County of wide skies, windmills and huge oak trees.
Long shadows, full stomachs and an evening stroll to disturb a barn owl — flying, ghostly white on silent wings, low across the field. You can’t photograph ghosts and anyway he caught us by surprise!
We’d gone out to find this little owl that Bill had seen before — we scoured all its usual roosts but it was nowhere to be seen this year.
Neither could we photograph the bittern that occasionally flew up out of the reed bed at Minsmere to have a go at the low flying marsh harrier in a spectacular display of territorial aggression. Its great thick, flexible brown and yellow flecked neck bending back to stab at the flapping bird of prey. Here is the harrier recovering from the shock.
He is not holding up a grade for artistic merit (which was an A) but sitting on a marsh label so that other watchers in the hide can say ‘BITTERN — flying left to right above D’ and I can still miss it. Here is something else I had difficulty in seeing clearly although he was definitely there, flitting about in the reeds: bearded reedling… not a tit!
Wild horses would not drag Bill from the reserve but the promise of a glossy ibis was too much and we ventured out towards the dome of Sizewell B on yet another wild-ibis-hunt but we did see this fine wild polish konik stallion who looked as if he belonged on an ancient cave painting — look at the thickness of its neck. Not really wild but hardy and not picky when they graze and they don’t mind having wet feet — they were purchased to graze this marshland reserve and tick another conservation box.
On to Dunwich Heath for an ice cream and despite the high wind a wonderful view of a Dartford warbler, which came up and looked at us with its head on one side
Above is a female Dartford warbler photographed in Spain — they are very difficult to catch with a camera, rare and fast and well camouflaged — the male we saw was much more purple — the colour of dry heather, with a grey head like this one, brilliant red eyes and the same bemused expression.
And now — the serious business: