Expecting the unexpected

23 June 2016:

What an unusually cold Spring we have had just yesterday (3 June). I was out on the Reserve wearing a windproof with fleece and hat but today someone has turned Summer on and I am in a T-shirt! The cold has had an effect on the numbers of migrating birds in as much as there seems to have been less of many species being seen. One bird that I have really missed this spring on the Reserve is Meadow Pipits with only a few passing through and none remaining to breed this year. Their captivating accent and parachuting decent display flights have been very much missed by me this year.

Harbour Porpoise remainsAlong the beach one morning while keeping an eye on the beach enclosures I came upon the washed up corpse of a Harbour Porpoise. Tail-less and almost headless it was already decomposing quite badly. After taking a few photos for the record I buried it quickly as the smell was bad enough to make you reach! I reported the find to an appropriate body and noted that the skull had a significant dent in its skull and wondered if this might have been the cause of its demise.

Being in my third year as Landguard Ranger I have become more use to expecting the unexpected as far as bird life is concerned.

Black RedstartFor instance standing in the Bungalow kitchen and seeing a bird out of the corner of my eye resting on the windowsill in a downpour might not be the friendly Robin that you might usually expect so I am teaching myself to look again. In early spring it paid off as the bird that sat on the kitchen windowsill was a female Black Redstart and I got the closest photo of one that I am sure I will ever get… "must remember to clean the windows more often though"!

HawfinchLater in the spring while glancing up from my computer in the office to see if any Tree Sparrows had joined the regular House Sparrows, as they did last year, I couldn’t quite believe the bird that I was looking at! A Hawfinch! A bird, that from my primary school days, I had always wanted to see. I have wondered if its' famous beak would look so impressive when seen outside of an illustration or professional photograph, the beak that is so powerful; as my first bird book told me, that it can crack a Cherry stone open! It didn’t disappoint as it was only just outside the window a few metres away.

Kentish PloverThe gun metal coloured beak and the birds' thick neck that must contain the necessary muscles to help operate such a beak was impressive. Later that day it was trapped and ringed at the Bird Observatory and observed that its travels across the North Sea had left it low on fat reserves. Paul Holmes a Bird Observatory member and ex Landguard Ranger made a morning visit to the Reserve after a stormy night, which probably caused him to have higher expectations than normal of spotting an unusual avian visitor. He was rewarded with a Kentish Plover. The bird once breeding in the UK and now a scarce visitor drew birders until early afternoon when it disappeared.

Over the winter I started working on a Nature Reserve leaflet, a leaflet being an effective way of engaging a visitor and then raising his or hers awareness of what is in front of them. The idea being that this then gains a wider and more in depth appreciation especially of wildlife conservation issues. It should also help define a Nature Reserve in a person’s mind as being something different from a public open space with good reasons for requests that are made on visitors to the Reserve. I quickly found that it is a hard job to try and cram in to a leaflet every aspect and detail of the Reserve and realised that if I could include the key features and wildlife that are the essence of the Reserve then hopefully that would be enough. My brother, a Graphic Designer, must have been in a good mood when he offered to design the leaflet for no charge, something he kept to through gritted teeth as I repeatedly asked for changes to this or that. I’m really happy with the end result, especially the design. These leaflets are available in the Landguard Visitor Centre and View Point Cafe.

Nature Reserve leaflet

Nature Reserve leaflet












Ringing a Ringed Plover chickRinged Plover chickThe Ringed Plovers on the shingle are managing to produce a few young and three have already fledged, with another four young that were ringed yesterday (17 June). Its looking good despite the freezing start to their nesting season and the first young, surviving night time lows of two degrees. This year two immature Carrion Crows have been regularly combing the beach for tit-bits and they are probably the reason for two clutches of Ringed Plover eggs and an Oystercatcher’s clutch disappearing! By this time last year we had already had four Ringed Plover nests predated. I have mentioned before of my concern that there is a correlation between anglers fishing in front of the beach enclosures and nest failures. Firstly, fishing right near a nest could prevent the adults from returning to it resulting in cold eggs and a nest failure but I have also noticed that anglers attract Gulls probably because they are waiting for left over bait. This then puts them in close proximity with the nesting birds which are then eyed up and predated. This year we have requested anglers not to fish in front of the enclosures until after the end of June. The co-operation we have had with this request has been very good with at a guess over 95% co-operation. For any anglers reading this that have abided by the request thank you very much as I believe that it is making a significant improvement in Ringed Plover conservation at Landguard this year.

Dr Adrian Cooper champions Felixstowe's Community Nature Reserve an initiative that was set up following a Felixstowe Forward community consultation. The Community Nature Reserve isn't a Nature Reserve as most people might think of one but it is taking it upon itself to encourage people to do something for wildlife within their gardens or even window boxes! It is an incredibly worthy thing to undertake because the benefits to wildlife if we all did something would be enormous. From plants that are good nectar sources for flies, or even plants that caterpillars love to eat, putting up bird nesting boxes for our much loved Blue Tits or ones for our dwindling population of Swifts. The Felixstowe Community Nature Reserve really understands the enormity of what can be achieved for wildlife with everyone joining in, as was pointed out on the recent Spring Watch programme, gardens of the UK cover around the same land mass as Suffolk. Please follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FelixstoweCommunityNatureReserve

Early Forget-me-notI have just realised that I started this blog on the 3 June and now it’s the Summer Solstice! How can that be, only yesterday it seems I was admiring how the millions of Early Forget-me-nots give the sward a blue hue in early spring. The photo shows an area where a Bramble bush has been removed and resulting unwanted growth such a Spear Thistle had established itself.

This is because the Bramble has enriched the soil, after a while the nutrients will leach out and only the habitat we are encouraging will remain and that is acid grassland. This transition is helped along by removing unwanted plants.

Landguard Ranger @ Twitter