Page 1

Suffolk Birds 2012


I -5T -S S i - z ® : ™ i 55 5 1

:' o"5 sN m «ä 03 E F- uj

Front cover: Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Aldeburgh Brian Srnall


SUFFOLK BIRDS VOL. 62 A review of birds in Suffolk in 2012

Editor Nick Mason

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

Published by SUFFOLK NATURALISTS' SOCIETY in collaboration with SUFFOLK ORNITHOLOGISTS' GROUP 2013


Published by The Suffolk Naturalists' Society, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich IP1 3QH Š The Suffolk Naturalists' Society 2013 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 5AP.

Front cover: Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Aldeburgh Brian Small The Copyright remains that of the photographers and artists. 2


CONTENTS Editorial: Nick Mason Review of scarce and rare birds in Suffolk in 2012: Lee Woods Carlton and Oulton Marshes Nature Reserve, 2012/13: Matthew Gooch A re-establishing Common Buzzard population in north-east Suffolk, 2006-2012: P.J.Dare Autumn immigration of Great Cormorants in north Suffolk: P. J. Dare Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull breeding colonies in Suffolk: Steve Piotrowski Progress Report on breeding Dartford Warblers on Upper Hollesley, Lower Hollesley and Sutton Commons: Mick Wright Suffolk's first Spanish Sparrow: John Richardson and Nigel Odin Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll at Aldeburgh, 8th-19th December 2012 - first, of this race for Suffolk: Brian Small and Lee Woods Black-winged Stilts at Minsmere: Dave Fairhurst The 2012 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 2012: David Walsh Suffolk Ringing Report 2012: Simon Evans

Page 5 7 12 15 20 23 31 34 36 38 39 41 151 156 158 160 161 165 166

The artwork in this Report is by Richard Allen, Peter Beeson, Mark Ferris, Su Gough and Brian Small. List of Plates Plate No. 1. Bewick's Swans Chris Mayne 2. Red-breasted Goose Stuart Read 3. Common Scoter Lee Woods 4. Goldeneye Alan Tate 5. Smew Chris Mayne 6. Goosander Jon Evans 7. Great Northern Diver Peter Ransome 8. Slavonian Grebe Chris Mayne 9. Great Bittern Bill Boston 10. Great White Egret Jack Levene 11. Grey Heron Clive Naunton 12. Glossy Ibis Ian Goodall 13. Black-winged Stilts Dave Fairhurst 14. Red Kite John Richardson 15. Hen Harrier John Richardson 16. Hen Harrier Carl Wright 17. Oystercatcher Amanda Hayes 18. Purple Sandpiper Peter Ransome 19. Knot Peter Ransome 20. Temminck's Stint Peter Ransome

Facing Page 40 40 40 40 40 41 41 41 41 80 80 80 80 81 81 81 81 81 81 120

Plate Facing 5 age No. 120 21. Wood Sandpiper Sean Nixon 120 22. Woodcock Jon Evans 23. Long-billed Dowitcher Barry Woodhouse 120 120 24. Little Terns Clive Naunton 120 25. White-winged Black Tern Bill Boston 121 26. Barn Owl Liz Cutting 121 27. Tawny Owl Bill Boston 121 28. Long-eared Owl Jon Evans 121 29. Green Woodpecker Jon Evans 160 30. Skylark Liz Cutting 160 31. Bearded Reedling Liz Cutting 160 32. Great Grey Shrike Bill Boston 160 33. Wood Warbler Bill Boston 161 34. Tree Sparrow Barry Woodhouse 161 35. Spanish Sparrow John Richardson 161 36. Tawny Pipit Chris Mayne 161 37. Olive-backed Pipit Ian Clarke 38. Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll Chris Mayne 161 161 39. Crossbill John Richardson

3


Suffolk Birci Report 2012

Notice to Contributors Suffolk Birds is an annual publication of records, notes and papers on all aspects of Suffolk ornithology. Except for records and field descriptions submitted through the county recorders, all material should be original. It should not have been published elsewhere or offered complete or in part to any other journal. Authors should 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 on their web site at www.bou.org.uk. English names should follow the same list. Contributions should, if possible, be submitted to the editor by e-mail or on a CD/DVD and 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 of 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 35mm transparencies. A payment of £12 will be made to the photographer for each photograph 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 that neither the editor nor the SNS can be held responsible in the unlikely event that loss or damage occur. Authors may wish to illustrate their papers, but this will be subject to the illustrations being of the standard required by the editor and the décision on such matters will rest with him or 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. Any 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: Steve Abbott Area County Recorders: Colin Jakes, Andrew Green, Scott Mayson Bird Report Editor: Nick Mason (non-voting) Secretary: Craig Fulcher (craigfulcher@btinternet.com) Other Committee Members: Will Brame, Lee Woods, Dave Fairhurst, Lee Gregory, Brian Small. BBRC correspondent: DaveWalsh (non-voting)

ADDRESSES Papers, notes, drawings and photographs'. The Editor (Suffolk Birds), The Suffolk Naturalists' Society, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich 1P1 3QH. Records: See inside front cover. Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee - correspondence: The Secretary, SORC, c/o The Museum, High Street, Ipswich IP1 3QH or craigfulcher@btinternet.com.

4


Suffolk Bird Report 2012

Editorial Nick Mason Another cold winter followed by what was a pretty cold and wet summer in 2012 did not do much of our wildlife any favours. The summer weather meant that many birds had trouble raising broods. On that subject one of my Redstart pairs on Upper Hollesley Common lost their brood all five youngsters dead in the box they had been used successfully for the previous two years. Why did they fail? Well I can't be sure - yes, it could have been the weather and a lack of enough food. But another pair in a box not far away did OK - the whole brood fledged and the youngsters left the nest. What I fear happened is that too many photographers, knowing the whereabouts of the box, were present and a build-up of such a disturbance partly put paid to the efforts of the birds at a critical time. There are still plenty of comments about photographers and their behaviour coming our way. I apologize to all those who follow the etiquette and put the bird first. However, it is clear that there are those who do not follow such procedures and will not stop until they have their prime shot, regardless of the welfare of the bird or the needs of other birders. Personally 1 think it is time that we all stood up and played our part in bringing the few individuáis into line. I would remind those who need to be of the guidelines I included in the editorial last year. 2012 was not a big year for rarities with only one new species to add to the Suffolk list. The Spanish Sparrow was identified from a photograph at Landguard and was appreciated by many - even those of us who had been out of the country when it was first found! The Black-winged Stilts were exciting but the star bird of the year had to be the so-confiding Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll - not a new species but what a delight! There are, however, rarities that are far more significant. Turtle Doves continué to cause concern as do Spotted Flycatchers. Although seen commonly in the west of the county, Tree Pipits are all but gone from the coastal heaths. It is difficult to explain this situation as there is still adequate habitat for them on most sites in the east. Perhaps the coastal birds had a different wintering area, which seems doubtful as they presumably overlap when moving south on migration. Golden Orioles seem to have had their day with sightings at Lakenheath Fen becoming scarcer while there was no evidence from Minsmere as to whether the pair there showed any breeding activity - except for the singing. Little Terns are not exactly a rarity but will become so if they continué to fail to breed successfully. There is hope that the work at the RSPB reserve at Hollesley Marshes might encourage them to breed on the shingle islands that will be formed. Records from the recently-acquired RSPB sites at Farnham and Snape feature regularly in this report and hopefully they and Hollesley Marshes will continué to attract all sorts of species. It would be good to have breeding Snipe in Suffolk again. On the positive side both Hobby and Peregrine are increasing as breeding species. On the coast Woodlark and Dartford Warblers did

not

suffer

too

Barn Swallows Peter

5

Beeson


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 badly in the harsh winter so they, at least, maintained stable numbers. There are seven articles in this year's report. 2012 was another excellent year for BINS and the service provided in texts and on the website remains first-class. Lee Woods has put together the Rare and Scarce Birds Review of the Year based on the website. Matthew Gooch, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust warden, has written a piece on recent management at Carlton and Oulton Marshes. Peter Dare has written on the Buzzard population in northeast Suffolk and about autumn migration of Cormorants. Steve Piotrowski has given us a review of the Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull breeding populations in Suffolk, especially in relation to those nesting on buildings. We have a progress report on the research into Dartford Warblers by Mick Wright. There are three articles on individual species this year; John Richardson and Nigel Odin give an account of the Spanish Sparrow, Brian Small and Lee Woods have written up the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll and there is a short note on the Black-winged Stilts at Minsmere by Dave Fairhurst. All the articles are worth a read and many thanks are due to the writers. All the section writers are volunteers as are the writers of the articles just mentioned. As usual they have done a fantastic job. Thankyou to all of them: Gi Grieco, Andrew Green, John Davies, John Grant, Chris Gregory, Mike Swindells, John Glazebrook, James Wright, Andrew Easton, Malcolm Wright, Phil Whittaker, Nathaniel Cant, Andrew Gregory, Richard Attenborrow, Steve Fryett, Paul Gowen and Peter Kennerley who writes the Appendices. The Rarities Report, on rare birds considered by the British Birds Rarities Committee, has, as usual, been put together efficiently by David Walsh. The ringing report has again been compiled and written by Simon Evans. He has done another fantastic job piecing it all together and producing something of interest for ringers and non-ringers alike, with some interesting comments along the way. Laurie Forsyth has proof-read much of this report and my thanks go to him again. Phil Whittaker has again sorted out the artwork for this report and Bill Baston, again, the photographs. The standard of both remains very high. Thankyou to everyone who submits either artwork or photos even if they, often because of duplication, do not get used. Once again the fount of all knowledge, Philip Murphy, has been extremely helpful during the preparation of this report. His knowledge of, and interest in, the birdlife of Suffolk is legendary! Another year and another grouse about the lack of records submitted to our three Bird Recorders. More breeding information, even on the commoner species would be appreciated. Several birders now use Birdtrack for entering their records and this can be very useful. It is not so useful when the species entered is an unusual one or out of its normal zone or in higher, or possibly lower, numbers than usual. These records do need to be submitted to the recorders, either because they are of specific interest or, in the case of rarities, so that they can be assessed. For instance, a Honey Buzzard entered onto Birdtrack is unlikely to be found in the Bird Report if it has not been verified. Again on Birdtrack - if no figure is given the recorders have to assume that it is a single bird. So if recording flocks the number seen will need to be entered. Colin Jakes in the west, Andrew Green in the north-east and Scott Mayson in the south-east continue to do an excellent job sorting through the records and making them available to the section writers. We can make that task easier by regular submissions and adding any notes of interest. The three recorders are part of the Suffolk Ornithological Records Committee which determines the acceptability of scarce birds in the county. The names of all the members are on Page 4. A regular feature can be found in The Harrier with a profile and photograph of those members, hopefully helping to make this group appear less remote. In fact they are all perfectly approachable and are fair in their decisions! Finally I would like to thank Andrew Gregory for the use of his picture on the front cover of this report and for going through the trouble of getting it to the printers. 6


Review of the Year 2012

Review of Scarce and Rare Birds in Suffolk in 2012 Lee Woods January The first days of the birding year provided a good selection of birds, with the Hoopoe seen on New Year's Eve 2011 in Lowestoft remaining until 2nd. A Yellow-browed Warbler at Ness Point, Lowestoft and a "Blue Fulmar" offMinsmere provided additional New Year's Day surprises. A drake Green-winged Teal was present on and off throughout the month at Alton Water though proving rather elusive at times! On the 4th there was a Hooded Crow on Beccles Marshes and a Siberian Chiffchaff at Long Melford sewage works having been noted briefly at the end of December 2011. A Great White Egret was at Fritton, 15 th, before being spotted at Chedgrave Marshes in Norfolk. Other January highlights included: the Hollesley and Layham Great Grey Shrikes from late 2011 continued to please and a possible Baltic Gull was at Minsmere, 2nd. Adult Iceland Gulls were seen at both Lowestoft and Livermere Lake. A Black Brant was on Hollesley Marshes from 13th to 15th, a new Great Grey Shrike was found at Lakenheath on 14th plus a good smattering of Waxwings around the county throughout the month. Noteworthy counts included: 36 Corn Buntings, Chelmondiston, 19th and 100 Tree Sparrows at Ampton with 50 Bramblings at Gedgrave rounding off the month. February The month kicked off in good style with the discovery of a first-winter drake American Wigeon, on South Marsh, North Warren 1st to 4th. A Glaucous Gull was briefly at Ness Point, 3rd. A Hooded Crow was seen around Eastbridge/Minsmere, 4th to 20th and a Greenland White-fronted Goose at Gedgrave Marshes, 7th. On 10th there was a Redbreasted Goose with Brents at Felixstowe Ferry, remaining throughout the month in the surrounding area. A Great White Egret was discovered at Thorpeness Mere, 19th, then showed on and off distantly at Minsmere from 24th. A further Greenland White-fronted Goose was found at North Warren, 20th and remained until 29th at least while the original bird from Gedgrave was relocated at Boyton, 28th. A Rough-legged Buzzard was seen in the Butley/Boyton area, 21st. A Glossy Ibis was at Minsmere on 23rd, remaining until 28th at least which rounded off an exciting February. Other February highlights: with the severe 'Cold Spell' and several inches of snow across the County on 5th, there were noted influxes of Waxwings, Goosanders, Smew and Woodcock alongside Greater White-fronts, Brent and Pale-bellied Brent Geese. A possible Baltic Gull was noted at Lackford on 6th and eight Shore Larks were on Havergate on 8th. An obliging Red-necked Grebe was discovered at Alton Water, 9th, showing well throughout the month with a good supporting cast of Slavonian Grebes, Smew and Goosander, while nearby a Black-necked Grebe showed on and off on the Orwell Estuary along Wherstead Strand from 11th with another off the pier at Gorleston, 12th. March The Glossy Ibis from February remained at Minsmere. This visitor continued to please at Eastbridge and, at times showed very well, as did the second Greenland White-front at Boyton (both remaining throughout the month), whilst the Red-breasted Goose stayed until 9th on Kirton Marshes. A Hoopoe was discovered on 14th, and was again present the following day, at Brooke Industrial Estate, Lowestoft, probably the overwintering individual from January 1 st and 2nd, with it or another seen along the Gorleston Road, 28th. A Hooded Crow was found at Boyton, 11th, giving many a chance to connect until 20th, a couple of Ravens were noted throughout the month, with a drake Green-winged Teal discovered at Minsmere, 25th, remaining on the levels until 31st. 7


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 Other March highlights: the Great Grey Shrike continued to perform at Layham, Black Brant on the Orwell Estuary, Great White Egret at Minsmere on 6th, a Yellow-browed Warbler reported from The Ravine, Lowestoft, 12th, two Common Cranes over Covehithe 21 st and good numbers of Crossbills at Hollesley, providing stunning views. There was a smattering of early common migrants and three additional Great Grey Shrikes during the month. April An Alpine Swift seen around the grain silo near ASDA, Lowestoft on 28th was seen again briefly the next day. A Little Bunting was at Landguard Bird Observatory for the day on 24th, but somehow eluded most of us! Landguard came up trumps on 10th, however, with a male Serin singing and seen in the Holm Oaks. On 30th a female Serin was found on Landguard Common and remained until early June at least. A male Serin was also noted at the Denes Oval, Lowestoft 11th and 12th. Other April highlights included: four Common Cranes over Orfordness and then Lowestoft, 1st; Great Grey Shrikes remained at Carlton Colville and Hollesley and the Glossy Ibis continued to perform well at Eastbridge until 13th. A Hooded Crow was noted at Ness Point, Lowestoft on 8th. There was a report of an early Roseate Tern from Minsmere on 25th, concluding what was in the main a very quiet month for the County. May May got off to a great start with the bird of the spring for many being the cracking surnmerplumaged Long-billed Dowitcher, the fifth for the county, found at Livermere Lake on the evening of 4th - but it only remained until the next day. A Tawny Pipit was present midafternoon and evening only at Landguard on 6th, while nearby a Grey-headed Wagtail was at Trimley Marshes SWT on 4th. On 7th two Black-winged Stilts were initially heard over Minsmere before being located on The Levels where they showed distantly for the day; on the same day a Honey Buzzard was seen over Ipswich. A White Stork roosted on roof tops in Sudbury on 10th. A Savi's Warbler was heard singing briefly at Dingle Marshes, Walberswick on 12th and at the same site an aberrant Common Swift was seen which initially caused a panic as, distantly, it displayed a white rump. Two Red-rumped Swallows were seen over pools just south of the Abbey at Minsmere mid-morning, also on 12th. Finally a single Red-rumped Swallow was noted early morning at East Lane on 13th. A female Serin on the 'Icky ridge' at Landguard was noted, 14th, possibly the same bird as that initially seen on April 30th which remained into June? The 26th was the purple day of May, with Landguard producing Greenish and Marsh Warblers, both trapped and ringed; a further Marsh Warbler was on Orfordness, and a singing Icterine Warbler was found along the disused railway track, Corton, along with a male Pied Flycatcher. A Marsh Warbler was singing and showing well at Livermere Lake from 27th to 29th. The 28th saw the first-ever British re-trap of a Dutch Marsh Warbler, which was discovered in the nets at Landguard. Also on 28th four White Storks were over Lakenheath. On 29th two Glossy Ibises were noted at North Warren in the afternoon then, presumably the same birds, roosted at Minsmere in the evening, while Landguard trapped its third Marsh Warbler in four days! A female Red-footed Falcon was found at Minsmere on 30th and remained through to 31st at least, as did the two Glossy Ibises on the levels. Other May highlights: Serin, heard only, early morning at the Customs House, Felixstowe on 5th; ring-tailed Montagu's Harrier over Orfordness, 7th; a singing Wood Warbler found on Sutton Heath, 10th continued to sing and show well through to June at least; the 11th proved a good day, with Landguard producing a Wood Warbler plus a singing Serin, and 11 Spotted Flycatchers on site and a Stone-Curlew was recorded in cliff-top fields at Corton; three Temminck's Stints showed very well at Tinker's Marshes on 20th; a Red-backed Shrike was seen at Dunwich, 22nd; a Rose-coloured Starling (probable first-summer) was seen briefly at Landguard, 25th and a Great White Egret was at Burgh Castle, 29th. 8


Review of the Year 2012 June At Minsmere RSPB there were up to two Glossy Ibises until 26th and a male Red-backed Shrike on 17th. A Woodchat Shrike was found on Walberswick Common, 10th and another at Gunton, 19th and 20th. A Bee-eater drifted south over Dingle Hills, 10th and a female Red-backed Shrike was noted at Westleton, 5th. At Landguard the female Serin was seen on several days throughout the month. Also at Landguard there was a male Red-backed Shrike on 10th and 11th and a Lesser Golden Plover sp, which was eventually identified as an American Golden Plover, 11th. An adult Rose-coloured Starling was seen briefly next to Upper Hollesley Common on 8th. Ravens were seen at both Wangford, 1 st and Melton, 28th. July A White-winged Black Tern was at Minsmere RSPB, 28th and a very similar-looking moulting adult showed extremely well at Alton Water, 29th and 30th. Another White-winged Black Tern was on Orfordness on 29th. Other highlights from Minsmere RSPB were a Ferruginous Duck from 31st, a Caspian Tern, 6th, up to two Glossy Ibises until 26th, a Red-necked Phalarope, 2nd, up to five Roseate Terns, 3rd and 18th and 19th and a Honey Buzzard on 5th. A Honey Buzzard was also seen at Westleton Walks on 24th. Single Glossy Ibises were seen at Orford on 1st, Dunwich on 15th and Southwold on 16th. At Southwold there was a massive count of 188 Mediterranean Gulls on 15th. A White-rumped Sandpiper was on Havergate Island RSPB, 22nd and up to thirteen Wood Sandpipers were on Beccles Marshes, 6th.The Serin was last seen at Landguard on 13th. Up to two Roseate Terns were at Lowestoft, 17th and 18th. At Lakenheath Fen RSPB there was still a pair of Golden Orioles present as well as up to four juvenile Common Cranes and an unseasonal Whooper Swan. August The month kicked off in good shape, at Minsmere, with the Ferruginous Duck still showing on Island Mere from 1st and a Pectoral Sandpiper noted briefly on the Lucky Pool, 8th and again on 10th. On 9th there was a Pectoral Sandpiper on Orfordness, while on 12th a Montagu's Harrier was seen to head west over Sizewell at 16:00 hours. A Red-spotted Bluethroat was trapped and ringed at Hollesley on 19th, while mid-month there was the usual increase in wader movements with good numbers of Green, Common and Wood Sandpipers being noted and a good count of eight Curlew Sandpipers seen on Orfordness on 14th. A Honey Buzzard was observed to drift south-east over the Blyth Estuary on 20th. Big news broke with a first for the county on 24th - in the form of a male Spanish Sparrow at Landguard. Although it was not relocated for a further week, it eventually brought great pleasure to many from September 1st onwards, proving to be most reliable in warmer, still evenings. September The Spanish Sparrow was still roosting at Landguard for the first half of the month. It then went missing before popping up again on 27th. A Manx Shearwater, still with down on its head, was discovered in Felixstowe Docks and later released at Landguard on 28th. A Common Rosefinch was on Orfordness, 1st. Also there were a juvenile Montagu's Harrier on 2nd and a Pectoral Sandpiper on 22nd and 23rd. Another juvenile Montagu's Harrier hunted the area of Boyton Marshes RSPB, Gedgrave Marshes and Orfordness between 12th and 23rd. At Havergate Island RSPB there was a Common Crane on 12th and 13th and a Dotterel on 21st and 22nd. 9


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 A juvenile Red backed Shrike was at Bawdsey on 22nd and 23rd and a Great White Egret flew over there twice on 8th. Yellow-browed Warblers were seen, in Suffolk, from 22nd. There were a few in Lowestoft and singles at Minsmere RSPB, Felixstowe and Kessingland. A Pectoral Sandpiper was at Minsmere from 7th to 25th and a juvenile Montagu's Harrier there from 10th to 17th. The Suffolk coastline experienced strong south-easterly winds on 23rd and scarce seabirds were seen at several locations. The best counts were four Cory's Shearwaters past Sizewell, two Sabine's Gulls and five Long-tailed Skuas past Thorpeness and four Leach's Stormpetrels past Covehithe. A juvenile Iceland Gull was seen on Covehithe Broad and nearby pig fields on 24th. A Snow Bunting was at Hen Reedbeds on 15th and 16th. October Highlights were an Olive-backed Pipit at Corton on 23rd and 25th, a Richard's Pipit at Dingle Marshes, 31st, a Red-breasted Flycatcher at Southwold, 11th, a Common Rosefinch trapped on Orfordness, 20th and a Radde's Warbler trapped nearby at Boyton on 30th. A Barred Warbler was at Minsmere from 25th to 29th. Yellow-browed Warblers were scattered along the coast and one was inland at Sutton Common. There was a handful of Shore Larks with singles at Southwold, 14th to 19th, Benacre, 15th to 18th, and Easton Bavents, 18th and four at Walberswick on 29th. Late summer visitors included a Hobby at Minsmere on 21st, a Common Redstart at Benacre, 22nd, two Turtle Doves at Bawdsey, 13th, a Pied Flycatcher at Landguard, 21st to 23rd, Whinchat at Woodbridge, 26th and a Lesser Whitethroat at Lowestoft, 31st. Inland Black Redstarts were at West Stow CP, 14th to 19th and Kedington on 30th and two were at Gedgrave, on the coast, 21st. A Hooded Crow was at Benacre on 20th and another flew south over Landguard on 7th. A Black-throated Diver was on the Orwell Estuary on 15th and a Great Northern Diver on the Stour Estuary, 14th and 15th. Seven Great Northern Divers flew past Landguard on 12th. A Slavonian Grebe was seen on Oulton Broad from 14th to 21st. A Great White Egret was seen to come in off the sea at Minsmere on 12th and another was at Orfordness between 13th and 25th. The first two returning Twite were noted at Dunwich on 10th and four were at Falkenham Marshes on 14th. There was a massive arrival of Redwings, Fieldfares, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes and several Ring Ouzels on 22nd.

10


Review of the Year 2012 November Late scarce migrants included a Richard's Pipit at Covehithe from 8th to 11th and a Barred Warbler at Minsmere, 2nd. A Shore Lark was on Havergate Island from 11th to 18th. An inland Great Northern Diver was at Lakenheath Fen RSPB on the Little Ouse, 17th and nearby an Iceland Gull was at Livermere Lake from 10th to 20th. Another Great Northern Diver was on the Orwell Estuary off Freston and Woolverstone from 7th to 23rd. Another Great Northern Diver was on the Stour Estuary on 26th. Also there were a Long-tailed Duck, 18th to 26th, up to three Slavonian Grebes, 14th to 19th and a Scaup. Up to three Slavonian Grebes were seen intermittently at Alton Water between 12th and 29th. Also at Alton Water were two Smew from 27th. The Slavonian Grebe at Oulton Broad was last seen on 5th. The first three Tundra Bean Geese for the winter were at North Warren RSPB on 27th. Other oddities included the year's only Little Auk past Thorpeness on 25th and a Hawfinch at the same location on 12th. There were several Lapland Buntings with the highest count being five at Corton. A male Snow Bunting was inland at Knettishall Airfield on 4th and 5th. Thirty-plus Twite were wintering at Walberswick/Dingle Marshes. There were many Waxwings at many sites across the county. Late summer visitors included a Lesser Whitethroat at Corton Wood, 5th, a House Martin at Corton, 12th and two Swallows at Landguard, 26th. December The first Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll in Suffolk was at Aldeburgh from 8th to 19th. This podgy bird from Greenland should have been wintering in North America. Luckily, the finder photographed the bird, allowing others to identify it later. It had a penchant for the seeds of Yellow Horned-poppy. It munched away at these unconcerned about all the interest surrounding it, just a few metres away. Fresh in at Hollesley Marshes was a first-winter Red-breasted Goose with twenty-five Greater White-fronted Geese on 27th. It then moved to North Warren RSPB from 28th. The situation was somewhat confused by the three feral/escaped Red-breasted Geese that have been in Suffolk for several years and which were also at North Warren at the same time. Two Bean Geese at North Warren caused some controversy but their massive size would seem to point to them being Taiga Bean Geese. Up to six Tundra Bean Geese were there as well as 234 Greater White-fronted Geese by the end of the year. A Great White Egret was at Alton Water until 24th. Others were at Minsmere on 3rd, Lackford Lakes SWT on 17th, over Kessingland on 17th and North Warren on 26th. A showy Great Northern Diver at Lowestoft munched on crabs from 28th. At Alton Water there was a Great Northern Diver and a few Smew. Nearby on the Orwell Estuary there were up to two Great Northern Divers, a Long-tailed Duck, Black-necked Grebe and a Velvet Scoter. And, also nearby, on the Stour Estuary there were a Great Northern Diver, up to seven Slavonian Grebes and another Long-tailed Duck. Five Tundra Bean Geese commuted between Minsmere and Westleton. Other highlights were a Grey Phalarope at Livermere Lake on 2nd and 3rd, a Leach's Storm-petrel at Landguard on 14th, a Glaucous Gull at Dingle Marshes and finally Waxwings continued to been seen across Suffolk.

11


Suffolk Birci Report 2012

Carlton and Oulton Marshes Nature Reserve 2012/13 Matthew Gooch - Suffolk Wildlife Trust, Broads Reserves Warden Introduction The reserve lies in the Lower Waveney valley in the north-east comer of the county and is part of the Broads National Park, on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. The reserve surrounds the south-west córner of Lowestoft but exhibits some examples of the best habitats in the Broads. The site is also part of the Broads Living Landscape which begins further up the valley at Barsham and continúes along the valley to the Somerleyton Estate. The Oulton and Carlton Marshes complex began life in the 1980s when Suffolk Wildlife Trust was working alongside Suffolk County Council and Carlton Marshes was a tenanted farm. The farm tenancy finished, the farmer retired and a group of local people raised funds to help Suffolk Wildlife Trust purchase the Carlton Marshes reserve at approximately 44 hectares in size. The site was, as referred to today, the 'Broads in miniature' with its complex of habitats including grazing marsh, wet woodland, fen meadows, reedbed and open water. Previously many of the marshes had little or no agricultural pesticides or fertilisers added and remained flower-studded. The Oulton Marshes complex (approximately 16 hectares) was made up originally of a few fen meadows which were under the ownership of the Oulton Poors Trust and managed on a long-term lease as well as one fen that was purchased with a legacy from a Mrs Robinson. Originally lines of cricket bat willows lined the fen meadows but many became diseased and were taken down and burnt on site so as not to spread the disease. The 1990s saw the opening of the Carlton Marshes Visitor Centre and improvements to site access and management. The Oulton and Carlton Marshes reserve complex at this time was separated, especially for management purposes, as the man-made Oulton Dyke cut the site in two. After many years of advice and consultation with landowners surrounding the reserves, opportunities started to appear to extend the reserve complex. In 2009 Suffolk Wildlife Trust began purchasing additional land at Oulton and Carlton Marshes which to date has enlarged the two sites to a total of approximately 172 hectares. This land purchasing coincided with the creation of the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme which would aim at wildlife conservation on a landscape scale; this has seen further land owners adjacent to the nature reserve going into the scheme so complementing the conservation work which occurs at Carlton and Oulton Marshes, directly increasing the conservation-managed area by an additional 520 hectares. January — March The beginning of the year saw an influx of 20 Common Redshanks Tringa totanus on January 5th onto the newlycreated wide marsh dykes and Western Marsh Harrier Richard

Alien

12


Carlton and Oulton Marshes Nature Reserve

2012/13

wet marshes where water levels are raised in the winter months to fill the dykes and feed water into the network of footdrains across the site at Oulton Marshes. The marshes in the lower reaches of this part of the reserve were previously sparsely visited by a handful of wildfowl - mainly a few Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Mute Swans Cygnus olor and Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago. The habitat management work that has developed to date now attracts around 600 Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and 100 Eurasian Teal Anas crecca to the site all winter and commonplace now are sightings of Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus, Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta and Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus. The beginning of the year saw plans being drawn up for habitat creation work on a new piece of land at Carlton Marshes which would involve planning permission as the land was deemed to be changing from agricultural use. The plan would involve creating some massive scrapes on an area of ten hectares at the western reaches of the site, which would develop into reed-fringed areas of wetland habitat in the future. Turf Pond creation funded under the Million Ponds Project saw four pools dug to try and create wet areas for pioneering fen species such as stoneworts and a range of aquatic invertebrates. Monthly numbers of Pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrhynchus reached 2000, Wigeon 600, Redshank 20 and Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa 79 at Oulton Marshes. April - June The first Common Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia was recorded on April 5th this year on the reserve at Oulton with a total of nine territories eventually being held and Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti territories reached 23 across the site. With the returning cattle in midApril the marshes began to take their shape in the landscape once again. Breeding bird highlights also included territories being held of two Eurasian Marsh Harriers Circus aeruginosus, two Eurasian Hobbies Falco subbuteo, five Water Rails Rallus aquaticus, two Lapwings, two Common Redshanks, four Barn Owls Tyto alba, two Stock Pigeons (Doves) Columba oenas, 32 Sedge Warblers Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, 15 Eurasian Reed Warblers Acrocephalus scirpaceus, ten Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus, 15 Skylarks Alauda arvensis, three Common Kingfishers Alcedo atthis, five Common Linnets Carduelis cannabina, two Common Bullfinches Pyrrhula pyrrhula and 16 Reed Buntings Emberiza schoeniclus. July - September As with many reserves at this time of year things began to quieten down as many birds now held established territories and some second broods were successful. On July 26th after earlier translocation of Fen Raft Spiders Dolomedes plantarius from test-tube-reared spiderlings and some adult females, 12 nursery webs appeared at Carlton Marshes sooner than was expected. The Fen Raft Spider normally matures to breed in years 2/3 but as well as some adult females feeling settled enough to have second broods of spiderlings at Carlton some of the year-old spiders bred - which is not atypical of spiders if conditions allow. This population is hoped to bolster the population establishing at Castle Marshes Nature Reserve, and at Carlton will provide visitors with many opportunities to catch a glimpse of the spiders in the marginal dyke vegetation. After successfully gaining planning permission the start of the scrape creation began in August on the new land purchase of 12 hectares at Carlton Marshes. The Suffolk Moth Group carried out some trapping and found notable species at Carlton Marshes which included Coleophora binderella, a scarce species in Suffolk. Oulton Marshes saw records of over 160 species including some interesting fen species - Brachmia inornatella, Aethes cnicana, Donacaula mucronellus, Phlyctaenia perlucidalis, Nascia

13


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 cilialis, Spinach Eulithis me11inata, Double Dart Graphiphora augur, Cream-bordered Green Pea Earias clorana and Shaded Fan-foot Herminia tarsicrinalis (this last species being RDB3 - ie species whose continued existence is threatened). October - December At the beginning of the wettest winter in living memory the marshes were definitely wet and monthly counts of Pink-feet reached 210, Eurasian Wigeon 144, Common Snipe 60 and Northern Lapwing 300. Winter visitors also included three Short eared Owls Asio flammeus and a male Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus. The newly-created volunteer team was attended by an average of ten people every Thursday carrying out a variety of tasks which included a lot of scrub clearance. Volunteers form such an important part of our work and many wildlife objectives are met with their contributions. The creation of the wetland habitat at Carlton Marshes continued into November moving soil to create three reed-fringed scrapes and additional wetland features in the Lower Waveney landscape. Already birds were beginning to arrive - large numbers of Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata, Northern Lapwing, Common Redshank and Green Sandpiper all taking advantage of the muddy edges. Turf Pond monitoring of invertebrates at Oulton Marshes was carried out by Adrián Chalkley and, although not even a year oíd, the ponds already produced conservation valúes as high as any water bodies that he had ever recorded. This is due to the high-value dykes that intersect the sites are a source of water life and aid the establishment of new habitats. The amazing thing is that at Oulton Marshes there is no designation, no SSSI, just that the area is managed by a conservation organisation. These results will hopefully help to extend the Carlton Marshes SSSI to include the complete complex in the future. Lastly, Higher Level Stewardship work was completed on the reserve; replacing sluices, dyke restoration and creating footdrains as well as buffering the reserve with helping neighbouring land into the new scheme which ensures that a landscape-scale conservation efíbrt is made in the Lower Waveney Valley. This area is commonly referred to as T h e Broads in miniature' with excellent examples of reedbed, wet woodland, open water, grazing marshes and fen meadows. There is continuous conservation work being carried out and this management, based on research and experience, ensures that the site is at the forefront of promoting the species associated with The Broads and beyond by practica! conservation, species' recording and environmental education.

14


A re-establishing

Common Buzzard

population

A re-establishing Common Buzzard population in north-east Suffolk, 2006-2012 P. J. Dare The recent return and ongoing re-colonisation of East Anglia by breeding Common Buzzards Buteo buteo (hereafter referred to as Buzzard) has been a major event in ornithologieal history. The process has been rapid and widely remarked upon by rural inhabitants and urban birdwatchers alike. Since these fine raptors started breeding again in north-east Suffolk in 2006 (Dare 2008), I have been monitoring the progress of their reestablishment in a large study area since 2008. This summary of the main findings updates the 2008 report, in which further dÊtails of habitats, survey methods, and Buzzard behaviour can be found. Study Area The roughly rectangular study area is located between the Blyth and Hundred river Valleys which form respectively the southern and northern limits. From its western boundary, Holton through Brampton to Ellough, it extends eastward to the coast from the Blyth estuary north to Benacre. The area surveyed was increased in 2010 from 68 km 2 to 82 km 2 to take account of small marginal changes in the Buzzard distribution. The area now includes 19 complete tetrads. The landscape is a mosaic of rieh arable farmland of broad fields, numerous hedgerows many of which retain large trees, and a good scatter of coverts and extensive old deciduous or mixed woodlands. Survey Methods Each breeding season the number of resident territorial pairs were counted and their breeding performance assessed by observing the proportion of pairs that breed and rear broods to fiedging, together with the number of young fledged. Territorial Buzzard pairs were located in spring by intensive observation of aerial behaviour on fine days from late February until mid-April. Territorial males then can be very vocal and often perform aerial displays including high-altitude display-dives (so-called 'sky-dancing'). Prolonged 'skywatching' is necessary to distinguish the frequent spring interactions between neighbouring territory owners from those involving transient Buzzards passing through at various heights (see below). Low-flying birds could be chased off quite vigorously. Prolonged observation of individuai pairs could also provide early good indications of their intended nesting woods or even nest sites. Some nests were located before egg-laying, usually those in deciduous trees that were still bare. Nests could not be inspected to determine contents (clutch/nestling numbers, prey remains) due to accessibility problems and single-handed working. In addition, to minimise disturbance during incubation and early-brood stages, most nest searching was made later, in June and early July though by then searches were often severely hampered by dense foliage and undergrowth. Thick ground cover prevented looking beneath most nests for discarded prey remains. On the other hand, the agitated behaviour of parent Buzzards and the loud food-calls of large young around fiedging time provided guidance to some nests. Population Features By 2012 the study area population had grown to 20 resident pairs (Table 1), giving an average density of 4.1 km 2 per pair, down by 40 % from 6.8 km2 in 2008. However, pairs are not dispersed evenly, most being found in, or close to, well-wooded parts of large estâtes. In the most favoured locality five pairs bred successfully in 12 km 2 in 2012 with some neighbouring nests being only about one km apart. By contrast, very few Buzzards occupied 15


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 the large and more open central area. As well as the resident Buzzards, several prospecting pairs have been observed in early spring attempting to establish new territories but without success. In 2011, two such pairs, in seemingly suitable locations in the Blyth Valley, disappeared after two months. One pair had defended its ground most vigorously since March and was last seen as the birds were prospecting a wood for nest sites in May. Nests In all, 15 diffĂŠrent occupied nests were found, predominantly in large oaks (Quercus sp) (11) with three in conifers (Pinus sp) and one in a very tali ash (Fraxinus sp). Heights were between 10-20 metres, with oak and ash nests the highest. New nests, and the first attempts by young pairs, were quite small and could easily be overlooked even before the leaf cover developed. Those in high outer forks of large oak trees resembled crow (Corvus sp) nests. A few nests have now been re-used in three successive years and enlarged on each occasion. To reach most nests, especially those in large trees, would require climbing experience with appropriate equipment. This was demonstrated in 2011 by a professional tree surgeon who reached one high oak nest and found a brood of three large young (Figure 1 ). This healthy trio of 3-4 weeks old youngsters was a most unusual sight. Studies in many parts of Britain have shown that third-hatched Buzzard chicks normally die from starvation within two weeks of hatching (e.g. Dare 1998). Plates 1 and 2: A fine trio of Buzzard chicks, at 3Vi weeks old, in NE Suffolk in early June 2011, after being ringed (C. Carter/D. Beamish). The nest was 15m up in the t o p of an oak. Whether all the chicks fledged was not confirmed. [Photos by J. Foster]

Breeding Productivity The breeding performance of this colonising Buzzard population has been impressive (Table 1) given that many pairs were newcomers and first-time breeders. Averaged over five years, 76% of pairs bred (laid eggs) and 95% of those successfully reared at least one youngster, even in the especially wet breeding season of 2012. Only three breeding pairs are known to have lost their clutches or young broods. The proportion of pairs observed breeding in this area is similar to that of Buzzards 1 have studied in western Britain (Dare 1995, 1998). It may, however, be a slight underestimate because any clutches that might have been lost soon after laying would have been overlooked. 16


A re-establishing

Common Buzzard

population

Table 1: Buzzard Numbers and Breeding Success in the Suffolk study area, 2008-2012.

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

Totals

Area (km 2 )

68

68

82

82

82

Number of pairs

10

11

17

17

20

75

Breeding: confirmed uncertain

6 4

9 2

14 3

11 6

17 3

57 (76%) 18

Breeding outcome: uncertain failed successful

0 0 6

1 0 8

0 2 12

0 0 11

0 0 17

1 2 54 (95%)

No. fledged: certain probable

6 (7)

9 (10)

13 (15)

14 (17)

19 (20)

61 (69)

Although most Buzzards bred successfully they typically fledged just one youngster per nest; only seven cases of two juveniles were confirmed. The average fledging rate of 1.1 young per successful pair was lower, apparently, than that of most western Buzzard populations (above). It should be noted, however, that this rate is almost certainly somewhat conservative. Any fledglings that kept silent in dense cover could have been missed with some not being located until the third or fourth search. The juveniles stayed with their parents until (at least) mid-August, when the field work season ended. Elsewhere, in SW England the young Buzzards start to disperse in late August, most leaving home during autumn but with occasional birds remaining with parents through their first winter (DarĂŠ 1998, Walls et al. 1998). Spring movements The spring assessments of the resident Buzzards encountered unforeseen problems when it soon became apparent that many other Buzzards, oĂąen in small groups, were present in the area on some days. Occasional prospecting settlers were to be expected but the sheer numbers involved indicated that many were transitory birds. As these could give a false impression of abundance to landowners and casual observers alike, particular attention was given to resolving this interesting aspect. Approximately 100 itinerant Buzzards were observed (and others suspected) passing across the study area on fine days in early spring, between late February and mid/late April, during the last three springs: 15 in 2010, 32 in 2011 and 54 in 2012. Sightings are classed as either: (a) true passage migrants (gliding very high overhead on fixed headings until beyond binocular or telescope range, as well as birds and groups rising high before setting off on a course), or (b) transients flying through territorial air-space at lower altitudes and within reach of territory owners. Indeed, many were detected only when noisy, defending males rose rapidly to intercept or even pursue the intruders. Migrant Buzzards, on the other hand, at times were so high that they were detected only by chance when sky-watching resident birds that were soaring at much lower altitudes. Migrant Buzzards: The 74 Buzzards classed as passage migrants were noted between February 25th and April 17th but predominantly throughout March with a peak (44% of birds) during the last ten days of that month. Most were in groups, the four largest comprising 7-9 individuĂĄis. Two of these groups, when first seen about mid-morning, rose 17


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 silently and rapidly in 'stack' formation from woods located up to nine km inland. Directions of travel, noted for 63 birds, showed that most were moving towards or parallel to the coast: 52% headed NW-NE, 16% E, 25% S, and 6% W-SW inland. Evidence of émigration was provided in 2012 when, soon after 10.00 BST on Aprii 6th, eight very high Buzzards (two and six) at Benacre were watched departing far out to sea until lost to sight in fine weather; a third group (four birds) returned after a short flight offshore (C R. Darby, pers.comm.). Ali of the dates and behaviour matched those of coastal migrants and emigrants, of Continental origin, previously recorded annually in this part of Suffolk (Dare 2006). Transient Buzzards: The 26 low-flying Buzzards in this class were usually seen in ones or twos with four together being the largest group. One half of the birds were seen in late March and none after Aprii lOth. Of the ten birds that were clearly moving through, one flew northerly (NW-NE), five easterly (E-SE) and four westerly (W-SW). The origins and destinations of these Buzzards are not known. They could have been a mix of locally-bred immatures returning to find territories, or other young birds en route back to natal areas elsewhere in Suffolk and Norfolk, or perhaps even a few long-distance migrants that had paused to rest and feed. Buzzards and landowners Buzzards are generalist raptors and versatile hunters, mainly using tree perches in woods and hedgerows but also hovering in fine weather high above broad arable fields, and even performing opportunistic short-distance pursuits. They also scavenge ali types of carrion. It would seem that their diets in this study area, or indeed anywhere in East Anglia have yet to be studied. However, like Buzzards elsewhere in southern Britain, the locai birds probably feed mainly on Rabbits Oryctolagus cuninculus and smaller mammals, occasionally including Grey Squirrels Sciurus carolinensis, birds up to medium-large species such as corvids (Corvus sp) and Wood Pigeons Columba palumbus; as well as reptiles (notably Adders Vipera berus) and amphibians (Frogs Rana sp) when in season (Dare 1989 &1998, Sim et al., 2000). In some areas Buzzards frequently take fledglings of Carrion Crows Corvus corone, Magpies Pica pica and, in the New Forest, even Jays Garrulus glandarius (Tubbs 1974). Buzzards and game-birds: This can stili be a contentious subject, particularly where commercial-scale production of Pheasants Phasianus colchicus supports lucrative shooting businesses (as the recent organised campaign to annui the Buzzard's protected status demonstrated). That game-birds, in fact, form an insignificant part of the species' diet has been confirmed by the many studies of Buzzards elsewhere in Britain (Brown 1976). Remains of adult Pheasants noted at some nests in the West Midlands were attributable to Buzzards scavenging carcasses of birds that had died from naturai causes (Sim et al. 2000). Studies on Dorset estâtes showed that Buzzard prédation on poults is minimal when compared with routine losses from other factors, and was restricted to release pens that were poorly located (Kenward et al., 2001). In my area, on the other hand, the rearing of Pheasants and partridges (Perdix sp) nowadays is relatively small in scale and confined to a few estâtes and scattered farms. Here, the landowners were well disposed towards the first Buzzards to settle in contrast with the persécution that they probably would have encountered 50 years or so ago. To date, no cases of Buzzards taking game-birds have been reported to me by locai keepers or farmers. On the contrary, some farmers consider Buzzards to be useful. One estate manager observes them to be most effective bird-scarers by keeping Wood Pigeon flocks off oilseed rape crops in the winter. One or two keepers regularly dispose of Rabbit and Grey Squirrel corpses in winter by leaving them in the open for the Buzzards and, perhaps, a passing Red Kite Milvus milvus. Nonetheless, a few individuai game-bird rearers here are now enquiring whether further increases in Buzzard numbers would cause serious losses among released stocks. Their concerns, however, may stem in part from a false impression of breeding abundance 18


A re-establishing

Common Buzzard

population

given in spring by the conspicuous and wide-ranging aerial activities of resident Buzzards and also by them also observing groups of transient birds. Conclusions Buzzards are now well established and breeding very successfully throughout this study area. There seems still to be space here for a few more pairs but the future population size will be determined by availability of secure nest sites and, ultimately, by food resources. The latter are unknown apart from potential bird prey. Comparable information is lacking for mammalian prey species' diversity, distribution and relative abundance. Of more pressing importance, however, is the need to assess Buzzard food habits in our région, particularly during the breeding season and, above ail, to receive any contributions relating to game-birds. Conservation bodies need to understand not only how Buzzards are adapting to their new environments but also to present evidence (a) to allay the concerns of small-scale local game-bird enthusiasts, and (b) to counter further inevitable pressures from the wider industry. Information gathering would entail recording prey remains at nests either by inspections or, perhaps, by deployment of video cameras. Local surveys of Buzzard breeding numbers in SufFolk would also be most useful. There is clearly considerable scope for county raptor enthusiasts to contribute by undertaking local survey projects. Acknowledgements I am much indebted to those estate owners, managers, farmers and game-keepers who allowed me to access Buzzard sites on their lands and provided useful ancillary information. Without their interest and coopération this study would have been very restricted in its scope and findings. I am grateful also to the following for informing me of interesting Buzzard sightings in the study area: John Buck, Colin Carter, Chris Darby, Derek Eaton, Fred Mallett, David Pearson, and Alee and Kay Watson; and to Derek Beamish and Jamie Foster for the excellent photographs in Plates 1 and 2. References Brown, L. (1976). British Birds ofPrey. Collins, London. Dare, P.J. (1989). Aspects of the breeding biology of the Buzzard Bateo buteo in North Wales. Naturalist, 114: 23-31. Dare, P.J. (1995). Breeding success and territory features of Buzzards Buteo buteo in Snowdonia and adjacent uplands of North Wales. Welsh Birds, 1 (2): 69-78. Dare, P.J. (1998). A Buzzard population on Dartmoor, 1955-1993. Devon Birds, 51:4-31. Dare, P.J. (2006). Spring movements of Common Buzzards along the Suffolk coast. Suffolk Birds 56: 27-38. Dare, P.J. (2008). Common Buzzards breeding again in north-east Suffolk. Suffolk Birds 58: 34-35. Kenward, R.E., Hall, D.G., Walls, S.S. & Hodder, K.H. (2001). Factors affecting prédation by Buzzards Buteo buteo on released pheasants Phasianus colchicus. J. Applied Ecology, 38: 813-822. Sim, I.M.W., Campbell, L., Pain, D.J. & Wilson, J.D. (2000). Correlates of the population increase of Common Buzzard Buteo buteo in the West Midlands between 1983 and 1996. Bird Study 47: 154-164. Tubbs, C. R. (1974). The Buzzard. David & Charles, Newton Abbot and London. Walls, S.S. & Kenward, R.E. (1998). Movements of radio-tagged Buzzards Buteo buteo in early life. Ibis 140: 561-568.

19


Suffolk Birci Report 2012

Autumn immigration of Great Cormorants in north Suffolk P. J. Dare During studies of autumn seabird movements passing Covehithe (Dare 1998 et seq.) records were kept also of the occasional Great Cormorant (hereinafter referred to as Cormorant) Phalacrocorax carbo flocks that were seen arriving from a general northeasterly direction, many of which continued inland (i.e. 'in/off sightings). Such birds clearly were migrants and could only be of the Continental race P. c. sinensis which, since the 1970s, has been increasing at large breeding colonies around fresh-waters in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and throughout central Europe (Russell et al. 1996). This subspecies has now spread into south-eastern England where, since the 1980s, colonies have been established at fresh-water sites, first in Essex in 1981 and then at several other waters in East Anglia (Newson et al. 2007). Some colonies now also contain pairs of the nominate (Atlantic) carbo, normally a coastal breeder. Cormorant numbers, of both subspecies, wintering on inland waters across southern and eastern England also have increased dramatically. Assessments of their potential impact on fresh-water fish stocks and fisheries have been carried out in response to demands for a culling programme (review in Russell et al. 1996; Newson et al. 2007). The wintering sinensis birds are drawn from local breeders augmented by autumn immigrants from Continental populations. Continental Cormorants are present in Suffolk; as confirmed by ring recoveries and sightings of colour-ringed individuals from the Netherlands and Denmark (Piotrowski 2003). They presumably also breed in the colony that was founded beside the Orwell estuary in 1998. It is surprising, therefore, that there appear to be no references to visible immigration of Cormorants in the avifaunas and county reports of Suffolk and Norfolk. The Suffolk observations given here are intended to draw attention to an interesting aspect of Cormorant behaviour, relevant to national events, that seems to have been widely neglected by seawatchers and/or county recorders. Methods Most of the Covehithe Cliffs observations were during early morning watches in 'autumn' made several times a week during July into December in each year from 1994 to 2007 and totalling more than 500 watches. Weather conditions were noted for each watch. These Cormorant records are supplemented by a few others made just to the north at Kessingland (2004-2008), during daily morning and afternoon watches (P. Read, in litt.) and in the Lowestoft area during 2007-2009 (logged on the local birding website http//home.clara.net/ammodytes). Observations (a) Numbers At Covehithe, a total of 285-295 migrating Cormorants was observed on 17 dates between July 24th and October 29th with only one flock being seen on each occasion. Elsewhere, 85 Cormorants (six flocks) were recorded at Kessingland (2004-2008) on five dates between August 13th and November 19th. In the Lowestoft area (2007-2009) there were 133 birds (four flocks) on four dates between August 2nd and October 25 th. The total of 27 sightings of autumn passage Cormorants, amounting to some 505 birds, is summarised in Figures 1 and 2. The pattern of Cormorant occurrence, shown for half-month periods (Fig. 1), fell into two distinct periods with peak numbers in the first half of August and in the latter half of October. These peaks resulted mainly from the occurrence of a few large flocks rather than 20


Autumn immigration of Great Cormorants in north Suffolk any marked increase in the number of flocks. On aggregate, not more than seven flocks were noted in any half-month period. Two-thirds of the Cormorant flocks contained fewer than 20 birds (Fig. 2), and half of them comprised fewer than ten birds. By contrast, the four largest flocks were: 90 (October 20th 2008, at Lowestoft), 60 (August 13th 2006, at Kessingland) and 50 twice (August 12th 2006 and October 6th 2007, at Covehithe). Cormorant flock size f r e q u e n c i e s

14

I B"" 1 g ^ ^ ^ 5 15 25 35 ÂŤ5 55 65 75 65 95 no. of birds per flock

Figure 2: Flock sizes of migrant Cormorants in autumn off the north Suffolk coast. (flock size values are mid-points: 1-9, 10-19, ....)

Figure 1: The occurrence pattern of migrant Cormorants in autumn off the coast of north Suffolk, [flock numbers are shown x 10 t o enhance their pattern]

(b) Behaviour (a) Covehithe: Migrating Cormorants occurred here predominantly on sunny or very bright mornings with very good or clear visibility. Winds typically were very light to light breezes (Beaufort force 2 or 3) but were moderate (f4) on five occasions and fresh (f5) once. Winds were generally from between either E - NNE (seven dates) or N - NW (six dates) but from due west on three occasions, and once in calm conditions. Times of first sightings on 16 mornings varied from 0 7 . 3 6 - 10.15h BST, equivalent to 3 5 - 2 5 0 minutes after local sunrise and irrespective of the month. There was one afternoon when ten birds flew inland past Covehithe at 14.1 lh BST (note - very few afternoon watches here). Most Cormorants were first detected (by x 30 wide-angle telescope) when well out (five km or more) and silhouetted high above the horizon. Larger flocks flew in a very characteristic manner - in ponderous, ragged and undulating lines as individual birds or clusters using heavy wing beats interspersed with short glides. They could take 5-10 minutes to reach inshore waters. The Cormorants were classified as being either (a) 'incoming' birds, or (b) 'coasting' birds which stayed well offshore and flew parallel to the coast at high (probably 50-150 m) altitudes. Of the 17 flocks observed from Covehithe, 12 (70%) were incoming, eight of which crossed the coast between Covehithe and Kessingland and headed in a westerly direction overland at about 30-50m altitude. One flock passed directly over Benacre Broad itself. However, three of the incoming flocks turned south when within 1-3 km of the coast (and one group was 'lost' during a distraction). Of the remaining five flocks, three were coasting south and two flying north. These last birds perhaps were re-orientating after striking the coast too far south, as Brent Geese often do in autumn. (b) Kessingland to Lowestoft: Further up the coast, broadly similar behaviour was reported by the observers at Kessingland and Lowestoft, although fewer Cormorant flocks were observed. However, Cormorants apparently tended to fly inland less readily at Kessingland (one of five occurrences) than they did in the north Lowestoft area (three of four recorded flocks). Discussion Autumnal immigration of sinensis Cormorants from the Continent has been confirmed by ringing studies whereas visible migration hitherto appears not to have been documented. 21


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 The temporal pattern of the Suffolk observations corresponds with known movement periods of the migratory Continental populations. These perform a post-breeding dispersal of adults from late July prior to the start of their autumn migration. Birds from Denmark and the Netherlands then head south-west into France, Iberia and Tunisia for the winter (Cramp and Simmons 1977) but, as noted already, ringing has confirmed that some reach this country. The north Suffolk observations indicated that Cormorants were arriving from a northeasterly source, most likely the Netherlands coast, some 225 km (140 miles) distant. Their morning arrival times off Covehithe, within 30 minutes to four hours after sunrise, and slow flight suggest that birds either had started their crossing at night or had rested overnight on the sea in the Southern Bight. Interestingly, there are two records of Cormorants seen roughly 230 and 80 kilometres off north Suffolk but numbers or other details were not given (Tasker et al. 1987). These sightings, regarded as being unusually far offshore, were made during the extensive North Sea Seabird Survey programme that was undertaken in the early 1980s by the Nature Conservancy Council. Incoming Cormorant numbers observed in north Suffolk were probably only a small fraction of the overall immigration because sea-watches were limited to a small stretch of coastline and mainly to mornings often when weather conditions would have been unsuitable for Cormorant migration. Elsewhere, other flocks surely were noticed but not reported. Acknowledgements I am grateful to Paul Read and Andrew Easton for providing Cormorant data from Kessingland and Lowestoft, respectively. References Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. (eds.) (1977). The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 1. Oxford University Press. Dare, P.J. (1998). Seabird movements and abundance off north Suffolk, 1994-96. Suffolk Birds 46: 16-36. Newson, S.E., Marchant, J.H., Ekins, G.R. & Sellers, R.M. (2007). The status of inlandbreeding Great Cormorants in England. British Birds 100: 289-299. Piotrowski, S. (2003). The Birds of Suffolk. London. Russell, I.C., Dare, P.J., Eaton, D.R. & Armstrong, J.D. (1996). Assessment of the problem of fish-eating birds in inland fisheries in England and Wales. Directorate of Fisheries Research Report, Lowestoft. Tasker, M.L., Webb, A., Hall, A.J., Pienkowski, M.W. & Langslow, D.R. (1987). Seabirds in the North Sea. Nature Conservancy Council Final Report, Aberdeen.

22


Lesser Black-backed

Gull and Herring Gull breeding colonies in Suffolk

Lesser Black-backed Gull and Herring Gull breeding colonies in Suffolk Steve Piotrowski Introduction The North Sea has a long history as being one of the richest fishing grounds in British waters. Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth were formerly two of the country's most prolific fishing ports where thousands of tonnes of fish were landed annually. Yarmouth was primarily the main herring and mackerel port, although during a brief spell in the 1880s, it was Britain's largest trawling port. The mackerel created a spring and summer season industry, whilst the herring season extended from September through until early December. Lowestoft on the other hand was primarily a trawling port, catching white fish (cod, plaice, etc.) all the year round, although in autumn it had a large herring industry, but certainly not on the scale of that of Yarmouth. Lowestoft once had the largest near-water fleet of trawlers in England. Herrings and sprats wintered in the North Sea occurring in massive shoals which were thought to be an infinite supply of food. Smokehouses for kipper production were prominent along the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts and an extensive area of the Lowestoft Denes was set aside for net repairing and drying. There are many relics of this era still surviving today. Unfortunately, these golden years were short-lived and over-fishing led to the herring's near-extinction. Lowestoft and Yarmouth thrived on their fishing trade and many species of gull were regular visitors to the port. Fish was once recognised as an affordable and plentiful part of our staple diet and early-morning crowds awaiting the return of the fishing fleet were a common sight. It was then common practice for fish to be processed on the quayside and any wastage would be tossed aside much to the delight of scavenging gulls. It is fair to say that the people of north-east Suffolk and south-east Norfolk would have been pleased to have gulls, the natural cleaners, as part of their community. The ports would surely have been very slippery and smelly places had it not been for birds undertaking this important role. However, the fall in the tonnage of fish landed depleted the gulls' food supply, so they had to adapt. Fortunately for the gulls, our throw-away society developed a taste for 'fast food' and this has become an alternative source of discarded waste, which the gulls can now rely upon to sustain their dietary needs. Those half-eaten burgers or left-over chicken and chips are 'hoovered-up' by the gulls well before we have stirred from our beds. Other ways in which the larger gull species' behaviour has changed is their transfer from natural breeding sites to buildings in urban resorts. Several have taken to breeding in large numbers on buildings, not only in Lowestoft's port area, but also on the roofs of both commercial and residential buildings throughout the town. Origins of roof-nesting gulls Researchers working at the nearby colony of Orfordness have noted gulls deserting their natural colony in favour of nesting at much safer locations such as buildings in and around our coastal resorts. The Orfordness colony has been monitored since 1968 and grew from a handful of pairs to reach a peak of 24,450 pairs in 1998. However, since then foxes have moved in to take advantage of both the harbourage and feeding opportunities and the colony is now very much in decline. The knock-on effect is that the equilibrium of the gulls' nesting habitat has been challenged, whilst the feeding opportunities around the 'safe' harbourage are not. As a result, the gulls are failing to produce young and many have moved on. The Orfordness colony's dramatic downturn in fortunes has culminated in almost-complete failures in breeding in recent summers and, as a result, the site now hosts only 730 nesting pairs. This has resulted 23


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 in the gulls having to accept that if they are to survive they need to adapt further and also seek alternative, more suitable, habitats to secure future breeding opportunities. Why Urban Areas? Fishing ports and hamlets have always been attractive to gulls and the larger towns have seen much development. Perhaps huge, flat-topped warehouses popping up almost overnight resemble sea cliffs to a gull's eye? In some instances, we have even provided them with a flat shingle roof, which very much resembles an undisturbed beach. Old asbestos roofs are particularly liked by the gulls as the varying shades of grey, green and yellow lichens and mosses provide the ideal camouflage, the spotty chicks blending in nicely with their surroundings. The roofs are virtually predator-free, being inaccessible to natural predators unlike the open grassland nesting area on Orfordness. The gulls will occasionally prey on each others' chicks, but with so many roofs around there is not so much territorial squabbling as seen on more natural sites. Movements from Orfordness Landguard Bird Observatory has been involved in the fitting of bright red, inscribed rings to the legs of gull chicks. From the total of 12,000 gulls ringed on Orfordness up to and including 2011, nearly half have been colour-ringed. The movements from the colony have then been closely monitored locally and, as far as the Lesser Black-backed Gull is concerned, along its migration path to NW Africa. East coast towns are now hosting nesting birds as a result of the exodus of gulls from Orfordness. Others have moved to natural sites in the Netherlands with many in the Rotterdam area and several in the Zeeland region. One was reported as probably breeding on the island of Schiermonnikoog in 2001. In Belgium, several are breeding around Zeebrugge and in France two Orfordness-reared birds are at Le Clipon (near Dunkirk) and another at Calais. It is in England where dispersing gulls are nesting on roofs. Up to 2006, there had been 58 records of 38 individual colour-ringed birds noted within the Port of Felixstowe. Others are known to be nesting on industrial-estate roofs in Ipswich and Southtown, Great Yarmouth and on both residential and industrial roofs in Beccles and Lowestoft. There are one or two Orfordness protĂŠgĂŠes in Worcester, Harlow, Greater London and East Sussex. As yet, there is no evidence of known individuals moving from one site to another. The 2012 large-gull census One proposal was to complete a full census of all known large gull colonies in Suffolk and south Norfolk to determine the number of gulls nesting at each site together with the proportion of Lesser Black-backed Gulls to Herring Gulls. This could be compared with historic data to determine whether there had been a rise or fall of the populations at each site. Timing In normal years, most breeding pairs are on territory and incubating eggs by the second week of May. However, 2012 will be remembered as having the second-wettest April on record and one of the coldest. The first half of May was also cold and wet. This had the effect of delaying nesting by at least one week and many nesting attempts were thwarted by the nests being washed off the roofs by torrential rain. However, due to time constraints, the census was carried out between May 5th and 15th. Methodology Access to some of the properties was difficult and viewing of all the roofs not possible. Good vantage points were gained wherever possible and the actual nests were counted on exposed roofs, gulleys and gutters. When the surveyors were faced with a series of roofs 24


Lesser Black-backed

Gull and Herring Gull breeding colonies in Suffolk

that were known to host nests, but not all of the roofs were visible, an estimate of the population was achieved by determining the overall density. This was achieved by counting those that could be seen and multiplying up by the number of roofs being used by the gulls. When the only access was at ground level, the surveyors waited for a 'spook' and then divided the number of gulls in the air by two. Access permission was sought from landowners to gain good vantage points wherever possible. The colonies South Norfolk/Breydon Estuary areas Norwich The Norfolk Breeding Atlas (Taylor and Marchant, 2011) makes reference to roofnesting Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the centre of Norwich, but no numbers are given. There is also a reference to a pair of Herring Gulls which 'possibly' nested in 2005. The 2010 Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report makes no mention of roof-nesting gulls anywhere in Norfolk. Roof-nesting undoubtedly takes place annually, in the city centre, but the author is unaware of a specific survey being completed and it is believed that numbers are relatively low. Breydon Water (source Peter Allard) A single pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls has nested on a Breydon channel marker post since 2009 and successfully reared chicks in each year. It was present again in 2012. Great Yarmouth (source Peter Allard) Roof-nesting gulls have frequented buildings in Great Yarmouth since 1995 when five pairs of Lesser Black-backed and three pairs of Herring Gulls nested. A study for the whole of the Yarmouth area showed that this breeding population increased dramatically to 103 and 50 pairs respectively by 2002 and 790 and 250 pairs by 2006. The latter prompted the publication of a paper: "Population Explosion of Nesting Gulls in Great Yarmouth " in the 2006 Norfolk Bird Report (Allard 2006). A further increase was noted during the May 2012 study when 743 breeding pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 434 pairs of Herring Gulls were noted. Southtown/Gorleston (source Peter Allard) Roof-nesting has taken place at industrial units since 1999. The 2012 study revealed 467 breeding pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 195 pairs of Herring Gulls. Waveney Valley Lowestoft (source Piotrowski 2003 and Derek Beamish) Rooftop-nesting became a feature of coastal industrial areas from 1996, when gulleries became established on the roofs of a workshop at Lowestoft. The Lesser Black-backed Gull population increased dramatically from 15 pairs in 1999 to 750 in 2001 and a few pairs spread to nearby residential areas where they nested on chimney tops. Herring Gulls reached a peak of 250 pairs also in 2001. In 2008, the gull population in and around Lowestoft could have reached a staggering 4500 pairs decreasing to 3,500 in 2011 (Andrew Easton pers comm). However, these two estimates were based on birds frequenting the area rather than an actual count of nests. Gulls have the habit of bathing just before they fly out to sea to roost each evening and as the young birds leave their nesting areas these concentrations increase spectacularly. In recent years, massive flocks have congregated in Lake Lothing on summer evenings with counts exceeding 12,000 birds. The 2012 study revealed 627 nesting pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 496 pairs of Herring Gulls, a population which is significantly down on recent estimates. It is possible that control measures, together with April's torrential downpours, had dissuaded gulls from nesting this year, but even if we assumed that all birds present were breeding, then the nesting numbers would rise only to 817 and 756 pairs respectively. 25


Suffolk Birci Report 2012

Norfolk.

Beccles (source Piotrrnvski 2009) Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls have nested on the rooftops of industrial and residential buildings since 2006 and, in 2009, a mixed colony of around 50 pairs nested on waste ground adjacent to Rainbow Superstore and on the roofs of residential properties in Station Road. This caused a public outcry as the eerie calls of hungry chicks disrupted the sleep pattern of local people during a particularly balmy summer. As a result, extreme control measures were introduced which were funded by Beccles Town Council. Measures included hawk flying and elaborate devices to dissuade the birds from nesting. A similar number of birds nested on the roofs of M & H Plastics on the edge of the town, but the owners also employed control measures including the hiring of pest control contractors and the regular flying of Harris Hawks during the breeding season. As a result, only a fraction of the birds which formerly nested are now present. The 2012 study revealed a total of 34 pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and five pairs of Herring Gulls, which is well down on the 200 pairs which nested in 2009. Ellough (source Steve Piotrowski) Small numbers of Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls took up residence at Ellough Industrial Estate in 2011 and there were 12 and six breeding pairs respectively in 2012. Pakefield Roof-nesting was first noted at South Lowestoft Industrial Estate in 2006 and numbers have risen steadily. In 2012, there were 31 nesting pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 52 pairs of Herring Gulls. 26


Lesser Black-backed

Gull and Herring Gull breeding colonies in Suffolk

Bungay (source Piotrowski 2009) A single pair nested on the roof of Clay's Printing Factory in 2007. No subsequent nesting has been noted in the town. Central Coastal Zone Minsmere (source Suffolk Birds) Up to three pairs of Herring Gulls nested annually at Minsmere from 1968-1981. Lesser Black-backed Gulls regularly nest on The Scrape, but their numbers are carefully controlled. A total of six pairs bred there in 2010, but only one pair was nesting in May 2012. This followed a period of severe flooding caused by torrential rain. Aldeburgh (source Steve Piotrowski) A number of pairs of Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls have nested on the roofs of residential properties since 2006. Orfordness (source Piotrowski (2003) and Mike Marsh) In 1968, a mixed colony of Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls was discovered on Orfordness. Numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls increased steadily from 100 pairs in 1968 to 1,000 by 1980, ,5000 by 1984, 9,043 by 1993 and 19700 by 1998. There has since been a spectacular fall in the Orfordness breeding population down to 4,000 pairs in 2006 and only 900 fiairs in 2009, 550 pairs in 2010 and 640 pairs in 2012. Herring Gulls were never so plentiful, but nevertheless, numbers present were of national significance when, in 1998, as many as 4750 pairs were present. Colony numbers rose dramatically from three pairs in 1963 to 40 in 1968 and 1,250 in 1973, but fell to 90 pairs in 2012. Havergate Island (source Piotrowski 2003, Rachel Coombes and David Fairhurst) Three Lesser Black-backed Gull chicks which hatched from a single nest on Havergate Island in 1957 created the first confirmed breeding record in Suffolk and this was followed by the first breeding record of Herring Gull the following year. Two pairs bred there during the following summer, but, thereafter, nesting was discouraged for the sake of a thriving Avocet colony. However, in recent years culling has no longer been practised and larger gulls are now encouraged to breed. A series of counts was undertaken between March 2nd and April 27th, 2012, revealing 1,171 breeding pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls based on the number of birds present on the latter date. By May 19th, 2012, there were also 300 breeding pairs of Herring Gulls. Onvell Estuary/Gipping Valley Port of Felixstowe (source Piotrowski 2003, Rock 2007 and Eric Patrick) In 1997, warehouse roofs, silos and sheds at the Port of Felixstowe were occupied by Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls and numbers built quickly to around 200 pairs of each species by 2000. For the next six years, this breeding population was monitored annually by Peter Rock and increased steadily to reach a peak of 1,467 individuals in 2006 (Rock 2007). Control measures were already underway and gull nests were cleared from sensitive areas, particularly those where foods were being stored. From 2007, such controls were accelerated and falconers were employed for the first time. In 2011, a considerable proportion of the Port's gull population nested on the ground in an area recently cleared to make way for the new rail terminal. Work is now underway for this project, so falcons have been used to deter nesting birds. The 2012 study shows that there has been a significant decrease in the numbers of gulls breeding in and around the port with Lesser Black-backed numbers falling by 32% but Herring Gulls holding their own. East Ipswich (source Piotrowski 2003 and Eric Patrick) Roof-nesting was first noted in 1996 when several pairs occupied warehouses at Ransome's Industrial Estate on the eastern outskirts of the town. The 2012 study revealed a total of 129 nesting pairs (93 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 36 Herring Gulls), which is a significant decrease on recent years and undoubtedly a result of control measures that 27


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 have been introduced to the site. Some of the larger warehouses are now shrouded in netting and pest control contractors have been employed at the site to clear nests from the roofs. Several hundred gulls have nested at Crane's disused ironworks factory in recent years, but this was being demolished at the time of the study. Ipswich Docks and Town Centre (source Piotrowski 2003 and Eric Patrick) The gulls spread further and further into Ipswich and new colonies were appearing annually during the late 1990s. By 2002, over 100 pairs were nesting at four industrial sites close to the Rivers Orwell and Gipping and they are now present at ten sites around the dock/town centre areas. These colonies are particularly difficult to monitor as many roofs cannot be seen from ground level and there are few accessible vantage points. However, the 2012 study revealed 187 breeding pairs - 133 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 54 Herring Gulls. Sites Brevdon Water Great Yarmouth Gorleston/Southtown Lowestoft Pakefield Ellough Beccles Bungay Minsmere Aldeburgh Orfordness Havergate Island Felixstowe East Ipswich Ipsw ich Docks & town centre West Ipswich Great Blakenham Needham Market Stowmarket Mendlcsham TOTAL

LBBG 1 743 467 627 31 12 34 0 1 1 640 1171 675 93 133 36 1 0 6 22 4694

HG 0 434 195 469 52 6 5 0 0 12 90 300 435 36 54 12 0 0 0 0 2100

Total 1 1177 662 1096 83 18 39 0 1 13 730 1471 1110 129 187 48 I 0 6 22 6794

Status 1 < < > < < > > > > > > > < > < > < <

Surveyor Peter Allard Peter Allard Peter Allard Derek Beamish Derek Beamish Steve Piotrowski Steve Piotrowski Steve Piotrowski Steve Piotrowski Jon Gibbs Mike Marsh Rachel Combes Eric Patrick Eric Patrick Eric Patrick Eric Patrick John Walshe John Walshe John Walshe John Walshe

Table 1. Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull colonies in Suffolk and south Norfolk In May 2012.

West Ipswich (source Piotrowski 2003 and Eric Patrick) Industrial estates in west Ipswich were colonised in 2006 and "substantial numbers" were nesting there in 2008. In May 2012, 36 pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 12 pairs of Herring Gulls were present. Bird scarers were in operation. Great Blakenham (source John Walshe) A single Lesser Black-backed Gull's nest was found in 2012, but viewing conditions were difficult and the surveyor suspected that other nests may have been present. Needham Market (source John Walshe) One pair nested on the old Vandenburgh factory roof in 2011, but this building was being demolished in 2012 and no breeding gulls were found in the town. Stowmarket (source John Walshe) Roof-nesting was likely in 2009, but first confirmed in 2010, when a pair of Lesser Blackbacked Gulls was noted in an industrial area off Gipping Way. A single pair also nested there in 2011. The 2012 study revealed a minimum of four pairs, although this was thought to be an underestimate as only limited views of some of the roofs could be achieved. Mendlesham (source John Walshe) A single pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls nested in 2009 on the roof of the Lumipaper 28


Lesser Black-backed

Gull and Herring Gull breeding colonies in Suffolk

factory, increasing to three pairs in 2010 and 2011 and then to 22 pairs in 2012. Statutory and Voluntary Wildlife Designations The two principal species involved are Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. From a conservation perspective the Herring Gull is endangered and appears on the red list of'Birds of Conservation Concern', the same status as the RSPB's flagship bird, the Avocet, and Britain's best-loved bird, the Barn Owl. The Lesser Black-backed Gull appears on the amber list. However, larger gulls have few friends and it would be an unwelcome nester on RSPB nature reserves such as Minsmere (but not on Havergate) owing to its habit of preying on the small chicks of wading birds. The Aide-Ore is designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA), is a Ramsar Site and a European Marine Site. Lesser Black-backed Gull is one of the species listed for which favourable conditions should be maintained. Figures derived from the JNCC Seabird Monitoring Programme database show a four-year mean for the breeding population of 14074 pairs for the period 1994-1997 with the site-specific target range and measures remaining the same. Natural England's draft proposals for the SPA are as follows:â&#x20AC;˘ Maintain population within acceptable limits (generic threshold system to be adopted). â&#x20AC;˘ Where the limits of natural fluctuations are not known, maintain the population above 75% of that at designation - loss of 25% or more unacceptable. â&#x20AC;˘ Counts or estimates of numbers of breeding pairs to be carried out annually. As there is clear evidence that a significant proportion of the roof-nesting birds in East Anglia are direct descendants of birds breeding on Orfordness or adults being forced to find alternative breeding sites due to unfavourable conditions, then displaced birds also warrant protection. Anti-gull measures Businesses have adopted a variety of techniques to discourage the gulls from selecting their buildings as nesting sites. Many have employed pest control contractors who destroy eggs and nests, whilst others have shrouded their buildings with netting and fixed antiperching spikes to the perimeter edges. Falconers have been employed to make regular visits to the breeding sites during the nesting season. Plastic Eagle Owls and falcons have been erected and, in some instances, loud hailers have been installed which transmit a gull's alarm call. Whether any of these methods are effective is open to question and many seem to have no noticeable effect. A pair of Herring Gulls regularly nests immediately underneath a loud hailer at Lowestoft and gulls have used the anti-perching spikes that surround many chimneys as added protection against airborne predators, their chicks sitting snugly amongst the prongs. Netting is an expensive and high-maintenance strategy and may only act as a deterrent for a few years. Weathering may soon cause it to sag and the gulls will then nest on top of it. Gulls are often seen perched on the plastic Eagle Owls. Town councils have also become involved and funding has been provided to discourage gulls from nesting close to residential areas. Large gulls are notorious predators and have been attributed, on several occasions, to failures in the fledging success of Havergate Island's wader and tern colonies. Breeding attempts at Minsmere and Havergate have been carefully controlled to minimise the effect. Discussion A complete census of East Anglia's roof-nesting gulls was long overdue. Data have been supplied for the various colonies over the years, but coordinated counts in a small window of time have provided a good estimate of the number of birds involved. Control measures could well displace birds, so a season's maxima of birds frequenting each site may be exaggerated. 29


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 It is likely that the foraging range of the gulls on Orfordness and from the roofs at coastal resorts will include the area earmarked for wind-farm development. It is certain that there will be some collisions involving foraging gulls, but evidence is needed to determine whether such incidents would significantly affect local populations. Large gulls have collided with the blades of the land-based Ness Point turbine, but incidents are difficult to monitor as foxes regularly patrol the area, quickly clearing up the corpses (Andrew Eastonpers. comm.). Large gulls appear to roost on the sea during the hours of darkness, so spinning turbines could cause an unknown number of casualties. Breeding gull numbers have stabilised at Orfordness in recent years albeit at a much lower level than in the late 1990s. The exodus of breeding birds to urban areas to nest on rooftops will continue. Some of the methods used by commercial companies to deter gulls from breeding may well be successful, but displaced birds may then choose to breed more in residential areas, where ordinary people may either lack the funds to deter the birds or may even encourage them to nest. Already chimney pot nesting is taking place in Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, Lowestoft, Beccles, Aldeburgh and Ipswich causing much concern to residents. The 2012 study revealed a total of4,694 Lesser Black-backed and 2,100 Herring Gulls, which is well down on the peak numbers of the late 1990s and generally down on recent estimates. Lesser Black-backed Gulls are generally decreasing and Herring Gulls are holding their own and the ratio is now 2:1 in favour of LBBG while for many years it had been 3:1. During 2010 and 2011, the Department of Energy and Climate Change funded a project that involved 25 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls being fitted with solar-powered GPS tags. This technology should result in unprecedented details on these birds' location, altitude and acceleration and show how gulls might interact with offshore wind farms. The headlines will undoubtedly focus on the migration patterns of these individuals, but hopefully details of their foraging ranges and roosting areas will also be forthcoming. Recommendations Further census work is necessary to determine the fledging success of the breeding populations in light of extreme control measures taking place throughout Suffolk and south Norfolk. Colour-ringing and satellite-tracking work should continue at Orfordness and Havergate Island to determine foraging ranges, foraging times, roosting areas and movements between sites. Acknowledgements Thanks are due to the surveyors who completed the gull census in a limited time period, namely Peter Allard, Derek Beamish, Jon Gibbs, Eric Patrick and John Walshe. Debbie Coe assisted with access arrangements to the Port of Felixstowe and accompanied the surveyor during a tour of the site and Jon Gibbs organised access to Aldeburgh Church tower. The author is indebted to Andrew Easton (Lowestoft) and Mike Marsh (Orfordness) for help and advice and to Paul Oldfield for carrying out additional ad hoc counts at Felixstowe. Thanks also to Andrew Easton for the use of his photographs (not included here - editor) and to Peter Allard and Mike Marsh for their comments on earlier drafts. References Allard, P. 2006 Population Explosion of Nesting Gulls in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk Bird and Mammal Report 2006 325-328. Piotrowski, SH. 2003 The Birds of Suffolk. A. & C. Black Publishers Ltd. London. Rock, P. 2007 Roof-nesting gulls at the Port of Felixstowe. Suffolk Birds, 56:17-21. Taylor, M. and Marchant, J. 2011 The Norfolk bird atlas: summer and winter distributions 1999-2007. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford.

30


Progress Report on breeding Dartford

Warblers

Progress Report on breeding Dartford Warblers on Upper Hollesley, Lower Hollesley and Sutton Commons Mick Wright The Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata is an amber-listed bird of conservation concern, a nationally-rare breeding species and one of the most characteristic birds of lowland heath. After an absence from Suffolk of more than 50 years a Dartford Warbler was present at Felixstowe Ferry on November 29th and 30th 1987. Single birds were noted in the following years and by 1995 Dartford Warblers were holding territories at three sites and breeding was confirmed the following year. The Dartford Warbler population continued to increase and rapidly colonized its former sites in the Sandling Heaths. In 2006 they were breeding at 21 sites involving just over 120 pairs. In 2006, with this expansion in mind, and following discussions with John Dries and David Mason (Sandlings Manager), the Newton and Wright ringing group (N&WRG) embarked on a project to individually colour-ring nestlings of Dartford Warblers on Upper Hollesley and Lower Hollesley Commons. The aim of the project is to monitor movements on their breeding grounds and between sites, detect any longer-distance movements, help to confirm the actual numbers of pairs and to find out how far birds move between nesting attempts. In addition a methodology should be developed for recording habitat and mapping breeding territories. The project was made possible by BTO-accredited agents, John Dries, Richard Tomlinson and Graham Button who had the time and nest-finding skills. The young birds were ringed with a colour ring above the metal BTO ring on the tarsus of the right leg and two colour rings on the tarsus of the left leg. The N&WRG colour-ringed the young birds on Upper and Lower Hollesley Commons. Since 2011 Steve Abbott has colour-ringed the young on Sutton Common. This progress report documents some of the results relating to breeding and pulii numbers to date. Habitats and territories will be discussed when a full report is written. Between the breeding seasons of 2006 and 2010 inclusive 69 pulii were individually colour-ringed (see Table 1). Over the same period ten adults were individually colour-ringed.

Upper Hollesley Lower Holleslev TOTAL

2006 13 pulii 5 pulii 18 pulii

2007 4 pulii 18 pulii 22 pulii

2008 Nil 12 pulii 12 pulii

2009 Nil 13 pulii 13 pulii

2010 No birds 4 pulii 4 pulii

Table I.The number of Dartford Warbler pulii colour-ringed on Upper and Lower Hollesley Commons 2006 to 2010.

Following a long run of mild winters, which saw the population of Dartford Warblers increase, the cold winter of 2009/2010 was responsible for the breeding numbers plummeting in 2010. There were no breeding Dartford Warblers recorded on Upper Hollesley Common, down from 14 pairs in 2009 (see Table 2). On Sutton Common numbers were also down from 20 pairs to three pairs. The numbers on Lower Hollesley Common remained stable (N Mason). However, despite there being seven pairs on Lower Hollesley only five nests were found and only four pulii were colour-ringed; the four young in another nest were ringed (not colour-ringed); one nest failed because of severe weather and others because of prĂŠdation. The habitat is substantially different on Lower Hollesley compared with that on Upper Hollesley and Sutton Commons, which may well help to explain why the breeding numbers are more stable on Lower Hollesley. There is a good amount of thick gorse for shelter and 31


Suffolk Birci Report 2012 finding invertebrates such as spiders. It is possible that birds have moved to Lower Hollesley Common in severe weather. Upper Hollesley

2006 7

2007 8

2008 9

2009 14

2010 0

Lower Hollesley

4

5

5

7

7

Table 2. The number of Dartford Warbler pairs breeding on Upper and Lower Hollesley Commons 2006 to 2010.

DĂźring the period 2006 to 2010 there was only one re-sighting, which was of an individuai ringed on Lower Hollesley Common and seen 48 days later at the same location. In 2011 on Upper Hollesley Common the territories were larger than seen in previous years; singing males were found in many areas which held pairs in 2009 (Tomlinson and Button 2011). On Lower Hollesley Common the 2010 breeding season was preceded by a severe winter but there didn't seem to be any major decline in pairs/territories, although only one of the five nests found managed to fledge any young. However, in 2011 there was a decline in breeding numbers following a severe cold speli with December 2010 being the coldest-ever recorded December nationally. There were six nests involving three pairs; the female disappeared from one after eggs failed to hatch and the other five nests fledged young successfully (Dries 2011).

Upper Hollesley Lower Holleslev Sutton Common Totals

2011 16 pulii 15 pulii 16 pulii 47 pulii

2012 21 pulii 13 pulii 16 pulii 50 pulii

Table 3. The number of Dartford Warbler pulii ringed on Upper Hollesley, Lower Hollesley and Sutton Commons 2011 and 2012.

Upper Hollesley Lower Holleslev Sutton Common

2011 7

3 2

2012 5 4 4

Table 4. The number of Dartford Warbler pairs breeding on Upper Hollesley, Lower Hollesley and Sutton Commons 2011 and 2012.

The breeding populations increased still further in 2012 resulting in 50 pulii being ringed, the highest number to date (see Table 3). During these last two years, after seven years of individually colour-ringing pulii, observations of colour-ringed birds were being recorded. The most interesting was of siblings in a brood of four ringed on Sutton Common in 2011, which paired and reared three broods of their own on Upper Hollesley Common in 2012. In addition to the above there were a further four birds colour-ringed on Sutton and one on Lower Hollesley Common which moved to Upper Hollesley Common to breed and a colourringed female breeding by Barthorp's Folly (on Lower Hollesley Common) which was ringed in 2011 on Lower Hollesley Common. The colour-ringing project is set to continue in 2013 with further work on habitat monitoring and with a greater effort to colour-ring adult birds. Please report any colourringed birds to Mick Wright (kupel515@sky.com or 01473 721486) or Paul Newton and please stay on the footpaths in these heathland habitats to prevent disturbance of nests and nesting activity. 32


Progress Report ort breeding Dartford

Warbiers

Acknowledgements Thanks to Lynne Wright and Anna Alam for proof-reading drafts of this report and for their helpful comments. Thanks also to Suffolk Wildlife Trust and their staff, Dorothy Casey, Ben Calvesbert, Dave Mason and voluntary Warden Nick Mason. Thanks also to the nest finders, Graham Button, John Dries and Richard Tomlinson, without whose huge commitment of time on the heaths made the whole project viable. Finally thanks to all the ringers Steve Abbott, Anna Alam, Dean Backhouse, Paul Newton, Eric Patrick and Mick Wright. References Dries J. Annual reports to Suffolk Wildlife Trust Mason N. 2010 Annual report to the Forestry Commission Tomlinson R. and Button G. Annual reports to Suffolk Wildlife Trust

33


Suffolk Birci Report 2012

Suffolk's first Spanish Sparrow John Richardson I was visiting the Bird Observatory at Landguard Nature Reserve at Felixstowe on August 24th 2012 for only the second time in my life, as a guest of my friend Eddie Marsh. After observing birds from the viewpoint for a couple of hours I decided to stretch my legs by going for a walk on the heath below, where we had seen Whinchats Saxicola rubetra earlier. I was scanning the brambles in front of the Observatory and noticed three sparrows (Passer sp) perched high on a bramble branch. The one in the middle looked like a Tree Sparrow P montanus, so I took four quick pictures with my camera before they flew off. I then took a closer look on the camera because I was now not positive that it was a Tree Sparrow. I phoned Eddie and after ten minutes he came down with Paul Holmes who checked out the image on my camera and identified it as a Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis which Eddie then confirmed. Then they announced, to my amazement, that it was the first Spanish Sparrow ever to be found in Suffolk. Paul Holmes then phoned Lee Woods at Suffolk Bins. It was announced on the Alert System and within an hour several local birders had arrived on site and unsuccessfully failed to relocate it. The bird was not seen again until September 1st 2012 adjacent to the Customs' House along Viewpoint Road. I consider myself to be very fortunate to find a "first for Suffolk" bearing in mind that I only took up birding again after a very long absence when I semi-retired in 2010. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time! Brief History of the Spanish Sparrow in Britain Britain's first Spanish Sparrow was discovered by Cliff Waller on June 9th 1966 in the Bristol Channel, on Lundy, where it remained until June 19th. Two days earlier he had found Britain's first and only Rufous-sided Towhee, also on Lundy. Cliff Waller was subsequently the Site Manager of a string of National Nature Reserves along the Suffolk Coast which included Walberswick. We had to wait six years for Britain's second Spanish Sparrow - October 1972 on St Mary's, Scilly. Five years later the third, in October 1977, was also on Scilly on Bryher. We had to wait sixteen years for the fourth sighting in May 1993 - a bird, for one day, in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Three months later the fifth was found on Orkney on North Ronaldsay (trapped August 11th) where it was present for nine days. The sixth was found in Waterside in Cumbria on July 13th 1996 where it stayed for an unprecedented two and a half years, being last seen December 13th 1998. The seventh was found on December 12th 2000 in Cawsand, Cornwall. The eighth was found in Calshot, Hampshire on December 3rd 2011 staying until, at least, January 2012. Then came my little contribution to Suffolk birding when I found the ninth Spanish Sparrow for Britain and the first ever for Suffolk. [Spanish Sparrow description by Nigel Odin Basically very similar to an adult male House Sparrow P. Domesticus in size, plumage and behaviour except for the following features (see photo):- Cap "reddy-brown" with paler tips to the feathers. Supercilium white running from the bill above and slightly behind the eye. Dark line below this running from the bill through the eye to the "reddy-brown" cap which extended down the back of the neck. Cheeks dirty white. Below this part of the

34


Suffolk's first Spanish

Sparrow

"reddish-brown" cap/neck an area extending in a "half-moon shape from the neck forwards under part of the dirty white checks. A pale buff rĂŠgion extending below this area from the pale-tipped black bib towards nape/mantle rĂŠgion. Bib and under parts very like House Sparrow except for the distinctive dark black feathers with pale edges on the flanks giving a "black streaky" appearance on the sides of the bird's body running from the breast almost to the buff undertail covert area. Buff tramlines on a House Sparrow-like back and wings also noted. Bill , yellow. Legs pale pinkish.]

Spanish Sparrow Mark

Ferris

35 A


Suffolk Birci Report 2012

Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll Carduelis homemanni hornemanni at Aldeburgh 8th-19th December 2012 first, of this race, for Suffolk Brian Small and Lee Woods Circumstances On Saturday 8th December 2012 Colin Barley found a confiding bird on the beach at Aldeburgh, just south of the town and adjacent to the yacht club. He was not quite sure what it was, but based on its size and streaky plumage, he identified it as a Lapland Bunting Calcarius lapponicus and texted the news to the BINS hotline, where it was picked up by Lee Woods and broadcast to its members. As a Lapland Bunting, it was fairly exciting, but it seems that nobody went to look at the bird that afternoon, as it was not subsequently reported for the remainder of that d a y . . . That evening at about 20:00hrs, Colin Barley sent two photos of the 'Lapland Bunting' that he had taken to Lee Woods. Upon opening the attachments Lee could plainly see that it was clearly not a Lapland Bunting, but rather a redpoll species. Lee recognized the bird as an Arctic Redpoll of the race hornemanni - often referred to as Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, one of which he had seen some eights weeks before on Shetland. Because of the unbelievable nature of such an identification, and stili not quite believing what he was looking at, Lee first made contact with Colin regarding the significance of his sighting, then contacted Brian Small, Martin Garner and Lee Evans. Lee sent a message to Brian Small with two attached photos of what was clearly not a Lapland Bunting, and Brian immediately rang back and confirmed that he too thought it was a hornemanni. In some ways the photos were not ideal, but having spoken to a number of people who had seen that form, they always said that they seemed more impressive in the field. We discussed what BINS should do about putting the message out and decided to be confident and do it - we would be right or wrong! The next morning Lee and Brian (and several others) were on site at first light. The bird was soon located on the beach feeding on Yellow Horned-poppy Glaucium flavum seeds, which it split open with its bill. It showed at very close range and any doubts about the identification as hornemanni were soon dispelled: the bird was large, chunky, bull-necked, pale, etc.. Throughout that and subsĂŠquent days, the bird performed impeccably well to the large number of observers who visited the site - some from as far away as Belgium. Ail went away happy! Description Structure A large pale redpoll, with a large-headed and thick-necked look (from the front likened to a very small parrot!). The body was at times plump and the feathers loose; at other times more sleek, but always a 'good size' for a redpoll. The bill seemed quite large and was not especially 'pushed in', but was bordered by long, fine bristly hairs, especially covering the nostrils, which from some angles made the visible area of the bill smaller. Plumage It always looked very pale, with white being the dominant tone to the plumage - especially on the underparts and rump; the amazing, overall pallidness or ghostliness was very prominent in flight. The head had a pale chamois-leather wash to the face, notably the 'cheeks' and supercilium, with a large area of black on the lores obscured a little by pale tips, darker sepia-grey nostril tufts, a narrow area of black on the forehead above the nostril tufts and a 36


Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll atAldeburgh

8th - 9th December

2012

small area of black on the chin joining narrowly across the malar to the lores. The red poil was a deep crimson and separated from the black just above the bill by a pale off-white forehead. The rear crown was also washed lightly chamois and the nape/hindneck was white with both areas being diffusely streaked. The mantle was streaked black and white of equal width, though at times with a light dirtybuff wash and when fluffed the black could be obscured by broad white fringes; the rump was large and white, and the uppertail coverts white-fringed with black lanceolate centres. The wing coverts were white-tipped and black-based, but a slight brown tinge to the outermost dark centres; the tertials were fringed with white (most prominently near the tip on the outer tertial) and the secondaries edged white, becoming increasingly narrow toward the primaries and with the dark bases very obvious. The primary projection was long, with seven primaries visible beyond the secondaries in most views - Brian Small tried to age the bird on the shape of the primaries and any moult contrasts in the coverts, but failed. The underparts were brilliantly white, with very limited narrow dark streaking on the breast and flanks; the undertail coverts were unmarked white. The tail was notable for the pointed and hooked tips, by which most observers aged it as a first-winter - Brian wondered if it had lost a tail feather on the lefĂŹ side, but was not sure. Brian Small heard it call once, a rather deep but soft 'choop.. .choop', quite diffĂŠrent from the Lesser Redpolls Carduelis cabaret with which he is most familiar. The identification and taxonomy of redpolls is a thorny issue. Arctic Redpolls have two formst Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll Carduelis hornemanni hornemanni, which is large and breeds in northeastern Canada and Groenland and Coues's Arctic Redpoll C. h. exilipes, which is smaller - equal in size to the nominate form of Mealy Sketchbook page of Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll Brian Small Redpoll Carduelis flammea and breeds in northern Eurasia and northern North America. The redpoll complex as a whole forms a contiguous distribution across the Holarctic rĂŠgion, with quite broad zones where interbreeding probably takes place. Also within forms there appears to be a certain amount of individuai and seasonal variation. Therefore, the caution exercised in identifying the Aldeburgh redpoll as Hornemann's was justified, but in hindsight, overall this individuai was a classic hornemanni, showing ali the features that you would hope to see in this tricky-to-identify redpoll group as outlined in the description. Indeed, it may well be that of ali the redpolls Hornemann's is, in fresh winter plumage, one of the (or the) most distinctive of ail. It is likely that in Suffolk ail previous Arctic Redpoll records have been of Coues's and that this is the first Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll in Suffolk. In the past few years, there appears to have been an increase in the number of Hornemann's recorded in the UK, most notably in Shetland, with one also seen in Norfolk prior to this bird; there is also a record from Holland. There is discussion that the two Arctic Redpoll races are a possible future split but it is just as likely that ail redpolls will be ' l u m p e d ' . . . Not only was it a lovely bird, but the views that it offered were so good that it couldn't help but become the 'Bird of the Year' for many who travelled to see it. 37


Pair of Black-winged

Stilts at Minsmere

Pair of Black-winged Stilts at Minsmere Dave Fairhurst Whilst watching a rather showy Wryneck in the early morning of May 7th 2012 along with Phil Maher in the north bushes at Minsmere I heard an unfamiliar racket coming from above me. I looked up in the sky and was amazed to see two Black-winged Stilts flying low over the bushes and south towards the Scrape possibly heading toward the levels. I 'put the news out' within seconds and rang John Grant whom I'd passed earlier heading down to the beach. Within a short time he had located the birds on the south Levels and they spent the rest of day there, apart from a brief visit to the Konik fields, where we were able to get some sort of photos and quite close views. The birds appeared to be a stonking pair of full adults, a male and a female - photographs included in this report. The male had a smudgy head and a glossy green back and wings and the female had a clean white head and a more 'browny' back and wings. Aprii and May 2012 saw one of the largest invasions of Black-winged Stilts into the UK (likely due to the drought in southern Europe) and one pair attempted to breed in Somerset. It is thought perhaps as many as 30 individuals were involved but tracking the birds proved very difficult. D Fairhurst.

For many of us in Suffolk being able to view Black-winged Stilts in our county has been extremely difficult. Those that have occurred, apart from the 1993 bird, have been either present only briefly or kept quiet in case there was a breeding attempt. Apart from abroad, especially southern Europe, where they can be quite easy to catch up with, most Suffolk birders will have been familiar with Sammy the Titchwell bird. Sammy first appeared in July 1993 having been seen in Northumberland and then at Snettisham. He remained in North Norfolk for 12 years, last being seen, and presumed to have died, in May 2005. Up to the end of 2012 there have been 27 records of Black-winged Stilt in Suffolk involving 38 individuals. The largest group was of six at Buss Creek, Reydon in Aprii 1949. The only long-staying bird at a reasonably-accessible site was an adult between July 7th and 25th in 1993 atTrimley Marshes where it was observed by several hundred birders. The last four records have included three pairs - Lakenheath in 2002, Orfordness in 2005 and Minsmere in 2012. The Orfordness pair indulged in courtship display, copulation and carrying nest material but the birds departed after 14 days; the area frequented by the female was searched and an empty nest found - there was no evidence that eggs had been laid. P Murphy artd Editor.

38

Suffolk Birds 2012 Part 1  

Volume 62

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you