Friday, 6 May 2016

1st May - RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk Day Two

Another clear, bright and sunny morning, but also still very cold.  Our departure this morning was just after 7.30, and we were setting off from the car park at Minsmere just before 8.00am.  We decided on a different route, walking to the Whin Hill viewpoint and then heading down the hill to the Island Mere Hide.

Once again the Otter had been seen about 20 minutes before we arrived, but despite this we remained optimistic, Helen had a dream.

Out in front of the hide were the Little Grebes once again.

The main difference from yesterday was the presence of six Shelduck, and they spent a lot of time flying around the Mere.

Then coming back and returning to the water which was still calm enough to retain the mirror like quality.

There were also a couple of swifts flying around, swooping low over the water.

The Reed Bunting was also singing from the same Willow tree in the reed bed.

The mornings entertainment though was provided by a Mallard duck and her newly hatched duckling, eleven in total.  It seemed that these were only just hatched and that the mother was taking them for their first swim, and walk around.

She emerged from the reeds slowly the duckling huddled up behind her in one big ball of feathers.

It took a while for her to reach the edge of the water, her approach being very cautious.  Finally she dropped in, and almost immediately the ducklings followed, collecting in a tight raft behind her.

Even the Marsh Harriers were not appearing it was a very quiet morning, very much in keeping with the weekend.  I can only assume it was the cold weather conditions that were keeping things quiet.  Finally we decided to move on, the next stop being the Bittern Hide.

We stopped again to check the Adder Trail.  Yesterday we were told that the Adders hadn't been there for over three weeks, the unseasonable weather affecting their behaviour probably.  We decided to check anyway and of course they were not there.

A Blackcap though was singing in the oak tree, the same tree where yesterday there was a Chiffchaff, and young Squirrels.

A little further on movement on the ground in amongst the nettles brought us to a halt.  A phylossc warbler was working its way through the leaves.  The first thing I noticed were the light coloured legs which would mean Willow Warbler.

But as it turned away from me, the length of the primary tips looked quite short which would indicate a Chiffchaff.

Another side on view though showed the wings to be longer, and with a slight lemon flush around the breast I was happy with my first instinct, a Willow Warbler.

In the Bittern Hide it was as quiet as the Island Mere. The only action being from a Common Tern that alternated its fishing from the open water and one of the streams running away to the right of the hide.

It would fly around and hover over the open water kestrel fashion holding the head completely still.

It would adopt a similar technique along the stream leading from the hide.  here i focused on the water and waited for the white to appear.  Sometimes coming from the side.

But also adopting the straight down arrow approach.

Beating its wings furiously to climb out of the water.

A cry from the other side of the hide drew our attention to a snake that was swimming across the water.  There had not been any Adders around over the last two days but here was a Grass Snake swimming towards the reeds.

It was quite a large snake at least 3 feet or more long, and it swam strongly through what must have been quite cold water.

It was once again time for a change, and we decided to head out to the North Wall, and then along the beach to check the South Levels.  On the way again I stopped to watch the Sand Martin, the attempts were getting better.

By the side of the sand bank there is a patch of short grass where the Sand Martin were landing to collect dead grass and moss for the nests.  They would land quite close allowing the chance to get a good view of them on the ground.

Bearded Tits could be heard calling as we walked along the wall, and every so often there would be a brief view as they emerged from the reeds.  It was much easier to see this Great Tit as it sang from the top of the bush with a soft yellow background from the gorse behind it.

Walking along the beach we were passed by a group of six Oystercatchers flying close off shore heading south.

We walked through the dunes, heading for the Sluice, and the bushes beyond.  Aswe approached I could hear a Whitethroat singing in a tree close to the path, but more interestingly there was a Lesser Whitethroat singing on the other side of the path in blossom covered trees alongside the stream.

It would sing every so often then appear briefly in the amongst the blossom, it seemed to be feeding on the blossom but I suspect it was actually getting the insects present there.  Not the best of photographs but you can see what I mean.

On the dune side there were two Swallows sitting in the same tree that yesterday there were two, probably the same birds, I was able to get both of them this time.

We walked on to look over the South Levels, once again plenty of Avocet feeding in the shallow pools, but also three Dunlin and a Ringed Plover.

We turned back as it was getting close to lunch time, and there was a need for food.  As we passed the scrubby bushes where the Lesser Whitethroat was I heard a familiar song and went to investigate.  A Firecrest appeared in front of me and sat quite nicely.

As I am sure any one who reads this and the local blog will know, like hirundines I can't resist photographing this lovely little bird.

Rather than walk back through the reserve we headed along the path through the dunes, and then across the North Wall.  We would normally have seen Red Deer by now, but they have been conspicuous by their absence, so it was nice to see one at the back of the reed bed from the wall.

Before we went to the cafe I walked up to the grass bank to see the Sand Martins again, while the Sand Martins were quiet, we did come across a Small Copper, the first of the year, but it flew off rather quickly.

As we ate I couldn't resist another go at the flying Sand Martins.

While under the feeders a cock Pheasant showed off all its finery in the sunshine.

After lunch we walked to the Scrape starting on the south side, and in the Wildlife Lookout, which used to be the West Hide.  It is always a busy hide, the closest to the visitor centre, and full of families.  We did though manage to see a Bar-tailed Godwit feeding just to the right of the hide.

There was also the now very common Avocet.

And a smart drake Shoveler.

We moved on to the South Hide, where it was a little quieter for awhile  The terns that were flyting around yesterday were all settled down on the island in front of us, there were all three species again, the Little Terns close to the edge of the water.

Once again some lovely views of Avocet.

And then a summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit flew in and settled in front of the hide.

It spent the time preening, taking little sips of water to help clean the feathers

A further scan of the gulls found two adult Kittiwakes.  These nest on the outflow structures near to Sizewell, and come to the scrape to wash and collect nesting material.

The Godwit was then joined by a summer plumaged Redshank in the area close to the hide

We walked up to the sluice, and then out once again into the dunes.  Just off shore a couple of Little Terns flew past calling as they went.

We ended up in the East Hide, the light was not good here as in the afternoon the sun shines in your face.  Two Common Terns were sitting on one of the fences, and were almost silhouetted by the sunshine.

In front of us a Redshank fed in the shallow water, here you have the reflection of the bird, the shadow, and the ripples of the water forming a sort of three way view.

The Sand Martin were collecting nesting material from the dunes as well as close to the nest colony.  This one gathering a dead piece of grass, and sporting a quite handsome moustache.

One bird I hadn't seen up to now, and had expected to see was a Stonechat so it was nice to finally catch up with one in the dunes near to the North Wall entrance.

A Common Tern was fishing above us as we walked along the North Wall.

There is certain grace and style about the terns, they look all clean with a high level of elegance.

After a pot of tea we decided to spend the late afternoon in the Island Mere and Bittern hides.  We made our way to the Island Mere via the Whin Hill viewpoint which has wonderful views across the reed bed and meres.  You are able to get a sense of how much open water there actually is here.

The hide was busy, and there was not much going on, so I amused myself by trying to photograph the Swifts that were hawking over the reeds and mere.

It wasn't until I got home and viewed all the images to find I had this one, quite smart and timely.

The snipe was still about and attracting some interesting attention from those in the hide.  This time it was a little closer, and easier to see, but still just a Common Snipe.

It was then off to the Bittern Hide, where we did manage to see a Bittern for an all too distant and brief moment.  The highlight though was a male Marsh Harrier that went back and forth across the reeds.

We stayed until just after 18.00, another long day in the field.  We hadn't had the wonderful special views that we have had on previous visits but this place very rarely faisl, and what we had seen was all good quality.  The weather too, while being cold stayed dry and sunny, and you can't ask for more.  It was all over far to quickly, and tomorrow we were heading back.  As we drove back to Thorpeness the clouds were gathering to the west, signds that rain was on the way, and hopefully a change in the weather.

Birds Seen on Trip (102)

Mute Swan
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Barnacle Goose
Tufted Duck
Long-tailed Duck
Little Egret
Grey Heron
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Marsh Harrier
Water Rail
Little Ringed Plover
Ringed Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Common Sandpiper
Black-headed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Little Tern
Sandwich Tern
Common Tern
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon
Stock Dove

Collared Dove
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Carrion Crow
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Bearded Tit
Sand Martin
House Martin
Cetti’s Warbler
Long-tailed Tit
Iberian Chiffchaff
Willow Warbler
Lesser Whitethroat
Grasshopper Warbler
Savi’s Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Song Thrush
House Sparrow
Pied Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Reed Bunting


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