Spring Awakening Report

Report from our Froize WILDLIFE WALK on Thursday 2 March 2023

No fewer than 18 group members, plus Steve Piotrowski and myself as guides and Froize media guru – Kelly Bayfield (to take notes and photographs) met for coffee at The Froize shortly after 8.30am. It was great to see such a large contingent of people looking forward to their day, and especially good to find so many first timers alongside the regulars.

Steve outlined the plans for the morning, and I divided everyone into two groups, then we headed off in convoy on a fifteen-minute journey to the car park at Upper Hollesley Common.

I decided to take my group north to start off with and, although the northerly wind was unsurprisingly having an impact on the number of birds singing, we enjoyed seeing and hearing a Skylark before finding our main quarry, a Woodlark. We were able to compare their flight profiles as well as their songs. Woodlark was our ‘must-see’ species for today; it has a beautiful song and is rare and localised. Because it starts holding territory in late winter, it is one of the first signs of ‘Spring Awakening’. It is also the species on the front cover of Steve’s ‘Birds of Suffolk’, and rightly so!

Our Woodlark went down onto a bare area, and we would have located it on the ground had it not been spooked by some Mistle Thrushes! At least we had a prolonged look at the latter. At around the same time, Steve’s group had the thrill of watching three Woodlarks feeding on a grassy area just across the road; two more were singing nearby. They also heard a Mediterranean Gull calling amongst hundreds of Black-headed Gulls ‘following the plough’ on the adjacent field.

Not long after we had moved onto Sutton Common one of my group spotted a ‘small dark bird skimming across the heather’. That could only mean one thing: Dartford Warbler! Patience was required, but many of us had passable views. At this stage we weren’t to know that a little later we would find a very showy pristine male in the company of a pair of Stonechats! Steve’s group had to wait a little longer to score with Dartford Warbler but eventually found a total of four during their walk.

Chuffed to have seen our two main target species, we ambled back. A singing Chaffinch gave me the opportunity to talk about the difference between the territorial songs of birds and their contact, flight and alarm calls. Learning bird ‘vocalisations’ is hard but I urged my group to give it a go and try to learn at least one or two on each outing. Today’s would surely have been Coal Tit as we had multiple chances to hear this species in song. 

Other wildlife noted during our morning included Fallow Deer and three Buzzards; Steve’s group were pleased to find a group of Siskins. Redpoll and Tawny Owl were two in the ‘heard-only’ category.

We were pleased not only with what we had seen, but also having had a good walk and the chance to make new friends. Returning to The Froize at 12.55pm, as planned, there was time to purchase drinks at the bar before heading to the restaurant for a sumptuous lunch. It is undoubtedly part of the reason why these wildlife walks are so popular! We had to make seemingly, tough choices between Dingly-Dell roast pork, very local venison ale and mushroom pie, a warming chick-pea curry, delicious mushroom stroganoff and rigatoni in a rich tomato, basil and mozzarella sauce. All accompanied by a wealth of vegetables. So much choice – Luckily, we were able to have a joyous mixture of more than one!! 

Froize puddings are legendary… wobbly panna cotta, silky smooth crème brule and my choice, a warm Bramley apple sponge pud with apple and cinnamon ice cream – Mmmmm! 

At the end of our meal Steve flagged up forthcoming events at The Froize including the next birding one on 20th April – when we will be focusing our avian attention on the ‘Spring Migration’  Full details on the Froize web site www.froize.co.uk 

At around 2.15pm we began to go our separate ways at the end of a very good morning in the field followed by a splendid feast! I for one am looking forward to my next outing from The Froize.

See the full bird list here: https://app.bto.org/birdtrack/pubcon/shared?subId=SUB46623525


David Walsh

Guest Blogger