Cliff Swallow at Minsmere. 5/11/2016

Posted: November 6, 2016 in Birding, Twitching
Tags: , , ,

Late Friday afternoon, around 4-30pm, I got a call from Mark K, he said, “There is a Cliff Swallow at Minsmere”. Apart from being a bit shocked an Eyebrowed Thrush had also been discovered in Northumberland (it was never refound). Just as we all had thoughts of this bird rich autumn finally running down this happens! Talk about a dilemma, we firstly got a team together, then had various discussions about whether to go overnight or wait for news. We decided to go overnight and arranged to meet at Fairburn Ings at 3am, Darren W, Nigel S, Mark K and myself and Bob K, who drove, all headed down the A1. After leaving the A14 at Stowmarket the usual 30 mile slog seemed to take an age on small twisty roads and the Satnav also seemed overworked.

Upon reaching Minsmere the car park already looked quite full and lots of birders were milling about in the early morning gloom. We headed off towards the Bittern hide area through the wooded part of the reserve when lots of birders were seen heading towards us, some at great speed! The Cliff Swallow was still present and flying about with 8 “Barn” Swallows over the Sand Martin colony. We made good progress amongst the masses and all had a brief look at the bird flying above our heads. Success again for the, “Strike whilst the iron is hot” brigade. What a really nice bird the first winter Cliff Swallow is! We headed into the area known as the Stone Curlew field (they are summer visitors) The bird returned to the same area after about 15 minutes and was on show for around 30 minutes perched up preening, flying around with its Barn Swallow mates and sometimes landing on the ground, it showed really well. We all had the customary handshakes and decided on a return to the car for some food and a drink. Whilst at the car, a gentleman was in such a rush to see the Cliff Swallow that he slipped on some wood right at the side of us and fell to the ground with a right crash. I just said, “Man down” he did not see the funny side but we all did! We returned to have seconds of the bird but it was only seen in flight and was spreading itself out over a bigger area. I had time to have a chat to Steve Gantlet (the very top lister in Britain) which was quite informative. Even Lee Evans was in attendance to watch this rare American bird. We had a walk down to the East hide to watch the 5 Berwick’s Swan`s and lots of wildfowl on the reserve.

It was still only 11am when we headed onto Dunwich Heath to try to find the Dartford Warblers that reside there. When the sun came out around 4 birds were seen by the team and a few pictures were taken. With not much more rare bird activity in and around Suffolk / Norfolk we decided to head off home. Our trusty Satnav took us home via Norwich and the A47 and onto everyone’s favourite road the A17. We stopped at The Farm Café near Sutton Bridge and all enjoyed a good meal and had a laugh about our best visits to this café. We dropped the lads of at Fairburn Ings and both got home around 6pm. We all had a new bird and Bob K had something special to celebrate, his 500th species on the UK400 club, well done Bob! Thanks to both drivers Bob and Darren and to everyone, thanks for your company and lots of laugh`s that we always have. Great, memorable day`s birding.

Dave O.



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