Waveney Bird Club Outing to Orford Ness
Sunday 14 June 2009
Leader – Steve Piotrowski
Upon meeting at Orford Quay at 8.30am, we were greeted by fine dry weather with slight north-easterly breeze. After making the short boat crossing over the River Ore, we began our walk and the first birds noted were Swallow, a pair of Mute Swans with cygnets, House Sparrow (a good record on the reserve) and Sparrowhawk. Someone found a strikingly-coloured moth, which upon a quick call to Mike Marsh, confirmed it as a Cream-spot Tiger – a scarce moth but a speciality of the reserve.
Continuing onwards, several Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were displaying and this was a welcome and regular feature throughout the day. We passed through what would have been a flooded meadow with large pools, but a recent lack of rain meant that they were completely dried out. However, they still supported several pairs of Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Redshank. Small flocks of juvenile Starlings wheeled around over the meadow and a Reed Bunting sang from a fence post. As we moved over the area known as the village, breeding Whitethroats and Linnets became prominent and a lone Greenfinch was another good bird for the reserve at this time of year.
We stopped for our first break at the MOD site and were treated to a fascinating guided tour and brief lecture about it’s role since the First World War, by Orford Ness reserve warden David Cormack.
Afterwards, we met National Trust volunteers who showed us the moths trapped during the previous night. These included White Ermine, Plume Moth, Drinker, another Cream Spot Tiger and the star attraction here a smart looking Lime Hawk Moth. Three colourful Mullein Moth caterpillars found feeding on nearby Mullein plants were an added bonus.
A number of birds had been mist-netted and we saw Linnet, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and Chiffchaff in the hand, before being ringed. The latter does not breed on the reserve, so presumably was a non-breeding wanderer. It was here that we saw the rarest butterfly of the day, a Green Hairstreak. Other butterflies seen were Small Heath, Red Admiral, Common Blue, and several Painted Ladies.
We crossed the main channel and set foot on Orford Ness itself, a massive shingle spit and noted four Sand Martins flying through and a pair of breeding Wheatear.
We reached the lighthouse, which signified time for lunch and whilst sitting there obtained our target mammal for the day a Harbour Porpoise also having its lunch, feeding close offshore. Around 14 Sandwich Terns flew past south here.
After lunch we continued in the afternoon and onto the wettest part of the reserve, where small pools held three young Redshank, a Shelduck with her ducklings and a good count of 33 Avocets. Upon reaching the radio masts and an area of dense bushes, there was no mid-afternoon lull for us. In quick succession we saw calling Cuckoo, Little Owl, Stonechats with their young, Kestrels and a Common Buzzard perched on one of the masts.
It was now time to start heading back to the Quay and legs were getting tired, but birds still kept coming to entertain us. We had another Little Owl, Barn Owl and a female Marsh Harrier gliding gracefully over the meadow.
Even though June is often regarded as one of the quieter months of the year, it was not so for us. A good range of wildlife was seen in what is a relatively small area. I think all agreed that it was a pleasure to visit one of the harder to access and more remote parts of the Suffolk coast.
“Many thanks” to Steve for leading a great walk and to Dave Cormack, Mike Marsh, Gill Stannard and Dave Crawshaw for showing us so many interesting features of this wonderful reserve.
Written by Stephen Howell