Lesser Grey Shrike Leiston Suffolk

Last full day of our holiday in Thropeness, the party is splitting into different factions. Helen and I went for a walk hoping to take in a rare bird that has been spotted less than two miles away from the hut. The others went for a walk to Aldeburgh to look at the giant clam sculpture.

Trevor on tour Lesser Grey Shrike picture
Trevor on tour Lesser Grey Shrike picture

I spotted the bird sighting on the  UK400ClubRareBirdAlert site which is run by Lee Evans. Apparently according to the blog “A first-winter LESSER GREY SHRIKE is present for its fourth day in Suffolk after being discovered on Sunday by two novice birdwatchers who eventually notified RSPB staff at Minsmere RSPB after they had enjoyed a few beers in the Eels Foot Inn at Eastbridge. John Grant quickly made his way to the location and confirmed the bird’s identification. It has been showing well in the paddocks immediately SSE of Halfway Cottages, just east of Leiston town (situated on Sizewell Road about a mile down from the main Leiston to Yoxford road) at approximately TM 463 621. Park sensibly opposite the Cottages and respect the privacy of the residents. It constitutes the 9th record for Suffolk following singles at Hollesley Common on 22nd-23rd May 1970 (trapped & ringed), Walberswick Heath on 7th June 1973, Lakenheath on 4th June 1977, Lound Waterworks from 10th-12th September 1989, Walberswick Common on 25th May 1996, Thelnetham Fen in Suffolk Breckland on 29th June 2006 (singing male), Shingle Street from 8th-11th July 2006 (adult female) and at Trimley Marshes on 14th September 2009 (first-winter).”

We are staying about two miles from the cottages so we set out for a walk that would take in the site in the hope that after 5 days it was still there. We came across a couple walking a dog and puppy, the puppy seemed to wary of us and took some cajoling by the owners before it would walk past us and then it did as fast as it could. We covered some ground that we had covered the other day when we walked to Sizewell beach. After having to consult the map a few times we took a pretty direct route to halfway cottages, then identified the paddock by the group of people with scopes. The shrike was sat on top of a bush and was very visible, John Grant let Helen and I have a look through his scope which gave us the opportunity to see the bird in detail. If I had seen it myself I could only have identified it as a Shrike, as it is the first one I have ever seen, so to see a rare Lesser Grey Shrike was a real treat.

Minsmere beach
Minsmere beach

We hung around for 5-10 minutes observing then walked toward the sea just south of Sizewell where there is a cafe attached to a camp site. We had a coffee then headed back along the coastal path to the hut, in time for a cheese sandwich for lunch. Helen and I then caused another split by heading off to Minsmere RSPB for the after noon while another faction went for a walk on the beach and three others went for a £30 30 minute sea blast in a rib boat from Southwold harbour.

Helen and I  parked up at the reserve then headed in land and took a footpath on the right that headed over Dunwich Heath in hope of seeing Dartford Warblers. We were not disappointed we saw two Stonechat and about 5 or 6 Dartford Warblers which the heath is famous for. At coat guard cottages we had a drink and shared a piece of lemon drizzle cake whilst enjoying warm sun. I was down to a single layer just a t-shirt was warm enough. We headed down to the beach and on towards East Hide (our favorite), on the way Helen spotted a single seal out on the water and we had a look at an RSPB sculpture made of plastic found on the beach, which was being used to inform people of the issue that plastic is and how it pollutes the sea, as it gets broken down into smaller and smaller bits, it affects the wildlife, as it gets into the food chain.

There was not much to see from the East Hide just the usual suspects ducks and a few godwit. On the way back we stopped to look for Bearded Tit from the new sea defenses, but failed to spot more that a pigeon and a blue tit. After a look around the shop we headed back to the hut to tidy up before heading to The Dolphin pub for a meal.

Little Bittern and Mutant Ninja Turtle at Stockers Lake

Turtles at stockers lake
Turtles at stockers lake

A Little Bittern has been reported at Stockers Lake near Rickmansworth since last weekend. Reports suggest quite easy to see, so I thought I would pop down there see if I could get a view. I have never seen a Little Bittern, so I don’t know what to expect, probably a bittern looking bird but smaller than the run of the mill Minsmere type Bittern.

I got off the M25 at junction 17 and parked up down a lane called Springwell Lane where there is a car park. Birdguides had reports and I get the OS grid ref from there and printed out a map from Bing. I orientated my self using the map in the car park, helped by a couple who pointed me in the direction of a crowd of twitchers.

Little Bittern at Stockers lake near Rickmansworth.
Little Bittern at Stockers lake near Rickmansworth.

On the way I spotted two Turtles sun bathing on a log by the edge of the water, they were close enough for the Canon 100-400mm. I took a few shots then moved on round the lake.

It was obvious where the bird was as there was about 30 people standing around the footpath getting the way of the Sunday morning joggers. It was apparently about 30m away hiding in the reeds and stinging nettles. I stood around with them and waited for a view.

After about 30 minutes we got some fleeting views as it walked behind the reeds, then about 10 minutes later it popped up about 10m down stream, we all moved and I lost my front row, and was relegated to the back, I was still able to get a look it was out in front of the reeds. It is as the name suggests a small version of a Bittern. In fact I would say a quarter to a third the size of a Minsmere Bittern. All the cameras were clicking away, then the bird was spooked and moved further up stream.

Little bittern twitch at Stockers lake
Little bittern twitch at Stockers lake

I walked down with some others and was lucky to get a spot right down on the bank of the river perhaps only 20m from the bird. I got some shots then sat down to get some even better ones, from a low angle. My Karrimat material insulating mat came in very hand as I sat there with cracking views, and got a load of shots off in good light. Eventually it flew a bit further down the river.

I called it a day at 11:49 and headed back to the car, then back home, to the hum drumb of domestic chores I trimmed the Laurel hedge in the back garden, and cut the lawn.