A Suffolk Tale

One of the real perks of our special year is the freedom that has come with it. At the beginning of the week we noticed the weather looked good in Suffolk so we were able to pack our bags, book a room and go.

I am not exaggerating when I say we have had a brilliant time including a tasty curry last night and  our farewell morning today. Last night we decided to set an alarm early again, to make the most of every moment and go to Island Mere hide before breakfast, but when the alarm went off we weren’t quite so keen, after all it was set to be even colder than yesterday! It didn’t take long for us to decide to go for it, after all it was our last morning near Minsmere, at least for this trip! It was another beautiful morning, I wonder if they are all like this in Suffolk!

I was right though it was cold, how do those little birds survive nights in the frozen reeds? This little Water pipit was busy nipping in and out and then going for a brief skate on the ice!

The hide was busier today and I am struck by the atmosphere there, they seem a friendly bunch who obviously know each other well but were happy enough to welcome outsiders. I have been enjoying meeting so many new people, mostly so friendly and some excellent characters. I think if Minsmere were our local reserve we would find our way to Island hide rather a lot of mornings to enjoy the usual and the unusual.IMG_8034 (Custom)

Mute swans looked stunning in the morning light and again the Marsh harriers were flying high. It does seem strange sitting in such a beautiful place with Sizewell looming in the background!

I didn’t know it then but very shortly we were in for such a treat, one of the highlights of our time away. We had briefly seen an otter swimming another day but this morning with ice on the water it made a fantastic appearance. He came out of the ice stayed a while then down he went again, repeating this until he reached the unfrozen water and off he swam. All in the hide were thrilled to have seen him so well.

Back to The Eel’s Foot for breakfast before checking out, if you ever need somewhere to stay in that area we do recommend it. We had considered leaving for home then and making a couple of detours on the way but we changed our minds and decided instead to go back to have a last visit at Minsmere then head straight home.  Due to a concern about Avian pox the feeders near the visitors centre had been taken down but the ever hopeful Pheasants that lurk under them don’t seem to have got the message.

Time to leave Minsmere with the hope that we will return again soon. Seeing how many trees have been newly cut down I trust there will still be plenty when we come back! Hoping too that the abundance of rabbits continues, I just can’t resist them!

Thank you for joining in our Suffolk tale, it has been lovely and reinforced our decision to take a ‘gap year’.

I thought it would be fitting to end this tale with a tail!IMG_8134 (Custom)



A cold start

To say we had a cold start to the day is an understatement, it was freezing and we had to scrape the car before we could head out. We were treated to the sight of several deer on our pre breakfast trip to Minsmere, Muntjac and Roe on the way and Red deer from the hide. It was another beautiful sunrise although a little cloud meant the light was not so striking, although I think even the hide itself looks good in the early morning light. I assume due to the cold the birds were slower to wake up today, the Marsh harriers appeared quite a bit later than yesterday and we could see a Snipe sitting but it didn’t move the whole time we were there!

I could easily get used to coming back from an early morning bird watch to have someone cook me breakfast but after tomorrow it will be back to usual! After refuelling ourselves we headed off to Westleton Marsh in search of Dartford warblers. This may be a good time to point out that during our Pursuing wings (and other things) year we are only counting things that we both see so if Ian or I miss something it will not appear on my list. So imagine the feeling when after a really good look around the heath I saw a Dartford warbler on some heather but it was gone from sight before Ian could get on to it. No  problem we thought it will pop up again shortly but it didn’t, no sign of it. We spent some time waiting, looking and hoping and in the end we were rewarded, another one appeared in a tree and flew down in front of us then away…relief it can go on the list! We also first heard then saw two Woodlark so that was two new one for the year.

Next stop Dunwich heath also a good place for Dartford warblers and plenty more beside or so we thought. As is often the case at good birding places a board was up showing recent sightings, this was the list: Dartford warbler, Magpie and that was it!!! We did enjoy the walk across the heath although caught no sight of a warbler but rest assured there was no shortage of Magpies. I love to see birds on gorse and the only one that cooperated to day was a little Robin although even he was looking away from me, gazing out to sea I think! The best was yet to come we were treated to two beautify Short eared owls flying over us, sadly too fast for me to get any decent shots but I include one I took just because it was so lovely to see.

We caught sight of a herd of deer but they were rather well hidden.

We decided return to Minsmere for the afternoon although we somehow managed to miss out lunch, not our best bit of planning! There were no particular birds to look for today so we just enjoyed  a good trek round. We saw a nice female Stonechat on the way and several Chiffchaffs. It seems you can’t go far there without meeting rabbits and I can’t resist taking pictures of them!

We are back at The Eels Foot now and will soon be going across for something to eat, a rather nice vegetarian curry is calling me! So I will end with my favourite photos today which are certainly not of my favourite bird but he was obliging so I include a couple of shots of a Magpie. We go home tomorrow but may make the odd detour on our journey.

Birds: 146

Mammals: 10



Round and round we went!

The past few days have been cold, wet and windy and not an encouragement to go out but a change was on the way. We decided to have a change of area and see what Minsmere had to offer so a quick look on the internet and we had booked a room for a couple of nights away. We had stayed at The Eels Foot before and were more than  happy to return and see if we still like it!

I checked RBA to see if anything was on our route that would be worth dropping in on. One stood out and that was a Glossy ibis at Hollesley Marshes RSPB it wasn’t much of a detour so off we went. We got so close to the site…several times in fact! Somehow we managed to drive round in circles and we were beginning to despair when we saw an RSPB sign but no they were the wrong marshes!

If we had known that it was by a prison I think we would have arrived earlier but eventually we found the site and the task of finding the bird proved to be, thankfully, much easier.

The Ibis was distant as the pictures show but it was good to see it alongside an egret and several herons. The weather had been a bit grim, rain for a lot of the journey but like our mood it improved whilst we were at Hollesley.

We may have seen a Yellow-legged gull but need to check some pictures. We did see an insect which I hope to Id but for now we can’t count it. On our way I spotted  a beautiful deer among the trees and unusually it waited for us to reverse and stood to have his picture taken.


We checked in at The Eels Foot Inn, left our bags there and went straight off to Minsmere as time was going by quickly.

It was gone three before we arrived at Minsmere and sat to eat some lunch, that was over seven hours since I had filled the food flasks and yes lunch was still good and hot! A Magpie kept us company while we ate and the Pheasants and rabbits were near the visitors centre.

We had a look for two female Smew that are on site but we couldn’t find them, we will try again tomorrow. We had been told the best place to be try to see harriers coming in to roost and sometimes but not always, that includes a Hen harrier. We were also told of nearer place we could put the car which would be easier to get to in the dark.

Hooray at last we saw a Greater spotted woodpecker, not sure how it has taken us this long but I suspect we will be seeing them all over the place now!

It was beautiful looking out over the marshes as the light faded and we were fortunate to see not only a Hen harrier but a Bittern flew right in front of the hide…brilliant, he was bird number 141. We met two charming young ladies in the hide who both work for the RSPB and it turned out are staying in the same place as us. Even they hadn’t heard of the RSPB site that we had struggled to find this morning!!!

Back to The Eels foot to get settled in and have something light to eat after our rather late lunch. We plan an early night in the hope that we will be up early tomorrow morning to return to the hide on Minsmere, before breakfast, as we hear that Otters sometime make an appearance there.

Day one of our Suffolk trip has gone well and I am looking forward to seeing what tomorrow brings!