Trip reports

RSPB Bexley Group Coach trip to Minsmere - Sunday 22nd June 2014

RSPB Bexley Group Coach trip to Minsmere - Sunday 22nd June 2014
Brenda Todd

Monday, 7 July 2014

RSPB Bexley Group Coach trip to Minsmere - Sunday 22nd June 2014
The 31st coach trip to Minsmere was also the 35th anniversary of the very first Bexley coach trip which was also to Minsmere and my return to coach leading after some 17 years - what a day it turned out to be. My reputation for rain was quickly knocked on the head as we enjoyed a lovely sunny, warm day on the Suffolk Coast. Our arrival coincided with the doors of the café opening - refreshments for some whilst others wasted no time in exploring the variety of habitats this iconic reserve offers. Whilst bird song was not so much in evidence, a very vocal Cetti's warbler was possibly the first bird heard with chaffinch, blackcap, reed warbler and chiffchaff providing backing vocals. The scrape held good numbers of avocet, black-tailed godwits (most in stunning orange plumage), a few lapwing, redshank and ringed plovers. Ruff, dunlin, knot were also noted but bird of the day for me was the stunning full summer plumage spotted redshank enjoyed by most from the East Hide. A little gull kept a low profile amongst the many common terns but was eventually seen by most of the group.
At least one sighting of bearded tits - our group being satisfied with an active group of four juveniles from the north wall. The "Springwatch Swallows" (many species have been elevated to celebrity status following the recent TV series) were still active at the nest in the Sluice and the "Springwatch Bittern" was still showing well from the aptly named Bittern Hide, making many flights to and from its nest a couple of hundred metres away. Bitterns were also seen from the Island Mere Hide which also provided great views of marsh harriers and a hobby.
For me it was most interesting to compare the two visits 35 years apart where on the first we recorded 88 species and this year 81 (plus two heard). Of course bitterns and marsh harriers were in much greater evidence both being extremely rare birds in the 1970/80's. Some species seen today would only have been dreamt of all those years ago. There were at least seven little egrets on this trip and a stone curlew was seen by one or two as they took a walk to Dunwich Heath where Dartford Warbler was seen well by those who made the detour. These are all unbelievable additions to the Minsmere list. However perhaps it was those species we didn't see this time that could be of more concern, no turtle doves, marsh or coal tit, sedge warbler, yellowhammer, corn bunting, and just a single record of spotted flycatcher, willow warbler, sandwich tern and just a couple of little terns present.
Some of us ended the walk with a stunning view of a singing garden warbler but perhaps the abiding memory of the visit for many would be the opening and ending experience of watching lots of sand martins busily feeding young in the natural bank next to the visitor centre and behind the dragonfly pool which, by the way was the car park when we visited 35 years ago!
Ralph Todd