Friday, 16 June 2017

Caspian Gull at Minsmere and a Hobby Fest at North Warren

Monday 11th June and it was off to visit RSPB Minsmere for the day. My last visit was back in May 2013, 4 years ago, and I was really looking forward to my day.  I had remembered to bring my RSPB membership card this time along with my stash of complimentary passes and so I was accompanied by Mum, David and my cousin Claire on the walk around the reserve - so not a proper birding day but I managed a few good sightings along the way.

We started at the Island Mere hide where I saw marsh harriers, reed warblers, a sedge warbler, a common tern, swifts, sand martins and brief flight views of bearded tits across the reed tops but there was no sign of the recently reported purple heron or red footed falcon. Next stop was the Bittern hide where the same range of birds were on view before we headed to the West hide overlooking The Scrape where avocets, common terns, Mediterranean gulls, lapwings, greylag geese and barnacle geese were easily seen.

Onwards along the North Wall towards the cafe at Dunwich Cliffs and I managed to get a lovely close flight view of a male bearded tit over the reeds along with more marsh harriers and a common blue butterfly but there was no sign of any stone curlews out on the heath, apparently they are nesting this year out of sight from the footpath and are only occassionally seen.

Lunch at the Dunwich Cliff cafe was very tasty and we were joined by a variety of chaffinches including a bold male with a silver ring on its right leg but unfortunately with papillomavirus growths on its right leg below the ring and around its beak.



We walked back towards the reserve reception, noting a cuckoo in the dunes along the way, and I walked on to the East hide while the others headed back to the reserve cafe. From the East hide I had good views of black tailed godwits, Sandwich terns, knot, redshank, a male pochard, dunlin, oystercatcher and 2 sleeping spoonbills which had arrived earlier that afternoon. Marsh harriers were soaring over the reedbeds and 2 hobbys were soaring high overhead amongst some swifts before drifting off out of sight.

Sleeping Spoonbills

I had a scan through the larger gulls as Caspian and yellow legged gulls were reported as being present and I found a 2nd summer yellow legged gull amongst the assorted herring, great black backed and lesser black backed gulls - it was being harrassed by a 2nd summer lesser black backed gull which was chasing after it across the water, unusual as yellow legged are usually more dominant. I also picked out what I think is a 1st summer Caspian gull stood out on its own and being given a wide berth by any nearby gulls - not especially large looking but with a very white looking head and breast, long and thin black bill, upright stance, dark eye and distinctive head shape - but I am not known for my gull ID! (Distant record shots below).

 Caspian Gull

 Caspian Gull

 Caspian Gull

 Caspian Gull

Caspian Gull

And so not a bad days birding despite my limited time, I only hope my next visit isn't another 4 years away.

Pheasent at the RSPB Cafe

Tuesday 13th June started off sunny but eventually clouded over and after visiting my dear Uncle John who is very poorly we drove up to Snape Maltings for a look around. While David explored the antique shops I wandered along the footpath by the river where I saw a female marsh harrier, reed warblers, reed buntings and a nice flyby male bearded tit accompanied by a female/juvenile bird.

 Small Tortoiseshell, Snape Maltings

Reed Bunting, Snape Maltings

Onwards to RSPB North Warren near Aldeburgh and a walk across the marsh from the beach car park revealed a male gadwall, reed warblers, lapwings, reed buntings, a female marsh harrier, a distant hobby, a fox, a red deer and a painted lady butterfly. I was looking for the main reed bed on the reserve but had misjudged the distances and so David dropped me off at a car park closer to the reed bed before leaving me to go and have a look around Aldeburgh.

I eventually found the reed bed viewing platform, hearing a cuckoo along the way, and was met with good views of a hobby flying around a large circular area of reeds bounded all around by trees. It was hot and humid and still and was sweltering when the sun eventually reappeared between the clouds with the reed bed abuzz with Norfolk hawkers and four spotted chasers flitting about everywhere. Walking on to the next viewing platform and I eventually managed some nice views of 6 - 8 hobbys feeding over the reeds or perched in nearby trees, very mobile and fast and difficult to keep track of in the heat haze as they disappeared amongst the channels in the reeds. Unfortunately there was no sign of the recently reported red footed falcon but the views of the hobbys were excellent and with a booming bittern heard and a pair of marsh harriers flying around too it was quite magical before it was time to head back to the car park to meet David for the drive home to Ipswich.

 North Warren Reed Bed

Four Spotted Chasers

And so a great trip to the East with some excellent bird sightings. The journey back to Plymouth on June 14th was uneventful but very hot and sticky with sunshine and temperatures of 26 degrees and just 2 red kites seen along the M3 again.

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