Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Pink and (T)white

After last week's reference to late autumn a flavour of winter arrived on the marshes on Saturday. It was a typical dull, damp, dismal November day. After work in the morning I went upstairs to change and had a quick scan across the marshes. (We have a scope permanently set up in the bedroom.) Settling on a passing marsh harrier I noticed numerous dark shapes grazing the marshes behind it. The Pink-feet were back. Our first record of Pink-feet here was a recent as 2007 but since then several thousand have spent at least a few days every winter grazing Haddiscoe marshes, usually in December/January time. There's something very evocative in the sight and sound of large flocks of wild geese so I've always felt very privileged to have these birds so close to the house. There were about 500 birds this time and with a detailed scan I picked up a single adult White-front but there was no sign of the Ross's Goose that had been on the nearby Haddiscoe Island the previous day.
We had friends over on Saturday evening so it was a rather late start on Sunday morning despite the glorious sunshine. A Brambling wheezed over as I let the chickens out in the morning and a small flock of siskins flew from one alder carr to another. Three Marsh Harriers and a Barn Owl cruised by while I was checking the sheep.
One of our friends is relatively new to birding so to fill one of the gaps in her list we headed to Dingle Marshes. After a refreshing walk along the shingle from Dunwich we had excellent views of the wintering flock of Twite feeding on the fluffy Sea Asters, along with 5 Spotted Redshanks on the shore pools. With news of a large flock of Waxwings at Minsmere in the North Bushes we moved rapidly on. Our friend had previously only seen Waxwing in flight. On seeing the birds at Minsmere she immediately understood my comment "You haven't seen Waxwing until you've seen them perched". They behaved beautifully, basking in the late afternoon sun, eating hawthorn berries and flycatching, all to a backdrop of their lovely trilling calls. With fading light and photos taken we retired for tea and cake in the visitor centre followed by an escorted visit to the Cave Spider guarding her egg cocoon in one of the nearby sheds. She's a fantastic looking beast closely resembling a Black Widow and well worth a look even if you're not into creepy-crawlies. Thanks to the Minsmere staff for taking the time to show her to us.
We finished the day with a nostalgic dusk visit to Westwood Lodge, a former gathering site for Suffolk birders in years gone by. A massive flock of starlings rushed east presumably to roost in the Walberswick reed beds and 3 Marsh Harriers also came in to roost. The star bird was a Little Owl who emerged from his daytime roost in a dead tree stump and sat in full view the entire time we were there. All in all, a fun day in good company.

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