16 December 2015:
Whilst measuring between the posts at the Point I noticed the black and white plumage of a bird briefly fly from the top of one post. It caught my eye as it didn’t have quite the giss (general impression of size and shape) of the commonly seen Pied Wagtails on the Reserve. I ended up thinking that I was just hoping that it was something different and it was just a Pied Wagtail and forgot about it. Last year in the Autumn migration I confused a female Reed Bunting for a Lapland Bunting out of shear expectation, I wasn’t going to fall in to that trap again. On returning to the boardwalk to re-measure my eye caught the unmistakeable white rump of a Wheatear flying away from me but the area of white plumage looked slightly larger than usual and its other plumage looked darker than usual. Was this the bird that I had seen briefly earlier? My pulse quickened as I got closer to the post that it had settled on. Sea fog was keeping visibility down a little but as I got to around ten metres away I could see that this bird was an unusual species of Wheatear I hadn’t seen before. It seemed fog bound on the Reserve and happy to stay put while I googled Wheatears! It wasn’t long before it seemed that it must be a Pied Wheatear, in fact a splendid male in good adult plumage. A call to the Bird Observatory left me trying to convince Nigel Odin that the bird that I had seen wasn’t the dishevelled Wheatear that had been loitering at the Point for the last few days. It wasn’t long before Nigel came out to try and confirm my sighting but the bird had moved location and the fog had thickened. Considering the rarity of vagrant Pied Wheatears seen in the UK, around one a year on average and that it would be a first record of one spotted on the Reserve, I thought that there might have been more interest. The next morning Bird Observatory member Will Brame with other members made a sweep of the shingle and re-found the bird confirming my sighting and around a hundred or so twitchers added it to their lists throughout the day. A day later the BBC Autumn Watch programme did a brief roundup of bird migrations around the Bird Observatories and poked fun at the Landguard Bird Observatory noting that it had only one Wheatear loitering at the Point and no mention of the Pied Wheatear. It just goes to show that you can get out of date and slanted reporting even on nature programmes.
The Conservation area situated at the Point of the Reserve has its boundary delineated by posts linked by thick natural rope. It must be some six years old now and unfortunately has started to rot over the last two years that I have been Ranger on the Reserve. I have spent much time repairing breaks with fresh rope inserted. The supply of spare rope to replace the rotting rope ran out, leaving a decision as to whether we should buy some more rope or not? Although the rope is aesthetically pleasing it is expensive and difficult to repair so we have decided to replace it with wooden rails, which is a much cheaper alternative and easier to be replaced individually if damaged and will last a good deal longer. Landguard Nature Reserve volunteer Richard Llewellyn helped me replace the seaward side of the conservation area as it appeared to be rotting faster than elsewhere.
I discovered the fungus Melanotus horizontalis fruiting on the rotting rope. It is also known as Fender Fungus for its habit of devouring the ropes that hold the fenders on to boats and is also found fruiting on the stems of Bracken. I was approached by a visitor to the Reserve that had an interest in what we were going to do with the old rope. I told him to help himself to a bit, but after reading that someone won a bet with a friend by selling some old rope on ebay, I think I should have asked for a donation for the Bungalow bird feeders!
A large Bramble… on no! I hear you cry not more Bramble… Oh yes the saga must continue, was removed from a hard track where it had reduced the width of the track to half a metre. After a fight with the hedge cutter it is much reduced and the track widened.
What really surprised me was the amount of rubbish that I found embedded in it at various stages of cutting it back. Five full dog poo bags made my blood boil especially as the dog bin was only around twenty metres away! An almost full bottle of Vimto was found over a metre in to the shrub and surprisingly still full of fizz. Another remarkable item extracted was a used nappy. Please, please, please, bin it or take it home! Although I’m sure that anyone with the cognitive ability to read this blog couldn’t commit these crimes.
Continuing the Bramble saga to the enclosed pond, it is noticeable how large and lush the Brambles grow in this area, largely due to the naturally wet ground conditions. And wow, how they have grown even since the pond was enclosed some five years ago. Trouble is that they are part of the natural succession from a wet area to a much drier area as more and more shrubs make the most of the good growing conditions. But what becomes of sedges and other plants that thrive in the wetter conditions; answer, they begin not to exist anymore. Right that’s good enough for me, any excuse to get the brush cutter out and obliterate another Bramble bush. Well no, but if we want to retain the conditions that the nationally scarce Divided Sedge needs, then yes.
I noticed Common Storks Bill and Scarlet Pimpernel flowering this month (December) on the Reserve, like other nature watchers around the country we are witnessing the mildest weather this time of year that I can remember especially through November. Last week while working at Melton Riverside with the 'Footprint' conservation volunteers (please get in touch if you would like to join this group) we saw two Cowslips flowering. I don’t take much notice of people normally that always note that Hazel Catkins are flowering in January because they always do to some extent but early December is a new one on me.
I just hope that it is a seasonal blip and not a sign of things to come. I miss my frosts and icey puddles and so does my four year old daughter who would desperately like it to snow. I have to remind her that at least she doesn’t have to endure floods like some of the poor folk of Cumbria and then she reminds me that we had to escape an expected flood here on the Landguard shingle spit two Decembers past.
I have been able to add several more fungi to the list of fungi identified on the Reserve. This hasn’t been a difficult task as in many places fungi are under recorded. Smokey Spindles was a surprise find this year. I also sent dried specimens of suspected Agaricus Devoniensis, a rare mushroom recorded in only a few coastal locations to Kew for analysis. Landguard Nature Reserve could be the first Suffolk record. An e-mail from Geffrey Kibby a mycologist from Kew stated the following.
"Thanks for the excellent photos, I think I can say with some certainty, even before seeing the material that this is indeed A. devoniensis, the upturned ring and inrolled thick margin are very typical for that species and of course the habitat".
Hope all my blog readers enjoy the seasonal festivities; see you in the New Year!