Friday, 29 May 2015

Our first visit to Suffolk & RSPB Minsmere

We have a policy at the moment that time is short and we shouldn't visit places over and over again, even though we love them! So Mull and Northumberland have missed out this year, sorry! So we have now made our first venture into Suffolk. We chose Aldeburgh on the coast to stay and what a great place only 20 minutes or so from a many splendid places to see wildlife. However we ended up going to RSPB Minsmere every day that we were there, it is such a fantastic site.

I will leave the chaps and wench (showing my Black Country roots there!) from Springwatch on the Beeb to give you the detail, but I have to say it is possibly the best reserve for diversity (not the dance group) that we have ever been to. Although when we booked our week we didn't realise it was the week before Springwatch, just glad it wasn't the actual week. The production team were there though laying cable and filming snippets for the programme I'm glad to say that they didn't detract from the experience, apart from one occasion, when we in the woods (Canopy Hide) and the noise from the production crew and an over excited Martin Hughes-Games made us realise we weren't going to see much from there!

As we headed back, we were walking alongside one of the production crew and mentioned the noise, he admitted that he keeps telling them to keep the noise down to no avail and anyway he said I'm the one who knows about wildlife, they are just paid to talk about it! That made us laugh.

Anyway on to the Wildlife, much more important...............................

I won't go over this day by day, but cover the highlights:

So I have to start off with the main reason for going to Minsmere, Bearded Tits, we have tried on many occasions at other reserves to connect with this little *******! So we thought Minsmere was our best bet and we did on every visit, of course when they are hopping about the reeds they are not easy to get a photo of but I tried my best, here are some attempts:

So add 1 to our list of species.
Another target was to get some good Bittern sightings in the UK, we realised that nothing would compare to the close up views we had in Lesvos, but we didn't do to badly:

Before Minsmere on one of the mornings we decided to call in to Dunwich Heath (National Trust) which is just north of Minsmere, in fact you can if so inclined and have time walk from one to the other but we chose to drive, we were doing enough walking over the week. The Heath is a beautiful place covered in heather and gorse and is of course home to the Dartford Warbler hence the real reason for the visit and again we weren't disappointed, however photographing the said bird was another matter, we did get close on a couple of occasions, the birds came to us, I hasten to add, but always to quick to photograph, or I'm just getting old and aren't quick enough! I did get some distant shots spoiled by the heat haze, but for the record:

So that was new species number 2. As well as these we did catch up with some other birds not seen (by us) very often. A Red-necked Phalarope that caused a few twitchers to emerge from their hibernation, although the view we had was a barely distinguishable bird through our scope. A magnificent summer plumage Grey Plover was also very welcome, along with a 1st year Little Gull. No photos to offer on any of those I'm afraid unless you want to see a few fuzzy blobs!

Another great sighting for us were the Hobbys. We had seen them before but usually a quick view as they fly past and are gone, here there were loads and we saw them regularly and were even lucky to get one posing in a tree not too far from the hide we were in:

Of course another great bird to see at a reed bed reserve is the Marsh Harrier and at Minsmere they show very well, but again not as close as you would like for the camera:

As you may have seen this week on Springwatch, Kittiwake nest on a platform just offshore near the Sizewell Nuclear Power Station and they come to Minsmere to gather nesting material and have the odd argument:

Another great sight were the large groups of Black-tailed Godwit early in the week:
there were the odd Bar-tailed as well which was nice.
Another first was watching a Great-crested Grebe weed dance from the Island Mere Hide a real treat, shame they were a distance away:

Moving off the avian wildlife there were a few other things worth mentioning, Red Deer, Muntjac:
and saving the best to last, Adder:

Right back to our feathered friends....
Of course there was plenty of other birds about;
 Grey Heron:
 Green Woodpecker:
 Reed Warbler:
 Common Tern:
 Mute Swan:
 Little Egret:
 Reed Bunting:
So sadly time to leave, but not without a small detour to Lakenheath on the way home. When we arrived the volunteers asked us if we had come to see the Little Bittern, the answer was no! But these people obviously had:
We spoke to one or two of the people and they had been there a couple of hours without a sighting although we did hear it whilst talking to them, as we had seen plenty in Lesvos, we decided not to linger and left them to it. Our reward for that was a decent Cuckoo sighting, we had seen one at Minsmere but only a flypast, whereas this one rested a while albeit in the woods so it was pretty dull:

But the real reason for stopping at Lakenheath was this:
our first ever sightings of Crane, again after many attempts in Norfolk, Suffolk has delivered the goods! So that's it for this post. 3 New species added not too shabby!


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

RSPB Marshside

We had been to Marshside only once before on a very cold and windy New Years Day a couple of years ago. A bit of a repeat performance on Monday, it was very windy and probably only just a bit warmer than that New Years Day!

We started off at the Visitor Centre Hide, where the highlight was this Ruff:
and two summer plumage Black-tailed Godwit that flew off before I could point the lens at them, they joined a group of other Godwits, some distance away:
I then saw a pair of Pintail fairly close, but they did a 'Godwit' before I could alert the others and take a photo! The Avocets though gave a fine showing with two pairs nesting just in front of the hide;

although worryingly both did leave the eggs unguarded for quite longs spells;

We left the visitor centre and went along to the Nels hide in search of Garganey but of those there was no sign, of course others in the hide said that they had seen them.... (Don't believe them!)

Anyway the Shelduck and Tufted Duck came to have their photo's taken;

After this we went on a circulkar walk through the golf course, where we had another 'aahhh' moment with these Greylag families:
There were a few Brown Hare about, but this is the best photo that I could manage (This ones for you Jimmy):
We did saw a couple of UK year firsts;
and a Meadow Pipit:

So a a nice day, bringing our UK total for the year up to 114. A long way to go yet before reaching last years best of 185, perhaps a trip to Suffolk next week will add to our tally and finally see us seeing a Bearded Tit for the first time. Fingers crossed. (A Dartford Warbler wood be nice too!)