Sunday 26 February 2012

When in doubt… always go out!

My wife is very good at recognising the symptoms: indecision, increasing irritability, and if left untreated for long enough, bruising caused by a thump to the head with a frying pan. If the weather is ‘birdable’ at the weekend but I’m still indoors, then I’m probably going to be very grumpy. Fortunately, after years of experience, Suzanne knows this and is frequently kind enough to apply the necessary medicine, with gentle words like “Will you just b*gger off out, for God’s sake?” It was something like that today…

My original plans had featured small woodpeckers in a much-blogged London setting – but I put paid to these by ignoring the early alarm and getting another three hours sleep. But then what to do? Could try woodpeckers regardless (no, too many patch birders dogwalkers); could go to north Kent (no, bridge would be hideous at this late hour); could go out Southend way (no, pier closed, less photo opps); could stay in bed even longer (no, that would be outrageously lazy) etc, etc, etc. After some (blunt) words of wisdom from my better half, I leaped out of bed, got in the car and went up to the Suffolk coast.


And it was great! For the first time this year, every single one of my many birding jackets could be left in the car – it felt pretty warm when I arrived at Alton Water, around 14 degrees. The birds on show here still had a decidedly wintery feel, though, featuring Red-necked and Slavonian Grebes and a pair of Goosander. The first of these was quite showy initially but was always drifting further away, and I gather others have seen it closer still.


Continuing north, I had a quick look at Sizewell to see if any Black Redstarts felt inclined to burst into song yet (nope), though the Kittiwake colony was in full swing on the rigs offshore, making quite a noise. Just up the road, a smart male Dartford Warbler on Westleton Heath was typically handsome and charismatic, but the long walk up to Dingle Marshes only resulted in three Snow Buntings, no Twite. (I learned later that they’ve moved to Southwold).

The remainder of the afternoon was spent at Minsmere. I’d intended to have a quick look from Bittern Hide, and then head round to East to check out the gull roost… but got a bit distracted when this guy flew straight at the hide for a moment or two and landed right in front of us:


Oh well, another photo of Mallards ruined, I just had to make the best of a bad job for the next hour or so!


The Bittern paraded around and across the pool in front of the hide as the temperature and light gradually dropped away, with just a very small audience of appreciative photographers and wowed visitors. In fact it was still there when the light had almost completely gone and I left! By way of backdrop, Marsh Harriers gave regular fly-pasts, a drake Smew flew in from Island Mere, Bearded Tits pinged, Cetti’s exploded occasionally, and the Great White Egret briefly deigned to show its lanky neck above the reeds in the distance. Oh, and I saw another two Bitterns – one dropping into the reeds in front, and another continuing on west towards Island Mere. Great stuff!



Dougie Preston said...

Some seriously stunning photos on here mate, keep up the good work! :-)

Shaun harvey said...

Very nice shots of the Bittern David.