With a day off from the grind, I decided to go somewhere new, for a change. Being fiscally prudent I decided to get a train after 9:30 and headed off to Felixstowe and Landguard. Not that I expected anything, I was just reconnoitring for the future. I upgraded myself to the first class faded opulence and got a free coffee, which was nice, and the guard never got round to making me pay, which was nice too.
Felixstowe in common with most sea side towns is a mixture of the quaint and the tacky. People on the sea front were busying themselves for the summer hoards, but the place was quiet. The sea was even quieter. A few Herring gull loafed around, Turnstones inspected every patch of sea weed along the strandline, a couple of Wheatear on lookout on the groynes and House Sparrows checked amongst the rocks. The weather was undecided as to whether to rain hard or just drizzle. I hurried to Landguard.
My pager had told me ouzels were on the common in some numbers, but when I got there the birder action was for a Little Bunting which had been reported just minutes prior to my arrival. Needless to say it had disappeared almost as soon as it had been sighted. Didn't take me too long to catch a glimpse of the first ouzel, but the main activity was of dozens of Wheatear prancing about the short-rabbit cropped grass between the few stands of bramble and gorse. Along the fort I could see mist nets in place, soon held a first winter ouzel, I watched as it was carefully untangled and taken off for processing.
In between the heavier showers I ventured from the cover of the Holm Oak to have a quick nosey around. A smart male Stonechat ran around, and female Restart showed briefly flycatching near the obs. Linnets everywhere. I counted four more ouzels, showing nicely as they hunted the grass for a meal. I have been told that these are probably all northern European birds, our birds back on breeding sites weeks back.
While sheltering I met up with a retired former rail worker and local birder, who told me of his January road trip round the UK with LGR Evans on which they notched up 190 species in a week, I thought I'd been doing quite well, but his year list was already over the 240 mark. It soon went up one as I picked up a Swift (tick #204) as it sought out flying food. It had our pulses racing briefly as an Alpine had been reported as a probable over Minsmere (heading south east) some time earlier.
Had to snap a Reed Bunting at one of the feeding stations just in case it was a giant Little Bunting, but it wasn't, that would have been too easy.
It had looked like the weather was never going to clear up as a queue of nasty rain bearing black clouds stacked up to the west, but as I finally gave up on the LB and wandered off towards Trimley it remarkable stopped and the light got much better. On the way a couple of Whimbrel flew over the town towards the coast, my colleague at the obs would have liked that for his year list.
On a footpath above the port a Nightingale sang from the side of a wooded slope, how incongruous! I rang Birdguides to get them to forward the record to the relevant Suffolk authorities just in case, and was given a ten minute lecture in why they wouldn't put out the common stuff! I kept repeating I didn't want it put out, but the guy was on his high-horse now, obviously the tedium of Arctic Tern and Ring Ouzel reports getting to him. He also blamed photographers chasing birds so I ended the conversation by saying I would go now and take a picture of the bird, he laughed. The bird in question had moved off down the slope so I carried on up the path.
Down the other side of the hill countryside. I walked down the side of a screen of trees hearing Bullfinches as they moved through the blossom. I only met one other person on the way, a strange looking guy with a bag full of polystyrene with another sheet in his hand!
A sign said I had reached Trimley, but couldn't see anything as a large hedge obscured the view, though I could hear Reed Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffies and the occasional Sedge Warbler as I sloshed my way to the river wall. A few Brent loitered at the waters edge, Shelduck and Black-tailed Godwit fed on the mud, but no hoards of feeding waders. The first two hides overlooked meres which were empty apart from more gulls, a couple of Pochard and Tufties. Little Grebe trilled from the ditches and loads of flies.
The sun was out now and it was rather pleasant given what had gone before. The third hide showed more promise; a Common Sandpiper picked its way along the shore of one of the islands and disappeared out of site, a few Redshank and Oystercatcher flew about, 3 Avocets waded through the shallow water amongst the Gadwall and Teal. Something had disturbed the Lapwing on the back of the mere, scanning I picked up a hunting Short-eared Owl, rattled off a few shots and thought it would be nicer if it came a tad closer.
In the fourth hide more of the same, but then a flock of Godwit flew in for a wash and a preen. I couldn't re-find the owl, but that was because it was now quartering the reeds and banks on my side of the reserve, I picked it up as it came into view to my right, cue fumbled auto-focusing and rapid fire. I am quite pleased, it has to be said, with the results.
But now I had to hurry, the day had slipped away, and I had to get the 3 miles back to the station, via the scenic route, in under an hour. Normally a cake walk, but in the mud and unsure of my map reading this could be tight. Plus a few stops for some landscapes, a flock of feeding Godwit in a field and other frippery.
A couple of Swallows, the only hirundines, a Yellowhammer tight in a bush, a couple of Red-legged Partridge and what would have been a pleasant walk if I hadn't been against the clock. As I approached the station from the wrong side, the barriers were closing. I hope they have a bridge!
Thank buster for bridges!
I think I shall return one day.