A birdwatching trip to Suffolk May 9th - 13th, 2022 Bob Groom
Matt and I set out for Suffolk with high hopes that migration would deliver some good sightings during our five day trip. I'd set us a target of 75 species to be seen in the time, taking into account stops at the Attenborough Nature Reserve, south of Nottingham, on the way down and Rutland Water going down and coming back.
At the former we had a concentration of Garden Warblers round the car parks. Breeding Common Terns dipped and flighted over the water. Sand Martin colonies each side of the hide gave close views of these compact hirundines. There were also a few Swallows and our first Swift of the year. Oystercatcher whizzed round. En route from Rutland Water in just 15 or 20 miles from the car we had great views of no less than 11 Red Kites! The only area where we saw them. (Repeated on the way back.)
At the Rutland Water reserve we had a plethora of warblers, Willow, Garden, Whitethroat and Blackcap. An Osprey flew past as we walked close to the water and a Muntjac appeared in a gully. We revisited on the Friday, heading home. Disappointingly the only ospreys we saw then were a pair feeding 3 young on the screen. Lots of Common Terns and a single Black Tern provided good entertainment. The water level seemed to be too high for waders. A couple of Hobbies crisscrossed the sky.
On arrival in Westleton we unloaded baggage and Matt checked out the Crown Inn but considered the cost of food and beer rather excessive so it was a case of us making do with shop stuff. (Our accommodation was excellent but only bed and breakfast.)
Tuesday was forecast to be fine for our visit to Minsmere, the RSPB's premier reserve, but instead it started wet and only brightened up in the afternoon. The lagoons were throbbing with water birds. Waders included Turnstone, Greenshank, Redshanks, Black-Tailed Godwits and the many Avocets but the star was a handsome all black Spotted Redshank. Ducks included Shovelers and a drake Pintail. Cetti's Warbler could be heard all over the reserve. Hobbies and Swifts were constantly in view, but very few hirundines. Up to 3 Marsh Harriers (male and 2 females) made regular appearances. Lots of noisy Common Terns but just 2 Sandwich Terns. We missed a bittern sighting by seconds. Megan (who I'd been with in Majorca last year) had her group in the Bittern Hide (so full) and spotted it for them. As compensation, when we got back to the car park a pair of Cranes flew directly over us, calling.
Evening time we parked at Westleton Heath and waited patiently. A Cuckoo was calling and Whitethroats were singing all round. Dusk came but it wasn't until full dark that the Nightjars started churring and so we didn't see them, although they were flying round. Wednesday's forecast wasn't that good, a fine morning but rain later and sure enough it arrived bang on mid-day. A trip to Walberswick didn't go too well as things had changed. Just a single Marsh Harrier seen. After that disappointment we headed down to Dunwich Heath, where we watched a family of Stonechats and had brief views of a Dartford Warbler. As the rain arrived, along with a blustery wind, we retreated to the cafe. Later we returned to Westleton Heath and put up with the weather until a clearance arrived and the sun came out. The Cuckoo showed itself and we listened to three different singing Nightingales but didn't see even one of them. A male Yellowhammer was the only one we saw all week.
Thursday was another big day, hot and sunny, as we headed to the Lakenheath reserve. Formerly the Bryant and May poplar plantation used for match sticks it was about to become farmland when it was put up for sale. Fortunately the RSPB stepped in to make it into a first-class reserve, having noted that Golden Orioles bred there (sadly no longer). On a previous KOS visit we had seen bitterns, bearded tits and at least 50 Hobbies there. Unfortunately we were to be disappointed as a lot of the reserve was closed, for some reason, and several hides weren't accessible. At the far end we could hear cranes and saw about 15 Hobbies catching insects. I got a brief view of a Bittern before we had to trek back.
Next stop was Weeting Heath. We were told that there had been successful breeding but for some time we could only see Mistle Thrushes and Stock Doves before Matt spotted an adult Stone Curlew and its tiny chick and we then got good views. The other Stone Curlew was crouched down and almost invisible. Presumably the other chick was with it. Good selection of birds at the stream hide, including a Chiffchaff bathing and a Nuthatch on the feeders. Also seen a Hare feeding. Friday we had the long haul home. Phenomenal number of Mute Swans at Rutland Water. Despite a few missing species (sparrowhawk for one and turtle dove is now really rare) the list stood at 81 so quite respectable for a short trip.. Suffolk is always a reliable destination for good bird sightings and we look forward to returning another spring.