It occurred to me the other day that barring a single two hour visit to Rainham at the very end of August I had not left Wanstead since I arrived back from Scotland a month ago. I have been so fixated on the patch that I have had no desire to go anywhere else. I've also been so exhausted by a succession of tough weeks at work that come Saturday morning the very last thing I want to do is get up early and go anywhere. But the weekend just past I realised I had been seeing the same birds for nearly three weeks and it was time to do something different.
Enter Suffolk. Or rather, I entered Suffolk. I got up at the usual time I would normally wake up to go out on the patch, had a quick check of Alex to confirm that there were no waders present again (which just like every other morning there were not) and then drove to Colchester. There I met Bradders, and ditching one car we joined forces and drove to the coast at Thorpeness. There I saw a Gannet, several in fact, which was very pleasing as per some shoddy records I once kept I have allegedly never seen a Gannet in Suffolk before. A couple of Arctic Skua also flew past, not a bird I see many of at all, and whilst this was not a classic sea-watch it did allow me to eat the largest pain au chocolat I think I have ever seen whilst contemplating the day ahead.
That day mainly involved lots of waders at Hazlewood Marshes, an ideally-timed visit on the rising tide, which also included a flock of 33 Spoonbill and the best views of Osprey I have ever had anywhere other than Florida. The day also involved a fair amount of piddling about in short sleeves at a number of other sites around Snape and Aldeburgh, seeing nothing particularly outlandish but enjoying just being out and about somewhere different. Of note was the complete lack of any other people (other than Bradders but what can you do?) which is generally quite high on my list of wants from a day of birding.
At some point during the day the ever-present target of 100 species was discussed. We were surprisingly close having not really even thought about it, as always seems to be the case. I think we may have been in the mid-eighties when it first occurred to us, and after that we started looking that little bit more keenly. It then became rather hard work of course, but we persevered and gradually got into the nineties.
The lure of the what would be my first Lesser Yellowlegs since 2014 took us away from the coast and to a site near Ipswich, and there we also found LRP and a rogue Mandarin Duck. Mid nineties now, but I had the advantage of that early morning visit to the peerless Alexandra Lake on Wanstead Flats, where I'd clocked Pochard, Tufted Duck and of course our long-staying Black-necked Grebe so I think I needed two more at that point.
Enter Abberton. This has happened before and will no doubt happen again. If I am out that way it is a banker for quite a few species that a visit to the Suffolk coast are harder to procure - Great White Egret most obviously. There were 23 in the roost when I arrived, quite remarkable when you think about it. Better that this though was a Pectoral Sandpiper in Wigborough Bay - a species I have not seen since 2013. My lack of focus on UK twitching, instead concentrating on patch and foreign birding over the last few years, has meant that I've simply not seen 'padders' like this and Lesserlegs for ages and ages. The last species I saw before heading home was Great Crested Grebe, which to be fair I do see a lot of in London, and that took me to 101, which in my book that it is very good day. Better than any absolute number however was the variety. As I mentioned at the top of this post I have seen very little of any habitat apart from Wanstead Flats for days and days, and I needed a change. I needed water, mud, reeds, sand, vistas and sky. I didn't need football pitches, brooms and inconsequential ponds which never have anything on them.
Happily I saw lots of the former and little of the latter, and that was exactly what I wanted. And equally as importantly I didn't miss anything back home on any of those ponds! Can you imagine? The one day that I leave the patch due to apathy and boredom is the day that something great decides to arrive on our three square metres of mud! Thankfully that didn't happen, and the next day I was back on the patch seeing nothing again. But that was yesterday and today was a different story. But that is also a story for a separate post!
Have a good evening!