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A prelude to Minsmere part 2 (Suffolk)

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Old Wednesday 9th April 2003, 18:54   #1
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A prelude to Minsmere part 2 (Suffolk)

After a bite to eat, at Mayday Farm I had almost 8 hours of daylight left to bird in so I took a leisurely drive down to a place in Suffolk I have never visited before, Shingle Street, which is down towards Felixstowe. This site is best in the winter, so I am told, so this was just a reccy to see the lie of the land. Prior to getting there I drove to Bawdsey, which is on the other side of the river Deben to Felixstowe but there was hardly a bird to be seen. However, just before Bawdsey you go past Shottisham and it was near to there where I found my first Marsh Harrier of the year. Unfortunately it was only a brief encounter as it quickly drifted out of sight behind a hill.

As Shingle Street’s name suggests, the beach is all shingle that is banked up in little undulating hills. To the right are a few houses with a Martello Tower further on and to the left are a couple of Bungalows. Just prior to here is a marshy area, which was extremely quiet today. I first scoped the sea and was slightly taken aback as there wasn’t a single bird to be seen out there. Like wise on the land, apart from a Black headed Gull, a swan, a couple of Mallard and a Blackbird nothing else could be seen. Out by the marsh area were a couple of Curlew and a Grey Heron plus a lone Kestrel hovering in the distance. That was it, nothing else stirred. A couple of birders were returning from the northern end of the beach and I asked how they had done. “nothin doin mate” came the reply. “only 1 Redshank and a Shelduck to be seen”. I thanked them for their info and decided then and there not to put any more time into looking around this area. Best to wait until the place comes alive towards the end of the year.

Next port of call was Sudborne’s Lantern Marshes. Some of you may recall that I called into here at the back end of last year after a Rough legged Buzzard, which I found. Well it seems that the bird was still there so off I went in search of it. The best place to view for it is along the Crags Farm track and you look towards Orford and watch around some radio masts. This I did for almost an hour and whilst doing this came across my first Ring tailed Hen Harrier of the year. A Marsh Harrier came into view and started quartering the reeds in front of me but was much too far away to get a photo of it. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful sight as this graceful bird went about its business. Mallard and Starling were the only other birds to be seen and a Green Woodpecker could be heard yaffling in the distance. It was such a lovely day and I found myself relaxing as I leant against my car as I watched over the area in front of me. The warm sun’s rays washed over me and it felt good to be out but I had other places to go and more birds to see.

After an hour I decided to carry on. I had the feeling that perhaps the R.L Buzzard had departed from this area so it was on to Sizewell for my next stop. Sizewell, which lies at the side of Minsmere, can be an excellent place to bird. In fact I found my own rare bird there in 1999 when I found a Pallid Swift on 31/10/99. In fact, unbeknown to me Colin J’s mate, Ivan, was there the same time as me and saw the bird also.

By the time I had reached Sizewell the weather had completely changed. The clouds had swept in and a strong north wind had gathered strength. The temperature had really dropped and I found it necessary to put my thick jumper on as well as my fleece jacket and waterproof top on, to combat the cold. I walked out towards the beach, scanning around the grass and shingle as I went. A few Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits were being battered by the wind but not much else could be seen. Out in front of me, in the sea (about a 100 yards away) are metal platforms. There are three of them about 100 yards apart and there are always plenty of gulls to look at here. You never know what you will find when you look through your scope at these gulls. Today, there were a fair number of Kittiwake , Fulmars, Black headed, Common Gulls, Herring, Lesser.B.B and Great B.B gulls. The Kittiwakes were my first of the year. I scanned diligently for Little and Med Gull plus any other gull that would enter my year list but nothing else could be seen. The wind was destroying any real chance I had of getting good gull flight shots, as it was whipping straight across my scope, but I have managed a few average ones. I have put in the forum a Fulmar and a Kittiwake from this site.

It was now 17:00hrs and I still had just over 2 hours until I met the others at the Ship Inn at Dunwich. The weather seemed to be against going to Dunwich, after the Dartford Warblers, but I decided to go there any way. The route I took went via Eastbridge and, surprisingly, by the time I had reached there the clouds had all but disappeared and the sun’s rays began to work their magic again. A couple of birders were already standing at the bridge when I arrived. They had seen very little and as I scanned around all I could see were about 10 Mute Swans and about 20 Greylags. One noise that became evident, soon after my arrival, was the boom of a Bittern. It was much too far away in the reeds to even contemplate looking for it but it would start up every so often and usually it would give six of its booming notes before going quiet again.

It was close to 17:30 and time to move on to Dunwich. It really was a lovely evening by the time I arrived there. I was looking forward to this walk and I wasn’t disappointed. As soon as I passed by the feeders by the side of the track I had seen Dunnock, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet, Meadow Pipt, Great Tit, Siskin plus a Buzzard that was flying low over the heath. As I entered past the first bar two Dartford warblers flew straight across me from less than three feet away. That is the closest I have ever been to these little beauties. They were constantly flitting in and out of the Gorse before disappearing from view. As I walked along the path I added at least 7 more Dartfords and all of them were very active and showy. I say showy. It was a case of now you see me, now you don’t as they kept on popping up from all over the place. Definitely the best ever sightings I have had of these little birds. A few Stonechat adorned the tops of the odd Gorse bushes. They were all with their mates and it was great to watch them in this beautiful, low, sunlight. Even the females beauty stood out in this clean, unpolluted light.

I had only walked along half the path when it became obvious that I was going to have trouble spotting any more birds. The low sun now hit me right between the eyes and I couldn’t see past it. It was now well past 19:00 hrs and the Ship Inn beckoned me. On my return I saw as many Dartfords again but whether they were the same birds or not I don’t know so all I can say is that I saw at least 9 of them in total. What I did see was this beautiful Stonechat that has become a cause of a bit of controversy. Is it a Siberain Stonechat or not. Hopefully the experts will furnish the right answer when they give it a good look over.

My days birding were over and a thoroughly enjoyable day I had had. My new years birds for the day were:
Golden Pheasant
Crossbill
Goshawk
Marsh Harrier
Hen Harrier
Kittiwake

Added to that list were numerous Bramblings and Siskins as well as Redpoll Chiffchaff, Treecreepers and many other birds.

It was now time for the Ship Inn. The night there went brilliantly and we all got on as though we had known each other for years. It cements the way that I feel about the members of this forum. Everyone is willing to get along and support each other. Long may this go on.

Unfortunately Sunday was a disaster for me as I woke up with the most horrendous, sickly, headache. It was a headache I couldn’t get rid of. I did the first part of Minsmere with the group but to be honest it was a torture going around like that. Each time I tried to put my bins up to my eyes my head banged and my eyes felt like they were on stalks. When the others went for lunch I went to my car to see if I could sleep it off. I had taken 4 Paracetomol through the morning and they had hardly touched it. When they came out I was still no better and told them to carry on as I was probably going home. I promised to follow them if it cleared but by 14:00 hours it was still bad so I gingerly made the decision to cut loose and go home.

That was a bitterly disappointing end to what was becoming a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. It appears that there were one or two members I didn’t get to meet, JWM for instance, and I am sorry about that. Hopefully I will get to meet them all again in the not too distant future.
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Old Wednesday 9th April 2003, 19:25   #2
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Another cracking read and I can sympathise with your headache as I have headaches and tinnitus all the time. It does put me off birding a lot. The imbalance is worse.

Are you sure you didn't have one too many at The Ship Inn? LOL
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Old Wednesday 9th April 2003, 19:48   #3
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Would you believe I rarely drink. My sum total for the night was 5 orange juices and a half a pint of lager and lime. Not what you would call headache brew: LOL
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Old Wednesday 9th April 2003, 20:11   #4
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Sensible lad! I too gave up the younger days of . It got too much. There could be advantages as you would see three Sibe Stonechats instead of one!!! LOL.
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