Suffolk A Tour For Two 19 To 24 June 2021 With A Mega Surprise Bird

Dartford Warbler male April 2016 1

One of the birds we hoped to see on our Tour for Two in Suffolk - Dartford Warbler.

We do really enjoy running our Tours for Two, not only is it much safer in these uncertain times but it means we can deliver a tour perfect for our guests. We collected Tony and Eva from their home near Leicester on the 19th June and headed east towards Suffolk sadly the traffic was bad a road closure delayed us somewhat and we changed plans and had lunch at a lovely country park in Cambridgeshire rather than in Suffolk! But of course every stop on a journey is an opportunity to enjoy birds and we had a lovely view of a Kingfisher and Common Terns and found a Green Woodpecker nest. Luckily the second part of the journey went smoothly and we arrived at our lovely hotel in Westleton, very close to the RSPB flagship reserve of Minsmere with plenty of time to unpack and relax before the first of our lovely dinners.

We awoke on the 20th to light rain but of course that doesn’t stop the birds and after a delicious breakfast we headed out to an area of heath close to the hotel and soon had a wonderful Stone Curlew in the scope with umbrella above to ensure dry watchers and optics – always good to be prepared. A second Stone Curlew was picked out standing still near a patch of nettles and that marvellous yellow eye stared back at us. This was a new species of bird for Tony and Eva what a fantastic start to their custom Birdwatching Trips tour to Suffolk. A short drive took us to another area of heathland where luckily the rain had stopped and we soon found a beautiful singing male Yellowhammer soon followed by a Cuckoo – both seen and heard. We walked a track and spotted a Wood Lark flying over the heath, sadly this wonderful bird landed out of sight, but we waited, it soon flew again and this time landed in a silver birch tree and was immediately in the scope giving a great view of this bird we seldom see. We had several views of the Wood Lark before we were distracted by a warbler with a long tail flying over the heather – Dartford Warbler! This was another bird high on Tony and Eva’s wish list and after a short wait a stunning male Dartford Warbler popped up in full view and was immediately in the scopes – wow! We had a few more brief views of this heathland speciality before we lost it, an amazing morning on our custom Tour for Two!

A lovely lunch at Dunwich Beach and we then explored the area west of Walberswick but very few birds were seen in the cool windy conditions.

We checked some pig farm fields that were alive with birds despite not being very scenic! A flock of large gulls was fun to check through and what a variety of plumages were on show but we persisted and were very happy to pick out a second-summer Caspian Gull and a very smart near adult Yellow-legged Gull amongst the Herring, Lesser and Great black back Gulls. We also added Egyptian Goose and Red-legged Partridge to our growing tour list. The marshes west of Blythburgh were also rather poor in the strong cold wind though we did add Cetti’s and Sedge Warblers to the list and enjoyed close views of Little Egrets.

Birding at Southwold, Suffolk photo by Eva taken on the Tour for Two.

On the 21st we headed over to Southwold seafront where it was still cool and windy so we tried a sea-watch which added Gannets and a group of five Common Scoter to our trip list.

We then dropped Ruth off at her aunties in Southwold as she had not been able to visit for well over a year, while the rest of us headed up the coast to Covehaithe. Sadly Tony was really suffering with a painful back so his mobility was greatly reduced and we could only walk short distances so our plan to walk the beach to Benacre Broad were shelved and we did some birding near the church. We did have our first, of many, Hobby of the trip such superb birds and always a thrill to see. It was lovely to hear Skylarks singing above fields bordered with beautiful poppies.

Back to Southwold to pick up Ruth and then we headed over to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust Reserve of Carlton Marshes where we had last visited a number of years ago. What a transformation had taken place since that last visit with a wonderful new visitor centre and we had lunch here. Food done we headed out on to the reserve where Tony was able to make it out to the main area of fresh-marsh that held huge numbers of birds, where to look first!

The newly created wetland is a fantastic place to enjoy birds with a raised embankment where a footpath runs along the top allowing panoramic views across the scrapes and reed-beds. Avocets were easy to see with many of these beautiful waders feeding in the shallow waters and a good number of young birds were wonderful to see. Then Ruth picked out a Spoonbill at the back of the marsh, a first partially hidden in reeds but now and then it came right out and we had good scope views of this bizarre bird stood with Little Egrets. A little later we watched a Great Egret stalking slowly through a patch of reeds and then two more flapping slowly over the marshes. Redshank and Lapwing were also here along with Teal, Gadwall and a Barnacle Goose. Common Terns swept over the pools and Marsh Harriers quartered the distant reed-beds what a fabulous reserve we will be back! On the 22nd of June we spent the whole day at the fantastic RSPB Reserve of Minsmere always a real treat to visit this huge and bird filled reserve that really show cases what the RSPB is all about – bird conservation. We started by having another look at those wonderful Stone Curlew along the entrance track and this time no rain and these amazing birds showed off with frame filling views. Then we walked down to the South Hide overlooking the famous scrape at the south end where we hoped to see Roseate Terns that been seen here recently and we didn’t have to wait long as two of these stunning birds were in view amongst a flock of Sandwich Terns. Many thanks to the birders in the hide for the directions as the scrape is such a big place with so many birds. As it happens the Roseate Terns were settled and in view that whole time we were there with up to three birds present always amongst the Sandwich Terns. Great selection of waders were also here on the scrape with two male Ruff still in breeding plumage, a stunning breeding plumages Sanderling and two Ruddy Turnstones add to this plenty of Little Terns, Avocets, a smart second-summer Mediterranean Gull and so much more what a start to our day! We also visited the west and north hides overlooking the scrape before lunch and enjoyed so many birds. New for the trip from these hides were five Black-tailed Godwits looking very smart in the morning sunshine.

Lunch was enjoyed at the visitor centre and Tony hit the jackpot ordering a fantastic Ploughman’s Lunch well worth remembering if you are the reserve at lunch time! Then we set for the Bittern hide but due to Covid-19 restrictions numbers are being limited in the hides so we had to wait for a space. But this did not stop us enjoying amazing birds we could see over the reed-bed from below the hide and soon picked out Marsh Harriers back and forth over the sea of reeds. These were joined by at least three Hobby and these superfast falcons were catching dragon flies over the reeds and eating them on the wing! What a fantastic experience to watch these beautiful raptors hunting so close to us and we were all thrilled. Then a Bittern very slowly flapped right past us, left to right, at eye-level allowing us a super look at this fantastic hard to see reed-bed dweller – wow! We climbed up into the Bittern Hide that gives a wonderful view over the huge expanse of Minsmere’s reed-beds and basically saw the same species as from below but from a different angle, lots of Marsh Harriers, superb Hobby views and another Bittern in flight. A red deer hind showed in one of the pools below the hide and several Little Egrets flapped past. On to the Island Mere hide where again we had to wait for a space to become free before getting in, here we saw another Bittern in flight really great to have three looks at this elusive bird. Great crested Grebes had young on the lake here and we added Little Grebe to our trip list. A Bearded Tit showed briefly in flight twice frustrating to see it so briefly. It had been a wonderful day at one of the UK’s best nature reserves if you haven’t been go!

A red deer hind below the Bittern hide at RSPB Minsmere photo by Eva.

On the 23rd of June we began the day by walking across the road from our hotel to the lovely historic church opposite which Eva loved looking around and purchased two lovely books one on the history of the church and one on the wildflowers found in the grounds both great publications. We also added a few new birds to the trip list including a beautiful pair of Bullfinch. Then a very short drive to Westleton Heath where we again looked for Dartford Warblers and again soon found Wood Larks - singing away with their beautiful melodic sounds what a beautiful sound scape. We had a brief view of a Dartford Warbler as we tried to relocate this wonderful bird news came in of a very rare bird indeed – a European Roller! This extremely rare bird was only about fifty miles so we headed back to the car and set off towards Lackford! It was a bit of a slow drive and as we neared the site that dreaded message came through “no sign of the Roller” luckily we were close to Lackford Lakes Suffolk Wildlife Trust Reserve a place we had planned to visit during the tour so we diverted there. It was lunch time by now so we got lunch at the reserve and a message came in “Roller now showing” so we headed over there fast, thankfully another birder at the reserve was also going so we just followed him.

Roller April 2016 1

A blue bird that came out of the blue - European Roller - a mega bird for us! Libary photo

We soon made it and found a lot of cars on the roadside and even better could even see the bird on telegraph wires on the right of the road whew! Always great to see the target bird even before getting out of the car takes the pressure off. Then we had to find somewhere to park on an “A” road that already had a lot of cars parked along it, luckily we found a safe place to get the car right off the road and walked a little way back and found a safe spot to see this beautiful rarity what a fantastic bonus bird for the trip! Then we headed back to Lackford Lakes for a lovely relaxed wander around this lovely reserve. Plenty to see here including Lapwings, a Common Redshank, and Teal and new for the trip Pochard it had been a very exciting day indeed.

The 24th of June was our last day of the custom Tour for Two to Suffolk and we up early for some pre-breakfast birding on Westleton Heath. A Wood Lark showed well in a birch tree and then we spotted a family of Stonechats and know where a Stonechat is there might be a Dartford Warbler about and hey presto there was one! We enjoyed super telescope views of two of these marvellous birds feeding in the heather and a small birch tree just fantastic. Dartford Warblers are such lovely charismatic birds and one of the birds that Tony and Eva had hoped to see on the trip so it was wonderful to have such lovely views in the morning sunshine.

Dunwich Beach, Suffolk on our last morning of the Tour for Two - photo by Eva.

Next we popped down to Dunwich Beach and scanned the marsh and flat calm sea from the top of the shingle beach and enjoyed a lot of birds from that one vantage point. A big flock of Common Scoter were on the sea some three hundred or so a big gathering for June. Two breeding plumaged Spotted Redshank flew south over us looking great in the sunshine against the blue sky and a Hobby swept over the marsh with over fifty birds enjoyed we were ready for out last delicious breakfast back at the hotel.

Sadly it was time to head for home and leave Suffolk after a really super trip with lots of amazing birds and so many laughs. But still time to squeeze a little more birding with a stop at Paxton Pits in Cambridgeshire on the way west where we added Garden Warbler and Goldcrest to the trip list. A lovely pub lunch was enjoyed by the river in St Neots and then the last leg of the journey for Tony and Eva back home. Huge thanks to Tony and Eva for a wonderful Tour for Two to Suffolk and we look forward to lots more birds with them both in the future.

Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!

We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon.

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