Sunday, March 25, 2012

Abberton Reservoir

Stopped off on my way past - taking a slight detour from the A12 at Colchester as Abberton Reservoir is billed as one of Europe's top wetland sites.  There's a brand new visitors centre and a lot of work being done at the reservoir.

The reserve itself limited to a small area on the edge of the huge reservoir with a couple of hides along the footpath looking over the water.  Newly planted hedges and woodland which will make a big difference to the area in the next few years.

Despite saying there wasn't anything out there except a corn bunting - there were several tufted duck, great crested grebe, wigeon, pochard, teal, goldeneye, goosander, an Egyptian goose and a slavonian grebe.  The latter was the only one of real interest to the locals.  I was excited to see anything, even if the numbers weren't up into the hundreds that they see over winter.

The only waders were a few oystercatchers and three Ruff that were on a point of land across the water from the Visitor's Centre.  I didn't see the corn bunting, which was the only bird listed on the board (they'd been too busy to update it).

After walking around the reserve, I headed down to the Causeway where there were a larger number of water birds - all of the above except for the slavonian grebe.

There's also a very large cormorant nesting site in the trees along the edge of the reservoir and they were also busy nest building on the other side, closer to the road.

People were parked up all along the causeway looking at the ducks.  There were also a few farm geese and domesticated ducks being fed.
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RSPB North Warren

A slight change from yesterday.  Grey and overcast with a slight drizzle in the air and much colder.  Having discovered that RSPB North Warren was only down the road, I decided to tick off another RSPB reserve and certainly one I'd not been to before.  It was also close to Aldeburgh and there was an opportunity for more reedbeds and possibly more Marsh harrier and bittern.

I parked on the seafront at the Aldeburgh end of the reserve and walked up along the coast as far as the footpath which cuts across grazing marshes to the old railway track, where they were setting up for a Sport Relief mile, although judging by the mile markers the route was a lot longer than one mile.

There were a few waterbirds out on the marshes - wigeon, teal, shelduck, greylag and Canada geese.  Only a couple of waders, in particular two black-tailed godwit and a little egret.

There's a substantial reedbed at the northern end of the reserve and there was male marsh harrier flying over it. As the path leads right round the reedbed and there are no hides, it's difficult to see any birds that might be in there and the weather was probably putting them off too.

The walk back to the railway line via the woodland and heath is pleasant enough and well used by local dog walkers.  A few woodland birds around but a low tally in total.  The godwit had disappeared by the time I walked back along the track and there was little else to see.
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Minsmere, Bitterns, Marsh Harriers and the Glossy Ibis

I had the opportunity to do some work up in Ipswich last week and planned a weekend in Suffolk and in particular a visit to RSPB Minsmere.

I haven't been there for a while and last time it was cold and damp and miserable, so as we appear to have hit Summer early, it promised to be a great weekend.

I'd booked in to the YHA at Blaxhall.  Newly decorated, clean, comfortable and friendly and helpful staff and very conveniently situated just a short 30 minute drive from Minsmere and an even shorter distance from Snape, The Maltings and the coast at Aldeburgh.

Minsmere is situated at the end of several very narrow country lanes, so it takes a while to get there from the main road.  The visitor centre is temporarily located in a portacabin in the car park but I believe that's all changed this week and they've moved into the new centre.

Although I got there at 9.00am, I was late - judging by some of the occupants of the Bittern hide who had been there since the early hours watching bitterns.  Luckily one bittern was still around but skulking (as they do) in the reeds - "see that clump of three reeds ..." was the repeated response to "where is it?".  Incredibly well camouflaged until you get your eye in.

There were also four Marsh Harriers around - dropping in to the reeds, sitting out on the lettered posts or 'sky dancing'.  They're obviously such a common site on this reserve, in fact along most of the Suffolk coast that I was the only one getting excited each time they appeared.

Walking further round to the West Hide and there were at least four Mediterranean Gulls out on the Scrape.  Easy to distinguish from the much more numerous and noisy Black Headed gulls.  along with several avocet, a pair of barnacle geese, tufted duck, redshank and a ruff.  It's also lovely to see the avocets - although not such a rarity at this site these days - again for a visitor from the South Coast, they are.

Down to the seashore and a familiar shingle beach - there were several great crested grebe and red-necked divers out on the water.  Again a rarity from where I come from, the divers at least.  Although I'm not a great sea watcher, so goodness knows what's out on the Sussex coast that I miss.  I also didn't realise that great crested grebes were so common out on the sea - I'd always thought of them as river and lake birds.

It was mighty chilly out in the hides and on the seashore, so I headed back to the Visitor Centre for a warming cup of tea (not exactly meeting the description of a 'pot of tea').  Round two was a walk around the woodland trail and the Canopy Hide with great views through the trees in the woodland - although not much there and on to the Island Mere hide - a very new viewing platform across the reedbeds with high tech opening windows - pretty far removed from the traditional hide.  Again good views of marsh harriers and a bittern flying across the pond.

Having heard about the glossy ibis, I headed back via Eastbridge and found it very easily, exactly where it was meant to be.  Along with several of the Polish horses and what I took to be a redshank but was later pointed out to be a spotted redshank - now I know what to look out for.  More and more people (mainly locals) turning up to see the ibis.

I was just about to leave when a large pale bird flew across the road only a few yards in front of me which turned out to be a barn owl.  Of course I had to get out and watch it until it disappeared out of site - the locals informed me that it often appears about this time and then heads off to the reedbeds.  I don't know if it was the same one but there was one in the other direction a few minutes later but quite far off.  Lovely to see them and it wasn't that late in the afternoon.

I had hoped to get back for a walk around Aldeburgh before it got too late in the day but there was only time for a drive along the coast, through the town, before heading back to the hostel.

All in all a lovely day out in the Suffolk countryside.

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