8 October 2006

The real Autumn Watch

Back to where it all began - Minsmere, the bird reserve in Suffolk where I did my first 'proper' birdwatching.

J and I have just returned from a lovely two-day break with plenty of good birding. Perfect weather, a nice pub in which to hunker down on Saturday night, and some good birds - 63 species in all including (and here I select a few favourites at random) Spotted Redshanks (right), Barnacle Geese, Stonechats (below left), Bearded Tits, Marsh Harriers (below right), a couple of Ruff and a nice selection of woodland birds (Marsh and Willow Tits, Goldcrest, Treecreepers, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, and two separate Sparrowhawk encounters).

But a real high point was following the advice of Bill Oddie, Kate Humble and particularly Simon King on BBC's Autumn Watch and getting out to see the rutting Red Deer. First thing on Sunday morning we set off into the woods, following the (somewhat scary) bellows of the rutting stags and trying to catch a glimpse. Eventually after much creeping and waiting we were rewarded with a glimpse, albeit brief, of three deer - a stag, a doe and a youngster.

Ironically it was as we returned to our car, chatting away without a care in the world, that a fine stag walked out virtually in front of us, giving us the best views of the morning. Proving yet again that there's nothing more unpredictable than wildlife.

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