Tuesday, 20 May 2014

4th May - Thorpeness to Eastbridge, Suffolk

Another beautiful day, the wind having turned more to the south meaning the chill it was bringing had dropped off.  Not such an early start but as we were going to walk along the beach north, and then around the Sizewell area and back.  As we set off the tide was out and we were able to walk on the sandy part of the beach as opposed to the shingle and stones which can be a little tiring.

The sunshine was a little watery too start with, but was sufficient enough for us to realise that we had probably put too many clothes on.  Leaving Thorpeness the stand out on the beach front was this parade of brashly painted houses.  I am not sure what the objective of this was, butthe paint is not helping the rendering.

The beach and coast here was not as severely affected by the tide surge in December as the Norfolk coast, but there was an impact and much of the shingle and pebbles have been piled higher up the beach producing a pronounced shape at low tide.

As we headed north we could always see the huge monolith that is the Sizewell Nuclear Power station, and it is hard to realise that there is a village on the beach close by.  

The beach has many fishing boats that are currently used lying on the beach, and some that have seen better days.

There are two platforms just off shore from the power station.  These platforms were responsible for the pumping of sea water into the power station to be condensed to drive turbines and for the cooling water systems.  The water was then returned to the sea about 10 degrees warmer than the surrounding water.  In years when the station was running it was possible to view terns and gulls feeding at the outflow, the warmer water proving an attraction to fish.  Today though the platforms provide the attraction to the gulls, and as we go closer the answer to the question that was puzzling us became clear

Every ledge on the platform was covered in birds, Kittiwakes to be exact.  

They were nesting on the platforms, and were collecting nesting material from the scrape at Minsmere, and then flying back with it.  The numbers we saw on the scrape were only a selection of the birds present here, and we were watching them fly to the platforms with material, and come back for more.

The Kittiwakes are very vocal and feisty around the nest, greeting each other with loud calls.

Larger gulls such as Herring and Lesser Black-backed occupied the top of the platform, the Kittiwakes taking the ledges.

Leaving the Kittiwakes we headed up the beach to the dunes.  In front of us the dome of the Sizewell reactor loomed menacingly like a scene from an old Sci Fi film.

In amongst the dunes and shelter we suddenly began to see butterflies.  We turned inland and headed along the Sanderling Trail, that was strangely identified by a Nightjar on the sign.  Whitethroat and Blackcap sang from the trees and the butterflies started to stop for the camera.

First was a small white.

Then a male Orange Tip.

And a Small Copper

The path followed a stream, and this produced the first Damsel Fly of the year, a Large Red.

It was now quite warm as we were sheltered from the breeze, the sun was out and it was a very sandy area.  A Large White settled on a Bluebell, always a nice composition

I stopped to attempt to photograph a Chiffchaff, it proved a little elusive but I managed to get it in the end.

Around the corner another was in a much better position but as I attempted to focus on it Helen pointed out something in the sky.  It was quite high up but unmistakeably a Hobby, again the first for the year.

The path carried on though closed trees and open rides where you would see more butterflies on the wing.  On one such ride I was bale to get this Green-veined White on a Dandelion.

Finally the path came out onto a track that lead to a road and into Eastbridge.  There was a Fun Run on, and we passed may runners and walkers as we headed towards the village.  Suddenly I heard a burst of song that I had hoped to hear at Minsmere but hadn't, a Lesser Whitethroat.  The song is more a rattle and not as scratchy as the Whitethroat.  The bird itself having a darker grey head and neck.  As for size they are much the same so I am not sure where the "Lesser" comes from.  

When we lived in Essex I used to see them a lot, but on the patch at home I am yet to find one, so it was nice to get some good shots of this one.

We stopped at the Eels Foot Inn for a drink, a popular spot with those who had decided to walk today rather than run.  After another lovely pint of Adnams "Ghost Ship" we returned to the footpaths and headed back down towards the sluice with Minsmere on our left hand side.

There was not a lot of interest on this section of the walk.  Lapwings displayed in the fields, but now it was quite warm, and the birds were quiet.  There was also a bit of a heat haze which reduced the clarity.

Looking over towards Minsmere you could see new studio for the BBC Springwatch Team.  The programme due to start on the 26th May will be coming live from the reserve, and will be based here for the next three years.  It will be fascinating to watch a the cameras on a reserve we are very familiar with, and hopefully to see some of the places you can't access.  Lets hope they get weather like we had today.

Just before the sluice I found another new butterfly for the trip, a Small Tortoiseshell sunning on the dry ground.

At the Sluice we turned to the south and headed along the beach back to Thorpeness.  A brief stop for a coffee at the levels did not produce much other than some very distant heat hazed duck and waders, and a Meadow Pipit on a post.

Past Sizewell we stopped in the beach cafe and had an ice cream, then we took the footpath rather than the beach as the tide was now in and it was only shingle to walk on.  The footpath wound its way along the cliff.  Bluebells lined the path and in places fell away towards the beach, creating the scene of blue woodland flowers backed by the waves of the sea.

We finally made it back to the village and made the most of the rest of the afternoon's sun sitting in the little garden looking out past the tea rooms and mere.  We had beeb so lucky with the weather and the cottage, and it had been a lovely weekend.

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