Trip reports

Lynford Arboretum and Lackford Lakes Sunday 26 November 2017

Sunday, 26 November 2017

When leading a trip it is easy to assume that if one has a good plan then all will be fine, and as we traversed Essex and Suffolk with frost lying in the shadows I anticipated drinking a coffee at the Barton Mills before continuing north, just like last time. Calamity! As we arrived at the snack bar at 8:58 the shutters were down! Fortunately the "Winter Season" opening time was 09:00 and by 09:05 I was at the head of the queue watching my sausage roll being prepared by a no-nonsense lady chef with some very tasteful tattoos.

About an hour later we turned into the forest track at Lynford and in the distance I could see not the one barrier I expected, but two, the first one preventing us from accessing our usual parking area! Fortunately Graham, our driver, is pretty unflappable so he was happy to leave his coach on the track, and we proceeded on foot. By the time I and the last of our group had caught up with the "front-runners" we found them looking at the often-elusive hawfinches, just where we hoped they would be, atop the trees at the far side of the "paddocks". The birds weren't too active and they stayed there long enough for all to get a view through a telescope. A very good start! At the end of this track, access to Lynford Hall is via a bridge over a stream and, as previously, we found that some kind soul had deposited bird seed on the bridge. The food was being sampled by nuthatches, robins and tits of the blue, great and marsh varieties, while overhead long tailed tits uttered their constant contact calls and mistle thrushes rattled in the tops of the tall conifers. Working our way upstream to our right we found gadwall, mallard, dabchick, moorhen and Canada geese in the lake and a high pitched whistle signalled a fly-past by a kingfisher that disappeared from my view as a small blue twinkle under the weeping willows. With time pressing we headed back to the coach but not before struggling to get to grips with a small flock of siskins feeding on alder seeds in the tangled lattice of twigs and cones fifty feet above our heads, all illuminated by the very welcome winter sun. Unable to turn the coach Graham was forced to reverse the length of the track but we were soon on the road to Lackford in light Sunday traffic.

I have always found the staff and volunteers of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust to be very welcoming and with just two of them in the visitor centre our requests for simple refreshment were soon satisfied, their very nice "automated" coffee being a perfect accompaniment to my packed lunch. The afternoon was spent visiting most of the hides where we got views of rafts of gulls, goldeneye, shoveler, teal, gadwall, and mallard. Greylag, Canada and Egyptian geese gave the birds an international flavour and a few cryptically patterned snipe provided us with a spotting challenge. Some managed to see the ever popular bullfinches, and some who stuck-at-it for a while, were able to see parts of a water rail playing hide-and-seek. Between hides an eagle-eyed birder spotted an acrobatic tree creeper and some seed strategically placed on a tree stump gave photographers a chance with small birds including marsh tit and chaffinch. With the light fading fast we returned to the visitor centre to prepare for our return trip while starling began gathering in the sky over the reed beds readying themselves to roost. We left with the number of starling in the mumuration increasing and set about adding up our lists, getting to a total of 55 for the group. Very satisfying indeed.
Each time we visit a birding venue it is likely that something will have changed, but one thing that hasn't changed over the years is the atmosphere of friendly co-operation within our group, and long may it remain so.

Tony Banks