Wednesday 22 May 2013

Red Footed Falcon on a trip to Suffolk, 14th to 18th May 2013

With the week off work we headed off to Suffolk to visit Mum and Dad - and to do some birding too!

A red kite flying overhead and 2 red-legged partridge in a nearby field on a stop at Risby was a good start as we headed off to Lakenheath Fen on the 15th May. I visited Lakenheath Fen in 1989 before it was an RSPB reserve and had brief and obscured views of a male golden oriole on a nest in a poplar plantation there. Today it has been developed as a proper nature reserve with hides and a visitor centre and with reedbeds and waterways created from what were carrot fields. Golden orioles still nest here but in reduced and reducing numbers and on my visit none had yet been seen or heard this year, hopefully due only to the continuing cold and late spring.

I only had a short time so headed off to the embankment and hide from where a male red footed falcon was being reported. Eventually, with the help of a fellow birder and his telescope, I saw it in the distance sheltering with 2 hobbys from the strong winds and showers in trees overlooking the reed bed. It took to the air briefly, flying low over the reedbeds and showing its silvery upper wing tips against blue-grey plumage, before landing in the trees again. I couldn't make out its red legs in flight or when perched in the tree due to being partly obscured by foliage but I could see its red cere with the help of the telescope. While watching the red footed falcon a male marsh harrier flew over the reedbeds and a bittern was heard booming nearby, a nice supporting cast to my second lifer in 4 days!

 Large Red Damselfly - with deformed abdomen - Ickworth House
Large Red Damselfly - with normal abdomen - Ickworth House

We then headed off to nearby Weeting Heath to look for stone curlews.We managed good views of a pair doing a nest change over with the help of another fellow birders telescope, without his help and telescope we would not have seen them due to the distance and their amazing camouflaged plumage against the vegetation. At least with the bad weather there was no heat haze to contend with.

Stock Dove, Weeting Heath

Friday 17th May and I managed to wangle a few hours at the RSPB reserve at Minsmere, a place I spent as much time as possible at when I was a teenager. Despite the grey skies, drizzle and biting wind I had a great time and saw some good birds.

While watching a pair of marsh harriers I caught a brief flight view of a bittern while 3 bearded tits "pinged" and flew over the reed tops. A cuckoo was sitting quietly in a willow tree observing the reedbed, presumably a female looking for a nest to lay in, while a male called nearby. On the Scrape a pair of peregrines buzzed over, a small male and a much larger and brown toned plumaged immature female, putting up the common terns, avocets and black headed gulls, but they failed to make a kill. Around 40 kittiwakes were resting, bathing, and preening on one of the Scrape islands with some collecting beakfuls of mud before flying off along the coast, presumably to build nests on the nearby water outlet tower offshore from Sizewell nuclear power station.

Kittiwakes, Avocet and Black Headed Gulls, Minsmere

 Common Terns, Minsmere
Sedge Warbler, Minsmere

A pair of stone curlews were seen nesting in a field near the visitor centre and again, with the help of a fellow birders telescope, I had some good views. It is the first time I have seen stone curlews at Minsmere and if I had realised that they were nesting there I could have saved myself £12 entrance fee ( for 3 people) at Weeting Heath! Still, the entrance fee for Weeting Heath goes to a good cause so I can't complain.

I also saw red deer, another first for Minsmere, with 3 feeding in the reedbeds and a further 8 feeding along the woodland edge near the nesting stone curlews.

Red Deer, Minsmere

I took my moth box with me to Suffolk and I had it running one night in my Mums garden but with just 4 moths in it on the following morning -  2 shuttle shaped darts, a common quaker and a male muslin moth. I guess the cold, late spring is having an effect on moths in the East of the UK as much as it is in the South West.

 Common Quaker
Male Muslin Moth

Heading home on the 18th May and I saw 3 red kites overhead along the M3, and a stop at Barrington Court, a National Trust house and garden in Somerset, gave me good views of a pair of spotted flycatchers, my first of the year and a nice end to my trip to Suffolk.

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