Droning at Dunwich

Today I had been asked to take some drone footage at Dunwich beach in Suffolk, and so Brenda and I decided to make a day of it and visit one of the most well-known RSPB reserves in the UK, Minsmere, which is just down the road from where I was filming. We used to visit Minsmere regularly when we lived in north London, but have hardly been there in recent years.

The filming went well and we got to Minsmere just before 1pm. The wooded areas were full of fungi, in particular common earthballs.

common earthball fungus

We visited the Bittern Hide, but didn’t see a bittern! There were marsh harriers however and we heard bearded tits and Cetti’s warblers. Cormorants were drying their wings on sone posts in the water.

A typical cormorant pose

Following the main path on from this hide we came to a more open area in the woodland and I immediately remembered that this was where – the last time we visited in 2019 – there had been large numbers of dragonflies and we had seen a hobby. Just as I was about to sat this to Brenda, she turned to me and said; “This is the place with all the dragonflies where we saw a hobby.”! And – as if on cue – a hobby chose that moment to soar overhead. Magnificent birds! there were two around and we saw one catch and eat a dragonfly on the wing.

hobby (above and below)

On the way back to the visitor centre for a spot of late lunch we were lucky enough to see a water vole in the pond.

water vole

After lunch we headed out toward the beach area where there were several stonechats on the gorse bushes.

male stonechat
juvenile stonechat
juvenile stonechat

There were also a couple of immature kestrels flying around, and I was pleased to get some nice photos of one of them.

juvenile kestrel
juvenile kestrel

There were a good selection of waders on the main scrape, including – too distant to photograph – three or four bar-tailed godwits. I also caught a very brief glimpse of a bittern in flight over the reedbed. An excellent day!

Brenda writes: “As we were driving over to the Suffolk coast today Steve commented that it would be nice if I could get to 300 flower species by the end of the year. I know there are lots I haven’t logged, either because I just haven’t seen them in their flowering period, haven’t done a positive identification for things I see along the road, or couldn’t summon up the energy to identify those pesky yellow daisy family species! For a while I have been seeing what I thought was musk mallow and today, while waiting at traffic lights, I got a good look at some by the roadside – a definite identification at last.

I picked off two of those today. On Dunwich beach there was lots of rough hawkbit, and then I realised there was also lesser hawkbit, giving me an opportunity to compare both the size and the difference in leaf shape.

rough hawkbit
lesser hawkbit

It was also nice to see rest-harrow with its delicate keeled pink flowers as well as clumps of sea campion.


At Minsmere there was more success as I found a clump of carline thistle showing the species in flower and also gone to seed.

carline thistle (flowers on the right have gone to seed)

On the shingle at the beach end of the reserve was dwarf gorse. It is lower growing than gorse with smaller and paler flowers with the wings as long as the keel.

dwarf gorse

The highlight of our visit for me was watching the hobby hunting and dragonflies basking in the sun on the park benches. I’m not very good at butterflies but identified three today – red admiral, speckled wood and comma.”

New species for September 28th:
Flowers: rough hawkbit, lesser hawkbit, carline thistle, rest-harrow, dwarf gorse, musk mallow

Birds = 220
Moths = 239
Wildflowers = 286