Top 10 birding sites in Suffolk

From Guest Blogger Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours – South Africa, USA (Ohio) and UK (Norfolk)

Suffolk’s beautiful coastline boasts many excellent bird reserves. Combining coastal birding with visits to some of the county’s famous inland reserves such as Lakenheath Fen and Cavenham Heath should generate an impressive bird list including some rare species, given a few days.

RSPB Minsmere is one of the UK’s best reserves for birds. It gives easy access to scrapes, extensive reedbeds, the sea, heathland and extensive woodland. Dartford Warbler Curruca undata is one of the many specials here, although there are larger numbers of this species on adjacent heathland reserves mentioned below. A great many waterbirds including Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris, egrets and herons which sometimes include Purple Heron Ardea purpurea, abound. Many gulls and terns move between the sea and the scrapes in summer, sometimes with rare species for East Anglia like Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii.

The nearby Westleton Heath NNR is one of the best places for Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, Dartford Warbler Curruca undata, European Nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus at dusk and Woodlark Lululla arborea.

The National Trust Dunwich Heath reserve boasts similar birds to Westleton, along with rafts of Common Scoter Melanitta nigra and smaller numbers of Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca from the clifftop in winter.

Further south is the Upper Hollesley Common which has breeding Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus along with the heathland species mentioned abiove for the other reserves.

It’s great combining a visit here with sister reserves RSPB Hollesley Marshes and RSPB Boyton Marshes; the scrapes and estuary habitat of these sites attract many waders, waterbirds and reed-associated birds including a lot of rarities such as Black-winged Stilt Himantopis himantopis.

Landguard Point near the Essex boundary with its bird observatory is a famous place for migrants, often attracting rarities.

Nearby is Suffolk Wildlife Trust Trimley Marshes Nature Reserve which is great for water and reed associated birds.

There are many other excellent coastal nature reserves in Suffolk, but I now have to move inland so as not to exceed mentioning ten sites, not easy in this bird-rich country! RSPB Lakenheath Fen is one of Britain’s most reliable sites for Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris, Common Crane Grus grus, Bearded Reedling Panurus biarmicus, large numbers of Eurasian Hobby Falco Subbuteo and many others. This reserve is also famous for previously holding nesting Eurasian Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus but unfortunately no longer (although occasional migrants still pass through).

Cavenham Heath National Nature Reserve is one of the best places for seeing Eurasian Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus, as well as other heathland species mentioned earlier for the reserves close to Minsmere.

The nearby Suffolk Wildlife Trust Lackford Lakes is a delightful place to spend a half day birding. As usual, many birds are on the menu, including Water Rail Rallus aquaticus, Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis and many woodland and water associated birds.

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