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It was that time of year again. The 'Boys Weekend'. An annual event involving myself (Andrew) and my bezzy mate Steve. The idea being that we pack our bicycles with camping gear and head off on a route taking in interesting sights and even more interesting (read "Effing hills") cycle routes with a hearty meal, a few ales and a campsite of an evening. This runs over a long weekend from Friday to Monday and is alternately organised by each other. This year was slightly different as it didn't involve the camping but a rented house so we had a base (read "a nice warm bed each night"). Anyway it was my turn to decide so took the opportunity to confront some unfinished business. You see a few years ago I had organised a trip to Norfolk and Suffolk. It was all planned out with routes and campsites and agendas and pubs and interesting sights and all that stuff. Unfortunately as sometimes happens in this country it rained a bit. When I say 'a bit' it was just stair rods for three days. In a wet and cold doorway in Lowestoft we decided to call it a day and headed off home. It has bugged me ever since. This year was payback.
Friday was a getting to know the place sort of day which meant popping down the local corner shop in the nice little village of Wangford. Anyone who as been to the Latitude Festival may recognise the name. It's just off the A12 in Suffolk and the village before Southwold. Nice shop by the way. A couple of old boys in the pub later told us most of the houses are holiday lets. They often see them turning up and an hour later the Tesco home delivery van arrives. That's the way to keep a community alive isn't it. We went to the pub.
Saturday and it all kicked into action. Breakfast in a small cafe in the estuary and a brisk ten mile ride to the Mecca of bird life RSPB Minsmere. I have walked on the very same hallowed ground that Michaela Strachan et al have walked.
On the way to Minsmere I was halted by a bird that was flying at tree top height and looked rather like a Male Marsh Harrier but on closer look I'm not so sure. Oddly enough I was up in Scunthorpe last week and saw my first Hen Harrier. It was low in a filed edge against the A18 by a large Tesco!! Is this a Hen Harrier as well?
Anyway Minsmere is quit impressive. It's versatility is what got me. From the meadows through the reed beds to the sea edge. All you need. However I think given the close vicinity of all ours here on the Somerset Levels they could possibly be compared together and they out do Minsmere in the variety ours offer.
Reed Warbler in the Grass
The commonest birds by far. next to the Black Headed Gulls, were the Common Terns. Love these birds. Their agility and speed. Apparently there was a Sandwich Tern there but I didn't see it.
Quit a few Oyster Catchers nesting
The beach looking towards Southwold
The beach looking towards Sizewell B
A pair of Knots enjoying the surf
The Terns were flying right over the beach to fish. A great opportunity to get some close up shots
Then I got two I'm rather chuffed with
Juvenile Lesser Black Backed Gull
At the large Sluice at the far end the Swallows are nesting and zipping in through the hole at the top. Pretty cool to watch.
Back into the Reserve and the Scrape
Little Egret on an island
Couple of Greylag Geese were in residence
I'm guessing these are juvenile Shank or Sandpipers of some description?
The wonderful, and Chris Packham's favourite bird, The Avocet
Red Shank on a post
Black Tailed Godwits
Another of those Shank / Sandpiper young?
And a very bad shot of some young Shelducks
One of the most impressive hides is the Island Hide. Nice and new with windey uppey windows and swivel chairs. It's like an office. Bring your laptop and enjoy the views! We were on familiar territory with the reed beds spreading out in front. Everyone in there was tense with the promise of a Bittern. Non had been seen for hours. We sat back and enjoyed the views.
First off a few pics dedicated to Robin Morrison
Marsh Harrier and Sizewell B
Marsh Harrier and Eastbridge Chapel with Pillbox
View from the Hide
A have to confess a guilty pleasure. I find Nuclear Power Stations intriguing. Now before you go tutting at me. Just think of all those wonderful old castles you've often driven miles and payed good money to admire. Gaze on their majesty and wonder at the history behind them. Well to the likes of you and me back in the day they were the ultimate symbol of your oppression and gave nothing but terror to your lives particularly if you were Welsh.
Then my moment of glory came. All was quiet when I spotted a Bittern flying straight at the hide. I called, everyone came out of their stupor and jumped up. By that time I had already got these shots. Well I suppose I have had a bit of practice with them hee hee. I sat back, showed a few people my efforts and lapped up the praise of spotting it.
You have no idea how hard it was to not look like this............
Then we left. The day was done. Nothing else to see. Unfortunately we got a bit lost going back to the bike rack. Just as well since we got these
Possibly the best photo I have ever or will take in my life and it had to be a bloody Rabbit!
Green Woodpecker having a graze in the overflow car park
On the cycle back we stopped at the cross roads in Westletone. Not sure which way to go we popped into The Crown just to see where we were and a small refreshment! We can recommend it for both food and Beer.
Those small back lanes make for a nice slow night cycle.
We can also recommend the The Harbour Inn at Southwold. We liked it so much (read "We stayed there so long") that we had the same meal twice!
The score has been settled. Thank you Suffolk.