Kessingland to Benacre 07.12.2014
Leader: Ashley Gooding
After the previous days sunshine, it was disappointing to have the grey skies back, but as we booted up and put on extra layers spirits were high amongst the group at the prospect of some good East coast birding. It was nice to see five potential new members turn up as well.
As usual, we set off for the sewerage works first and soon encountered several Goldcrests in the Ivy clad trees. We then turned our attention to the settling lagoons and started scrutinising the large numbers of Pied Wagtails to see if there were any Grey Wagtails amongst them. One female was seen briefly by one member and I picked up one on call but it remained elusive. Also there was Meadow Pipit, four Chiffchaff, Great Spotted Woodpecker and an adult Mediterranean Gull.
The walk down to the sluice was very quiet as the number of dog walkers seems to increase year on year. Once at the sluice birds were difficult to find in the wet condition but the lagoon on the beach had a few Little Grebe on it and also a Redshank. We moved a little further south into the lee of a sandy bank and had a look out to sea for half an hour. There was a quit a stiff offshore breeze and visibility was excellent, we soon started picking up birds. Red-throated Diver were quite numerous and several came in fairly close to give good scope views. We also saw several Auks, some of which came close enough to be identified as Guillemots, a few Gannets, Common Scoter, Great Crested Grebes, Wigeon and 3 Dunlin, and one or two Grey Seals.
I decided to take a gamble and extend the walk beyond Beach Farm to try our luck for Tree Sparrow. The maize cover strips were no longer there but in the distant hedgerow several small birds could be seen and once ‘scopes were set up it did not take too long to locate four Tree Sparrows, 3 males and a female. There were also several Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Yellowhammers. Marsh Harrier was also noted soaring above a wooded area. We also recounted the number of times on this particular trip in the past that we had had some atrocious weather, fingers crossed.
Continuing south we found ourselves having to deviate from the official footpath, such is the amount of erosion taking place on this part of the Suffolk coast and along the cliff top at least four White Ermine moth caterpillars were found and were a surprise in the weather conditions and time of year.
Eventually we got to Benacre Broad. As we were watching the Great Northern Diver that had been present for a few days the wind got up and the first significant rain sent us hurriedly off to the shelter of the hide. This was our lunch stop and once food was eaten and the rain eased we set about scanning the broad. The Great Northern Diver was finding plenty of crabs which it shook vigorously to remove the legs. Also present were 3 female Common Scoter, 4 Goldeneye including a fine male, a male Goosander, and an adult Yellow-legged Gull looking very smart in comparison to the Herring Gulls at this time of year. Now that the broad is tidal, the inundation of sea water has killed off the weeds that the dabbling ducks used to feed on, so duck numbers were very low with just a handful of Teal present and no Wigeon to be seen although there were plenty of Mallard. We also had a brief view of Marsh Harrier once the rain eased off.
We decided to return to the car park and drive round to Covehithe, as the tide was up, and walk to the broad from there. By now the sun was out and made for a pleasant afternoon as walked to the beach and onto the broad. A small group of birders were gathered on the beach and when we carefully approached them we could see they were watching 3 Shorelark.
After enjoying these birds for a while we turned our attention to the broad and found a red head Smew feeding with a group of Tufted Duck and a single male Pochard. We were losing daylight and so moved further down the beach to find the Snow Buntings that were also in the area. It was not long before we found a group of six birds feeding on the newly subsided cliff face. We had some lovely views through our ‘scopes and even got some passers-by interested who were appreciative of us for letting them use our equipment. It was now getting cold so as we turned around to head back along the beach the Snow Buntings took flight and were joined by 6 others that had been hidden nearby. We finished the meeting to a beautiful sunset and made our way back having had an excellent day.
Many thanks to all who attended and made for a most enjoyable day on this beautiful part of the Suffolk coast.