Nature Notes – April 2018

The large bird of prey, the Buzzard, seems to continually be on the increase. It is true that their habits of soaring in the open, making their loud ‘mewing’ call, make them more conspicuous, but many people I have spoken with agree that they are seeing them even more often. They are not highly specialised hunters, and it is well known that they will feed on the ground, particularly on freshly ploughed land in search of worms. In fact, I heard (from Rendham) of one which actually followed the plough for most of a day.

Another ground-feeding bird, the Lapwing, has done the opposite, and is in serious decline.

I seldom see them feeding on the fields around here, even in the winter, when many Continental birds usually visit. During the cold spell there were a few flying over the valley, and on snowy days we saw a few standing around near the roadside along the A12. Fewer still now nest on the farmland of East Suffolk as they used to. To see them in spring, and to watch their amazing tumbling courtship displays, needs a visit to the coastal marshes such as Hollesley, Boyton or Minsmere levels. Be warned that they do nest early though, so the display is easy to miss.

Primroses must be a feature of most Nature Notes around this time.

There were a few to be seen even before the snow, but by now they will be coming into full show. They are common among many of our lanes – I recommend Dead Man’s Lane between Rendham and Benhall. There are even some along bigger roads such as the 1119, where they have been able to escape the winter salt-spreading. A few weeks later another of my very favourites, the Cowslip, is to be seen, not as widespread in our valley, but still most welcome.

By now the long-tailed tits, great garden favourites, will have left their groups and formed up into pairs for breeding. They nest early, and have already started nestbuilding by March. We have watched one around the house, especially the window frames, hunting for beakfuls of spiders’ web. This is a main constituent of the nest in these birds. The nest is usually built in a well-protected site in a thorny bush such as Bramble or Berberis, I presume as extra protection at this time of year before the leaves are out. Ours seem to be using the Gorse bush which we planted to stop people driving into the pond (this has worked so far and nesting would be a bonus). The nest is a rugby-ball in shape, closed at the top but with a small opening in the side. Other nesting materials are moss, a lining of fine feathers, and flakes of lichen woven into the outside, thought to be extra camouflage for such a vulnerable structure. The spiders’ web is just as important. Often as many as twelve young tits will be reared in this nest, which as it is not open at the top will become very cramped. The web allows the whole thing to expand as necessary, so that all these fledglings can emerge undamaged, except perhaps for the occasionally slightly bent tail.

 

Geoffrey Abbott