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October 2022

WBC Scottish Tour - Draft Itinerary

September 2022

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The Access for All Path at Minsmere - what it means to me

By Stephen Dean

One of the birds I most wanted to see in Britain was the Common Nighthawk, an enigmatic relative of the Nightjar that is a very rare vagrant from North America. The place in Britain where they have been found most often is the Isles of Scilly, but in 12 October birding holidays there I saw lots of other wonderful birds, but no Nighthawk. Then, in 1998, one was found on St. Agnes...

Picture the scene: I am with three friends and we have driven overnight to Penzance. We know the bird is still there. We have checked in for our flight and we are waiting in the departure lounge. The pager goes off and the message says that the bird has died!

Since then my mobility has become very limited and if I need to walk for any distance outside I have to use a mobility scooter. I also find it hard to stand and use my bins for long and so sitting down on my scooter or in a hide makes all the difference. My birding has been very restricted by these limitations and I thought my chance of ever seeing a Nighthawk in Britain had gone. Then, on 26th September 2022, one was found on a garden fence in the small Oxfordshire town of Wantage. A friend of mine was going and my partner, Louise, and he were able to get my mobility scooter into the boot of his car. When we got to Wantage, we parked as close as we could to where the bird was, set up the scooter and made our way along the pavement, crossed one road, turned left, crossed another road and then turned right into the quiet residential close where the Nighthawk was perched on a fence on the opposite side of the road, seemingly oblivious to the hundred or so birders less than 20 yards away!

The views of the Nighthawk were way beyond my wildest dreams. My metaphorical and literal journeys to that moment of connection had needed a lot of determination and I would not have been able to fulfil this long-held ambition without the help of others, my mobility scooter and scooter-friendly surfaces to ride it on (the Nighthawk's journey to that point, of course, was an unimaginable feat of survival).

So, what's this all got to do with Minsmere? Well, I first went to Minsmere in 1976 and fell in love with the place and its birds straightaway. I recall that day, and the nine species I saw for the first time in my life, as if it were yesterday. Minsmere formed the backdrop to many of my formative birding lessons and experiences over the years and I have missed that in recent times as my ability to simply go for the day, on a whim, and enjoy walking around has gone.

Now, the hard work of the Waveney Bird Club, the RSPB and others to get an accessible path built between the North Wall and the East Hide is coming to fruition, which will make a huge difference to me and many others whose mobility is restricted. I am really looking forward to being able to get to the East Hide (which has been extended) on my mobility scooter and enjoy the simple pleasure (that I took for granted for so many years) of sitting and watching the wildfowl, waders, gulls, terns and many other birds.

Thanks to Kathy Piotrowski, who first suggested the idea, and the tireless work of the Waveney Bird Club to initiate the project and raise funds, this is actually going to happen. It's great for there to be a good news story for a change and to all those Club members who have donated money and supported this project in other ways I say a heartfelt thank you!

I look forward to seeing you in the East Hide.

Stephen Dean

Common Nighthawk, Oxfordshire, September 2022

Common Nighthawk, Oxfordshire, September 2022 - at last!

Minsmere Access for All Path

21st September 2022 update

Since the images taken on the 15th (see below), work has been progressing well as these new images (and video) from Steve and Kathy show.

Minsmere Access for All Path

15th September 2022

The path project construction finally got underway this week and I thought you might like to see some pictures. We cut the path through the grasslands before Gilleards arrived on site, and now already we have a bridge and they are cracking on with installing the uprights which will hold the boardwalk. I’m very glad we did go for the boardwalk option in the end; even with this dry summer the last section close to the hide is really soggy and the team are adamant they only want to take the digger through once! So we are working from the bridge end and heading northwards. They estimate 7 weeks to completion but if nothing goes wrong and the weather stays dry I can see it being achieved in even less time.

Katie Fairhurst
Warden, North Suffolk Coast Reserves

Click images to enlarge

outney-22-04-21

Events Resume! Outney Common April 22nd

For two years, the WBC Events Sub-committee has dutifully met to put together a series of interesting talks and walks, both Suffolk-based and further afield, only to see the pandemic blow it all up.

But, we get to April 2021 and – is it possible that we might be able to start something up again? After all, 6 people can meet up outdoors, and if we’re careful about numbers and follow all the rules…..

It almost felt odd, then, to be meeting up in the car park at Outney Common, just outside Bungay, for the first local walk for over a year.

For me, it was very fitting that Outney was the first on the calendar following the relaxation of restrictions, as it had been my patch throughout the COVID pandemic and I’d probably got to know it better than I ever had.

With 10 of us, making two groups of 5, we set off in what was close-to-perfect weather – perhaps a little chill, but clear blue skies, sun and the trees about to burst into leaf.

The route for me is now a well-worn one, but every walk round Outney has the promise of the unexpected. This winter has seen the first records I am aware of for Great White Egret and – during the snows – Common Crossbill.

outney-26-04-21b

Despite this being probably the first meeting with a group of people for any of us involved, it seems almost second nature to instinctively keep around 6 feet apart – just another cultural change that may or may not last.

In terms of timing, this trip was just after Willow Warbler and just before Whitethroat in terms of migrants (Whitethroats would be recorded on Outney 3 days later).

As we followed the Waveney from the golf clubhouse, we were picking up Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren, Robin, Chaffinch, Blue Tit and several other usual suspects, although the Little Owl – which seems to have taken up residence adjacent to the golf driving range – did not put in an appearance.

Across the river, on the far side of the meadow between Outney and the A143, a flock of what were obviously thrushes dropped from the trees to feed on the ground below. Despite the lack of a scope between us, they were obviously Fieldfares – 17 of them, presumably making plans for their northerly journey.

outney-26-04-21c

Further on, I got the first sighting this year of the male Reed Bunting – in exactly the same tree as he occupied as a song-post last year. In fact, most returning birds seem to come back to the same part of the common

The route follows the river for a while, before skirting the golf course towards what is known as ‘The Hards’ – varied and sparse groupings of trees with grassland which has been a very productive birding site over the winter, with Redpoll, Siskin, Linnet – and the mysterious, only-seen-once flock of 15 Crossbill.

From here, you also have good views over The Lows – the grazing marshes beside the river, which only 7 weeks ago, were completely under water – and across to the woods below Bath Hills, often the favoured soaring site for Buzzard. We passed the Mute Swan nest, where the female has lost her partner, who was seen bloodied and wounded two weeks ago; she remains resolutely on her 4 eggs however.

outney-26-04-21d

The common offers a range of environments within a 4-5km walk – river edge, grazing meadows, marsh, copses and rough grassland, and finally, the scrub surrounding the fishing lake adjacent to the caravan park. This filled in some holes in our list – House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gull, Kestrel – enough to raise the total to 46, which was pretty good for late April.

It was also good to get started again, particularly in bright, fresh Spring weather and enough time to do what is a top birding site justice.

Bath Hills had been planned as an afternoon session, but we had taken 4.5hrs over the circuit so far, and the prospect of another 5km for perhaps two or three additions to the list seemed a little too much, so we decided to quit while we were ahead!

Thanks to Les Cuthbert for helping out by leading the second group; hopefully after the next event, things will have relaxed even further…

Outney WBC Walk 22 – 04 – 2021: BIRD LIST (46 Species)

Pied Wagtail Jay Kingfisher Pheasant Herring Gull
Dunnock Wren Fieldfare (17) Swallow Black-headed Gull
Carrion Crow Great Spotted Wp. Cormorant Willow Warbler House Sparrow
Jackdaw Magpie Goldfinch Greenfinch Moorhen
Starling Blackcap Chaffinch Great Tit Greylag Goose
Blue Tit Reed Bunting Buzzard Blackbird Gadwall
Grey Heron Chiffchaff Linnet Cmn Redstart
Rook Little Egret Green Woodpkr Kestrel
Wood Pigeon Mallard Mistle Thrush Lesser BB Gull
Robin Long-tailed Tit Mute Swan Oystercatcher
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Frampton/Gibralter Point trip (16-18 September)

Picture of the group at the chippie in Chapel St Leonards. Report to follow.