Sunday, January 24, 2010

A weekend in Suffolk - Sunday

The 'Birds by Barge' boat trip itself (organised and hosted by the RSPB) was on the Sunday. Thankfully the low cloud had lifted a bit and it didn't rain at all!
Unusually for us, we were the last to arrive, even though we arrived at the time requested (to the minute!).

Underway it was clear that the estuary was home to a huge number of birds. Helpfully a number of RSPB staff were hosting the trip and they were both, as you'd expect, expert in what was around but also very friendly, helpful and accommodating. From the get-go there was a non-stop supply of tea and coffee (very good coffee too). We saw hundreds of Knot, thousands of Dunlin, tens of Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Oystercatchers, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Redshanks and Avocets. Also Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Lesser-black Backed Gull, Greater Black-backed Gull and Herring Gulls. Ducks included Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveller, Pintail, Shelduck, Common Scoter and Scaup. The first of the more unusual species was the Great Northern Diver, first spotted by Helen, seen here with a crab it had caught:

Followed by a couple described by the RSPB's Warden of the Estuary:

We saw at least five Great Northern Divers. Also present were really good numbers of Red-breasted Merganser, over sixty I think, here's one taking-off:

Before getting airborne:

We saw five species of Grebe, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Red-necked Grebe (second tick of the weekend!), Slavonian or Horned Grebe and here a pair of Black-necked Grebe:

We also saw Little Egrets, Cormorants, Carrion Crows, Rooks and a Common Buzzard. I've no doubt missed some, having not thought to make a list...

The sun did put in few a brief appearances, creating some interesting lighting effects:

and here:

Lunch was served consisting of two choices of hot soup (both delicious) and more tea and coffee. Then we motored back to the dock, though this took a little more than an hour, into a headwind that was icy cold. Even the hardiest of those on board (mostly the RPSB staff hosts and RSPB staff visitors) were feeling the intense cold by the time we landed. We really enjoyed the trip and would recommend it to anyone from beginners through to experts. For birders with limited experience like ourselves we found the identification, descriptions and field expertise of our hosts to be very helpful and we learned a lot about bird identification and behaviours, etc.

We also decided we must do more research on such trips as, if this is a good example, we plan on doing many, many more, a big thank you to the RSPB and their excellent staff!

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