On the last day of April a good number of SOG members gathered before 7am at the edge of Minsmere for a longish walk around the edge of the reserve. Led by David Walsh, the walk took in all the many habitats in the area – starting through woodland, then across heathland to the beach (allowing time for a good look at the Minsmere scrapes before the crowds built up) and completing the circuit via the footpath back to the Eels Foot Inn.
One member of the group had arrived even earlier and seen Otter and Badger at Island Mere and heard the Savi’s Warbler that had been reeling there for the last couple of weeks, so we had high hopes that we’d have a good day – and we weren’t disappointed. David quickly found us a Garden Warbler (my first of the year), and did a great job of explaining the difference between its song and that of the Blackcap to those in the group who found it hard to separate the two. We’d already ticked off over 30 species as we entered Dunwich Heath – those at the front of the group saw a Woodlark on the path, but we were all treated to great close-ups of Dartford Warbler and Stonechat.
After a short break at the National Trust car park we headed down to the beach and along towards the hides overlooking the scrapes. Our progress was slightly slowed at this point as we needed to dodge the many runners that were taking part in the 35th Saxmundham Rotary Marathon. We enjoyed shouting “Cheat!” at anyone on a bike, but most of us were just glad we weren’t taking part.
There was a great selection of birds on the scrapes including Med Gulls galore, Common, Sandwich and Little Terns and a Black-tailed Godwit and Knot in their incredible russet summer plumage. The digiscoped photo below really doesn’t do justice to them.
Before we started on our homeward leg, we had a quick stop just south of the sluice to check what was hanging around between Minsmere and Sizewell. David wandered off a bit further than the rest of us and then came running back to tell us that he’d heard a Grasshopper Warbler in the reeds. Although we didn’t get to see it, we did all get to hear it.
On the final leg of our journey, one alert member of the group spotted a black Adder on the path. It stayed put for a good half a minute allowing most of the group a good view, but it wasn’t there quite long enough for me to get my mobile phone out for a picture. Still – you can see its retreating tail below.
We got back to our cars around noon after seeing a minimum of 85 species of birds in just a morning’s birding. That wasn’t enough for everyone, as a number of the group then went on to Hollesley to see the Black-winged Stilts and Little Stints that had turned up there. A big thank-you to David for such a great day!