Saturday, 6 June 2015

Once bittern, twice shy

Once or twice a year Judith and I decide to go off to the Lakenheath area. It has been to go to Grimes Graves for a historical outing - very good for skylarks - and used to be to go for the orioles. Sadly though the orioles are no more and haven't been around for the last couple of years. It is a lovely reserve and we combine it with a trip to Weeting Heath for the stone curlews and a nice walk on the heath.
So, we set off about 7 and headed for the Norfolk border region. The journey was not as smooth as it could have been due to a slight satnav error on my part. As Judith quite rightly put it, I have relied too much on following instructions and not thinking about where I am going so when I enter the wrong postcode it's too late when I notice I'm not on the right route. Lesson learned!!
Anyway we got to Lakenheath about 9.30. As well as the usual suspects there was a little bittern present at the far end of the reserve. Like it's larger brethren it's a bit elusive.
The walk through the reserve was very pleasant. There was the usual set of small birds singing - reed and sedge warblers, whitethroat, blackcaps, reed buntings. The weather, despite being warm, was very windy so it was not great for viewing birds as they hate wind more than rain.
One of the other specialities of the reserve was present in good numbers. There were many hobbies hawking over the reed beds. I have no idea of how many but i'd guess we saw well over a dozen albeit in different parts of the reserve.

Another nice bird to see was the cuckoo. It is always a god place for them and quite a few were calling and occasionally seen. We also saw a few marsh harriers hunting over the reeds.
The main course though was the little bittern which was at the far end of the reserve. About 15 birders were already there watching a pool and the reeds. Apparently it has been seen briefly in flight about an hour before. The wind was blowing very strongly though which was not good for it having another relocation. We watched the pool for about 15 minutes, a tern fished over it but no sight or sound of the bittern. We slowly walked round looking at various channels on the way. It was clear it was going to be a long wait or luck. Suddenly directly overhead I noticed a bird flying along. Not the little bittern but it larger cousin. Flying into the wind it only slowly drifted over allowing me to get some half-decent photos.

It was probably one of the better views we'd had of a bittern. Having had such great views of the larger bittern we gave up on the smaller one and slowly walked back.
Next stop was Weeting Heath, only about 10 minutes away. This is a very reliable spot for stone curlews which breed there. The only problem is that they are normally some way away and heat haze on the heath makes viewing difficult. After a spot of lunch in the car park during which I could hear them calling,  we pottered off to the hide. There was no one else there but it only took us a minute to locate not only a stone curlew but its chick as well!!

Yes, they both are in there somewhere but the heat haze makes it impossible to see the chick!!
Finally, we set off for a walk through the woods by the reserve. Can be good for tree pipits

but it was very quiet. One slightly strange thing was this bee colony living in what looked like a post box but it was in the middle of nowhere!!
Finally, we noticed on the way up lots of wild flowers in the fields so we stopped a couple of times and Judith did a bit of arty flower photography including the poppies and another blue flower were not sure about the id of!!