Sunday, September 28, 2008

Minsmere and Orford Ness

Autumn migration is upon us, however it's all been very quiet round by us. That and the pace of work for both of us suggested a weekend away to clear our heads. We picked Suffolk, as (a) it has Minsmere and (b) there's a Premier Inn not too far away so you get reliable accommodation, food, etc. at a sensible price and get there 'promptly' of a morning.

Minsmere an hour after dawn on an Autumn morning is a beautiful place. Very quiet, very still. I liked the way the light was picking through the woodland on the way to the Island Mere hide:














Just in that short walk we saw a large number of deer including Red Deer:














The sound of the Stags bellowing carried through the wood and added quite an eerie quality to the morning. The deer at Minsmere are very nervous though not as nervous as they are (necessarily so) in the rest of the country:




















Basking in the first rays of the morning sun one of the many hundreds of rabbits in the fields alongside the path:















I like the way this looks like a 'spotlight' has been used. We got to the Island Hide and were delighted to see this Great White Egret perched on the Island, only the 2nd time we've seen one in this country:




















It was enjoying a thorough preen in the early morning sun:














You can see in this picture (click on it for a closer view) the coloured rings on its leg, I don't know if that means it is an escapee or a wild bird that was ringed at the nest?


















We headed back from the Island Hide towards the Bittern Hide. En -route I tried to capture a relatively bold Cetti's Warbler on film but he was too fast and I was too slow, a lethal combination. So I was greatly relieved to spot this male Redstart perched on the lower branches of an oak tree, hopping down to feed and then returning to the perch. It was being hassled by a Robin but stuck its ground:

















He very kindly turned round to provide a profile image:



















The Bittern Hide ponds are very over-grown at the moment so there was nothing to be seen. We headed back to the visitor centre and then out on a clock-wise loop of the hides around the scrape. On the causeway towards the sea small groups of Bearded Reedlings (Bearded Tits) were 'pinging' away and flying quite boldly close to the path. Fingers crossed.

The first image is of a female mostly obscured by the reeds, though frankly a view this good is unusual:




















So I was absolutely chuffed with the series of images I captured of this male:


















Chuffed to bits in fact:



















I think I was shaking at the end of this sequence (have a closer look go on!)















And then another female made a brief appearance:



















Magic. Half-yard smiles all round :) We proceeded to the East Hide and were trying to spot unusual waders when I noticed this Bittern flying above the distant trees:
















Not a great shot, but definitely a Bittern :) Along the path were large numbers of Stonechats, including this female:




















And loads and loads of Robins, this one clearly intent on holding a feeding territory:















We popped into the visitor centre to register our presence before having lunch, to hear a chap reporting a Great Grey Shrike in the 'North Bushes' so assumed a 'fast walking pace' to said location. It was indeed a Great Grey Shrike perched immobile on a dead bush but so far away it was scope and bins only, the camera registered about five pixels. Someone from the RPSB did arrive and confirm the bird, which was fab as we had a new bird for the weekend :)

From Minsmere we headed to Orford to catch the boat out to Orford Ness (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-orfordness.htm) another unusual spot. It was relatively quiet (deserted according to the NT folks) but we did see quite a few species there, including Barn Owl, Wheatear, Bar-tailed Godwit, Goldcrest, Dunlin, Avocet some ducks, etc.

On the river some winter plumage Grey Plover:


















And finally, toward the end of a long walk around an interesting island (with, we suspect, a not entirely open account of current activities), a Grey Heron in for the kill:














A fantastic day, with about eight miles with full photographic kit, best shots of Bearded Reedlings and Redstart, second sightings of a Great White Egret and Bittern and a new bird, a Great Grey Shrike :)

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