Nature Notes, March 2002

I have long been interested in Natural History but despite a recent leaning towards butterflies it is bird watching which has been a passion since the age of seven. The past few weeks however have been above average with some outstanding sightings.

My wife, Ann, and I were returning from one of our circular walks to Dallinghoo in December and as we came to Byng Brook we spotted a party of five Tree Creepers foraging for their last meal of the day.

The next day I noticed movement in the flower bed under the kitchen window. After a moment a Weasel appeared carrying a mouse. The mouse was dropped on the path and the Weasel returned to the flower bed only to emerge minutes later with another mouse which was taken into the front garden. In time the busy little carnivore returned, picked up the first victim and made off towards the front garden.

The short cold snap of late December to early January has seen four Robins feeding together without fighting, an unusual event, and I managed to count ten Long Tailed Tits on the peanuts at one time; previously nine has been the maximum on several occasions but not until now the perfect ten.

On New Years Day while watching a small party of Snipe feeding in fields at Aldeburgh I remarked that although Snipe are usually about they are difficult to spot due to their superb camouflage and secretive manner but a bird you will not see is a Woodcock.

Two days later I thought the bird at the bottom of the garden was a partridge, when I picked up my binoculars I was astonished to identify a Woodcock. How I wished for a good camera and a telephoto lens. Remaining all day this solitary bird came close to the house on two occasions so I snapped most of a roll of film with our modern day version of a Box Brownie through double glazing; I am not too hopeful of the outcome!

The next day the bird returned to explore the few remaining areas of our grass and flower beds it had not pulled worms from the previous day and after dozing under the privet hedge a couple of times decided to look for pastures new. In the afternoon I took some kitchen waste to the compost heap and as I returned through the orchard a shrill cry sounded and a black and white bird shot up from the pond and was gone in seconds. The habitat and appearance indicates it was a Green Sandpiper, the first I have seen.

On the seventeenth of January our neighbour spotted a Heron on top of our conifers overlooking the pond, fortunately it decided against closer inspection of our goldfish and that evening we saw a Barn Owl in Ufford, the first sighting for some time.

The evening of the twenty-first was so mild that two of our resident Newts which live under a conservatory were out looking for a meal, was this really January?

We took a walk along Byng Hall Road to see if the local sheep had started to lamb. We counted two all white ones and seven jet black lambs, how fitting to see so many catkins in the hedgerow on the way home. Snowdrops have made a wonderful show in our garden this year, also Crocus, Miniature Iris and Winter Jasmine; it is uplifting to see the first flush of colour in late winter.

At the end of our most recent walk we stopped to investigate a tinkling sound from a bramble bush and were rewarded with a very close encounter with a pair of Goldcrests. A reminder that now is the time to clean out nest boxes which have been used winter sleeping quarters as well as putting back in position those boxes taken down last autumn.

All of the above goes to show it helps to know what you are looking at or listening to but most of all you need a great deal of luck to be in the right place at the right time.

Mike Sayer