Sunday, January 24, 2010

A weekend in Suffolk

Some time back in 2009, Helen had spotted on the RSPB website a 'Birding on a Barge' trip in Suffolk and booked us in for this weekend. We decided to head to the area on Friday, after work, and then to visit Minsmere first thing on Saturday. The weather forecast was for dry and grey. Well the grey bit was right, the dry wasn't to start with, rather a persistent drizzle.

On arrival as we parked-up a Red Deer was feeding from a tree taller than was comfortable:



It had to rear-up to reach:



Though it didn't prove too tricky:



It's amazing that animals soon learn when they're not threatened, this deer can have been no more than twenty metres away from us.

We stopped first in the Bittern Hide. You can see the raft (right hand side of the water) where the RSPB had been emergency feeding the birds during the big freeze. It was still murky and misty and very very wet:



A pair of Bearded Reedlings appeared briefly on the edge before crossing the water and going into cover. We then walked out towards the Island Hide, from where we saw a Merlin, our very first Hen Harriers, both female and male, Sparrowhawks again female and male. We missed the reported Smew however by about fifteen minutes.

This Mute Swan was one of a group that flew into land relatively close to the hide:



Along the path back towards the visitor centre we watched a flock of around ten Bullfinch drinking from a pool, then saw the male Hen Harrier fly over and dive fast behind some trees. I did manage a silhouette record shot but not much else.

Further along and back in the woods a lot of birds were singing, but the drumming woodpeckers really caught our attention. I located a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, accompanied by Great Tit singing and Jackdaws calling in the background:



We walked around the reserve, visiting all the hides. There were good numbers of ducks, a handful of waders and gulls and a group of four motionless horses. They stood stock still for ages, not changing position as we viewed then from three separate hides:



The last bird before lunch was this, what I believe to be Marsh Tit (based on the context):



They only had one vegetable chilli portion left so Helen opted for cheese and beans with her spud, before we headed off visiting a few other sites in the area. We enjoyed Walberswick and a brief walk along the dunes there, followed by a visit to a fast disappearing spot, Benacre Broad. The right of way, being a path along a cliff edge (albeit not a high one) was mostly fallen to the beach. What remains doesn't look like it'll last long either:



It was worth the walk for the views:



and here:



but one wonders just how long this will be accessible for, as soon the only access will be via the farmer's land and you can tell very quickly this farmer is not a friendly one. He was, like a number of others in the area, hosting a 'no bird left alive' day on his farm, no doubt making up for lost time during the freeze and it being just over a week to the end of 'the season'. In fact that was the only down side to the day... we retired to the Premier Inn for dinner.

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