Suffolk Coast

Autumn Gold

A 4-day, single-centre, small group birdwatching tour to Suffolk

Our September birdwatching tour to Suffolk is always exciting: the breeding season is over so there are lots of young birds about, while autumn migration is well underway - and often brings surprises! This Suffolk birding tour will also introduce you to some less well-known birding spots - including an exclusive boat trip to the RSPB's Havergate Island - plus of course their flagship reserve at Minsmere. All while enjoying good accommodation and great food at the lovely Westleton Crown - and with Stone-curlews and Dartford Warblers to look for on the heath nearby! Prospect for a little ‘Autumn Gold’ with Limosa - and unlock the secrets of the glorious Suffolk coast.

Tour Dates & Prices

Mon 13th September 2021

Fri 17th September 2021

  • Booking Closed

Tour Cost: 5 Days from £665* from the hotel in Westleton (or Darsham railway station)

Deposit: £150Single Supp: £145*Group Size: 8Leaders:  David Fairhurst
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* * 2020 tour costs shown. Please note costs for our autumn 2021 tour TBA

What's Included?

  • Limosa Tour Leader
  • 3 nights hotel accommodation in Suffolk, staying at the lovely Westleton Crown - close to RSPB Minsmere *1
  • All main meals (from dinner on the evening of Day 1 through to and including a packed lunch on Day 4)
  • Minibus transport
  • Boat trip to Havergate Island
  • All excursions, tour based tips and taxes
  • Limosa checklist of birds
  • Free pick up/drop off at Darsham Station for rail travellers, as described *2

Cost Excludes

Insurance, drinks & other items of a personal nature. Entry fee at Minsmere RSPB reserve (2019, £9pp) - entry is FREE to RSPB members... remember to bring your membership card!

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Notes

*1 Option to stay an extra night at the hotel before or after the break may be available at extra cost for those wishing to extend their stay in Suffolk, or to allow time for a more leisurely journey home after breakfast at the hotel the next morning. Please ask for a quote and availability at time of booking.*2 Tour starts/finishes at the hotel in Westleton or with collection from/drop off at Darsham railway station. Free pick up/drop off at Darsham Station for rail travellers, as described (see Trip Info tab, below)

Tour Highlights

  • Enjoying the best of autumn migration along the string of Suffolk coastal reserves
  • Extensive reedbeds and lagoons holding Bittern, Marsh Harrier, Avocet and Bearded Tit
  • Hobby, Stone-curlew, Woodlark, Stonechat and Dartford Warbler are all still about
  • Exciting passage of southbound waders dropping in on marshes, estuaries and seashore
  • Exclusive boat trip to Havergate Island for Spoonbills, shorebirds - and friendly Brown Hares!
  • Autumn on the Suffolk coast - always a chance of something unexpected!
  • Single-centre, small group tour - maximum of 8 participants
  • Relaxed, friendly and informal, with as much help with bird identification as you need
  • Expertly led by Limosa’s resident Suffolk guide, David Fairhurst

Outline Itinerary

  • We meet for dinner at our village hotel, just inland of the Suffolk coast. Night Westleton Crown

  • Enjoying two full days birdwatching in coastal Suffolk - heathland, reedbeds and, coastal lagoons, plus a boat trip to Havergate Island. Two further nights Westleton Crown

  • After a full morning birdwatching and our picnic lunch today, we return to our hotel at 2.30pm this afternoon for farewells and departure for home

Overview
Itinerary
Trip Info
Trip Reports
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A juvenile Ruff on the Suffolk coast in autumn - richly washed with buff and looking very different to birds in spring © Brian Small, Limosa

What could be more enjoyable than spending a few days in autumn birdwatching along the glorious Suffolk coast? Summer is not long over and the reed beds, coastal bushes and trees are buzzing with birds, many busily feeding up in preparation for the long migration south for the winter. Their numbers are augmented by arrivals of birds from further north, passing through the picturesque coastal marshes and scrub.

It's a season of excitement and great activity: Hobbies and Marsh Harriers hunt over the reeds; Bearded Tits get restless and form parties that rove the reedy ditches; migrant warblers, Whinchats and Wheatears fatten up on insects and take their fill of juicy blackberries; and Swallows and martins gather on wires, readying themselves for imminent departure. September is a time of change and very much one to get out and enjoy the burnt umber days of autumn.

Our September tour is based at the delightful Westleton Crown, a comfortable village inn hotel renowned for its great food and friendly service - all within a ‘stones’ throw’ of many of our favourite birding spots. It's just down the road in fact from Westleton Heath and Minsmere RSPB!

Within just a short drive, a walk along the shore from Dunwich towards the Dingle Marshes should reward us with many waders, wildfowl and other migrants as they head south. On the local heathland, pink with flowering heather, Dartford Warbler and Woodlark numbers will be at their highest now, with plenty of young about - but can still take some finding! Hobbies dash after dragonflies and small birds, skimming the purple-pink ‘lawn’.

On one day, David will take us on an exclusive boat trip, down the River Alde, from Orford across to Havergate Island, owned by the RSPB. Spoonbills and shorebirds gather on the lagoons and the island's Brown Hares may allow close approach. Nestled close to the vast shingle expanse of mysterious Orfordness, there is an old and forgotten feel to the whole area. Osprey, Hobby, Peregrine and Yellow-legged Gull have been among our finds here on past September tours.

To the south, Shingle Street and Hollesley Marsh RSPB can be busy with migrants. The autumnal pools attract passing waders such as Wood and Green Sandpipers, Little Stints and smoky grey juvenile Spotted Redshanks. This is one of the best places to find Turtle Doves in Suffolk – one or two may still be about in September.

Of course, no trip to the Suffolk coast would be complete without a visit to the RSPB's flagship reserve at Minsmere. Established in 1947 for the protection of nesting Avocets, Minsmere is ever-expanding and managed superbly to create an impressive mosaic of habitats. Reedbeds meet stony pasture and mature woodland abuts coastal heath, while bird-rich flooded wetlands and the world-famous ‘scrapes’ - Minsmere's pioneeering manmade shore pools - are alive with so many species it can be hard to know what to look at first!

In autumn, you just never know what surprises may be round the corner... We’ll check favoured spots along the coast for migrants such as Ring Ouzel, Wryneck and perhaps find a rare wader or two. The 'tacking' calls of Blackcaps and Garden Warblers might attract a big, sandy Barred Warbler, whilst noisy groups of seabirds working along the shore regularly include small flocks of Little Gull or Black Terns on passage – and occasionally even the odd Roseate Tern.

Whether you are new to birdwatching or more experienced, guide David Fairhurst will be on hand throughout, to take you to the best spots and ensure you have as much fun as possible whilst seeing lots of great birds and wildlife.

Limosa has operated numerous bird tours to Suffolk over the past 35 years... Join us there in September for a touch of 'Autumn Gold' - and treat yourself to the best of British birding!

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A bright young Willow Warbler in autumn is quite distinct from Chiffchaff © Brian Small, Limosa

Our Suffolk birdwatching tours commence with arrival at the Westleton Crown on the evening of Day 1, where we gather for an informal get-together in the bar around 7.00pm prior to enjoying dinner.

The next two days are spent in the field, with packed lunches and flasks of tea and coffee available on demand. We return to the hotel each evening in time for a delicious dinner, followed by the day’s log call over coffee and the chance to relax and chat informally about the day’s events.

After enjoying a final morning of guided birdwatching and packed lunch in the field on Day 4, the break concludes back at the hotel at around 2.30pm for farewells and departure for home.

Destinations will be chosen from the following outline programme to ensure your visit is both worthwhile and rewarding. We leave the final choice of places to visit to the discretion of the Limosa guide, according to the weather, local conditions and what’s about at the time.

BIRDS & PLACES
The Westleton Crown is the perfect base for our Suffolk birdwatching tour, offering comfortable rooms, great food and being close to heathlands and coast. Indeed, we have lots of wonderful habitats right on our doorstep, with little driving required.

North of nearby Dunwich village are the extensive reedbeds of Dingle and Walberswick. Marsh Harriers and Bitterns are resident and the old windmill in the reeds is one of the best places to get views of moustachioed male Bearded Tits. Water Rails squeal from deep within the marsh and the shingle beach not only hosts numerous Skylarks but is a protected area used by nesting Ringed Plovers and Little Terns - often with young about in September.

Our days will be varied and include a relaxed boat trip from the quay at Orford – overlooked by the iconic castle, built by Henry II in 1165 – across to Havergate Island. Now owned by the RSPB, Havergate is famous for the Avocets that breed there, having returned to the island in 1947 after 100 years of absence. Nowadays, it is also known locally for its Spoonbills, Sandwich Terns and the shorebirds that gather to feed and roost on the secluded lagoons. In autumn, the Havergate can be teeming with waders - from passage Dunlins and spangled juvenile Grey Plovers, to hook-billed Whimbrels and Curlew strutting about the pools. There are hides and Brown Hares on the island, bushes for migrants and the whole area has something of a timeless and forgotten feel.

Nearby is another ‘forgotten’ village - Shingle Street, where Marsh Harriers quarter the fields and the bushes can hold a host of migrants. A walk north to the new reserve at Hollesley Bay is always productive and the 'managed retreat' here can be good for shorebirds, including Wood, Green and Common Sandpipers, Little Stints and perhaps even a rarity – you just never know! Turtle Doves have bred and are worth looking out for in the fields and hedgerows.

Tides and weather conditions on the day will all have a bearing on the number and location of the birds, of course. But in addition to those species mentioned above, we should see Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit and grey-suited Knot; Redshank and Greenshank linger on the pools and the adjacent freshwater scrapes might host Curlew Sandpiper.

Our visit to Minsmere is sure to be busy with birds! From the visitor centre, we head out past the north fields, bushes and bank, watching for the dashing Hobby and listening for the cut glass 'pinging' of parties of Bearded Tits. Scanning the fields we may be lucky to spot a Stone-curlew squatting on the ground. Dragonflies (and sometimes Adders) bask in the warm September sun as we turn south past the old tank blocks, relics from the Second World War, to view the hive of avian activity on East Scrape. Expect to see a host of autumn waders, wildfowl and gulls here, including Shelduck, Shoveler, Wigeon, Ruff, Spotted Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit - plus there’s often a Little Gull or two.

In the relative calm and quiet of the reedbed, our senses may be accosted by one of the many local Cetti's Warbler, 'shouting at us' from a watery thicket. Looking remarkably owl-like, a Bittern might be seen bounding across the reeds in search of a new feeding area, and juvenile Cuckoos can often sit quietly feasting on black and orange Cinnabar Moth caterpillars.

As with all our Suffolk breaks, we may vary the above itinerary to take best advantage of the weather and other local conditions, as well as what birds happen to be about at the time of your visit. And while our guide can't promise to find you a rarity on every trip, one thing’s for certain - whenever you come and whatever we choose to do, in coastal Suffolk there's always plenty to see!

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A perky Pied Flycatcher - migrants like this are the stuff of autumn birding © Brian Small, Limosa

WHAT TO EXPECT
Prospect for a little ‘Autumn Gold’ with Limosa - and unlock the secrets of the Suffolk coast. September birding is always exciting here: the breeding season is over and there are lots of youngsters about, while migration for many species is well underway - and regularly brings surprises! We'll visit some less well-known birding spots - including an exclusive boat trip to Havergate Island - plus of course the RSPB’s flagship reserve at Minsmere. All while enjoying good accommodation and great food at the lovely Westleton Crown - and with Stone-curlews and Dartford Warblers to look for on the heath nearby!

Led by Limosa’s friendly expert guides, our UK holidays are suitable for birdwatchers of all levels of ability, interest and experience. Just bring your bins and enthusiasm for birds - and we’ll do the rest! Our helpful guides are on hand to help you improve your identification and bird call skills.

The UK's climate is famous for its unpredictability, but extremes are rare. Expect a mix of sunshine and showers along the Suffolk coast in autumn, with September temperatures in the range of 10-19C (50-66F). It can sometimes feel cooler if there’s an onshore wind blowing at the coast.

Suffolk is one of the driest parts of the UK, but some rainfall is of course possible at any season so come prepared with rainwear and lightweight layers of clothing, just in case!

BIRDS
90-130 species

ACCOMMODATION
3 nights accommodation in a ‘Good’ (standard) room at the lovely Westleton Crown, a comfortable village inn close to the Suffolk Sandlings heaths and RSPB Minsmere - and perfectly situated for easy exploration of the glorious Suffolk coast. We’ve been coming here with groups since 1990. All rooms are en suite.

Room Upgrades
Please ask for a quote if you would be interested in upgrading from a ‘Good room’ to a ‘Better’ or ‘Best’ room at the hotel. Subject to availability at time of booking.

MEALS
All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with dinner on arrival at the hotel on the evening of Day 1 and concluding with a packed lunch on Day 4.

Breakfasts and dinners will be taken at the hotel. The hotel's restaurant has a long standing reputation for excellence. Lunches will usually be picnics but may sometimes be taken at a convenient local cafe or inn.

WALKING
Easy. Short walks (typically 1-3 miles) at a gentle pace over good trails and mostly flat terrain. Sturdy waterproof walking shoes or boots recommended. Wellies will be useful in wet weather and can be handy first thing when the grass is damp with dew.

TRAVEL
Daily excursions will be by minibus.

BOAT TRIP
Our September tour includes a boat trip from Orford Quay to Havergate Island, along the sheltered estuary of the River Alde. We travel by open boat with seating for all and the trip takes approx.15-20 mins each way.


HOW TO GET THERE

Participants arriving in Suffolk by car will be sent a map and joining instructions for the hotel. We meet for an informal get-together in the hotel bar at 7.00pm on the first evening.

For those without their own transport, we pick up at Darsham railway station (on the Ipswich to Lowestoft line) at approx. 5.30pm on the first afternoon. We are able to drop off there again by about 3.30pm on the last afternoon (currently, the next train departs to Ipswich at around 3.50pm).

There is NO extra cost for pick-up and drop-off at Darsham Station as outlined above.

Please note: if you intend to travel by rail and wish to spend an extra night or two at the hotel before or after the tour, we are unable to offer return transport to/from the station. Instead, it will be necessary for you to arrange a taxi from Darsham Station to Westleton or vice versa (a distance of approx 3 miles/10 mins by taxi).

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A richly coloured autumnal Northern Wheatear along the Suffolk coast © Brian Small, Limosa

Tour Gallery

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