Sunday, 16 June 2013

Birding Day in Suffolk and Norfolk.

On Friday I left home in the wee small hours and at 5am met up with six other birders at RSPB Lakenheath in Suffolk. The site has been playing host recently to rare birds such as Savi's Warbler and Red-footed Falcon and is probably the only regular breeding location in the UK for the 'RED listed' Golden Oriole plus home of the Common Crane that first bred there in 2007. Indications were that the first two species had not been recently sighted and although a pair of Golden Orioles were around they can be notoriously difficult to locate once they start the breeding process.

With the light slowly improving and a very chilling strong breeze we started our circuit of the reserve at the viewpoint overlooking 'The Flash' with overflying views of Lapwing, Curlew and a close quartering Barn Owl carrying its prey. The reed beds were full of the rhythmic and scratchy songs of Reed and Sedge Warbler respectively plus the distinctive reeling of Grasshopper Warbler interspersed by the occasional but sudden loud outburst from Cetti's Warbler and Wren. 

 Wren bursting into full song.

Throughout our time here Cuckoo's called constantly from their lofty perches and several were seen in flight. (I subsequently learnt that there are probably five males but only one female. Even so they have plenty of their favoured host species available, the Reed Warbler, to ensure a successful breeding season.) At every opportunity we scanned likely locations but I only heard the flutty call of a Golden Oriole on two separate occasions. Bittern was heard 'booming' and Marsh Harriers were regularly on the wing hunting with plenty of Swifts screaming overhead but very few Swallows. I found it difficult to pick up the twanging calls of Bearded Reedling but several were seen briefly skipping over the top of the reeds. A pair of Egyptian Geese and a single Common Tern flew along the river while a scan of the fields way beyond produced two resident Common Cranes. 

 Grey Heron.

After leaving Lakenheath we visited a 'likely' road-side area (according to a reliable source)  barricaded with electric fencing for Stone Curlew but couldn't locate anything apart from Hares and Rabbits so we stopped at Brandon for a hearty full english breakfast before popping into Weeting Heath. We were only just in time to log two adults and one chick before three reserve staff walked out onto the breeding area to ring the chicks. (You would have thought they could plan this sort of activity before the reserve was open to the public ... AND they actually walked straight past one chick and of course the adults took flight!) As the adults probably wouldn't resettle for some time the decision was made to drive northwards to Cley Marshes for probable Pectoral Sandpiper, Spoonbill and a male White-spotted Bluethroat although some doubt existed as to if the latter was still around. (Needless to say we didn't see it ... that would have been a lifer for me.)


After a caffeine fix we headed out onto the East Bank and located a Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits and then a single Pectoral Sandpiper skulking in the grass fringes of one of the pools. From the shingle ridge we added Sandwich and Little Tern over the sea.

Oystercatcher nesting on the landward side of the shingle ridge that protects the reserve from the sea. It was interesting to note the increase in vegetation around this spot that was marked out to protect the nest site which in normal circumstance would have born the brunt of thousands of human footsteps. 
 
A little further on an Avocet had also decided that this was a good place to nest.

From the North Hide we confirmed our earlier distant scoped views of a sleeping Spoonbill, another Spotted Redshank, Ringed Plaver and a Little Stint plus a flyby Mediterranean Gull. Unfortunately the rest of my 'day companions' had to return home to Surrey at lot earlier than originally planned so I spent a while in one of the hides watching the numerous Avocets with their chicks and the hiatus caused when a Marsh Harrier drifted over their territories and snatched a meal. 

Outside the hide in a nearby field a Lapwing provided a closer opportunity for the lens before I eventually drove back southwards to my overnight accommodation at Barton Mills and decided to revisit the RSPB Lakenheath Reserve again the following morning before returning home. 

A rain front had moved through overnight and there was still plenty of cloud and drizzle at 6am but the conditions slowly improved over the next two hours and I was fortunate to have good views of three separate Bittern in flight and the pair of Common Cranes flying off to their daytime feeding area.

 Common Cranes.

My thanks go to Richard H for generously inviting me along and for the company of Rich S, Neil R, Matt P, Dave B and Mark L on a grand birding day. My overall tally for the trip was 75 species of which 7 were year ticks but no lifers this time.  FAB.

Linking to Camera CrittersI'D-Rather-B-Birdin' and Wild Bird Wednesday.

63 comments:

  1. Great series, Frank. Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  2. a great series Frank. Even though it was chilly; my favourite of the bunch has to be avocet

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    1. Carole M. Wearing gloves in June to keep the fingers flexible was somewhat unexpected! I agree the Avocet are fun to watch.

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  3. What a cracking day Frank. Two great parts of the country. Myself and Trevor visited Cley recently; a magnet for the Harriers, and lots of Avocets about.
    Never been to Lakenheath, so one for the list.
    Love the shot of the Cranes flying.

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    1. Hi Keith. It was great to back at locations I know so well from my earliest days birding in those counties.

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  4. Fabulous images along with your great commentary. I loved each and every bird photo, and the fact that I'm not the only one that gets up at the crack of dawn [or before] to drive somewhere in hopes of finding the special bird. Your avocets are a bit different than the ones we see here. Right now, our avocets are in their summer garb. Oh and is that a pheasant? Pretty bird.

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    1. Hi Anni. Rising exceptionally early and a 3 hour drive in the dark was certainly worth the effort. Yes, it is a male Pheasant showing off.

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  5. Interesting birds. Looks like you had a very successful trip.

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    1. Thanks Gunilla. It was a fun day, if a little tiring!

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  6. You missed a few but also had a very successful day out I would say Frank. Nice shot of the Avocet trying to blend in.

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    1. Cheers Phil. That Avocet obviously wanted to be as far away from all the other nesters BUT not a safe location!

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  7. What a lovely outing you had and now only the bird images are wonderful all images are quite wonderful...such a beautiful place. Happy father's Day, Happy week Frank~

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    1. Thank Mary. I hope you also have a good week.

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  8. Hi Frank...What a fabulous day of birding you got in!!
    Like that Pheasant, who look like he is doing some kind of call : )!!
    The Avocet has a very interesting beak and strange nesting place, but each to his own : )
    I always get a kick out the Lapwings hair-do!!
    Wonderful shot's...of skies and scenery and that boat is a great one, always have to take one of those shot's myself!!
    Grace

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    1. Hi Grace. I think the Pheasant was just showing off! I'm not sure why the Avocet chose that exposed spot .. it will be very lonely.

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  9. i like the scoops of the avocet and the lapwing together. :)

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  10. Great outing with wonderful bird sightings! The pheasant and Lapwings are my favorites. Great shots!

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    1. Thanks Eileen. It was a grand day if a little tiring.

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  11. Theresa. Just as well both 'scoops' aren't on the same bird .. lol.

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  12. Świetne fotki Frank. Piękne zdjęcie czajki :)
    Pozdrawiam

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  13. Lovely post, Frank! I love your Avocet. The black and white is striking. Our Avocets have a lot of rust, black and white coloring. And those blue legs...

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    1. Hi Mona. Regardless of their different colourings they are very special birds.

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  14. Sounds like you had a very enjoyable birding adventure, Frank. As always, you photographs are wonderful! My favorites are of the nesting oystercatcher and avocet. The in-flight cranes are a sight to behold too. A pleasure to read this terrific post!

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    1. Hi Julie G. Not a distance I would wish to travel every day but it was worth every minute and to see so many species plus the Cranes flying was a special moment.

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  15. Wonderful shots of the birds. Great variety.

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  16. Hi Fank Well every shot so wonderful and I love the commentary that goes along with it. 75 birds, that is some total, we would never get that here in Northern Ireland. Of course we do not have all your wonderful birds so for me it is especially lovely to see Cranes and Avocets and I love to see birds that are nesting. I also love the sky shots and the boat. Well I could go on and on but thanks for sharing your fantastic day out with us. Margaret

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    1. Margaret, I'm delighted you enjoyed the varied sightings and pics. It's just as well we don't all have the same species otherwise it would be a bit boring. Seeing the Cranes flying was a special moment.

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  17. Frank, it looks like you picked two super places to visit and had a great couple of days birding, you missed a few but, it was well worth those early starts!!
    I've never been to the Lakenheath reserve, it looks like an interesting place with the possibility of some unusual birds?
    I Went to Cley Marshes with Keith a few days ago, another excellent reserve, especially this time off year with all the nesting Avocets.
    It was good that you managed to see the Common Cranes...[;o)



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    1. Trevor. I never went with any preconceptions of what might be added to my list so the Cranes etc. were a definite bonus.

      RSPB Lakenheath is definitely worth a visit and can be combined with nearby Weeting Heath and not too far away is Wicken Fen. If you are interested in a day out then let me know.

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    2. Frank, Had a great day out yesterday with Keith at Lakenheath Fen.
      It's a great reserve, within seconds of arriving in the car park we saw a Barn Owl and three Cuckoos! Also saw at least six Bearded Tits, Bitterns, Marsh Harriers, more Cuckoos, Reed and Sedge warblers everywhere! Cetti's Warbler...but sadly no Cranes or Orioles!
      A return visit is definitely on the cards for the future (and soon!)...[;o)

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  18. These are beautiful photos, and beautiful birds!

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  19. I hope you had a great time at RSPB Lakenheath, it looks good. And the photographs, they are superb. Thanks Frank.

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    1. Cheers Bob. Any visit there is good.

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  20. Fantastic place to birdwaching.. Regards

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    1. Anna. I totally agree although more sunshine and less wind would have been preferable.

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  21. A very impressive number of sightings for the trip. A worthwhile adventure I'd say. Lovely shots of both the birds and the scenery!

    I had to smile at your title. I lived for 30 years in Chesapeake, Virginia with Norfolk on one side of me and Suffolk on the other. I guess the early colonists to the New World wanted to feel close to home.:)

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    1. Hi Carletta. As you say the colonists certainly reused a lot of English county and town names such as Surrey, Cambridge, Middlesex, Boston etc.

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  22. Great serie of birdphotos!
    Well done!

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  23. Definitely a "grand birding day"! and great photos with which to remember it.

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  24. A great place and beautiful photos.

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  25. Great series, Frank! I love the herons and today I also have pictures of the Lapwing!
    Greetings Pia in Sweden

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    1. Hi Pia. Thank you. Interesting that we should both snap the colourful Lapwing.

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  26. Frank, what a marvelous day of birding! I love the avocet! I am not very good at being an early birder but I am getting better and your early rising certainly paid off! I had the same experience recently with rising very early to bird with a friend in NJ and also saw 76 species in one location! Congrats on al the birds you saw. So sorry you didn't get a lifer!

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    1. Hi Kathie. I'll admit that I don't do it as often as I should but it was worth the effort.

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  27. AN excellent day out. Lots of variety!

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    1. Thanks Karen. Glad you enjoyed the variety.

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  28. What a perfect morning with so many birds in that lovely landscape. Your lapwings are so totally different to ours.

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  29. love the avocet. It is such an elegant bird.
    Great area. :)

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    1. NaureFootstep. Yes, I agree a very elegant bird.

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  30. Great place to go birding.

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    1. Neil. I just wish that places like this were closer to home!

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  31. Wow what a great birding day!

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  32. Some of those birds would be red-letter day birds for me - I think the cranes must have returned after I left the UK.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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I hope you enjoyed your visit and I always appreciate your comments and feedback.

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