By Sally Westwood
The Cormorant has a distinctive flight outline. Their body is narrow and linear, with outstretched wings. A Cormorant glided past me along the course of the River Deben, descending down to the surface of the water, staring ahead. The bird’s feet, webbed between four toes landed on the water, on stretched out, short legs. Water splashing loudly on impact. The feet touched the water at the base, or heel of the legs, with the rest of the foot held upright, to act as a break to landing. Using their feet like water skis. The extended, raised wings also slowed down the landing, gradually closing as the bird completely crashed on the water. Continue reading
By Richard Verrill
It is well recognised that estuaries provide essential breeding grounds and nurseries for many fish species. They also provide corridors for migratory species. Estuaries provide a very dynamic environment with constant changes in tide, temperature and salinity. Intertidal areas provide particularly important refuge and feeding grounds for small fish.The variety of the shoreline in the Deben provides an abundance of different nursery environments with sandy beaches, shingle beaches, mudflats and salt marsh. Continue reading
by Sally Westwood
Curlew (Numenius arquata)
The tide was ebbing, almost at low tide, it was about an hour before sunset. The Deben was embellished with a clear, magical light that appears just before sunset and sunrise. Such a light produces enhanced clarity of detail in everything visible to the eye. Two Curlews1 landed on the mudflat, one each side of a gully of water draining into the shallow channel of the river. Curlews are the largest waders in the UK, with a streaked and barred plumage, long legs and a distinctive down curved bill2, see image above. In flight, it shows a white section on the rump. The Whimbrel3 by comparison, is a similar bird to the Curlew, except it has a shorter, thicker bill, with a narrow stripe on the crown and is smaller than the Curlew, see image below. In flight, it shows a white section on the tail and back. I was alerted to the Curlew’s presence from their distinctive “Curlew, Curlew’’ calls made when they were flying. It is a call I regard as haunting in the cold, overcast days of winter. They also have a trembling, evocative bubbling call, that ends with what may be described as “dude” which carries some distance. One Curlew joined the other, on the other side of the gully. They immediately started squabbling, poking their long slender, down curved bills at each other, raising their wings slightly. Moments later, the set too ended when one returned to the other side of the gully and started searching for food, poking its bill, deep into the mud. The other Curlew started bathing and shaking out feathers, as in the image above. They may have been a pair, or an adult and youngster, however, research on Curlews has indicated that the latter relationship may be unlikely4. Since Curlews in England and Wales are in decline and such decline is driven by factors occurring during the annual breeding season.
by Julia Jones
Louisa and Ned, Visiting from Berlin
It was June 4th the Saturday of the Platinum Jubilee Central Weekend – a bright but extremely blowy day on the River. My brother and I had hoped to take his seven year old daughter out to sea on Peter Duck but it would have been her first time and we didn’t want to put her off. So, while we waiting to go ashore and join the Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club celebrations we went for a walk to Bawdsey beach. We followed the path from the dinghy park, behind the bushes and through the dry, shrubby area where rabbits nibble and wild flowers spread. Continue reading
By Sally Westwood
In 2021, Suffolk Coast & Heath Area of Natural Beauty (AONB) selected the Redshank1 as their flagship bird as a part of their Nature Recovery Plan2. Commendably, they called for volunteers to help with the project of protecting the Redshank including their nesting habitat. Redshanks are present on the River Deben but I have only ever seen one feeding along the river’s edge, on my river walk. I thought it might be interesting for the reader to have some insight on the background of Suffolk Coast & Heath AONB’s Nature Recovery intervention and the plight not only of the Redshank, but as we might have suspected, a considerable number of species of birds, that visit the Deben. It is not a comfortable read, however, the good news is, steps are being taken to stop the decline in species.
By Sally Westwood
Figure 1: Spoonbill. Rio Formosa, Faro, Portugal
An Eurasian Spoonbill1 was observed feeding at Lodge Marsh, Ramsholt, on the Northern shoreline of the River Deben, in early June this year, and another in July.2 Last summer six birds were seen together in June at the same marshland. I was not fortunate enough to capture an image of the Spoonbill at Ramsholt. The spoonbill in the image above (Figure 1) was taken during one of my brief winter migrations to Portugal. The area of extensive marshland at Ramsholt, bordering the river, is an ideal feeding habitat for Spoonbills.3 They feed in coastal waters, as well as freshwater and wetland4 areas. These sightings were special occasions for River Deben birdwatchers. Spoonbills are one of the rarest birds in the country. Spoonbills are newcomers to East Anglia, and England generally, following an absence of over 300 years.5 Continue reading
by Sally Westwood
I heard the Little Egret’s1 alarm call before I saw it. It flew along the River Deben, against the ebbing tide. It landed at the end of a wide gully, with drenched, smooth mudflats steeped up at the sides. An Avocet2 had been walking away from the gully, along the receding shoreline, sweeping its upturned, black bill from side to side in shallow water searching for food, such as crustaceans and worms. It turned when it heard the Little Egret’s alarm, watched it land and strode rapidly towards it, determinedly. The Little Egret tucked its beak down in its chest, oblivious, neck arched round, and down, cleaning feathers on its chest. Short damp feathers on its crown were upright and spiky.
by Sally Westwood
A walk along the bank of the River Deben can be interesting whatever the weather. The birds are there, going about their business, searching for food, and perhaps squabbling and arguing about temporary feeding territory. I had a walk along the riverbank towards Wilford Bridge from the direction of Woodbridge, to see what birds were about. The tide was coming in. The weather was bright and sunny. I immediately spotted two huge flocks of Lapwings (Vanellus vanillas) swirling around in the sky. Commonly, Lapwings flock together in the winter months on marshes (Svensson, 2009). They can be identified by their white and black rounded wing-tips showing dark above and white below, moving in a flapping motion. Close up views when stationary, reveal a long thin, wispy head-crest. The winter plumage shows a scaly pattern on their dark upper parts and coverts. This contrasts with their summer plumage, which has a beautiful purple and green iridescence. As they turned, I could see the flickering of the black and white of their wings.
By Stephen Thompson
I’ve long enjoyed the Deben estuary – my “hole in the water lined with wood or fibreglass into which you pour money” lives there (or to be strictly accurate, it lives propped up on wooden blocks in a yard beside the Deben while I fettle it). However I’d never actually seen a paper copy of “The Deben” magazine until very recently. It’s very impressive – and in particular the photographs and paintings of this gorgeous area. The beautiful scenery reflected in the mirror surface of still waters capture the peace and tranquillity.
But my own interest in such locations has always been driven by a desire to know what’s happening “on the other side of the mirror”. I think this probably started watching Jacques Cousteau on “The World About Us” on Sunday evenings (and if you can remember that, you really are dating yourself!), and poking about in streams and ponds to see what was down there. Fishing, and later on SCUBA diving, fed this ambition, and when it came time to choose I selected a Marine Biology degree. Continue reading