In the middle of our generally cloudy week, up pops a bright and sunny morning. Luckily my brother and I had already planned to go out for a morning's birdwatching at Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve near Bury St Edmunds. Looking back at previous posts on the blog I discovered that we were last there two years ago to the day - isn't writing a blog great for keeping track of this sort of thing - and that was a glorious Spring day too.
At this time of year it matters not a jot whether rare or unusual birds are about; there's always plenty to see and hear - Blue Tits exploring every nook and cranny for nest sites, Wrens belting out their piercing song from the undergrowth, Robins singing pleasantly in the sunshine, Blackbirds collecting nesting material....
Then there are the special surprises - Chiffchaffs just returned from overwintering in North Africa, Great Crested Grebes shaking their heads at each other in display and the sudden eruption of loud song from a Cetti's Warbler. Two years ago there were Egyptian Geese with youngsters, though today just the adults were just goose-stepping around outside the hide.
As a place to wander on a fine morning Lackford Lakes is hard to beat. Good paths lead through varied habitats to excellent hides each looking out onto a different body of water. It's compact enough to cover without too much effort but full of interest and variety.
The reserve is based around some flooded old gravel workings alongside the River Lark. The valley forms a natural corridor for migrating birds while the different pits attract a wide variety of water birds and the scrub and woodland provide nest sites for many other small birds.
Here's a pretty complete list of the birds we saw or heard:
Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, Teal, Goldeneye (just a few still hanging about before leaving for the far north), Shoveler, Great Crested Grebe,Redshank, Wood Pigeon, Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Carrion Crow, Rook, Cetti's Warbler, Magpie, Jackdaw, Shelduck, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, Green Woodpecker, Chiffchaff......(pause for breath)
Wren, Robin, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Black-Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Little Egret, Pheasant, Red-Legged Partridge, Dunnock, Mute Swan, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Siskin, Wigeon, Gadwall, Goldfinch, Blackbird, Starling, Chaffinch, Kingfisher and.....
....at the last hide we were lucky enough to see three Red-Crested Pochard, two males and one female. They are rather spectacular-looking ducks and it's never certain whether they are vagrants from Europe, have escaped from a wildfowl collection or are part of a small breeding population in Eastern England. As far as I'm concerned it doesn't matter, I just like to see them. If you want to see one too click here.
Finding a pub at lunchtime was even harder than finding birds and we drove past several that had closed down before finding a place for a pint and something to eat. Our afternoon turned up another scarce bird, but more of that next post.