12th March 2014
The original intention was to go to West Stow Country Park to photograph the Crossbills coming down to drink from a small puddle in the car park. I pulled into the car park and drove round the various islands looking for the row of photographers but the whole place was deserted. Then, following a description of the site and the puddle in question I did indeed find the only small depression in the whole car park which, unfortunately, was completely dry. So that would explain why there were no Crossbills and no photographers. So what to do now?
There were four choices, Lakenheath, Thetford for the Otters, Lynford Arboretum or Lackford Lakes. Lackford Lakes seemed to be the best bet as, not only was it just a couple of miles down the road, but it is 20+ years since I had been there. In those days, the gravel extraction had only just finished so the site was still fairly bare and the only "presence" on site was a couple of volunteers manning the ringing hut. Mark and I had gone there on two occasions, one to see a Caspian Tern and the second time to see a Night Heron, so what was it like now?
The massive site is now run by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and is superbly managed, with miles of well-maintained paths leading to a number of hides. Today was a bit quiet due to the time of the year with most of the wintering birds already departed and the spring migrants not yet arrived. But it was a gloriously warm day with lots of sunshine so just pleasant to be out.
The first sign of spring was a Sallow in full blossom which was attracting a number of honey bees as well as a dozen or so butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone. Unfortunately, Brimstones are one of those butterflies that always fold their wings when they alight so the only way to appreciate their full beauty is when they are in flight.
The warmth of the sun had brought many of the residents into full song including this very confiding Dunnock. Many birds are much easier to photograph when they are singing as they are more interested in staking out their territory and listening to the response rather than worrying about you.
Time for lunch in one of the hides and the spring theme continued. Black-headed Gulls were already staking their claims on the small gravel islands and were already into their courtship displays like this female begging for food.
The drake ducks were all looking resplendent in their smart breeding attire particularly this magnificent Shelduck, my favourite duck. Although their new plumage is now complete it is still necessary to devote several hours each day to keeping all the feathers in pristine condition and in place.
But today the real herald of Spring was this singing Chiffchaff, although on the 12th March it is impossible to say whether it is an early arrival or one of the ever-increasing wintering birds. I will definitely be coming back here.