Watching the weather forecast all week knowing that 5 of us were heading up to Suffolk on Sunday, was a waste of time, I should have known better!! The forecast was for heavy showers and strong winds, we got sunshine and a light breeze! a real bonus.
We arrived at Dunwich Heath around 8am a few Pipits could be heard and some HOUSE MARTINS were already high in the sky. After less than a 100 yards we found 3 DARTFORD WARBLERS, what a great start, they weren't hanging around but were seen flying from on spot to another and diving straight for cover in typical fashion, as we watched these the first of todays raptors drifted by a female MARSH HARRIER, it flew by our second raptor, a hovering KESTREL, behind us another bird called it was a HOBBY, it circled the edge of the north marsh at Minsmere and was briefly joined by a SPARROWHAWK, which continued north!! 4 raptors in as many minutes, certainly more than I expected. We moved on, a few SISKIN were flying over, not great numbers but they were heard on and off throughout the morning, we'd only gone another 100 yards and I picked up a COMMON BUZZARD just above the tree line, I hoped our luck would continue. In among the the birds mentioned already, Pete found a single Red Deer in the heather surprisingly well camouflaged. Almost the highlight of the day for me was our next encounter, with this time 7 Red Deer of various ages that came within maybe 40 yards, they stopped and watched us for about 5 minutes while they decided what to do next before disappearing in to the woods. We saw many more Dartford Warblers on our walk round, suggesting a good breeding season, eventually one or two posed for a short time so everyone had some scope views of these little beauties, we also had 3 more Common Buzzards that drifted south together before we got back to the car.
At Minsmere we started at North Hide, quickly finding Fiona the Flamingo, after her brief excursion to Dungeness in the week!! We added RUFF, BLACK TAILED GODWIT, COMMON SANDPIPER, several of the usual duck species and loads of BARNACLE GEESE! There has been a feral flock around for a few years now but I was amazed at how many there were, I would think well over a 100 birds, either the feral population has had a good breeding season or they been joined by a few more from somewhere else. The north bushes suddenly came alive, just after we added another Buzzard to the day list and another 5 Hobbies that were circling round together, the bushes had a really good mixed flock of warblers,tits and finches, 60 birds would be conservative nearer a 100 might be close. WILLOW WARBLER, CHIFFCHAFF, LESSER WHITETHROAT, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST and the usual selection of tits were seen, unfortunately we didn't pick out the reported Yellow Browed Warbler or Icterine Warbler.
Visiting the rest of the hides round the scrape added more waders, WHIMBREL, AVOCET, BAR TAILED GODWIT, REDSHANK, CURLEW SANDPIPER, RINGED PLOVER and DUNLIN, they all took there place on the list. At sea just BLACK and SANDWICH TERN were seen and a male BEARDED TIT posed nicely in the reeds near the sluice. Our last stops were the Bittern and Island mere hides, a WATER RAIL called while we watched 3 Marsh Harriers performing well, in what was becoming a nice evening light, I glimpsed a BITTERN disappearing into the reeds but it was gone before I drew breath to alert everyone.
We saw or heard over 70 species during the day and stayed dry!, it was thoroughly enjoyable, we drove back through heavy showers!!