1st August. After a 270 mile drive we arrived at our holiday cottage in Westleton, Suffolk and after settling in, headed down to Minsmere for an early evening stroll to stretch our legs. Not much to report but a nice Little Egret in nice light in front of the South Hide became the first holiday bird photographed. A couple of mixed summer/winter plumage Spotted Redshank and a few dozen Black Tailed Godwits also fed in the pool by the South Hide with several Common Terns for company. On our way back to the visitor centre, I popped in to the West Hide and had the briefest of glimpses of a Bittern as it broke cover from the reeds for a solitary second.
2nd August. My first early morning excursion to Minsmere and after the alarm went off at 5:30 I was at the reserve before 6! Again, it was pretty quiet on the bird front with the best viewing to be had from the East Hide. A few dozen Avocet with several juvenile birds were the most obvious birds, both by sight and sound, but a few Spotted Redshank also showed well. The nesting Common Terns were very vocal and occasionally landed near the hide to preen. 4 young Ruff kept their distance to scope level. Also, a small number of Barnacle Geese were present allowing me to tick off another photo species. Walking back to the car park via the South Hide, a Kingfisher quickly landed on a post near the hide which I managed to get a quick picture of. Later that day we headed over to the beach at Sizewell, where I had good views of a new lifer in the form of two adult Little Gulls. Also on the beach were several Common Tern and a single juvenile Kittiwake, recently fledged from one of the platforms offshore. On the way back to the cottage we stopped at Eastbridge where we hoped to spot a Barn Owl. My wife spotted "something I've never seen before" so I came running and we both had lovely views through the scope with just the single digiscope shot before it flew off. I went off up the road with the scope but should have taken the SLR as it then took off and flew closer and closer to within 10 metres of me, looking directly at me before flying off to another field and out of view. Still a wonderful encounter and my first Barn Owl for many years.
3rd August. Another early morning trip down to Minsmere but with grey skies my chances for pictures were certainly restricted. Several young Green Woodpeckers taunted me as usual but with virtually no light early on, they still remained a bogey bird for the camera. On reaching the East Hide, the party of 4 Ruff still remained and I tried a few pictures with both the camera and the scope. A single Spotted Redshank braved the paternal pair of Avocet close to the hide long enough to allow me to get a reasonable picture while the usual Common Terns, Black Tailed Godwits and Avocets made up the numbers. Walking down to the sluice, many pairs of Swallow were hawking for insects just above ground level in the damp grey skies. A few perched birds gave great views. Two young Yellow Wagtails perched on the Little Tern enclosure wires on the beach and a pair of Sanderling didn't stop as they headed south down the shoreline, closely followed by a small group of Turnstone. Not much else on the walk back to the car apart from a distant view of a Marsh Harrier in the murky skies.
4th August. Finally some sunshine and the chance for a few nice pictures. Dawn light gave a few good opportunities with some obliging Red Deer by the car park and then a cheeky Stonechat on the way to the East Hide. A few nice Avocet pictures and some beautiful light on a Mallard even made me click the shutter! A young Little Egret also came nice and close but unfortunately it was really quiet. Three Snipe held their distance at a range of approaching 200 metres the far end of the pool so I tried my hand at digiscoping them with limited results. More successful with the scope was a nice picture of a Common Tern which was much closer and therefore an easier target. A few butterflies kept my attention on the walk round the reserve which included a fruitless trip along the summer walkway to see a few distant Redshank. I then headed to the Bittern hide where I met a nice chap and he promised me both Marsh Harrier and Bittern which eventually both made their appearances flying over the reed beds.
5th August. After a thundery night with little sleep, I had a lie in after deciding 6am was overrated. So we all went down to Minsmere for a late morning family walk. Again the reserve was quiet but a young Whitethroat briefly gave me delusions of having spotted the Nightingale I'd wanted to see! On reaching the East Hide, a solitary winter plumage Little Gull was feeding on the insects on the pool. A small flock of Barnacle Geese lazed around annoyingly distant from the camera while the usual Avocets, Black-Tailed Godwits, Common Terns, Redshanks and Spotted Redshanks fed or roosted at the waters edge. Again at the sluice, numerous Swallows performed aerial wonders and also perched giving some lovely views. On reaching the visitor centre, we popped in for some lunch while the rain started up again and were entertained by the cast of garden birds on the feeders which included a single Marsh Tit.
6th August. With a glimmer of dawn sunshine, I headed back to Minsmere for 6am. Quiet was an understatement, with birds thin on the ground and the promise of good light gone in a 2 minute spell. I did take a few Avocet shots and also a Mallard which I thought at the time to be an eclipse Garganey! So after no more than 10 shutter clicks it was back home for 8am but not before screeching to a halt and parking up a verge on Westleton common as I finally managed to spot a Turtle Dove perched on a telephone wire. The sky background was really grey but it was great to finally see one, my first in the U.K. for nearly ten years. Later that day we went for a walk on Dunwich Heath, me continuing my quest to find a Woodlark! Of course no sign of the Woodlark seeing as the season is totally wrong but, a good flight view of a Cuckoo was a nice surprise and also a young Kestrel perched in a tree showed well into the sun. I then headed back to Eastbridge to hopefully encounter our Barn Owl again but with no success after almost 2 hours waiting, all I had seen of note was another fly past Turtle Dove, a few Crossbill flying overhead and a family party of Long-Tailed Tits.
7th August. Another family trip to Sizewell Beach today which amazingly managed to get a new photo tick. I'd been keeping one eye on the skies as usual but with the "family lens" attached to the SLR, I had to quickly change over as I spotted what I initally thought was an Osprey but turned out to be a dark Marsh Harrier heading south out to sea. It was a little distant but lit beautifully in the early evening light. After it had passed over, a few Little Gulls came into view and starting catching insects on the wing which allowed some good photo opportunities.
8th August. A quick last visit down to Minsmere before the long journey home was typically quiet with the Barnacle Goose flock coming a little closer than they had been all week. Walking back to the vistor centre, I flushed a Sparrowhawk which I managed to get a couple of moderate flight shots and also saw my first and only Bearded Tits of the week but far too deep in the reeds for photography.