28th of September 2014 - RSPB Minsmere trip.

A new season for the Coventry and Warwickshire local RSPB Group started this month with a trip to the RSPB Minsmere nature reserve. Situated on the Suffolk coast, this was quoted by Chris Packham as one of the best nature reserves in the world during this years BBC Spring Watch!

Our coach journey started at 7:00am, once there, we were welcomed by two local volunteers who were on hand and ready to provide everyone with entrance discs and data sheets with all the recent sightings. The weather was very mild for the time of year and as the day went on it got warmer, eventually turning in to a very hot, but hazy afternoon.

Bearded Tit Record
Starting off with my two birding buddies Steve & Gary we took to the Coast trail in search of migrants, followed by some sea watching. "Ping" first up were a flock of 10 Bearded Tit giving us good views of these stunning birds. A Cetti's warbler soon had the bins on a single bird within 30 metres, good to view one as you often hear them, but don't manage to see them! The sea watch was somewhat disappointing as the only notable birds being a single Common Scoter and a small flock of Brent Geese, followed by a Wheatear in the dunes whilst I was adjusting my scope.

Walking along the shingle we stopped at the East hide, a superb double decker hide with good views across the scrapes. Here we had a panoramic view over a vast array of birds, the notable ones being Purple Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Avocet, Snipe, Black Tailed Godwit, Little Egret and a large flock of Barnacle Geese. Our second close views of Bearded Tit occurred here too as about 8 dropped in briefly in to the surrounding reeds. One landed on a reed and was promptly dunked in the water as the reed gave way, this we found amusing and appealed to our schoolboy humour. Leaving the lads to carry on scanning the scrapes I indulged myself in moving to the other side of the reserve to explore the woodland which gave up the usual common bird species. I finally reached the Bittern hide, here I settled down to enjoy the last 35 minutes before returning to our coach for our journey back.

Purple Sandpiper

Black Tailed Godwit
Barnacle Geese
The hide was very elevated giving good views across the surrounding grassland and reed beds. Butterflies were aplenty with small white the obvious common sighting due to their hue. From here I saw, Waterail, Kingfisher, Hobby, Kestrel, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Marsh harrier. As I made my way back to the visitors centre, I heard Tree Creeper and deep within the trees I spotted a young Red Deer along with Grey Squirrel.

Red Deer through the trees
Birds seen today in no particular order are as follows, Bearded Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Wren, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wood Pigeon, Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Cetti's Warbler, Robin, Pheasant, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Lesser Black backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose, Widgeon, Pintail, Shoveler, Tifted Duck, Common Scoter, Teal, Common Sandpiper, Avocet, Lapwing, Puple Sandpiper, Snipe, Black Tailed Godwit, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Skylark, Little Egret, Starling, Linnett, Mallard, Gadwall, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Hobby, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Waterail, Moorhen, Coot, Dunnock, Jay, Magpie, Rook and Reed Bunting.

This is only my sightings list and not the complete list of birds seen by others within the group.

A great start for the local Coventry and Warwickshire RSPB Group and full marks as usual must go to Lesley and Peter Berrill for organising the first of what will be many trips for me this season.

MS Oldenburg along side the Lundy Jetty
Saturday the 30th of August 2014.
MARINElife Wildlife Officer - Lundy Island day trip.
Arriving in Bideford at 08:15am my first port of call was the Landmark office to collect my ticket for boarding MS Oldenburg. The ship was full with 256 passengers and 8 crew, upon making my way up to the bridge; I readied myself for the sailing while chatting to Jerry the ship's Captain. I the processed to start my tour around the upper and lower decks introducing myself to the passengers as quickly as I could as information from the bridge proposed that the weather out on the open sea was force 5!
Whilst Oldenburg navigated the estuary towards the open sea, I had the opportunity to point out notable birds such as Oystercatcher, Redshank, Little Egret, Curlew, Grey Heron and Black tailed Godwit. Once out of the estuary the sea livened up and we were soon enjoying (or not enjoying) the sea breeze and spray and the ships motion that goes with force 5 weather conditions. This resulted in a great many of the passengers feeling rather sick. A very brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise off the port side was sadly the only cetacean seen. Birds of note were a few Manx Shearwater gliding effortlessly over the water and a group of diving Gannet were seen as the ship passed Hartland Point.

Shag off the jetty
Upon disembarking the Oldenburg many of the day trippers stopped on the jetty to watch an inquisitive large Grey Seal showing off. I briefly stopped to say hello to Derek the Island's manager and also to Chloe the assistant warden to find out about recent bird sightings. Following this I began to make my way to the higher levels. My planned route kept me on the east side where I settled myself in to what I call a shepherds shelter to have lunch and to begin a sea watch. More Grey seal were spotted further up at the northern rocks and also 2 below near the beach area. Scanning the sea produced many Gannet and Shag along with the usual Gull species. Unfortuntatley no cetaceans were seen! After a two hour watch I went over to the west side passing Saint Helen's church and did the same for anther two hours with the same species recorded.

 The return journey aboard the Oldenburg gave a distant view of 21 Grey Seal that were basking on Mouse Rock.
Grey Seals
 The crossing back to Bideford was a much calmer affair which gave another brief sighting of a Harbour Porpoise; again the same sea birds were seen along the way.
As we arrived back in Bideford there was a huge crowd gathered on the quay, not to welcome us back, but to wave goodbye to the "Kathleen and May" an old three masted sailing ship that has been used in filming a new Johnny Depp film! She left on the high tide bound for her home port of Liverpool shortly after we disembarked Oldenburg. It must have been an awesome sight back in the days of sail as Bideford was a busy port and many tail ships would have graced this estuary.
The Kathleen and May
 Species seen this trip were, Harbour Porpoise, Grey seal, Manx Shearwater, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Fulmar, Cormarant, Shag, Gannet, Tree Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Starling, Raven, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Wood Pigeon, House Martin, Sand Martin, Swallow, Linnet, Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock, Oystercatcher, Skylark, Whitethroat, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Mallard, Pied Wagtail, redshank, Grey Heron, Curlew and Black Tailed Godwit.