Last weekend Sue and I did a trip to some of our favourite birdwatching spots in East Anglia. As followers of this blog will know we often holiday in East Anglia since it is one of the prime birdwatching areas in the UK. This year however we have been unable to schedule a long trip to the area and so we decided to do a whirlwind tour.
We started out driving from London to Minsmere in Suffolk. It would be true to say that the beginning was not promising as we must have experienced pretty much most forms of weather during the journey – Snow, hail, driving rain, gale force winds and bright sunshine! But by the time we arrived at Minsmere most seem to have blown through and we were left with the strong northerly winds, not ideal conditions for spring birdwatching. We set out to do a circuit of the scrape and were rewarded with sightings of the usual resident waterfowl. A distant Red Kite and a Marsh Harrier were a surprise given the strong winds, but the best sighting was brief and unsatisfying. As we walked along the beach, there was a flash of a white wing patch as a bird flew ahead of us – A Snow Bunting. Sadly we were unable to re-locate it as we went further and this remained our only view. Arriving back at the visitor centre, I heard that a a pair of Smew had been seen at North Hide, so I hurried off there but they had already departed. I did however, have a close view of a Jack Snipe.
Staying overnight at Lowestoft, the following morning we drove to Cley on the North Norfolk coast. The weather today was much more favourable and I set out for Bishops Hide, in search of a pair of Garganey, a summer visitor to the UK. Sadly they too had moved on, although later a pair was located down the road at Salthouse marsh. The usual waterfowl were present, but there was little evidence of spring migration having started. I walked out to the hides in the centre of the reed bed and again all that was to be seen were the usual waterfowl. A single Bearded Reedling flew across the path on my way back to the visitors centre and a Chiffchaff called from the reeds. A spring migrant possibly, although increasingly it is a species which is spending the winter with us.
After a stop at Sue’s favourite craft market in Burnham Deepdale, we continued to the RSPB reserve at Titchwell, where the highlight was a pair of Brambling on the feeders. From here we drove to Kings Lynn where we spent the night.
On our final day we headed south again, stopping at the WWT reserve at Welney on the Ouse washes. Here again I was hopeful of finding a Garganey that had been present the previous day. However once again I was to be foiled. We did however see another Jack Snipe and a white-fronted Goose.
However the highlight of the day was a Common Crane which flew past the Observatory at close distance. My previous sightings have always been at distance but this one was so near it seemed like you could reach out and touch it! Great way to end our trip.
Then it was time to head back to London. Although Spring migration was not evident we still managed to see some good birds – Jack Snipe, Bearded Reedling, Brambling, but above all the image of the Crane flying past will be one I will remember.