony's career gave him great opportunities to see birds abroad. Although never a g eat lister he was always keen at the end of working visits to African and Asian countries te do some local birding. This was well known and catered for by various diplomatie missic ns! In 1967, I was invited to a High Commission reception in Kampala to meet a visit ng officiai who wanted to see some Ugandan birds. The visitor of course was Tony, and r ext day we were busy ringing Red-backed Shrikes and Garden Warblers by Lake Victoria. F iur years later a similar situation in Nairobi ended with a large Yellow Wagtail catch at îhe local sewage works! It was another ten years before I met him again in Kenya. A diplom itic Landrover appeared during an overnight wader catching session at Lake Magadi. Oui stepped a delighted Tony, who pulled on borrowed wellies and hurried to the nets acrjss slippery soda mud, returning after a few minutes holding a Curlew Sandpiper with a t ;nyear old ring! Tony will be remembered as a cheerful but unassuming man who preferred moc est informality to show and ceremony. He maintained a lively interest in people and eve its, from the fortunes of The Canaries and the progress of other Suffolk ringers to happeni îgs in the wider world. He was a man of détermination and strong principles, but always re.;dy with support and encouragement for others. Essentially optimistic, he maintained an enthusiasm for the naturai world in general and took particular delight in the colon) of swallows that nested in his barns. He always anticipated a large fall in autumn when « ast winds were predicted, and our thoughts will surely turn to him next time we see Redst: rts and Pied Flycatchers on the Suffolk coast.

38

Suffolk Birds 2009 Part 1  

Volume 59

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