close encounters with raptors

REPORT FROM Froize Uncovered on 14th december 2023 BY DAVID WALSH

Twelve group members, exactly half of whom were making their Froize debuts, met up with me for coffee at The Froize at 8.30am and I outlined our plans for the morning. I had done a detailed recce the day before, so was confident that the state of the roads, and the underfoot conditions, meant that Boyton Marshes RSPB reserve would be a wise choice as our destination, especially given that there were plenty of raptors there at the moment!

Having squeezed into four cars, we made the short journey to Boyton. I explained that today we would mainly be looking for ‘big’ birds, but the first few minutes might be an exception. We positioned ourselves in front of a hedge just beyond Banters Barn and, as if by magic, a Firecrest appeared! This species is my favourite bird, so I was thrilled that everyone saw it, some very well.

We headed on, past the bench dedicated to Suffolk Bird Group legends Jean and Ken Garrod. I was keen to get to the river wall as soon as possible but birds kept delaying us! A Reed Bunting sat up in a bush close to the path, the first Marsh Harrier appeared, a Grey Heron was found on a gate, a Great White Egret fed by a nearby pool then a falcon was spotted overhead; it was swiftly identified as a Peregrine, but sadly it zoomed away all too quickly towards Havergate Island and beyond.

Short-eared Owl is an iconic species for birders and photographers. This autumn/winter has seen a significant arrival from Scandinavia into the east coast of the UK, and Suffolk has had its fair share. In normal conditions you have to wait until mid afternoon to see SEOs on the wing, but wind and rain earlier in the week meant hunting conditions had been poor so I was reasonably optimistic we would catch sight of one this morning. I need not have worried. We found not one but three, and they kept us entertained throughout the morning. We had wonderful views as they sat on posts, patrolled the meadows, and swooped down into the grass. On a couple of occasions, we saw one interacting with a Kestrel. It was undoubtedly one of the best Short-eared Owl mornings I had been privileged to witness during my 35+ years living and birdwatching in Suffolk. 

The tide was rising on the Butley River and we were in luck with Dunlin, Redshanks and, best of all, Avocets feeding on the mud close to us. The scope views were awesome. 

Having headed north towards Burrow Hill, eventually we dragged ourselves away from the owls and did an about turn, walking south towards the new scrape. We admired the Curlews feeding close by; the numbers were impressive. Wigeon were numerous and we loved hearing them whistle as they grazed. A Buzzard sat on one of the concrete bunkers, our fifth raptor species of the morning. In the distance I spotted a group of geese. The birds were ‘miles away’ but, through the scopes, we could easily identify both White-fronted and Brent Geese; these birds had travelled from Russia to spend the winter with us.

A Meadow Pipit on a post was obliging, a Rock Pipit less so. A couple of Bearded Tits in the reedy ditch close to the path played hide and seek before it really was time to head back to the car park. There was time to change footwear before we made the return journey to The Froize. We were able to reflect on a bird filled morning, one on which we had had several ‘close encounters with raptors’ as per the billing!

After another splendid Froize lunch and before we went our separate ways, I flagged up the next Froize event: ‘We’re going on a Wild Goose Chase’, on 11 January 2024. Full details on the Froize website:

I also encouraged everyone to consider joining the Suffolk Bird Group:

Images by John Richardson


Guest blogger

BIrds Seens and Heard (including on journeys to and from Froize)

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons)

Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)

Brent Goose (Branta bernicla)

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)

Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus)

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)

Jay (Garrulus glandarius)

Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)

Magpie (Pica pica)

Gadwall (Mareca strepera)

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)

Wigeon (Mareca penelope)

Rook (Corvus frugilegus)

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

Teal (Anas crecca)

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Great Tit (Parus major)

Stock Dove (Columba oenas)

Skylark (Alauda arvensis)

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)

Bearded Tit (Panurus biarmicus)

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti)


Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)

Firecrest (Regulus ignicapilla)

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

Curlew (Numenius arquata)

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Redshank (Tringa totanus)

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Dunlin (Calidris alpina)

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)


Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus)

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Great White Egret (Ardea alba)

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)