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April 28th.

This was a pre-arranged Birdforum meet. A few of us were meeting up at 9am at the eastern most car park on Westleon Common (near the Dunwich Heath Road). I had driven up on the previous night and slept in my car, setting my alarm to wake me up at 05:15am. This would give me plenty of time for a couple hours on the Dunwich Heath.

Those attending the meet were: Ivan and Scott, the group leaders. Quacker (Steve) and Seahawk (Les - Steve's dad) Brianfm, David Jobson, Hollis-f (frank) R2Didi2 (didi), Birdthing (Roy) and myself (Reader on BF).

Arriving at Dunwich Heath I was struck by how cold it was. Quite a bright sky but a very cold breeze. Thankfully it didn't stop the Dartford Warblers from showing (albeit disatntly) and I managed to see six of them before I left to join the others. After my walk around the heath I dropped onto the Minsmere reserve, below the Dunwich car park. One thing that was obvious was that the sand martins appear to have nested on the cliffs again this year as they were everywhere. Down on the pool at the foot of the hill a cetti's could be heard calling, followed by a brief fly by. Whilst waiting for a Cetti's to show a little better I managed to see my first Reed Warbler of the year. There were a few Whitethroat about but none of them co-operated enough for me to photograph one, plus a lone Swift that flew over my head.

It was now time to join the others and I arrived a little earlier than the planned 9am. As soon as I arrived on the car park Nightingales could be heard in quite a few areas so I decided to investigate but it took me about fifteen minutes to actually locate one. Unfortunately it only gave me brief views with no chance of photographing it. I joined the other members that had arrived on the car park and we set off on the 4+ mile walk around the Common and Dunchurch Forest.

We hadn't gone far before the first of about five dartford warblers showed, again very distantly. The walk was relaxing but not very rewarding with only common birds being the order of the day. Not even a raptor was seen for ages. We diid eventually come into a clearing and straight away we spotted quite a bit of activity around some bushes. They were all common birds but suddenly I heard a Garden warbler start up and soon it was showing at the top of a Gorse Bush, again no chance of a photo as it soon disappeared from view.

Further along the walk the Butterflies and Dragonflies started to appear. First off was a Hairy Dragonfly which showed long enough for this image. Followed by a Broad-bodied Chaser.

Further along a few butterflies began to show and we managed to get a few images of them. Following are a few of those we managed to get. the first two are: Cooma and Holly Blue.

Two more are: Small Copper and Speckled Wood.

We came to an area where the trees created a tunnel effect. Right in the middle of all these leaves a garden warbler could be heard. Finding it was another matter but eventually, through a small chinck of light, I found it. I managed three hard won shots of the bird and below is the best of them (as you can see I couldn't get all the bird in.

We came to another clearing which appeared to be an excellent raptor viewpoint. the weather conditions were perfect but still they didn't show. A possible Hobby was distant but as it came closer it was realised that it was a lone Sparrowhawk. Still I did manage to see a couple of my first House martins of the year so that was a bonus.

It was time to work our way to the Ship Inn, Dunwich for some liquid refreshments and a bite to eat. Just before the pub was a thatched cottage which was playing host to some nesting House Martins. It was great to watch their comings and goings but my stomach was calling so it was time to go to the pub.

Suitably refreshed we started out on the last one and a half miles of our walk back to the car. On our way we came across a heard of Red deer in a field.

We also foud three wheatears in this field but they were well out of camera range. We were entering the last half mile of the walk and were about to walk into an absolute treat when we came across an old couple just looking at a flowered bush. The elderly lady was sitting and the old fella was standing. As we approached he called us over and said we might possibly be interested in what he was looking at. He was watching Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth's. Not one but at least half a dozen. We stayed there for over an hour with more coming in as we watched. It also drew loads of Butterflies and a hairy Dragonfly. The old fella went on to say that they make an annual pilgramage to the same spot just to watch these hawkmoths. I have never seen these moths before but I hope I do again as they are real crackers. Following are images of these moths plus a few Butterflies as well as one of the hairy dragonfly. The firs six are of the Broad-bordered Bee hawkmoth.

Following are the butterflies and the hairy dragonfly. The first is a Green-veined White & the second a Peacock.

Next two are: Male and Female Orange Tip.

Below is a red Admiral then the hairy Dragonfly.

That was the end of this part of the day. four of us decided to try for a black redstart reported liocally plus some Hobbies near southwold so off we set, arriving at hen Marshes 20 minutes later. No Hobbies around but I did add a lone Whimbrel to my year list. Two pair of marsh harrier were out displaying, the pair nearest to us manageing a food pass between them. It was a shame they were so far away but i did manage a distant shot of one of the males.

It didn't look like the Hobbies were going to show so it was off to Westwood Lodge, near Walberswick for the Black Redstart. As soon as we arrived I was doubtful of seeing the bird. the habita just wasn't right and i suspect it was the case of being in right place at the right time for the finder. I think it possibly dropped down for a short while before moving on. we certainly couldn't find it but there was some consolation when I heard a turtle Dove and one of our party, Brian, managed to get onto it. that was my first one of the year.

The other three wanted toget back to where they were staying to get freshened up for the meal later on. I decided to have the last hour at Minsmere and whilst I found nothing new I did see a black-tailed Godwit giving a fine display. it saw off anything that came near it and it was an excellent end to a fine day, topped of with an excellent gammon at the White horse in Westleton.

April 29th

In attendance on the 2nd day were the same as the day before but some new additions for the Sunday were Postcardcv (Pete, Gillian, Helenelizabeth2 and her two Children and Pduxon (Pete). We also met up with andy Bright on a couple of occasions, whilst he led a photography group.

We were to meet up at 9am at the Minsmere car park. I set my alarm to go off at 04:15 so I could have a few hours before meeting up with them. I was feeling very stiff from the previous days walk. I walked about half a mile before deciding to try something I hadn't planned for. I decided to drive to Norwich to try for the Iberian Chiffchaff that was at Colney. It didn't take long and I was there within 45 minutes and as soon as I pulled up I could hear it. It soon showed, albeit fairly distantly & far too distant for my DSLR set up so I went back to the car for my Digiscoping camera. The bird was frustratingly mobile and it was difficult to get my scope and camera onto it and in the end I only managed a handful of record only shots of the bird, shown below.

Whilst there a Lesser Whitethroat began singing and briefly showed before quickly disappearing from the site.

It was now time to drive back to Minsmere to join up with the others.

We all met up in the Minsmere car park and soon we were on our way on a clockwise walk around the reserve. I was not doing the whole day as I had to get back to Coventry but on our way I did manage a few photos. following are a few images I managed to capture.

The first is off four squabbling Avocets. They would turn there backs on each other then turn to face then fly at each other before eventually turning their backs and walking away. It was really funny to watch.

A few other photos as we walked around the reserve. Common Tern and Mediterranean Gull..

Mute Swan and Stonechat.

Female Wheatear.

One other highlight was the confiding Swallows at the Sluice gates. Here are a few images from there.

Out on the reserve there were the odd one or two birds that were too distant to photograph, such as six Spottted Reshanks, a couple of Little Gulls, three Sandwich Terns and two very distant Hobbies.

Well that is it for a few weeks now as I am off to Lesvos om may 3rd to the 17th. Hopefully a trip report together with some photos will be added to the web site.

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