The sun was out today, as were the cyclists (on the road to Stodmarsh), as were other birdwatchers (the car park was near to full) and as were the birds (see below).
Seventeen of us gathered and together we did the whole 4 mile circuit up to Grove Ferry, heading out in the direction of the Marsh hide and returning alongside the river Stour and onto the Lampen walk. Along the way we are treated to some wonderful sightings.
Even before we had left the carpark we had whitethroat, chiff-chaff and blackcap calling, followed quickly by wren, robin, great tit, chaffinch, Cetti’s warbler and garden warbler. Some of us (sadly not myself) managed to catch sight of the secretive cetti’s and garden warblers.
As we moved out of the wooded section and alongside the reedbed we heard then saw a lovely male cuckoo calling from a bare tree – it must have been watching the local reed warbler population which we could also hear singing in the reeds. Then we came across a narrow cutting in the reedbed and from here we were treated to fantastic views of a party of bearded tits moving back and fro over the water. Overhead several hobbies were hunting and marsh harriers were soaring in the background. We spent sometime here and a large crowd of other visitors were also able to enjoy the spectacle.
Our list of birds continued to grow: swift, swallow (only one swallow and no martins!), a water rail (heard), reed bunting, sedge warbler and then ‘on que’ and where we heard it last year, a lesser whitethroat with its distinctive ‘rattle’ song.
As we continued round hobbies and marsh harriers were soaring above us. I estimated about 20 hobbies were about with several marsh harriers and on the return leg at least 3 common buzzards seen. (Honey buzzard was also reported but we did not managed to id one).
We succumbed to lunch at Harrison’s Drove Hide from where a common sandpiper, a pair of amorous peacock butterflies, grey heron and little egret were seen.
From the Grove ferry viewpoint were saw 2 Red-Crested Pochard, shoveler, mallard, tufted duck, gadwall and thanks to those who visited the facilities at Grove Ferry, heard at least two turtle doves purring in a thicket of hawthorns.
Our return walk back alongside the river Stour was a pleasant walk although the birds and probably ourselves were beginning to flag. We heard short snippets of nightingale, saw lapwings displaying, greylag and canada geese and a curious pairing of two ducks – a mallard and a gadwall.
We noted that the river bank and especially the Lampen walk had been heavily eroded by this year’s flooding and sandbags have been extensively used in places to protect the remaining sections, which in places are quite narrow.
On the lake there were common tern, cormorants, great-crested grebes, pochard and overhead we had fine views of another raptor – this time a soaring sparrowhawk.
Finally, some of us took a detour along the boardwalk section, ostentatiously to find a treecreeper and there, from the last bridge, we found one!
Our final list stood at 55 bird species, plus other delights (thanks to Julie) like Hairy Dragonfly, Variable Damselfly, Azure Damselfly, Alderfly, Orange-tip Butterfly, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral. Whirligig beetle (dozens on water surface in large groups like fairground bumper-cars) Drone Fly – at larval stage known as Rat-tailed Maggots (lovely).
What was missing – bumble-bees! there should’ve be hundreds, sand and house martins and we didn’t hear a bittern booming (but was probably present and more likely to be heard first thing or in the evening. All agreed it had been an excellent day.