Last weekend I was privileged to go on the BTO Bird Camp which is funded by the Cameron Bespolka Trust. This is a weekend that is aimed at helping young birdwatchers to learn new skills and to get to know others with similar interests.
Friday 24th May
After a somewhat slow journey due to the bank holiday traffic we arrived at BTO HQ in Thetford, Norfolk a bit later than expected. There, we were introduced to the staff and volunteers who were to inspire and look after us for the Bird Camp 2019.
Then we settled down in our comfortable tents – but many of us didn’t manage to get much sleep!
Saturday 25th May
On Saturday morning we started the day at 5 am by exploring the BTO grounds and some of us started species lists. Soon after we had breakfast and checked the moth trap. This was a great activity because I was already a keen lepidopterist. The trap produced a few interesting species, including small elephant hawkmoth, lime hawkmoth, figure of eighty and tawny barred angle.
The group then went to RSPB Lakenheath for the mornings birding. The reserve is huge and covers many different habitats including wetland, heath and vast reed beds. The first good sighting was not of a bird but a scarce chaser dragonfly.
Scarce chaser (libellula fulva)
The walk then continued and we saw sedge warbler, redshank and multiple marsh harriers soaring over the golden reeds. A host of warbler song from whitethroat, garden, reed and sedge erupted from most shrubs and small trees. The path led our group through a section of magnificent poplars and past the edge of the wetland. Along this stretch of path, hobbies drifted over the treetops and a cuckoo took up temporary residence high in the branches of a nearby tree.
As well as the huge variation of bird species, the sight also offered many species of insect. Variable damselfly, swollen thighed beetle, hairy dragonfly and many more scarce chasers were taking advantage of the sun.
When we finally reached the hide, instantly the outline of a bittern became visible in the dense foliage. The elusive bittern slowly walked to the lake edge, where it was only partially obstructed by reed stems. This was a great sighting due to the species shy nature and most of our group got good views and photos.
Bittern (botaurus stellaris)
On the way back to the visitor centre some of us were privileged to hear the amazing call of cranes although we didn’t manage to see them. At the centre we ate lunch and listened to a talk about how the reserve was managed to attract these rare species.
On our way back to camp, the group stopped at a nearby reserve Weeting Heath. After quietly making our way down to the hide I was watching an amazing stone curlew in the field. Although it was a long way off you could still manage to see the huge golden eye and prominent white wing bar. A great end to the first half of the weekend.