Walk in the rain

Snow drops
Snow drops

We were up for breakfast at 09:00, but lingered because the weather did not look promising. We left the pub at about 10:00 and dumped my car at Warblerswick the plan was to walk back to the pub, via Dunwich, the heath and Minsmere. After a short beach section we headed in land across the marshes and reed beds, toward the disused windmill. It was grey, not too cold, and not raining we were out in the fresh air so we were happy.

When we got to the windmill we found that the footpath was closed and fenced off, we decided we would do what other people had done and carry on regardless, we had walked all that way and we had not had any warnings that might have made us take an alternative route. The half made p[ath was very muddy as it had been laid with grey clay from the marsh, then there was  a section with gravel which was like walking on a beach, but it soon passed and we were heading past Dingle Great Hill (all of 12 feet in elevation!). We walked throught the woods overlooking Dingle Marsh and saw seom lovely isolated houses and soon entered the village of Dunwich a lot of which is now under the sea.

Hats drying in front of pub fire
Hats drying in front of pub fire

The planned stop at the fish and chip place was cancelled because it was closed, from November to March, it was also raining and there was no shelter. We ended up in the The Ship Inn for lunch rather that having the Heidi Pies we had bought in Southwold the day before. I had some shell on prawns, and the others had goat cheese toasties which looked really nice. We had to eventually drag our selves out of the pub and into the rain.

We headed up the hill then eventually over and onto Dunwich Heath where we were hoping to see Dartford Warblers, but there were to remain elusive. It had started to rain so we stopped off at the NT Coastgaurd Cottages for tea and cakes. Whilst we were in the cafe it stopped raining but it soon started again as we headed down off the heath to Minsmere, and the south hide.

During the whole walk we had not really seen a soul and the south hide was no exception, we had  the place to oursleves it was a welcome break from the rain. There was not much to see as it was a bit early in the year, but we managed to identify a Med Gull and a Little gull. We woke Helen up and set off back to the pub via the sluices, just as we turned in land at the sluices it started to really rain, so mush so that I had to get the poncho out. We walked the last mile or so in the pouring rain, but still managed to add Barnacle goose to the weekend list. As we go back to the pub the rain stopped, Nik and I went off to pick up the car and the Helen’s went off to see if they could see the barns owls.

In the way back to the car we came across quite a few Muntjac in our headlights. We picked up the car went back to the pub, watched the remaining half of England thrashing France at rugby and then headed to the bar for something to eat and drink. Another great day despite the weather.

Minsmere and a Friday off

Coastguard cottage Dunwich heath
Coastguard cottage Dunwich heath

We are off to The Eels Foot this weekend to meet up with Helen and Nik. The Eels Foot if you don;t follow the blog is a pub in a village called Eastbridge just on the edge of the RSPB reserve at Minsmere, it has a couple of features which attract us back, the beers is excellent (Adnams is my all time favourite), and it is a close as you can get to Minsmere for accomodation.

We set out after the rush hour and the plan was to meet up in the Lord Neslon in Southwold at about 13:00, we headed down the A41 but soon turned off when we heard that the M25 was closed both ways between the A42 and the M1, it turns out there was a 6 car pile up. We wasted a bit of time but ended up taking the shorter but slightly longer cross country route involving amongst other roads, A14, A12, A505.

At about 12 we got a call from N&H, they had been way laid by and antiques shop and would be late, so we went to Minsmere for a quick circuit of the reserve and an excellent lunch at the visitors centre. Then we met up at the pub at 14:00.

The pub was followed by a some shopping, I bought a paper. I also managed to get some pano shots of the main square, but the light was grey and overcast so the results might not be that good. It seems ever since I have been wanting to take panorama shots the weather has been not conducive.

Cattle grid with critter ramp
Cattle grid with critter ramp

After shopping we headed of to the pub, via the long spiral route, due to my navigation. We just had time to see if the owls were out, and get a shower before eating in the pub in good company. The menu did not have so many veggie options as usual but we made the most of it all the same.

Herdgerly and Church wood

Cork screw
Cork screw

Last day for a walk before back to the daily grind. We had arranged to go for a walk with Connie and Abida, we touched base after breakfast and they had found a walk on the Bucks County council website at Hedgerley that took in the RSPB reserve at Church Wood.

The walk is circular and a figure of 8, and you can start at a pub called the White Horse, which promises great beer and pub food. So we parked at the pub and set off through the village then down Kiln Road, then we started to pick up signs for the circular walk. The path took us across rolling country with open fields and woods. There were quite a few clusters of old cottages here and there. The walk took us towards Burnham Beeches, into a woods called Egypt Wood, then turned back to wards where we had come. It was real horsey country and commuter belt. After about 2 hours we were back at the pub, rather than doing the Church Wood loop we decided to stop for lunch then do the other bit after.

The pub did great real ale and had a selection of over 10 real ales to choose from. The food was hearty and pub in style. I had a ploughmans, Connie and Abida had hot beef sandwich and Helen had cheesy nut loaf and chips. Once suitably refreshed we headed off round the other end of the loop, which after coming fro the warm pub was a bit a a struggle, but it was a short loop.

The White Horse
The White Horse

We then headed off home, with a stop off for the sale at Fox’s of Amerhsam. There were some great bargains to be head but none were right for us, will have to try again next year. I did try a coat on which was half price but it was too similar to the one that I already have.

The year list now stands at 45, we added two today Red Kite and Coal Tit.

First post of the year

Grey day
Grey day

Today is the day you make new years resolutions. I don’t you should make any that are difficult to keep, so I am going to make an effort to keep a better track of the birds I see this year and Helen and I have also started an official garden list. What better way to start than to go for a walk with the nockers.

We were ready at the early (for new years day) time of 10am, and decided to head up to the area around Dancersend nature reserve, because there is a lot of game birds around which attract lots of country side birds. When we left the house it started to rain so we went up the hill to have a cup of coffee instead! Luckily for us there were plenty of birds on the bird feeders there including Greater Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch.

After coffee we headed out to Wilstone reservoir for a walk to the hide. The weather was miserable and grey, and we had the hide to ourself. Nothing unexpected was present it was great so see Little Egret, Snipe, and Common Gull. One we had endured the cold long enough we headed back to the car in the drizzle then went home for a bite to eat.

It was two o’clock and the year list stood at 33, not a bad start despite the dampened enthusiasm caused by the weather.

A new one for the life list

The road to Hanghill
The road to Hanghill

After yesterdays enjoyable walk I was keen to get back out into the fresh air again. I headed up Tring Hill so see what the traffic was like out and about. The road were nor to bad as it turns out there was plenty of snow and it looked icy on the road surface, there were far more 4×4 as a percentage of the total traffic, than normal. I even saw few cars with chains on! I am not sure if they are legal but I doubt the police would stop you for taking sensible precautions.

The traffic on the A41 was slow and there was only one lane of traffic each way. I then headed towards Tring and took a right towards the manor house which has a bridge over the dual carriageway. I was now back in to the countryside away from the traffic, it was very quiet. I was back on familiar ground and but could not decide which way to go, either a longer router via the crong or a shorter route straight up to Aston Hill. In the end I went in the middle, I headed towards Hanghill but then took a right along a foot path across the fields towards Dancersend manor. I came across the remanents of either a woodcock or a redlegged partridge, which had obviously become the victim of a fox in a struggle. Further on the was a large flock of yellow hammer. Once I had joined the footpath from Hanghill to the manor, I came across a dead crow, I wonder if it was a victim of the cold.

Dead crow
Dead crow

Once past the manor I headed back towards Aston but took the footpath that takes you up to the top of Aston Hill. It was a hard slog up the hill not many people had been up, so the snow was still deep. Just as I reache the golf club a bird flew across the path. It did not take long to figure out that it was a tawny owl. It had a stubby owl body and had that typical owl flight characteristics.

I then headed down the footpath that goes through the golf club. There were some people sledging on the fairways, I am not sure the green keepers would have approved but there was no golf going on so I guess it will do no one any harm.

Then it was down the hill for a coffee and cake at the in laws. Another great walk and a new life list tick to boot.

Cley NWT

Miner bee
Miner bee

We area having a day off the rest of the party and heading to Cley NWT, the weather is fantastic sun shining just the odd cloud, an the air is still, even by the sea there is only a light breeze.
Before we set out we went to Morston to book Beans seal trip, but they were all booked up for this afternoon, but we have the option of trying again on Thursday evening or Friday morning 09:30 which would mean an early start.
We headed out along East Bank and saw probably 12 Bearded Tits, then over on the sea bank we had fleeting views of several Lapland Butings that have been resident for a couple of weeks now. After sitting on the sea defenses for 20 minutes, we saw an Artic Skua, but dipped on the Porpoises.
As we walked along the sea defence we sa a couple of Sandwich Terns and a Gannet.
We headed to the North hide and as usual the time we were there meant we were looking into the sun so good viewa were impossible. We saw plenty of waders that proved difficult to identify. On leaving the hide we kept our eyes out for the Hooded Crow on Eye Field, but it was not to be. A loo stop was in order so we headed straight back to the visitors center and had a well earned lunch, cheese sandwich for mw and Helen opted for the humous and roast vegetables toasted Sandwich.

Flower
Flower

Suitably refreshed we did a quick tour of the hides to the west of the visitors center. On the walk out we saw the hooded crow, which was a great surprise. After some time in the hides we headed back to the hut but not before, coffee and cakes at Byfords in Holt. We have not been to Holt for some time but it seems to be going up market, lots of shops for Helen to browse and spend money.
The service in Byfords was pretty slow we ordered hot chocolate, cappuccino, and a couple of cakes and it seemed to take an eon for it to turn up, how long can it take to steam some milk and slice a couple of cakes? Helen suggested the cow was playing hard to get!
When it turned up the apricot and almond tart was worth the wait, and the cappuccino was tasty. Helen reported that the huge hot chocolate (half a litre I estimated) was divine, the generous wedge lemon cake was tasty.
After some shop browsing, I purchased a flash card reader, then we drove on to the deli at Cley for some snacks for our tapas evening tomorrow. Finally we headed back to Blakeney via Cley Spey to get Helen a longer strap for her Knockers!

Ponchos rule, and 5 Warblers in one bush.

Neil in his poncho
Neil in his poncho

Up again early on a Sunday, for a breakfast at 8:30 we were on the trail at 9:30. We headed towards Minsmere but took a diversion off the road to take the path that runs through the woods that leads to Westleton Heath. In the woods the recent damp weather seemed to have bought all the mushrooms out, they were literally everywhere. The sun was out and the light was really bright even in the shade of the trees. So taking photos was really easy.

I modified the gorilla pod by shortening the two front legs this allowed me to set a small aperture, and by using the 2 second delay on the Lumix LX3 I got some really clear shots. Once we hit Westleton Heath we headed towards Dunwich. We started to get the odd light shower but nothing was going to dampen our enthusiasm, we were really happy to be out in the fresh air. We bagged a Coal Tit on the way down.

Coming across the Dunwich museum was well timed. There was an art exhibition going on in a hall behind the museum, some great original water colours and prints were on show. Mainly Suffolk and Essex, painted early in the morning. The guy who had painted them explained to me that he had been a container boat captain for a Brazilian company. He had worked 3 months on 3 months off then retired at 52, lucky bastard!

Mushrooms
Mushrooms

We also had a look round the museum all about Dunwich, I really had not appreciated just how much of a town existed around 1900’s, then we drifted down to the car park and famous fish and chip establishment down by the sea. We sat out the front with our bowls of chips and beverages, there was quite a wind blowing, I literally had a storm on in my tea cup. We scanned Dingle marsh for signs of Hen Harrier, but it was wishful thinking. I did spot a bird in the distance but we could agree what it was, when it flew away we were able to identify it as a Greenshank, by the long white patch on the back, a good tick.

After a quick look at the sea we headed up the hill and along the ever moving west cliff path. Great views of the coast and Sole bay in the distance can be had at a couple of spots before the path heads inland, after you pass the ruins of the abbey. It then started to rain heavily as we walked through the woods towards Dunwich heath. I was glad to be able to try on the poncho that my mother in law had kindly bought for me in Millets Oxford for £1.50.

I have to say I have been considering getting one for a while, I am now a convert they cover you and your luggage, you have to be careful that the wind does not catch it but they keep the wind and the rain off. We walked though heavy rain across the heath and could not get any view of Dartdord Warblers, as we headed toward the National Trust tearooms at the Coastguard cottages, we had coffee and I had some bread pudding. When the rain had cleared we could see yet another big bank of storm clouds on the horizon, so after a couple of pictures we rushed off down to the East Hide at Minsmere, and we timed it just right the rain started as we arrived.

Dunwich from Minsmere
Dunwich from Minsmere

We spent about 30 minutes in the hide and some patient scanning revealed Little Ringed Plover, Black Tailed Godwit, and a couple of Snipe. The weather system moved on and the sun came out so we walked back to the visitors centre and on through to the Island Mere hide. I then suggested that we walk back along a footpath that runs parallel to the tarmac road, but involves an extra 10 minutes walking, it was towards the end of the day and Helen was in a “trough of disillusionment” so I got the usual ranting.

Later in the pub Helen did agree it was a nicer walk back, I don’t think the high winds and dropping branches helped the situation. We rejoined the tarmac road and walked the final yards back to the pub, the light over the water logged field was begging for photos to be taken, I obliged.

Back at the pub I stopped the GPS logger and we had walked over 13 miles (may be adjusted down). What a fantastic day out 8.5 hours out on foot, with the wife, plenty of tea and bird watching stops, can life get better?

8 and a half miles in as many hours

Another mushroom
Another mushroom

We arrived at Southwold on Friday and went for a shop round town then a quick tour of Minsmere. Then we went to the Eelsfoot Inn at Eastbridge, booked in. There were a family of Swallows sat under the metal stairs outside our room. All weeknd they were there sometimes all sometimes just a one or two. The parents were doing lots of swooping about, and would roost next to the young at night.

On Saturday we woke up in good time and thought we would have a go at our day record to celebrate our recent wedding. So we got up for an 8:30 breakfast at The Eelsfoot Inn, and were on our way down to the Minsmere sluices via the path that goes directly to the sea from Eastbridge. The weather was bright with a stiff wind from the north east but the air temperature was pleasant. Saw some great beetles and butterflies on the way. Saw a spotted flycatcher on top of a tree. When we got down to the sluice bushes we paused for a while in hope of a Pied Flycatcher but it was not to be, although the lesser and common Whitethroat we adequate compensation.

Sticky bud thingy
Sticky bud thingy

On to the public hide to see some Knot, Dunlin, common Sandpiper, and Redshank. Then on to the East hide, where some Sandwich Terns appeared. We were soon sat outside the Coastguard Cottages fighting off the wasps while we ate our lunch of toasted cheese sandwiches. The wasp I trapped in a bottle was really mad, even after Helen freed it. A bit of sea watching produced Common Scoter, but nothing else the winds was probably blowing them all off shore.

Over to Dunwich Heath we did not rate our chances of seeing any Dartford Warblers after the hard winter they have suffered, but there they were loads of them. The Heath was looking good the heather was bright purple and the gorse was starting to flower giving a contrasting bright yellow. We walked to the far north end of the heath before turning round and walking along the west boundary back towards Minsmere.

Four baby swallows
Four baby swallows

Lots of different mushrooms were out a sign of the recent damp weather and Autumn approaching, the light was really bright so it was a great opportunity to get pictures. We strolled along back to the visitors centre back at Minsmere via the west hide to share a portion of carrot cake. We headed off back to Eastbridge stopping off at the Bittern Hide (not much action except a juv. Marsh Harrier) then on to the Island Mere hide, where a few more ticks were recorded. We saw a very yellow warbler in a willow tree but could not make Icterine from it.

The sun was low in the sky as we headed down the Minsmere road back to the pub, we had a great day out, but had not managed to beat our record. August can be quite a quiet, we managed 61 quite a reasonable tally. There is always tomorrow when we plan to head slightly in land then out to Dunwich and back through Minsmere again. What a great day!

New day record

Strom over Cley Marsh
Strom over Cley Marsh

Last day so we decided to try to beat our one day bird list record of 65 species.  Dunnock, wood pigeon and sparrow were in the garden of the cottage. Jackdaw, herring & blackheaded gull, and pheasant en route.  First to Cley-spy for their country walk talking us through arable farmland and oak woodland.  Magpie, swallow, goldfinch, chaffinch, blackbird, blackcap, robin, willow warbler, coal tit, crow, kestrel, blue tit, robin, oystercatcher, treecreeper, red legged partridge, mute swan, mallard, tufted, moorhen, grey wagtail and greater spotted woodpecker.  Then coffee stop at Natural Surroundings at Bayfield Hall, where Neil spotted another treecreeper.  Then back along the fields to the ford, seeing coot, greenfinch, collared dove & swift. We then headed back to the coast to Cley, where the weather had turned a little and chased by a large black raincloud to the hide. Avocet, shelduck, marsh harrier, greylag, bearded tit & sedge warbler on the way to the hide.  Sheltered from the rain and freezing wind seeing black tailed godwit, gadwall, redshank, sand martin, linnet, turnstone, lapwing, dunlin, ringed plover, cormorant, common sand, curlew, teal, ruff, shoveller, pied wagtail, canada & brent goose, common tern, turnstone, LBB gull, 3 temmincks stints & wheatear on the single bank. Walked to the shelter looking out to sea, and Neil got gannet despite being blasted by the north easterly wind. Then back via meadow pipit, egyptian goose, rook, reed warbler, pochard & whimbrel.  Success despite blimmin challenging weather!

Common Crane

Damson Fly
Damson Fly

Got the Coasthopper from BOS to Holkham, then walked down Queen Anne’s Drive toward the beach.  Saw something odd flying towards us (my description of “it’s big with legs” is probably not going to win any ornithological awards!) and as it went overhead Neil recognised it as a common crane! We let RBA know and then walked along the beach to the George Washington hide, from where the crane was clearly visible.  Some other birders turned up and we all admired the crane for a bit.  Then through the pines where we searched for goldcrest.  I could hear them but it took ages to finally spot one.  We checked out the other hide but no sign of the Spoonbills unfortunately. Willow warbler and chiffchaff from the footpath then into the dunes. Sat and watched a flock of linnets in the sunshine then back to BOS.