Saturday, 14 April 2018

American Bittern: Carlton Marshes, Suffolk

Last Sunday we were searching for newly arrived migrants and dodging the rain showers in Kent when news broke of the continued presence of the American Bittern at Carlton Marshes. Unfortunately, we were further from the site then, than we would have been if we were at home. Today we had the opportunity to visit the site and give ourselves the chance of seeing this rare visitor from across the pond.

Arriving shortly after 7am we took the footpath opposite the main car park. As we approached the first stile and gate we heard the distinctive "reeling" of a Grasshopper Warbler. After a walk of maybe 3/4 mile, we found the birders already present strung out along the footpath trying to grab a decent vantage point. Scanning the surrounding area I managed to find a male Ring Ouzel perched at the top of a small Elder. During the next four hours, there was no sign of the target bird. Marsh harriers were very active collecting nest material and several birds were seen in the air at the same time. 

Two Cranes flew overhead and a Wheatear dropped in. Another year tick came in the form of a Whimbrel, that dropped onto the flooded field right in front of us. 

Then the American Bittern appeared low over the reeds, Approaching the edge of the reeds it dropped down right in front of us but disappeared into the reeds and was lost to view. All was quiet for another two hours and then a phone call from a birder further down the track saying he had the Bittern, saw the whole crowd move as one to join him. Directions were a bit sketchy but eventually, I  managed to get some nice views as it popped up from within the reeds, before it again disappeared from view.

American Bittern

All that was left to do was to add a donation to the collection bucket and head back along the footpath towards the car park. Bagging another year tick when a Willow warbler began singing from the nearby trees.

A short stop off at Cavenham Heath before heading for home added another couple of year ticks At least three Stone Curlew were found and then two showy Woodlarks dropped in right by the roadside.

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