Sunday 17th April Light to fresh W Sunny intervals, two short hail showers
Cuckoo cuckooing in the early morning and nearby willow warblers and chiff chaffs singing with cetti's warbler blasting; these start the day with still a cool wind blowing from the west.
I set off for Minsmere RSPB reserve, the iconic and magnificent reserve which has hosted Springwatch recently, with alight wind mostly from behind to help me on my way. The small country lanes are empty so early on a Sunday morning and there are small undulations in the landscape to give me short rests as I cruise downwards after each short uphill section.
Signposts with milages start to tell me that I am going backwards. Not really, it is just that in the centre of Loddon the sign states five miles to Beccles. The next two signs each say six miles despite being over a mile further. Oh well, keep pedalling.
On reaching the main Lowestoft to Ipswich road at Blythburgh there is a splattered stoat on the road, which I photograph for my 'car-nage' project. A hundred yards later there is a dead male wheatear. So sad to think that this bird had flown all the way from Africa to die on a British road side. I check it for a ring bit doesn't have one.
Minmere is truly wonderful and a short hail shower passes over as I cycle down the seemingly never-ending entry lane.
I meet a gentleman who is telling everyone that he is a local bird guide, Alex Bass and together we walk to the Mere Island hide. Bearded tits are easy to see here and a number of bitterns are booming. A reed warbler not too far into the reeds yet still unseen, is singing and so becomes bird number 210 on the year list.
Around the walkways and through the oak forest, I head for the scrape. There is a cacophony of black-headed gulls and a number of avocets and duck. The black-tailed godwits are acquiring summer plumage yet their single bar-tailed cousin is still in it's silvery winter attire.
I find a common tern sitting on post number four, bird number 211. The islands used to be named after biscuits way back long ago but now there are numbered signposts to help birders locate the different species. Coomon sandpiper, look right of number two. Mediterranean gull, look by number nine.
A sandwich tern flies out to sea as I push the bike along the sandy path.
I circumnavigate the scrape, visiting every hide before heading back to the Island Mere hide for the evening. Well, after enjoying a coffee in the cafe taking up position on a picnic bench overlooking the sand martin cliff. The sand martins are here in good numbers, flying frantically around and occasionally landing next to holes in the sandstone. They don't seem to be entering them though, just hanging onto the cliff edge.
I try to imagine what it must be like for new visitors to the reserve. On leaving the visitors' centre they walk down a short path. Suddenly on turning a corner they come across a golden yellow streaked with orange sandstone cliff with maybe a hundred swirling sand martins. A beautiful introduction to one of the RSPB's flagship reserves.
Evening at the Island Mere hide, most people have gone home but four ladies who are staying in accommodation on the reserve are enjoying the peaceful sunset.
An otter swims nearby not too concerned about being so near to the hide. I cup my ears and hear the bird I have cycled here for, Savi's warbler. The bird is a long way off over the far side of the large mere yet it is quite a distinctive trill. Nowadays a very rare breeding bird in Britain, I remember seeing them in the 1980s singing on bushes not too far from this spot. The Savi's I really remember though was at my patch, Upton Warren nature reserve, back in 1984. That bird could be seen reasonably close singing on a now long gone bush near to the Moors car park. I remember seeing it one evening, a lifer for me and then returning before daybreak the next day to get more views. A male garganey was beside it on the water; a lovely pair.
The Green Year list now stands at 211, 28 birds ahead of this time last year.
33.13 miles 1052 feet elevation up 1055 feet elevation down