Wednesday 15 February 2023

East Anglian Borderlands - Day 2 - 11th-12th February 2023

Another East Anglian weekend…

A slightly later start saw us convene in The Drive in Reydon for 8.30 on a flat grey morning but at least the four Waxwings were immediately on show in the top of the tallest trees from where they periodically flashed out for an fly.  They have been somewhat sporadic in their appearances since I saw them in late January so it was good to see them so promptly.


Richard had to dash back to his digs in Lowestoft where he had left his camera batteries so we agreed to meet him just down the road at Hen Reedbeds.

A party of Siskins greeted our arrival and Chaffinches and Great Tits were singing while out over the marsh I found a Water Pipit in the top of a small Willow and had a Grey Wagtail fly over.  Reed Buntings were singing across the reedbed and were the first we had heard this year.  Goldcrest and Cetti’s Warbler foraged in the Brambles below us and a female Marsh Harrier hunted further back.

We followed the path through the damp woodland finding Chaffinches, Redwings, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds amongst the leaf litter while a Brambling flew over calling. Crossing the road we found that the tide was full out be we had a pleasant enough amble along the wall.  There were even more Reed Buntings singing but all were just below the top of the Phrag for their warm up performances.  A couple of Stonechats popped up to hover after prey but despite the calm conditions we heard no Beardies.

A flock of Curlew spiralled in to join the Lapwings up on the top field and we could hear Skylarks going strong.


The mud initially looked devoid of life but a scan revealed a good number of Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Golden Plover, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin spread thinly across the mud with the odd Grey Plover and many Shelduck and Wigeon.

There were more duck in the central channel with Shoveler, Teal and Gadwall joining the others along with several splendid looking Cormorants and three Little Grebes.

A Little Egret wiggled its toes in the adjacent pool and three each of Buzzard and Marsh Harrier were on patrol although I think that we were the only ones to see the male Peregrine go over as nothing else even twitched!

On south to Westleton Heath where a singing Woodlark greeted us as we emerged from the cars.  That mournful song will always be one of my favourites.  A Dartford Warbler sang a couple of times and churred too but eluded our eyes and we could hear another Woodlark and Yellowhammer way off in the distance.  It was eerily still and unlike the yesterday there was barely a bird to be heard. A third male Woodlark was half singing from a Birch with his prospective mate sitting a little lower down.  They soon took off and spent the next ten minutes in slow fluttery loops around the clearing with the male circling around her singing and performing mini parachute flutters and falls. It was beautiful.

Woodlarks - the Dance

Woodlark - Richard Hanman

We left them to their nuptials and helped Antony look for Phyllonorycter ulicicolella mines on fresh Gorse stems which proved successful.  The path sides were dotted with thumb sized holes and excavations and we believe it to be the work of Minotaur Beetles although we never actually saw one.

Minotaur burrows

Phyllonorycter ulicicolella 

The other side of the road offered us a Goldcrest and Antony saw a Dartford briefly but it never came out again.  With lunch and loos needed we moved on to Dunwich Beach and plonked ourselves down on the shingle bank.  The view out to sea was very peculiar with a rolling but waveless vista that merged seamlessly into the sky. A dark smudge proved to be a large raft of Common Scoter and we counted at least 170 which is probably the most I have seen in Suffolk.  A little further back 16 beefy Velvet Scoters formed their own gang and revealed the occasional white wing flap. There were odd Scoter dotted around but judging distance was tricky and so they sometimes looked huge because they were actually closer! Similarly objects that looked stationary turned out to be actually flying well above the invisible water. It was all rather odd. Several Cormorants and Red-throated Divers were the only other birds seen.

Common Scoter 

A scan of the Dingle Marshes added a brief Great White Egret and a herd of nine doe and a fine stag Red Deer whose antlers were visible above the reed tops.  Stonechats were seen flycatching from the reed stems by the cars as we headed off to North Warren.  Thorpeness was rammed and the prospect of parking in the little free car park seemed remote but as we neared it I spied a layby on the right and we managed to get all three cars into it.  It was perfectly placed with about a hundred Barnacle Geese immediately opposite with four much larger Canada Geese while a large gathering of Russian White-fronts could be seen at the back of the marsh.

Barnacle Geese and one Canada Goose 

We made our way up to the central path and decided to walk all the way across as we could see what looked like a viewing platform right next to the White-fronts passing some very smart close Greylags and a good spread of Pintail and Wigeon on the way through and a Great White Egret lumbered off towards Aldeburgh giving me my traditional distant shot for the blog.

Great White Egret 


The Russian White-fronted Geese had all moved back to the flash just before we arrived but it did give us the chance to make an accurate count and 197 was the consensus although may have missed a few.  Within 15 minutes they started to flight and waddle back into the closer green sward and we spent a fine session watching these dapper geese with their pink bills, orange legs, white blazes and black belly bars.  There were many family groups and frequent tussles between parents over prime grazing rights and it was good to see several broods of four and five. 

Look at those fabulous tail patterns!

Russian White-fronted Geese 

Pleased with our decision to walk through we retraced our steps and scanned the marshes once again, this time finding a Spoonbill as well as the Great White Egret Rooks and Jackdaws were ganging up in the fields but I am not sure where the local roost is for these birds. We were just showing a couple the big white birds when I glanced up to see a female Goosander whizzing overhead with a gleaming drake in tow.  They ditched on the closest pool where the male outshone all the other wildfowl around him.


Goosander and Pintail

The light was now fading and it was becoming cooler once again but there was still time for a look out the  south side of Aldeburgh at Slaugden but there tide was in and the place was thronging with the ‘weekend beautiful people’ so we had a short walk along towards the Martello Tower seeing chip hunting Turnstones amongst the Black-headed Gulls while the odd sea was covered in roosting gulls and another little raft of 22 Scoter, 12 Great Crested Grebes and six Red-throated Divers. With the light fading we called it a night after a splendid second day along the coast.

Back at Pakefield (via the moth ridden A12 toilet block) there was the opportunity for some better shots of the moths from the previous evening before dinner and a g’n’t beckoned.

I stayed in the car...

Pale Brindled Beauty


Spring Usher

Spring Usher

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