Saturday, 26 May 2012

Birds and Barbies

Friday May 25
Another hot and sunny day - Minsmere also had a sharp easterly wind to temper the heat. Despite my getting up at 5.00 a.m. (PC dilemma taxing my brain) - or maybe because - arrival at Minsmere was delayed until  8.45.
I'd read on Twitter that nesting Stone Curlews were visible from the North Wall, that was the first destination via the Sand Martin nest bank. The latter is well protected by an electric fence, too distant to use my 400 lens. I tried digiscoping instead, hand holding my 'point and shoot' Canon to the eyepiece of my Swarovski 82 scope.
With variable results. The birds were very actively building (digging out) their nestholes. Sandy soil flying everywhere, birds zooming in and out, in a cloud of activity.

Arriving at the start of the North Wall, we found half a dozen birders and a duty warden, ready to point out the Stone Curlew nest. They've long nested in this field but out of view until this year.  The nest is distant and fenced off but viewable through a scope. One bird was sitting, the other appearing from time to time. They both walked about in agitation when a splendid, dark red fox, ran along the fence-line, newly caught rabbit firmly clasped in its jaws.
North Hide gave views of hundreds of Black-headed Gulls and their accompanying cacophany. Ready to leave, the visit was made worthwhile by a Green Woodpecker flying in to a nearby island. Magnificent birds, so powerful and assertive looking. He hopped about like a small green wallaby, beak pointing skyward,  bouncing off both feet as many marsupials do.
The Woodland walk to Bittern Hide is one of my favourites. Not many birds to see to-day. Seeing a party of young schoolchildren approach brought an expletive to my lips. I know it's not PC to think like this. One has to educate the future generation, encourage an interest in wildlife etc etc , all very laudable. BUT, not when I'm there !!  (mingy old f***t)
To give the RSPB their due, they have now restricted school parties to the use of West Hide only and set up a terrific Learning Zone in the woods. To-day's group of kids was quiet too. Well done staff.
After a session of admiring Marsh Harriers, a shouting Cetti's and a Little Grebe, from Bittern Hide, we walked to Island Mere. We haven't walked to this hide for a very long time, 12 years +, we usually park on the entrance road and walk in through the rhododendron tunnel.
Another lovely woodland walk. Black-caps, Long tailed Tits feeding a family of fledged young, Cuckoo calling, Coal Tit hanging from a pine cone and our first actual sight of a Garden Warbler this year. We have one singing in our garden, I find them very difficult to see.
Island Mere hide is new this year, a vast improvement. The approach is along  an inclined wooden boardwalk, entering a light and airy hide on the first floor level. There isn't a ground floor......
When we entered everyone was crowded at the west end, viewing a Bittern. It instantly rose and flew to the reeds at the east end, where we were able to view it walking along, pointing at the sky and slinking off into the reed-bed. Always a delight to witness.
We sat for more than half an hour, seeing Bearded Tits skimming the reeds before crash landing, reeds waving madly, three Hobby above the poplar plantation, a Reed Bunting 'singing' - not the best - from his singing post on top of a bush and Cormorants perched on a wooden crossbar in the pool.

Bittern food, known as pilks to me in my welsh childhood.
On the walk back to the Centre , the reported Golden Oriole was singing from the area between Bittern Hide and Island Mere. As always, very difficult to see for such a spectacularly coloured bird. The yellow and black plumage blends very well with the sun-dappled leaf greens. A female has also been seen. Will they breed? It would be excellent if they did, the Lakenheath population is dwindling and precarious. The car park at last, for our first meal, thankful to be sitting on soft seats in the car

M and J were at the caravan for the weekend. We sat in their garden, sheltered from the now very strong and edgy wind. J cooked a barbecue which Pam ate and thoroughly enjoyed. We much appreciate such welcoming, affectionate and generous friends.

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