When it came to Sunday it was once again another 4:30am wakeup call as today we’d be heading down to the outstanding Landguard Bird Observatory which has hold host to rarities such Pied Wheatear and Short-toed Treecreeper! Despite yet another early get up with no less than 5hrs sleep, none of us hesitated climbing into the Mini Bus ready to a mornings ringing, mothing and birding at the Bird Obs. It was here were we had decided the group stood the best chance of finding something out of the ordinary.
After an hours driving were we all had a rather pleasant kip we then finally came to the car park of Landguard Bird Observatory were we were greeted by the Warden Nigel and BTO Director Andy Clements! Despite the poor weather conditions for birding Nigel, with his great sense of humour kept the groups moral high as we went to check the Mist Nests. A combination of the high winds coming from the north and migration season coming to a close meant that ringing was a bit of a let-down with only 1 of resident Robins begin trapped…again.
As a result of the poor turn out with the Mist nets Nigel then took us round to check out some of the Moth traps set up from the night before, they might not have been as productive as what was hoped for but there were a few about enabling Nigel to give a talk about the Moths of Landguard and tips for Mothing. In total we about 10 species of Moths ranging from a Small Elephant Hawk Moth, to a Hebrew Character, Large Yellow-Underwing and the first Pearly-Underwing of the year!
With our stomachs full with breakfast it was then time to set off and go birding at this honoured Bird Obs. The first birds of note were flocks of Linnet, Starling and House Sparrow, Nigel informed us that Starling and House Sparrow were both extremely common birds at the Obs but over the last couple of decades number of both have plummeted to the point where Starlings no longer breeding and House Sparrows are now restricted to one site. Our attention then turned to the coast were apart from an unseasonal flock of 8 Brent Geese flying north, 2 Kittiwake, 5+ Little Tern and 2 Common Tern were the highlights. Meanwhile on a small section of protected shingle we stumbled across a family party of Ringed Plover with one of the birds giving superb views as it walked along the shore line.
It was then time to say a very sad farewell to Landguard and time that we headed back to the Nunnery to get things prepared for our departure later that day. But unaware to us earlier that day Paul and David had arranged for us to go and visit a number of sites in search of some of Norfolk and Suffolk’s most prized birds: Dartford Warbler, Woodlark, Turtle Dove and Tree Pipit.
The first stop on our way back to the Nunnery drew us to Upper Hollesley Common. Despite discovering that the gorgeous female Red-footed Falcon which had been at the site for a few days had disappeared the day previous, the whole group was still in high spirits as straight away we were onto a stunning male Dartford Warbler arriving with food to its nest and departing with fecal sacs. The bird may have been distant with the hazy conditions not being the best but some pretty decent record shots were able to be taken.
Now it was time we headed off for target bird no.2 of today, Woodlark. For this we didn’t have to travel far as thankfully they could also be found at Hollesley! We were hoping that the Woodlark would be as easy to get as the Dartford Warbler but sadly not, we waited and searched the surrounding heathland for a good half an hour with only Skylark, Kestrel and a couple of lovely summer plumaged Stonechat, but no Woodlark. But fortunately just as we were about to depart from Hollesley we heard an almighty roar from Ben and Paul, “WOODLARK”, everyone jumped out of the mini bus expecting to see one in the heather or perched on a post, but instead it was high up in the cloud singing its heart out. Due to how high up it was and the lighting it was out of few for the majority of people. With most of the group feeling a little down on missing out on the Woodlark they were then reward with nothing short of spectacular views of a marvellous little bird called a Redstart, which the group spent several minutes observing flittering about in the woods.
Afterwards it was time for a bird which Toby and Zach were especially keen to see and earlier this year made the headlines on Malta, the Turtle Dove. To catch a glimpse of what was now a MEGA in many parts of the UK we were driven to Boyton Marshes, supposedly one of the best sites in the country! A problem which we encountered straight away was the fact that we were finding it a little hard to find Turtle Dove, not because there weren’t any about nor that the group wasn’t good enough, it was down to the fact that Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove and Woodpigeon were also around in decent numbers.
As me and Zach were walking round we came across 2 local birders who were kind enough to inform that on a nearby pool 2 Garganey (drake) were putting on a good show, so deciding to leave the other to find the Turtle Doves, Zach and I went to see our first Turtle Doves of the year. When we arrived at the Pool it wasn’t just Garganey which were around: Redshank, Greylag Goose, Lapwing, Shoveler and even Avocet were present with a few of the Avocet having colour rings on their legs. It’ll be interesting to know where these birds from.
When the rest of the group had seen the Garganey there wasn’t much time left before we had to get back to the Nunnery and pack up so as you can picture Paul, David and Lee rushed us all back up to the Mini Bus were once again we rain into those local birders Zach and I had met just a couple of minutes before. Looking at them one of them pointed to me, raised there arm up into the air and then left, I followed suit with my eyes and looked up to catch a fleeting sight of 2 TURTLE DOVE flying over at break neck speed before landing in a nearby hedge row were I lost track of them. It was another disappointing turn out for the group as only Luke, David, another young birder called Sebastian and I managed to see them the pair before they headed out of sight. Zach was alright about missing them as he’d already had over 10 lifers in the Camp so far, but for Toby this was a lifer which he was dying to get from the trip.
Afterwards it was time to head to our last birding spot of the day, King’s Forest to see Tree Pipit and if we were lucky enough Goshawk! This would only be a brief stop off but never less we disembarked from the bus and went out in search of Tree Pipit. Rather surprisingly the first bird we came across was infact a Woodlark which made an excellent showing by perching on one of the posts just outside of the “Tree Pipit Enclosure” were just a few seconds later it was joined by another Woodlark! The whole group was in hysterics!
As we slowly approached the birds guess what, a flock of 3 Woodlark then shot over us calling away giving superb views of the sheer broadness of there wings, the day couldn’t get any better, or could it? Our attention was then brought to a small bird preached at the top of a conifer and can you guess it? Yes another Woodlark!
Now, as we were getting carried away with our sudden abundance of Woodlark which I was attempting to photograph, young London birder Alex White then pointed out another bird at the top of a lone conifer. With most of the group assuming it was yet another Woodlark Paul then took a look through his bins and it wasn’t a Woodlark (thankfully), in was in fact the bird which we’d came here to see Tree Pipit. For a whole five minutes it’s blessed the group as it flew to and forth its nest entering with food and as you can guess leaving with a fecal sac, we were also lucky enough to witness the bird in display mode and watch it “parachuting” down to earth.
Afterwards it was a pub lunch, fish and chips for me, and then it was finally time to head back to the Nunnery to pack up our stuff and say our fares well to one another which for me was heart breaking as I didn’t want it to end.
So there it is ladies and gentlemen BTO Bird Camp 2016: jam-packed with birding at some of countries best sites and birders, activities which were for many including myself were a first and learnt things which we wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the camp, the weather couldn’t have better, everyone who we came across and met had a great sense of humour, was well mannered and were nothing short than exception in terms of their hospitality.
Now I’d like to say a humungous thank to not only the brilliant BTO staff: Ieuan Evans, Paul Stancliffe, Viola Ross-Smith, Mike Thoms, Sue Gough, Lee Barber, Justin Walker & Greg Conway, along with Alex Haynes and David Walsh for taking time their own time to accompany us on our weekend but also to the Cameron Bespolka Trust. Cameron Bespolka was one of the country’s top and most passionate young birders who left birders across the world speechless with his knowledge of birds, but at the age of 16 he was killed in a tragic accident. The Trust was set up to “help teenagers pursue similar interests and passions, especially those who have less privileged backgrounds. We will be creating opportunities for young birders to pursue their passion, both as an interest or a vocation. We will look to do this independently and together with various nature and birding organizations…helping young children appreciate and experience nature and the environment first hand.” It was thanks to the Cameron Bespolka Trust that the BTO Young Birders Camp was able to take place and for on behalf of all those who attended, thank you.
On another note I’d like to say thanks to all the young birders who attend the Camp as I was able to make so many new friends and something which I’ve burrowed from the blog of Luke Nash, “You are the best people I know”.
Luke Nash – – Birds, Birding and more…
Max Hellicar – @
Paddy Lewin – @
Eleanor Marrison – @
Amy Hall – @wildlifebloga
Mya Bambrick – @MyaBambrick1 – My World Of Nature
Josie Hewitt – @josiethebirder – Josie Hewitt Photography
My most sincere apologies to those who I have forgotten but thank you so much for making the Camp just a magical and inspiring weekend which hope there are more planned for the future to inspire future generations to come.