Sunday, 12 April 2015

David Walsh & Minsmere 2nd April 2015

Hi, I was incredibly tired that morning after my fellow birdwatchers/Grandparents snored for England... If there's a way of comparing it, it would be a brass band! There's only a couple of differences 1. My Grandparents peformance lasted for nine hours. and 2. It was a very late night performace!

Back to birding... (just giving background) A month or so ago I was contacted by David offering us a free tour round Minsmere. Obviously I accepted the offer. I could tell he was a really nice man and interesting. I wasn't wrong, but could be slighty as he was even more experienced, kind, thoughtful than first anticipated, just brilliant!

David picked us up at 9:00 AM so after having 3 hours sleep wasn't great!!! We attempted to find 13 Waxwings which did prove to be the unlucky part (wow that worked so well!) Although that was probably the only dip of the day as all that followed was some what legendary!

When we arrived we entered some damp woodland, the habitat was practically perfect for Willow Tit, however, these little things have been disappearing rapidly from our countryside... In fact David said he found the last pair in Suffolk back in 2010. "So what does the future hold for them?" You ask,  well it does seem very bleak as prime habitat back in my home county in Wiltshire is not being pounced on by the Willow Tits, only a few pairs bred last year! The only solution is to captive breed these critters and hope for the best while the wild population dwindle in their localised populations.

Back to Minsmere. Our first bird was from the car park a smart female Pied Wagtail calling for its mate. It didn't succeed but gave good views while there was already a toilet break!

The start of the journey began by walking towards the island Mere hide. Along the way we searched through the Adder trail. Even though I used to think I was the "Steve Irwin" and managed to walk down the Cornish Coast Path in shorts within 10cm's of an Adder, or 2! I still am very fond of them and love seeing them out and about. At least this shows you I'm not in love of just the feathered variety! This male provided excellent photographic oppurtunities and allows you to see that blood red eye! 

All the while we were watching this Adder Green Woodpeckers were calling. David was zoned into this Adder and who wouldn't? After all he has a new Kowa scope which is fantastic I tell you! He allowed me throughout the day to look through it and everytime was like a breath of fresh air ;) But seriously this is probably the best scope I've looked through ever. The Green Woodpeckers did tempt me away but to no prevail, at times I could have taken world class photos but as usual my amatuerish camera skills were for the whole world to see!

We finally made it to the island Mere hide, this held stage to a wild goose chase... or sort of... Within 2 minutes of arriving we laid eyes on the three Tundra Bean Geese. Today compared to other (by the looks of other photos) was unlucky in distance terms, but still incredibly lucky to see the three Beanateers. The birds are the smaller ones at the front they have small bit of pink/orange on their bill on top of a black background.

We watched those beautiful Geese for another 5 minutes or so before setting sights on probably the most graceful birds of prey in England... Sorry Hen! In 1971 these birds were down to just 1 pair in Britain (and funnily enough they were from here) they now number over 400, what a fantastic success. This shows what we can do when we want a bird so much! I've recently heard that the Malta killing spree hasn't stopped and another Hen Harrier has been poisoned, only a few things like winning that vote, preventing the raptor persecuters from shooting and we'd be plain sailing. It's never that simple though is it? Anyway here are some pictures of a a success story :)

The heat haze prevented me from getting any better photos, but you can clearly it's a Marsh Harrier. Female has straw on its head male doesn't simple :) A few minutes later and I was about to find another success story which goes "Whump!" The Bittern, a crypitically plumaged bird similar to a heron in biometrics, however has a very different jizz with its legendary shy behviour and unusual call. This is probably the biggest success story in the past 5 years with its population hitting heights dating back to the 1800s, now that's something isn't it!? At first we only saw one flying over the reedbed but only a few seconds later a boy called "there's one right here!" We looked over and there it was about 10m's away so by far and away the best views I've ever had and probably will ever have!

Also the photos in focus!!! 

As you can tell this Bittern was slightly mad, David said this was the best views he's had for over 2 years! So already the day has been good enough for us happy tourists! It was just too good... We spent another 20 minutes watching both the Bittern and Marsh Harrier before hearing another characterisitc Minsmere bird. "Ping... Ping.... Ping!" The Bearded Tit! The views were fairly fleeting but good enough and what are the chances of it being the beautiful male, with its (beware another insane word from english assessment, which means peculiar) idiosyncratic black line down the side of its face. My Mum always says it's as if some one has just painted on the side of its face! 

So what a morning, huh. All three key species of the reedbed in one and a few other bits of pieces for the supporting cast. Now I think about it I even forgot the Great Crested Grebe courting well I think the day was so good it wasn't able to deserve its place!!!

The Suffolk Bacon Butty one of the nicest things to fill up on thanks to the Minsmere cafe. While I was there I spoke so some very experienced birders along with David who helped clear up this Omissus mishap. We were all enjoying some great food until I had to stand up for another great bird. It has been very scarce this winter because of mild conditions and may I add was a great relief in some ways to see this bird as it has always eluded me... May I present the Brambling

It gave itself away due to its unusual orange plumage, I was also fairly pleased by the photo I managed to get :) 

Moving on, Dunwich Heath was the next destination, this is just out of the RSPB Reserve and is owned by the National Trust. it's a very well managed reserve with three key birds waiting for David, Granny, Granddad & I to uncover. The first was the Dartford Warbler. Although I had already seen these beauties I was still rather excited to see them again. We spoke to some photographers who said "No, none are down this path." David and I didn't really take note which in effect was one of the best decisions. A minute are after walking on we found a pir and in total we found at least 4! The heat haze again gave me issues with phtotography but here's the best I could do!

Apparently Stonechats are still fairly scarce in Suffolk so I thought I'd take one as a memento...
A fruther 500m's down the track and we arrived in a small collection of Pine and Birch. Loads of Finches were calling, I'd say over 40 birds were there... 2 more scarce birds game up trumps with Lesser Red and Siskin both being very scarce in the Southern half of Britain this winter... Tell me what's this?
While we were still up there we decided to have a coffee break and look over the 3rd largest reed bed in England.

While making are way back to the car David got a call telling him that a Stone-Curlew had been found! We lept into the car excited as ever and smiling like a group of four Cheshire Cats! They weren't overly far away this gave us a good hour or so to find it. Only a few had been thus far and David really wasn't expecting to see one so it was a real buzz. But this wasn't the only surprise was it? Woodlark was on the cards and showed absolutely incredibly, I'm not joking this bird was only a few feet away on occasions! There was a pair of them in the vicinity which was a new lifer that was well worth the wait...

The Robin didn't manage to steal the limelight! The diagnostic feature that I find most useful for seperating it from a Skylark is the white-black-white combo on the wing. Other than that ochre cheeks and call are the other give aways, and let's not forget the habitat! But still no Stone-Curlew and it wasn't starting to feel less fortuitous as previously anticipated (three good words there)... Hope was not lost though as David found it in amongst the heather...
What a bird and how unlucky not to find it in Wiltshire beforehand however, a lifer is a lifer and not many will be this peculiar! In total there could was 2 but could have been three as there was one calling from afar and the bird in the heath seemed to have moved some distance in a relatively short space of time. 

Magical and BEST BIRD DAY EVER! Is the only way to describe and thanks so much for David leading us around this area and coming up with the goods.

I hope to meet up again, and praise Twitter for making this all happen, great device when trying to find someone as odd as you liking birds :)))

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