Saturday, May 23, 2015

Suffolk - A Little Bitt of luck and a little Sandpiper...

It has been four years now since I owned a motor car, and it is taking it's toll.  Sites such as Minsmere, or Dungeness feel more out of reach now than the global outposts of Monrovia, or Dhaka.   And as such, my inner monologue now manifests itself with audible obscenities at the arrival of a rare that I am just unable to reach.  The motor car, an invention that has mobilised birders throughout the decades fattening up lists as well as bellies in motorway service stations.

So thanks to mum, I had a car for the weekend, so we raced up to Suffolk for a day-out with plans to grab two newbies.  Checking the news en route, we made headway up to Southwold parking by the harbour and then heading along the riverside to the pools where the BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER had thankfully booked a one-night stay and was showing well along the near shore-line.  It was feeding actively with a group of fine summer-plumaged Dunlin that emphasised its diminutive size,  more like Broad-Billed Stint.  Clean white underparts contrasted with flecked dark upperparts, an all dark bill that was slightly de-curved at the tip, and those diagnostic pale crown stripes mirrored by the pale supercilium.   Really neat.

Despite the brilliant light, a good selection of waders were seen well in favourable conditions that included a dozen Dunlin, three Sanderling, three Ringed Plover, around hundred Black-Tailed Godwit, seven Avocet, and a few Oystercatcher.  Bearded Tit pinged from reeds alongside the river.

After dining at a pub, we headed over to the west-end of Suffolk to Lakenheath Fen.  This really is a magnificent site.  Heading west along the gravel path, a Bittern boomed from the reedbed, where three Marsh Harrier quartered the area, busy in preparation for breeding.  A male Cuckoo was seen flying with haste, falcon-like, before perching on top of the reeds, parasitic prospectors over nesting opportunities.

The path led to the west end of the reserve where the LITTLE BITTERN was immediately heard barking from deep within a reedbed but not too far from our vantage point.  The vigil for a brief glimpse of this gaudy heron can stretch to hours, however, within fifteen minutes, the bird went silent.  Movement perhaps.  Then it flew, out of the reeds and across another pond.  Camera!  No!  Bins!  Just watch it!  What a stunning sight, great views of a short flight before plopping itself down into the reeds once again - a landing that totally lacked grace and style, but one that enraptured the onlookers.

A really great day from start to finish, and admittedly, one that was graced with a bit of luck.

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