Monday, February 13, 2012

Suffolk Weekend

Meadow Pipit in good numbers!
Late Friday afternoon Dee and I drove over to Suffolk for a weekend with friends and although the birding wasn't top of the agenda we did manage a visit to RSPB Lakenheath Fen on Saturday.

The drive East turned out to be an interesting one as we cant ever recall seeing the temperature drop as much as it did on this particular journey. We left Napton at +1C around 4pm and by the time we arrived at Wixoe in Suffolk a few hours later the temperature had dropped to an amazing -10C. When we woke on the Saturday morning the thermometer was showing a bitter -14.9C.

Despite the temperature the day was beautifully crisp and clear and so unperturbed we took a leisurely drive the 30 miles or so to RSPB Lakenheath with our hosts Pat and John, arriving in -10C at around midday. This was our friends first trip with us to an RSPB reserve after recently developing a keen interest in birding, I wonder who influenced them?

With the pools frozen over the plan was to start at the Wash-land Viewpoint and then walk the perimeter of the river Little Ouse in the hope that anything interesting would probably be on or around the unfrozen water. Firstly though a quick scan in the immediate area where about a half hour earlier the currently visiting Great Grey Shrike had been showing. Despite a Shrike now-show 2 pristine Stonechat's were constantly flitting from the reed bed up onto the frozen teazel, A Green Woodpecker was ground feeding and 3 Skylark passed overhead.

Hoar Frost on Teazel
The walk along the bank produced some stunning scenery with a large amount of trees and most small bushes glistening in the harsh hoar frost. Canada Geese, Greylag, Lapwing, Snipe, Pied Wagtail and various numbers of Teal and Wigeon were busily feeding along the river banks and excellent numbers of Meadow Pipit were also recorded along the route. Fieldfare, Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbird kept a constant search under leaf and several small flocks of Goldfinch were constantly on the go.

On the return trip to the nature centre a day hunting Barn Owl was the highlight and after Dee, Pat and John made their escape for hot chocolate I spent an enjoyable 40 minutes trying once again to locate the Great Grey Shrike, sadly in vain. During my frozen vigil 2 more Stonechat, probably the same birds as earlier, plus more Meadow Pipit, Water Rail and a flypast from firstly a Little Egret and then a USAF Tanker on finals to the nearby American Airbase.

Several Lesser Redpoll on the centre feeders and a very nice Sparrowhawk on the way out, ably spotted by John, the newest member of the world wide birding network. Not a prolific birding day, dipping on both Shrike and the local Cranes, but a greatly enjoyable one with some dear friends!