Waders and other mudlarkers

REPORT FROM Folk Uncovered on 10th August 2023 BY DAVID WALSH

Eight group members, four regulars and four making their Froize debuts, met up with Kelly and me for coffee at The Froize at 8.30am and I outlined our plans for the morning. 

We made the short drive to Hollesley Marshes RSPB reserve and began seeing wildlife of interest right from the start. In our ‘Peregrine tree’ we spotted a perched Buzzard and three Stock Doves, whilst the brambles along the hedge were playing host to numerous Gatekeepers and other butterflies. 

With the sun still firmly in the south-east we bypassed the viewing screen and made for the river wall; this meant that we had good light for our scans of the scrape. Stopping regularly as we pottered north produced Black-tailed Godwit, a male Ruff and a group of Redshank; we were able to compare the bill lengths of these wading birds, and their different feeding habits. 

Most ducks in August are in ‘eclipse plumage’; I explained to the group why this was the case. It meant that identifying the birds was easiest when they were side by side or in flight, and we found several species including Gadwall with its partly white speculum and Shoveler with the pale grey-blue forewings. 

Little Egrets and Grey Herons were noted in numbers, but it took a while to find the species I was most hoping for during our morning: a Spoonbill! There had been at least a dozen present in previous days, but most had de-camped to Hazlewood Marshes, so I was relieved that one remained, a juvenile. We watched it sleeping and preening before all of a sudden it took off and headed strongly north; we were able to compare its flight silhouette (neck out) with that of the Little Egret (neck in).

There were birds of interest away from the scrape too, the highlight being a juvenile Cuckoo which landed on the shingle in front of us: definitely the surprise find of our outing.  Three Sandwich Terns flew over calling, whilst on the river we found close Ringed Plovers and an obliging Common Sandpiper.

Small birds were rather thin on the ground during the morning, but we saw Skylarks on the shingle ridge, a Meadow Pipit hiding in the grass and, best of all, a charm of Goldfinches feeding on the thistles. 

Eventually we turned round and descended from the river wall to the footpath, seeing both Sparrowhawk and Kestrel as we made our return journey. There was time to view the scrape from the screen, and we had excellent views of a Marsh Harrier as it gave a close flypast. We also saw two more Ruff, both juveniles.

We had one more memorable sighting to add to those from earlier in the morning. A large dragonfly perched up in the car park itself. It was a female Southern Hawker and sat still long enough for me to locate it in my telescope. There were plenty of ‘wow’s as, in turn, we all looked at it. 

We were not only pleased with the birds and insects we had seen but more generally glad to have enjoyed each other’s company on a lovely sunny morning in a wonderful location.

Returning to Froize HQ we were all eager (and hungry!) for lunch. As ever, we were treated to an array of deliciousness…. David is an avid believer in provenance, sustainability and of course, great flavour in his cooking. Wild food features often and today was no exception. Choosing between the fresh wing of skate, local chicken and a deep, dark, umami rich mushroom dish was bad enough – but to have that classic French trinity of rabbit with cider and prunes thrown in for good measure, was too much! – well, almost! – The rabbit was tender, melting and absolutely delicious, made even better with buttery runner beans and tasty potatoes both harvested from the Froize kitchen garden earlier. The usual abundance of courgettes from the Froize allotment brings out the annual cooking of the soft, rich courgette cake. This scrummy pudding, made with dark brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon is served warm with chocolate fudge sauce… I chose this although I could have had crème brulé, panna cotta or sherry trifle! What a perfect way to round off a thoroughly perfect day. 

Before we went our separate ways, I flagged up the next Froize event – ‘Bon Voyage! Africa here we come’ on 14 September. Full details on the Froize website https://froize.co.uk/. 

I also encouraged everyone to consider joining the Suffolk Bird Group: https://www.suffolkbirdgroup.org/.


Guest blogger

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

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Gadwall (Mareca strepera) Eurasian Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Eurasian/Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) Great Tit (Parus major)
Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) Eurasian Skylark (Alauda arvensis)
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra) Common House Martin (Delichon urbicum)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) Cetti’s Warbler (Cettia cetti)