Hemley – River Deben 01.02.2014
Leader: Justin Zantboer
After the wet, windy weather so far this winter it was nice to arrive at Hemley Church for the start of the trip in relatively calm conditions and some bright sunshine. What was even nicer though was seeing Ivan on his first SOG trip since being unwell and he was greeted warmly by the assembled members.
Around the church some House Sparrows called from some bushes and a Blue Tit was very vocal. Everybody bar one had sensibly worn wellington boots and as we walked down the sole non-wellie wearer had to be careful skirting the puddles. Scanning the grazing marshes adjacent to the river a group of Curlews were feeding, a distant Marsh Harrier on the far side and a couple of Brent Geese flew down river. Walking along the footpath by the saltmarsh some Skylarks, Meadow Pipit and some smaller birds flitted amongst the Sea Purslane and Samphire. With patience, with the birds often dropping down before getting a good luck we picked out two Twite amongst some Goldfinch.
Scanning around we picked up a number of Common Buzzards, in ones or twos over different wooded areas with a group of four also seen. The same or possibly another Marsh Harrier caused a large group of Lapwing flew up frightened along with a smaller groups of Golden Plover and Curlew. The group retraced their steps this time heading south along the footpath towards Kirton Creek. Groups of waders and ducks were on the far shore and included Grey Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Wigeon and some Black-tailed Godwit flew down river. Justin then found a lovely male Red-breasted Merganser mid-river, a species that is very scarce on the Deben compared to the Orwell and Stour. On an area of saltmarsh close to Kirton Creek, at least two Jack Snipe and eight Common Snipe were encountered. At the creek itself it was very quiet bird-wise and discussion was based on the removal of the scrub and bramble from the river wall by the Environment Agency, including a section that historically had Long-eared Owls roosting in. The grazing marsh at the back of Kirton Creek was also quiet with just a couple of Curlew and Greylag Geese and some Teal although a Marsh Harrier quartered the reedbed and more Buzzards circling overhead. Taking the track back toward Hemley village, a flock of finches were present on the edge of a woodland, some dropping down in to the ditch below. Scanning revealed a mixed flock of Chaffinch and Brambling, with at least 12 of the latter being noted, a nice surprise find.
Carrying on the Buzzard snow totalled six and a Jay was heard and a large group of small birds flew from a hedgerow adjacent to a fallow field. This included the Chaffinch and Brambling along with at least one Greenfinch and Yellowhammer and several more unidentified as we were looking in to the sun as they flew past. Back at the church the House Sparrow were still calling as we decided to finish off further up river at Waldringfield. By the time we arrived the tide was high, with the central island almost covered. As a consequence few birds about with some Redshank and Dunlin along with Wigeon and Little Grebe nearer while across the river a group of Pintail, Shelduck, four Goldeneye and surprisingly few Great Crested Grebes with only a handful counted. Justin again picked up the Red-breasted Merganser again, this time up near Kyson Point, and which was most likely the same bird seen earlier in the day that had drifted up river with the tide. This was a treat for me as it was now in the area that had been my old patch for fourteen years and was the first time I had encountered one there! Our leader then found another good bird for the river, a female Common Scoter, that proved difficult to pick up as it was diving in the distance in an area of swell with the rushing tide, though eventually everybody got to view it as it drifted to slightly calmer section. As the tide was so high small groups of waders, such as Redshank and Dunlin, were seen flying down river, trying to find somewhere to roost.
Thanks to Justin for leading a lovely trip, a fine day to be out birding along the Deben and nice to meet with everyone.