Those of you who have been on one of our previous coach trips to Minsmere will know that once we arrive we disappear off in our separate directions. This report is therefore only a small representation of the day, and I am sure that others have lots more they could add, so apologies for any omissions!
We arrived around 10.45 am, and after our briefing from the warden we were ready for our first species of the day – a Nightingale singing nearby and easily heard from the car park. A great start.
By the feeders outside reception we had Chaffinch, Robin, House Sparrow, Dunnock and Marsh Tit. There was no activity around the sand martin bank sadly, but we did see lots of them around the reserve, especially feeding low over the reedbeds and scrapes. A group of us did the usual circuit (down to the sea along the coast and then back inland to the woodland), others chose different routes. As we moved towards the North Hide we heard Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Cetti’s Warbler and saw Blue Tit and Swift flying overhead. From the hide there were Greylag Geese and some feral Barnacle Geese, Shelduck, Avocet, Lapwing, Tufted Duck, Mallard and many Black-headed Gulls. There was a Redshank on a nest from here too, along with several feeding Black-tailed Godwit, a Common Sandpiper and Gadwall.
On our return to the main path a Garden Warbler was heard, but again remained unseen. We had been briefed that there was a Stone-curlew nest nearby so we moved off to track down the spot. The directions were that it was near a yellow post, and how right they were! Nestled on the ground a bird sat peacefully on the nest – really hard to see until the second bird came along and they swapped positions. The heat haze didn’t help, but we managed to get several telescopes on the birds and all those present had views, however blurry.
Bearded Tit and Reed Bunting were flitting around in the reed beds, and more Swift and Swallow fed overhead. During our picnic lunch on the beach Malcolm spotted a group of eight Kittiwake, flying towards Southwold. A Cormorant followed them several minutes later.
From the East Hide we had nesting Oystercatcher, Avocet and Black-headed Gulls. Over the distant reedbeds, Hobby and Marsh Harrier hunted. A group of Common Gull were resting on one of the islands in front of the West Hide until they were spooked by something which showed us there were more present than we had counted. Along the seawall the only bird added to our list was Linnet – just one bird, where previously I have seen many Linnet, Stonechat and Yellowhammer along this path. Malcolm also found a Drinker Caterpillar. At the sluice Swallows were feeding and nesting flying low, just over our heads and giving a delightful show.
Beyond the sluice a Spoonbill was visible – just! Only when it started to preen could you make out the “spoon” on the bill against the white plumage. Others went further along the coastal path and had better views with more birds seen – three in total I believe. Little Egret and Mute Swan were also enjoying the peace and quite of the scrape some way off the reserve.
West Hide gave us more views of the same birds found from the East with the addition of Moorhen, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Canada Geese, Teal, Wigeon and Pied Wagtail. We moved on towards the wooded area as we still had a lot to do and time was marching on apace.
Ian met us at the crossing of the paths and took us to see a Tawny Owl. It was roosting high up in a conifer tree and looked like a rugby ball of feathers. In the telescope you could just about make out some of the plumage patterns, and knowing what it was helped a lot. Without Ian’s help we wouldn’t have had a clue! More luck followed as we continued towards the Bittern Hide – a group of bird-watchers – including our own Jim and Claire – were waiting for the reappearance of a Spotted Flycatcher. After a few moments, it appeared on one of its favourite perches at the top of a nearby tree. As we watched the bird made swoops out for flies working its way in a circle around us using the uppermost branches as lookout perches. A great surprise to find this bird, and brilliant to see it feeding so close to us.
Our final stop was at the Bittern Hide. From here we traditionally see Marsh Harriers, and today was no exception, a male and two females, one with green wing tags, but too far away to get any numbers or letters on it. More plentiful however were Hobby. Being kept low over the reedbeds as the wind blew in off the land, they were feeding on the wing right in front of the hide, giving great views.
Back at the centre Pheasant, Dunnock and Robin picked up food which had been dislodged from the feeders by Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch.
A great day out, with good weather and great birds – we saw 90 different species this time – 13 more than on our last visit.
Huge thanks to Sally for organising another brilliant Coach Trip, and to Neil our patient driver who coped with the back-seat drivers.