Coat on coat off, coat on coat off

Heather and trees
Heather and trees

After a very pleasant evening in the Eel’s Foot with a few pints and an enjoyable chat with a couple from Cambridge whom we happened to sit next to, we were again up early for the Eels Foot fry up.  Unfortunately no vegetarian sausages but lots of toast so very well fuelled as we checked out and headed off to Minsmere.  The choice for today’s amble had been subject to much discussion, but decided we could not do better than simply do a circular route centring on Minsmere safe in the knowledge that a coffee and excellent cake could be assured at the end of our walk.

We parked at the visitor centre and grabbed a “what’s about” to get a heads up of what we should be keeping an eye out for.  Not many people about yet and we headed off through the woods and soon came across a tit flock in an oak tree, which included two treecreepers, a greated spotted woodpecker, great & long tailed tits.  We stopped at Bittern hide, unfortunately not repeating Neils success on Saturday but saw good views of a little grebe and chick.  Continued to Island Mere where we saw a bar head goose, which is one of thos e “does what it says on the tin” birds, i.e. is a goose with striped bars on it’s head.  Usefully.

Coastguard cottages Dunwich

We pottered on in the sunshine, so coats off, crossing the road at Scotts Hall where a berry laden treee held tantilising views of, as ever, unidentified warblers.  The down the bridleway towards Dunwich Heath.  The mushrooms has started to appear and Neil got a few photos and the chance to try out his fish eye lens.  Another tit flock but could’nt spot the accompanying goldcrest that could be heard and more flipping mystery warblers!  Reached the Heath where is was getting a bit busier as the sun drew people out but we took to long way round and managed to secure the seat at the centre of the heath in another unsuccessful attempt to spot Dartford warbler.  It’s a bit worrying after we did not see any yesterday

and hope that is just us getting there at the wrong time rather than the after effects of a tough winter for them.  We did manage to see the stone chat so that and a cheese toastie at Lighthouse cottages was some compensation.

Refuelled we went down to the sea where, despite there being a chilly wind there were several swimmers.  We called in at East Hide to see the sanderling, black tailed godwit, avocets and wildfowl and walked on round the reserve.  We reached on point where several birders were starring intently at a bush at a ……..wheatear! A lovely looking bird but we anticipated a mega from the number of watchers.  Neil whispered he initially though it must be some special sort of wheatear.  Sun came out so Neil took his coat off, then of course it went back in again.  The BBC should use his coat wearing a some sort of weather prediction method.

Carrot cake, yummmm

Then lastly we popped into West Hide where it was surprisingly quiet after yesterday, until we spotted the sparrowhawk perched on one island which explained the rest of the birds shuffling quietly away on titpoe.  We saw a distant greenhank and another avocet.  The back to the visitor centre  for coffee and cake and some light shopping (me) before heading back Chiltern-wards at 3.00pm.

A perfect day

We were in bed early last night, and I woke up about 06:30, by 7 I had had enough so I got up and went down to island mere hide. I parked near Scots Hall (not sure is that is allowed!) and walked into the reed beds. No one else was in the hide, the mere was quite full of water after the recent rain, and there were not many birds about. Geese were flying in and out in formation, and I spotted a juvenile Marsh Harrier. I had not bothered getting the scope out but then spotted a Bittern on the far side, by the time I got it set up the bird had gone.


Soon after I spotted another one further along this time I had the benefit of the scope, it was at the edge of the reeds looking up in the classic pose, then it barked and flew along the reeds and dropped out of site. Just before I left I spotted another one.

Breakfast was as usual great but they did not have veggie sausages but they promised some for tomorrow. After breakfast we sorted out our gear and headed in land along the Minsmere river.

The we then did a second side of a triangular route across Westleton heath where the Heather was in full bloom very purple and very fragrant. There were two distinct colours one very vibrant purple the other more pastel in colour. It was still early’ish and we had the place almost to our selves and the weather was getting warmer and sunnier.

Number 98

By the time we got to Dunwich church we had not had a break so we sat on the bench and had half a snack bar each. After a nice rest we walked up the village high street and down to the fish and chip shop over looking Dingle marsh and the car park. Helen had veggie burger and because she said it is the law that if they are offered they have to be taken in case the proprietor thinks demand has dropped. It turns out that the burgers were deep fried vegetable fritters and there was no bun! I ended up having one of them.

Once Helen was tired of the wasps we went over to the beach where there were a few swimmers bracing the North Sea temperatures. After some time relaxing on the beach we headed back up the hill towards the light house cottages.

Just past Grey Friars we heard a great but distant thunder clap. To our west there was a very big and dark anvil shaped cloud, and it was heading our direction. Soon after it started to rain, but as soon as we had unpacked the poncho and got it on the rain had stopped. The storm was heading past just to the north of us, we surmised that if we had stayed much longer at Dunwich we would have got soaked the storm continued to flash and rumble for the next half an hour. We found a bench on Dunwich heath and looked for Dartford warblers, but apart from stonechats and wood pigeons we were out of luck. There was a brief flash of grey at one point but not good enough to get an id of any bird.

Hail stones

At coast guard cottages we had coffee and shared a cake, then a bit of sea watching and a pee. We then headed down to the beach and on to the main part of Minsmere RSPB reserve. The storm was heading away out to sea but you could still see lightning and hear thunder. Over towards Eastbriddge we could see some more dark clouds so we got a speed on, the plan was to go to a hide for a while before heading back. We just about made the hide before it started raining trouble was the hide looked out over scrapes but hey were empty because the Terns that would normalhangout there had left for sunnier clims, so I put on my poncho and Helen her rain gear and we walked back towards Mere hide in the hope of seeing another Bittern.

The rain did not last long and the sun came out the light was warm and brilliant for taking photos, so I did! Not muchaction going on in the hide, which was deserted. We got a few more ticks that had evaded us earlier in the day (Tufted, Great-Crested Grebe, and Little Grebe), but no Bittern in site. Later a man turned up with  a 500mm f2.8 Canon lens (£5,000) hoping to get a Bittern fly by, if he got one the light was perfect. Feet suitabkly rested we left the hide for the final push back to the hide it was already 17:30 and I reckoned it would take 30minutes to get back to the pub, Helen reckoned longer 40minutes.

Storm over abbey

Rather than take the road back we turned away from The Eels Foot and walkked past Sotts Hall and joined the bridleway that runs parallel. We were both knackered and Helen needed a fruit bar to avoid a trough, 35 minutes later we were at the last corner before the pub, so I guess Helen was right about the time it would take to get back.

All day we had failed to find a Tit flock but just as we got back to the river Minsmere we spotted one so Blue Tit and Long-tailed wer added tothe day list. Then I spotted a Treecreeper it was really close and hunting insects on the small branches, the view was fantastic. Suitably rewarded we headed back to the pub it had taken 40 minutes!

We had walked about 12-13 miles and been out for just short of 9 hours which is  probably a record for us. We quickly freshened up and heaed to the bar for a well earned pint and some pub food, the end of a perfect day.