A first for the U K ? Oh I do hope so!

What a lovely day I have had today!

On Sunday a Western Purple Swamphen flew into Minsmere but having just got back from Scotland we didn’t really have the energy to go for it even though we probably should have. Yesterday Ian was golfing and I had a smashing day with Janice here but I was doing some planning around that bird! Hopefully it will be accepted as wild and it will then be a first for Britain so I certainly wanted it on my 2016 list! I thought we might go this morning and stay overnight but we decided not to so a day trip it was to be. I asked if any family wanted to join us and we were delighted to hear that both of our granddaughters, Alice and Matilda, said they wanted to come.IMG_7812 us 4

We collected the girls at 8am and we were off and on arrival at Minsmere our first stop was definitely going to be to find the star bird. We were in luck, although it wasn’t showing when we got there we didn’t have to wait long. He popped out from the reeds, never very far but we all saw it clearly and even managed a few pictues.

I do like a bird that I can be certain of once I have seen it and this one surely fits into that catergory! He is a big bird and his bright colour coupled with his even brighter bill, legs and huge feet, there is no mistaking it! Having watched him for a while we moved on and decided that the rest of our day we would just do what we fancied and the girls wated to head for the sea. There weren’t any other birds that we were after, in fact there weren’t a great many birds at all, although there was no shortage of egrets! So off we went for a walk.

We headed to the sea, where Alice was keen to touch the water.

It had turned into a bright, though breezy day but thankfully we found quite a few butterflies  near the beach. We were delighted to see a common blue and before long there were loads of them!

Next we found a new one for all of us, if we had seen it before we certainly hadn’t identified it! A Grayling, new for our list so we were very pleased. There was also a variety of grasshoppers that I hope we will be able to ID

Next stop was to be lunch so we headed off to the cafe, making some stops along the way. We added two new insects that we had never seen before, one rather nice the other I was less keen on!  First was the Pantaloon bee, a mining bee that carries loads of pollen on his hind legs, in flight it looks yellow! The second was the Bee-wolf which is actually a wasp and a cunning one at that! It burrows undergound to lay its eggs then drags honey bees into the tunnel and stores them there so when the eggs hatch they have the bees to feed on. Yeuk!IMG_7928 Bee-wolf

When we had nearly reached the cafe we saw a water vole, sadly no time for a photo but we were chuffed. The budlias were in full bloom and certainly attracting the butterlies, painted ladies, peacocks, red admirals and even the occasional large skipper!

IMG_8014 MatildaIn the afternoon Alice and Matilda followed a nature trail which took us to various places on the site and even led us to damsleflies and a super dragonfly too! It was really lovely having the girls with us, they made it a lovely day and of course that is helped by their behaviour, they are a treat to be out with!

 

Nature trail completted there were still a couple of things we wanted to find. When chatting to Ian (not our Ian but a friend that works at Minsmere) he told the girls about somethings that caught thier imaginations especially somewhere you could see what it is like to be in a Sand martin wall! We thought we were going to fail to find it but a the end of the afternoon we found it and I must say it was pretty cool.

Alice tried out being a bird on a nest but Matilda gave it a miss!IMG_7990 nest

Hopefully before too long the Swamphen will be accepted, well its going on my list tonight! So a new bird and a new butterfly and some extra insects too, all boosting the year list. The bird was great but having the gorgeous Alice and Matlida along really  made it a smashing day and I hope they come out with us again soon.

 

A bird for two counties

Today we were on a mission, that mission was to finally get sight of a lesser spotted woodpecker. It has been regularly reported at Santon downham and we were keen to see it. Off we set, a little uncertain of the exact location but knowing the whole site is a super place for a walk so we weren’t too troubled. Shortly into our walk we saw a lovely pair of Siskin, I include the photos mainly to show the colour of the sky!

We walked on and to be quite honest I was not feeling optimistic as it is a large area, lots of trees and that tiny bird could be hiding in any one of them. Eyes peeled meant we did spot another year tick, our first Blackcap, all signs that summer is on the way!

I saw a bird fly out of the trees to my right, across in front of us, it was the hoped for Lesser spotted woodpecker, fabulous! It flew over the river and into a tree. Ian didn’t see it fly but saw it in the tree so technically I spotted it in Norfolk and he spotted it in Suffolk! The river marks the county border and I fact we spent a good bit of our day hopping from county to county.  No chance of a photo but never mind we both saw it and that is what matters.

This little treecreeper was slightly more obliging.

We heard a pair of nuthatches calling back and forth to each other but didn’t see them today. We left Santon and headed for Lakenheath Fen where we hoped to see a Willow tit that has been seen on the feeders by the visitors centre. No luck its that, it was last seen at 8am long before we arrived. We had a good walk there and got good but distant views of a Bittern and a quick in flight view of a pair of Common cranes. We may well return another day and hope the Willow tit obliges but for today we were moving on to Wheeting Heath. This is the total of the pictures I took at Lakenheath!IMG_0242 blue tit (Custom)

Wheeting is a reliable site to see Stone curlews that have brd there regularly for some years. It attracts several other species but for them we must return later in the season.

Spotting the Stone curlews can be very tricky but today they were easy to see, though of course they were distant. They are very strange birds, almost pre historic looking!

After Wheeting we headed for home to plan tomorrow’s trip out. I was hoping something unusual might have flown in as tomorrow is Ian’s birthday and it would have made a good gift. Instead we plan a day up at the coast where we hope to pick up a summer migrant or two.

Blackcap, lesser spotted woodpecker and Stone curlew bring us up to 165

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)