Short Toed Treecreeper - Landguard NR,Suffolk.
Many people prior to this trip debated as to whether this was worth it, phrases such as "I can't get excited about it" and "it's only a funny looking Treecreeper" were heard from birding camps as far north as Durham!
At 1.30a.m on Saturday 26th March, 2011, the only thing going through my mind was "how will I survive today on 2hrs sleep?!". So coffee in hand I set out to cut across the A53 to pick up 3 Cheshire chaps in a lay-by in Stoke and journey onward to Landguard NR.
One thing I hadn't anticipated, on this first leg of the journey, was 1. Fog and 2. Several youngsters zooming along the A53 at 90mph in modified cars such as Vauxhall Nova's and Corsa's (why?). This made me turn into grumpy man and much cursing ensued.
Once in the lay-by I placed a new Brian Eno cd into the stereo and chilled out whilst I waited for the Cheshire lot to arrive. I was being joined today by Robbo, Ian Barber and Mark Payne.
The satnav was programmed and ready to roll and gave us an ETA at Landguard for 05.40a.m.
It was at this point I realised that Junction 15 was shut southbound and I had to divert to the next junction down. Oh joy, the A34 and it's numerous speed camera's mean't we were delayed by 8 minutes! Shocking.
So once on the motorway it was a breeze really M6, A14 and bob's your uncle! (and we made up the 8 minutes)
May I add also that Wild Bean Cafe Coffee isn't at all bad (found at all good BP garages).
So out of the car we got, noted the chalkboard sign telling us that they had,had Mealy redpoll and lapper over the past few days and walked around the corner and began to follow the fence line of the compound.
Both me and Mr Payne heard a song we weren't expecting (Redwing) and then slowly it became obvious it was a tape lure. So we continued along the short fence line and then back again and then a voice from within the compound shouted down those words we love to hear, "we have it here in the hand, come over to the fence and we'll show it you close up"
Well what a bird, they even went through all it's ID features and told us it had gained 4g in weight. I got the blurred pic above (mainly as my lens couldn't focus that close) and we were all happy bunnies. What a T.U.N.T experience!
(T.U.N.T = Turn Up N Tick!)
The bird was released, it went into a tree for a bit and then about 2 minutes later it flew back into the net! Not a clever bird.
So all 4 of us decided to take a celebratory stroll in a loop around the reserve noting Wheatear and ringed plover en route with a host of other usual suspects. Robbo was already gettin fed up with me because in total just here I got 4 year ticks! He asked me if i was cold and when i said "yes" he replied "GOOD!". It was going to be one of those days.
So we walked back to the car, avoiding a very stern looking lady birdwatcher, who made us all feel like we were back at school without her even talking to us. Onwards to Minsmere!
En route we all decided we wanted a full cooked breakfast but could we find anywhere?! We did eventually find the half way cafe (half way to where we didn't know!) but even that didn't open till 9 so we opted to go for a slog on Westleton heath to look for Woodlark (which we didn't find, maybe slightly too early?) but only found Woodcock, stunning Stonechats, many Green peckers and a couple of Dartford warblers up in a tree! (odd behaviour).
Back in the car and we headed for Minsmere as we thought we'd be able to get a breakfast here. The lady in the reception area suggested initially we should got oe the Half Way Cafe (we were not amused) then as if by magic someone gave us the go ahead to go into the Minsmere Cafe early and Mavis cooked us all bacon and sausage butties with beverages on the side. I was originally going to stick at that but they then produced a tray of hot Cornish pasties! I couldn't resist and put one in the car for later.
So back to birding, 1st hide, Med Gull, Avocets, Caspian gull debate began.
Back out and heard possible Firecrest but no chance of gettin it, several Cetti's but well hidden, nowt on the sea.
2nd hide, more Caspian gull debate but we were confident of at least 2 (later 6 in total were reported).
Marsh Harriers everywhere but no Penduline tits (had been reported earlier in week) then we jammed in on a Cetti that showed itself. Off to Bittern hide and yes we got 2 flying! En route here we got gen on another Penduline site (which none of us listened to properly) and then we headed back to look for Firecrest again and gave up again.
Avocet - Minsmere RSPB.
Off to Dingle marshes we went with gen in our brains getting vaguer the nearer we got to the site. Go into Walberswick and take 1st sharp right and follow until you get to covet car park, ok we did this, then walk through the wood, easy enough, then follow path out onto the marsh until you get to the mound (well that's how we remembered it! We walked on a path that reminded us of a clay based lunar surface (luckily not twisting any ankles) and bumped into a guy from Shropshire who I always seem to meet on big twitches but never can remember his name (John I think), a small conversation enlightened us to the whereabouts of Shorelark and Twite and off we scurried excited about the chance of seeing them.
On the beach we found our flock and got great scope views of both species. I then decided to chance my arm and I stealthily approached the flock moving slowly but surely until I was quite close. I took a few initial shots but then 2 of the Shorelark had an arial battle and one landed (luckily for me) in a perfect position for the money shot!
Shorelark - The money shot!
We then went back to look for Penduline tits and got to by the mound and thought where is the reed mace this guy told us about? Then in the distance we saw a group of about 6 birders walking through the reedbed and quickly realised we were in the wrong spot! We slogged back the way we came and then eventually reached an area with lots of reed mace (and birders) but no Penduline tits. Payney did a limbo under a fence that had signage of "permit only" on it. As he rightly pointed out it didn't say what permit was needed so there was no way of knowing if any of us had the right one!
In the end we gave up and headed back to the car and realised that we had a long trip home. So that's what we did headed back up the motorway.
A great day, some great birds and great company.