Nine members plus 2 guests met at the Visitors Centre; after coffee we went in search of the bird and plant life (nightingales especially). Unfortunately, as happens often, the day of our visit was perhaps the worst weatherwise as those either side were better. There was no sun and the wind in certain places was quite strong and there were a few spots of rain, all things which birds do not like. Despite that we did very well, spotting several species and hearing a lot of bird song. Thanks to our very knowledgeable members I am sure we learnt more about how to tell birds from their different songs.
Birds seen: little egret, kestrel in nest box, pheasant(pair), garden warbler, shelduck, heron, blackcap, black-headed gull, whimbrel, mallard, whitethroat, chiffchaff, bluetit, tufted duck, oystercatcher, green plover, ringed plover, juvenile cormorant, swift, pied wagtail, stock dove, bullfinch.
Birds heard but not seen: willow warbler, nightingale, chaffinch, green woodpecker, lesser whitethroat, moorhen, robin, blackbird.
Plants: daisy, elderflower, buttercup, cow parsley, catkins, purple dead nettle, slender thistle, changing forget-me-not, small pink storksbill (could be sticky storksbill), common field speedwell, ribwort plantain, red campion, white campion, common sorrel, common vetch, mossy stonecrop (not pygmy weed), greater stitchwort, black medick, smooth cats’ ear, hawksbeard, yellow broom, gorse, dog rose, hawthorn (white and pink).
Other: slow worm, orange tip butterfly.
NEXT MONTH: Cudmore Grove Country Park, East Mersev – 8 June 2022 – Meet in Car Park at 10 a.m.
May 2022 Eels Foot Inn, Eastbridge, Suffolk
I am sure there are nicer places to stay but this spot is one that is right there at the top. From Clancy, my motorhome, I look out of the side door across a small dyke to marshland with reed beds. The lowering sun brings rays of gold transforming the reeds. As dusk arrives the colours change once more. To the east is a stand of tall poplars and trees line three sides of the marsh.
Having pitched I took a 4km walk to the coast and back. Wildflowers abound and I notice the difference as I walk along the lane then cross farmland and lastly walk beside marsh near the Minsmere Sluice. The birds change too from the typical garden birds to reed and farmland birds and eventually to water birds. With no one about it was so peaceful and by the shingle, stoney beach the waves lashed gently at the water’s edge with that all too familiar soothing sound. A ruined chapel stands in a field where Konik ponies graze the land managed by the RSPB – according to the sign, they bite.
It is hard to believe that my trip tomorrow to the RSPB site at Minsmere, can be a more productive time than this walk.
So far from my pitch I have seen wood pigeon, jackdaw, crow, blackbird, swallow, magpie, chiffchaff, goldfinch, sparrow and heard a wren. Flowers are dandelion, daisy, white dead-nettle, sweet cicely, dove’s-foot cranesbill, ground ivy and a buff-tailed bumblebee. Added to this on the walk the birds were long-tailed tit, black-headed gull, shelduck, mallard (one female with 11 chicks), lapwing, little egret, coot, moorhen, kestrel, oystercatcher, cormorant, reed bunting, Canada geese, great white egret and heard a great tit, cuckoo and a pheasant three warblers, (sedge, reed, and cetti’s), and the loud booming of a bittern. Flowers identified on the walk were cleavers, bluebell, chickweed, spring beauty, hawthorn, and plenty of bright splashes of yellow gorse. One bird I could not positively identify was curlew in appearance but was black. I found out the following day it was a glossy ibis; the talk of Minsmere RSPB Reserve – I was obviously very lucky and had not beforehand seen one in this country. Through my windscreen in the evening, I watched a marsh harrier as it patrolled up and down searching for food.
After a bit of drizzle through the night, Thursday started bright and sunny. A wren perched on the tree outside my door and sang joyously, which thrilled me. My plan today is to cycle about 4kms to the RSPB Reserve and spend the day there. The bike ride there took me along tree-lined lanes with primroses, red campion and bountiful birdsong – some I knew and some I didn’t. The woods I passed had bluebells and jack-by-the-hedge and many other wild flowers.
The reserve is a haven for water birds as the Minsmere Level has a myriad of lakes and watercourses but it also has woods with red deer, I saw one, and plenty of nesting birds. The nightingales were singing as I arrived so another joyous moment. Habitats abound and a high sand cliff was the perfect site for sand martins to breed and they flew to and fro non-stop feeding their young. It was interesting too that today experts were catching and ringing birds. The ringer was extremely knowledgeable and explained how he knew for example that a blue tit was carrying eggs. He showed us the margination on the primaries of a chiffchaff that distinguished it from another similar looking bird, I think he said willow warbler, one has the margination on the sixth feather and the other on the fifth. Marsh harriers quartered the marshes and I saw one swoop and catch its prey. Lapwings were ubiquitous and were quite vocal in defending their nesting sites. I visited many hides and my list grew and grew and the following are those identified and that are different from previous sightings: robin, whitethroat, white-fronted geese with numerous goslings, avocet, gadwall, little grebe, grey heron, barnacle goose, kittiwake, bar-tailed godwit, redshank, greenshank, shoveler, turnstone, snipe (jack), lesser black-backed gull, herring gull, and common tern. Also, rabbits and a grey squirrel and a blackcap was heard. Numerous terns and gulls nested on the sandy islands and a cacophony of sound erupted from them when they thought their space was being invaded. I also saw a pair of redshank mating which was fascinating as the female resignedly stood motionless whilst the male hovered just off the ground, gradually getting higher as though he were plucking up courage and finally made it to his goal. This was quite a lengthy procedure and when finished the female walked off and the male lay down and had a nap.
I returned by 16.30 which gave plenty of time to relax in the sunshine. In total I estimated I walked about 10kms around the reserve.
Friday was another bright and warm day. I lazed around all morning, mostly reading but I also set aside all tinned or packaged foods containing dairy or meat in preparation for my trip to France later in the month (with Brexit they are now forbidden imports into Europe !!). I actually didn’t have that many but there were surprises for example sour cream pringles – most other flavours would probably be ok. Supplied with a packed lunch I set off on foot to do an 8kms circuit, with the picnic planned to be eaten on Sizewell Beach, which I estimated would be the halfway point. A quiet country lane took me to Sanderlings Walk, which I followed all the way to the coast. At first it was on a rough track and I realised that this walk was going to be more about wildflowers and butterflies than about birds. Orange tipped butterflies were everywhere but I also saw peacocks, a blue (possibly a holly blue), a brimstone, skipper and a small white day-flying moth with black spots. From trackside verges to woodland, heath, marsh and coast I was able to add to the wildflowers seen this trip: germander speedwell, groundsel, lesser celandine, buttercup, wild carrot, stitchwort, wild cherry, ribwort plantain, bristly sow-thistle, rhododendrons (in a few days these will be a real show), alexanders and common vetch. The only bird was a stonechat where several were nesting in the long grasses of the sand dunes. The male is a handsome bird and he looked even more so when perched in the sunshine on the bright yellow of the gorse bush.
It went to plan – I ate my picnic on the beach, returning for tea in the sunshine but it wasn’t long before a layer of cloud developed and it became cool. It is my last night tonight so I shall eat in the pub and what a great evening I had, made all the merrier by a free glass of wine from the landlord!
When I had a few days in Brixham at end of April I walked to Berry Head where I saw a colony of guillemots nesting on the cliff face. There is now a visitors’ centre with a webcam showing the guillemots live and close up. I also saw gannets nearby.
While other members were at Fingringhoe I was in Snowdonia. We went to Puffin Island (off Anglesey) where we watched Shags, Fulmars, Cormorants, Guillemots flying while we were on the boat. I also saw one puffin landing on the water. Apparently, there are now only 8 breeding pairs in the area.