Battle of Bittern

You’ll probably be pleased to know that this entry marks the final part of my East Anglia trip travelogue.  If you’ve been following proceedings closely, you will be well aware that this little getaway has involved me hurling abuse at Mother Nature for making my pants wet (no, not in that way… Unless your first thought was because she made it monsoon on me, then, yes, in that way), voyeuristically watched Ospreys ‘doing it’ birdy-style and unexpectedly witnessed a Red-Rumped Parrot holidaying in drizzly Lowestoft.

 

Just when you thought that my trip couldn’t get more exciting, this happened…

RSPB Minsmere is a fantastic nature reserve that is situated on the Suffolk coast and it just so happened that this year’s BBC Springwatch coincided with my visit.  This would provide a great opportunity to see some excellent wildlife whilst mingling with Chris Packham and Co, after having to park miles away because of a TV-related up swell in visitors to the reserve.

Minsmere is a great place to see Bitterns – a scarce wading bird of the Heron family that spend their days skulking around in the midst of the reedbeds in which they live.  They don’t often show themselves, so any sighting is a treat.  For some reason, they were incredibly showy during my visit – popping up here, there and everywhere (except, maybe the café).

Bittern

Bittern

Bittern

Bittern

When they say male Bitterns 'Boom' when advertising for a partner, I don't think this is what they mean...

When they say male Bitterns ‘Boom’ when advertising for a partner, I don’t think this is what they mean…

From deep within a bush I could hear a Cetti’sWarbler…  If you asked me to explain what a Cetti’s Warbler sounds like, I couldn’t, but when I hear one, I instantly know that’s what it is.  Distinctively loud and warbly would be my best offer.

This particular type of warbler is usually heard but not often seen – I guess you could say the exact opposite of a stereotypical Victorian child.

Unusually however, a juvenile version of a warbler popped out of the dense thicket and sat in full view for a good twenty seconds or so.  Surprisingly it stayed there long enough for me to get my camera in front of my face… forget how to switch it on… then remember… then forget to take the lens cap off… then remember… then panic when I point it in the wrong place… then press the shutter button when the bird is looking the wrong way… then swear internally for being a rubbish photographer… then get one semi-reasonable photo… before it disappeared into the shrubbery again.

Mystery juvenile warbler...  If only I had an expert to turn to for identification advice.

Mystery juvenile warbler… If only I had an expert to turn to for identification advice.

The problem with juvenile birds is that they often look very similar.  What you think is one species, could, in fact, just as easily be another species.  From the warbly sounds that were a precursor to the bird’s brief audience with me, my first guess was that it was a junior Cetti’s Warbler.  Looking at the picture I had taken, however, I just couldn’t tell – As you’ve probably worked out from reading any of my previous entries, I’m still a bit of an identification novice.

As I squinted at the photo on the camera display screen – trying to pick out some key features of the bird (maybe a sewn-in label on the underside telling me the name of the bird) – a man approached from the path to my left.  At first glance, he had the look of someone who knew lots about ornithology – a splendid beard, an expensive pair of binoculars, khaki-coloured clothing and a well-worn backpack*.  He cheerfully asked me what I was looking at, and I showed him the photo.  He agreed with me that it was a warbler, but thought it might be a juvenile Reed Warbler rather than a Cetti’s.  He suggested that the supercilium (stripe above the eye) on the pictured bird was more likely to be indicative of the Reed Warbler.  At that moment, the only thing running through my head was wondering if the plural of supercilium would be superciliums or supercilia.  We chatted for a bit and he went on his way.  What a nice chap.

I was then asked if I recognised who I’d been talking to.  Evidently, I had been obliviously chatting to TV’s Nick Baker – I had been mingling with one of the cast of Springwatch without even realising it**.

* Maybe I’m better at identifying people than birds.
** Maybe I’m not!

TV's Nick Baker trying to distance himself from his new BFF - Me! - and ridiculous questions about supercilia-thingummybobs

TV’s Nick Baker trying to distance himself from his new BFF – Me! – and ridiculous questions about supercilia-thingummybobs…

I know Nick Baker’s an expert, but I’ve pored over the photo for a while now and I am pretty sure it’s a juvenile Cetti’s Warbler… What do you all reckon my chances of being right are?

Star of Springwatch, Audrey the Avocet, before Bodger the Badger came and ate her potential offspring

Star of Springwatch, Audrey the Avocet, before Bodger the Badger came and ate her potential offspring…

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

Clockwise from top left: Sand Martins, Barnacle Goose, Greenshank and Little Ringed Plover

Clockwise from top left: Sand Martins, Barnacle Goose, Greenshank and Little Ringed Plover

Four-Spotted Chaser Dragonfly

Four-Spotted Chaser Dragonfly

In other news

What an interesting array of cold drinks - If only this year was my year of food firsts!

What an interesting array of cold drinks – If only this year was my year of food firsts!

I took a boat around Blakeney Point to see some seals and attempt the impossible task of trying to identify one of the four or so Arctic Terns that were apparently residing in the area amongst the thousands of other Terns that also called the place home.

I hadn’t yet seen an Arctic Tern this year, so I figured it was worth a try…  It wasn’t!

The near-impossible task of differentiating Arctic from Common Terns whilst they whizzed around at breakneck speed wasn’t helped by the boat inconsiderately, but unsurprisingly, bobbing up and down in the waves.  The seals where also a bit of a distraction too.

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Common Seal

Common Seal

And there we have it, the conclusion of my whistle-stop tour of East Anglia (and an even-shorter-than-whistle-stop visit to Rutland on the way) that has seen a whopping NINETEEN new bird species added to the year list… I am now almost knocking on the door of the initial goal of ONE-HUNDRED and FIFTY, which is a pleasant surprise after a recent slow-down in sightings.

To see the list of what I’ve seen in 2014, check out the Bird Board.  I’ve also updated my photographic guide to the butterflies I’ve seen so far this year (I’m up to TWENTY-NINE)…  To see this, check out the Butterfly Board.

As always, thanks for reading and if you have any thoughts, comments, want to share any of your nature sightings or have a stab at identifying the mysterious warbler, feel free to type something in the comments box below…

 

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About mixaeljones

Hello! I try to undertake a yearly challenge and write about it in a semi-witty manner. I often use twenty words when three will do. I am also a big fan of terrible puns and taking unintentionally blurry photographs of wildlife. In 2013 I tried to eat a food I hadn't eaten before each week (I got to 28!), in 2014 I attempted to seek out as many species of bird as I could in the year (I got to 201!) and in 2015 I delved head first into the world of butterflies and tried to see as many different types as possible (44!)... I've also done some belly dancing, been Father Christmas and nearly played tennis against Bjorn Borg. If any of this seems like it might be of interest, feel free to check out my blogs... Comments encouraged! Have a nice day :)
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