spring awakens on the heath

REPORT FROM Froize Uncovered – march 2024 BY john grant

Fifteen eager birding enthusiasts joined fellow leader, David Walsh and myself at Froize for our usual coffee and chat before heading out into the field. This gave me the chance of two things… Firstly, to explain the plight of our sanderlings heathland and is world significance and then to introduce Harry Read  https://harryreadphotography.co.uk/about-2  who has joined the Froize ranks of wildlife leaders. We are delighted to have Harry joining us, he brings a wealth of knowledge and is an incredibly talented wildlife photographer to boot.

Spring had so far been stirring, but stirring oh-so-slowly. It hadn’t yet been a bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, up-and-at-’em seasonal awakening. It was more a sleepy, bleary eye flickering open, taking a furtive look at the world, blinking and gently closing again, waiting for a brighter tomorrow.

That brighter tomorrow was the day of our walk.

The somewhat reluctant, hesitant spring was today, at long last, starting to cast off the shackles of a wet, windy winter that had thus far shown a stubborn refusal to bid a final farewell. The day was infused with a weak but welcome hint of sunshine and the angry, cold and cutting winds that had blighted the past months had eased to a gentle breeze. A chill was still in the mid-March air though, and, as we were to witness before our walk had ended, evidence of winter could still be found. So spring was not exactly springing. But it was, at least, uncoiling.

We could sense this tiny shift in the seasons, but birds on our chosen Suffolk Sandlings heath didn’t just sense it – they announced it at full, glorious throttle. As an overture, the soft twittering of singing Siskins was drowned out by the confident, strident top-of-a-tree proclamation of a Mistle Thrush. Then the star songsters of the heath took centre stage – Wood Larks poured out their heart-melting, slightly melancholy, irresistibly engaging masterpieces, followed by the less lyrical but just as captivating scratchy jangling’s of Dartford Warblers. If not every one of these performers were giving us full-on spotlight views, we at least enjoyed acceptable looks at them all – and, in the case of the often unobtrusive Dartford Warbler, even a distant glimpse is always something of a bonus.

We did see (at close quarters!) a group of Fallow bucks – disturbed by a dog that was not under the control of its owner – a reminder to us of the importance in respecting the wildlife we share this planet with.

Switching from heath to marsh in order to bring greater variety to our morning’s birding experience, we were soon shown that winter was not finished with us just yet. The evidence for this salutary warning was a group of 10 wintering Russian Greater White-fronted Geese lingering on the lush Suffolk grazing marsh, delaying their return to the far-off northern Russian tundra for just a little while more.

So the signs were that winter was still, just about, clinging on by the most tenuous of grips. That 23-or-so degree tilt in the Earth’s axis that delivers our seasons had not quite yet edged us into full-blown spring. That would undoubtedly follow. For now we could reflect on a season that was passing, symbolised by the Russian geese, and the one that was about to unfold, symbolised by those magical songsters of the heath.

Time had flown by – and it was time to return to Froize – where a welcome, warming lunch awaited. (The Bramley Apple Crumble really delivered!!)


Guest blogger


Stock Dove (Columba oenas) Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) Dartford Warbler (Curruca undata)
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus)
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Coal Tit (Periparus ater) European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus)
Great Tit (Parus major) Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella)
Woodlark (Lullula arborea)
BOYTON MARSHES (additional species only)
Greylag Goose (Anser anser) Common Redshank (Tringa totanus)
Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons) Dunlin (Calidris alpina)
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) Common Gull (Larus canus)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Gadwall (Mareca strepera) Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) Common Magpie (Pica pica)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca) Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti)
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus) Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata) Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)