Wednesday, 11 April 2012

More Suffolk & a bit of Herts

Sunday was the last full day of our trip & we had to make our way across to Hertfordshire ready for Mary's flight back to Switzerland from Luton on Monday morning.

We're definitely showing our age....rather than an early start to cram in as much as possible, we actually indulged in some toasted Hot Cross buns for breakfast. No dedication!

A Spoonbill had been seen on Saturday at Boyton Marshes, an RSPB reserve on the coast between the Butley river & Ore estuary just South of our Youth Hostel at Blaxhall. We decided to give it a try, it would be another reserve explored even if we dipped again. We hadn't been there long when we heard a Sedge Warbler singing beside the path & we even managed to get a reasonable view of it. A new bird for the year. A Swallow then flew in & landed on the fence in front of us, only our 3rd of the trip. We walked along the raised bank bordering the estuary, which exposed us fully to the cold wind & occasional drizzle, but gave us good views in all directions, including Havergate Island, another RSPB reserve with limited access. We scanned for a while, but there were no large white birds (except for a field of Mute Swans). We just started heading back to the van when Mary spotted 3 large white birds flying in from the North, & yes, they had ridiculous bills! Fantastic! Another few minutes & they would have flown in behind us & we would have missed them. That's just what happened to the 4 other birders that had come in after us. They had spent a while scanning from the bank but were walking back across the low trail when the Spoonbills arrived. They were looking the wrong way when they flew in & would have been unable to see them through the reeds once they landed. If we'd managed to catch them before they left we would have let them know......but they'd gone when we got back to the van.

On the bank at Boyton Marshes RSPB

2 of the 3 Spoonbills, the other was following behind
Our final Suffolk stop was Alton Water, a large reservoir near Ipswich. We chose it as a Red-necked Grebe  had been there for a while, but of course we didn't find that. However we had a nice walk along the Northern arm, and as reservoirs go, it was quite nice with 'natural edges & marshy fringes'. We were going to check out the Southern half as well, but there was only an 'all day' parking rate which was a bit much for the short time we had to play with.

We headed West. The route plotted by the GPS took us pretty close to Amwell Gravel Pit near Ware in Herts, one of the first sites that we visited when we started birding. I knew there had been quite a lot of work done since my last visit a few years ago, so having explored lots of new places,  we decided to  finish with an old favourite.

There were a couple of new hides & a second level had been added to the old one. The highlight was a flock of about 40 or 50 Sand Martins, our first of the year. We also added a 'colchicus group' (ie non-ring necked) pheasant to the sub-species list.

Amwell from the view point
Well, that was about it. We spent the night about 15 minutes from Luton, and had a last minute bonus on our way to the airport in the morning when a Red Kite flew over. It was just inside Herts, which was a shame as it would have been another County on Mary's list had we been another mile up the road in Beds.

The trip had lasted 10 & a bit days. Mary had amassed a Year List total of 126 + 2 (although it may be more as we have a slight discrepancy in the list & we still have a pipit & a gull to work on!) spread over 7 counties (Somerset, Dorset, Hampshire, Essex, Surrey, Suffolk & Hertfordshire). I had added 21 + 1 to my list, which now stands at 168 + 2

We have an impressive list of rarities, unfortunately though most of them are birds we dipped!

Lowlights: (Twitches we dipped on)
Hume's Leaf Warbler (Wyke Regis, Dorset)....again
Richard's Pipit (Wyke Regis, Dorset).....again
Puffin (Portland Bill, Dorset) ......NEVER seen one
Glossy Ibis (Radipole Lake, Weymouth, Dorset) it later
Spoonbill (Middlebere, Dorset) it later
Spanish Sparrow (Calshot, Hants)
Hawfinch (Lakeside Country Park, Hants)
Glossy Ibis (Chelmsford, Essex) it later
Long-tailed Duck (Abberton Resv, Essex)
Red-necked Grebe (Alton Water, Suffolk)

Highlights: (Successful Twitches/ good birds we saw):
Long-billed Dowitcher (Shapwick Heath, Somerset)
Bearded Tit (Shapwick Heath, Somerset & Minsmere, Suffolk)
Ring Ouzel (Portland)
Common Redstart (Portland)
Rose-coloured Starling (Hordle, Hants)
Glossy Ibis (Minsmere, Suffolk)
Stone Curlew (Minsmere, Suffolk)
Great Grey Shrike (S Hollesley Heath, Suffolk)
Spoonbill (Boyton Marshes, Suffolk)

Had the sole purpose of the trip been to twitch, I would have been disappointed with my list, especially as some great birds were turning up near Exmouth!! In particular the Ring Ouzel & Redstart that were about a 5 minute walk from my house! However, we had a great time exploring places we hadn't been to before & visiting lots of new reserves. I drove 1090 miles & have come home for a rest......apart from nipping out to the Otter yesterday to see the Purple Heron of course!! It kindly waited for me to get home before flying off!

My Year :List total 169 + 2


  1. Sounds a great trip sorry I missed it.
    Great blog

  2. It wasn't the same without you!