Saturday, November 30, 2013

Away days!

Birding is often about being in the right place at the right time as so it appeared to be last weekend while visiting my dear old mum in Liverpool. On the Saturday morning a bird-guides update appeared "2nd winter Ring-billed Gull - Asda supermarket - Walton", a cracking piece of luck, only five minutes away from mums house, job done! A picture of said bird can be found HERE on Austin's Birding Blog.

Moving on to last week and with my back problems returning to haunt me I decided to give Brandon Marsh works party a miss on Thursday, opting instead for joining the team a little late in the day, when all the hard work had been done!! As a sub-note I'm happy to report that the work on Carlton Pool is complete for now and the new path through to the screen area (soon to be hide) is also open to the public.

Carlton Pool - Sluices open and water slowly returning!
However, my plans changed when a phone call from Richard Mays had me travelling over to Kings Newnham, a locally well know spot for wintering Swans and only a few miles from Brandon. A number of Whooper Swans and White-fronted Geese had been reported by Colin Potter and Richard had been good enough to pass the information on. On arrival along Kings Newnham road at least a hundred or so Mute Swans were present, plus a large number of Wigeon and Canada Geese. Unfortunately, after an hour or so trawling the surrounding fields I never managed to locate any of the reported birds!!

Friday was a different story all together, as once again I had the use of the Wildlife Trusts minibus and so with fourteen of the Brandon team, we headed off for the Ouse Washes. Excellent views of Red Kite on route along the A605 with four in total. A stop at a lay-by in search of Common Cranes around the Guyhirn area produced a very light phase Common Buzzard and an array of Mute Swans, along with both Bewick Swans and Whooper Swans in the same field. We finally connected with an amazing thirteen Common Cranes in a second lay-by near the 'Chill Out Cafe', an area I'd seen them a few weeks prior.

Whooper Swans - Personal library image
The late morning, lunch and early afternoon was spent in the heart of the fens at RSPB Ouse Washes, enjoying the many hides which overlook the flooded pasture. As you would imagine at this time of the year the place was awash with wildfowl. During an enjoyable few hours the team managed the usual wintering ducks, which included of note: Goldeneye, Pintail, Shoveler, Pochard, Teal, Tufted, Gadwall and stunning numbers of Wigeon. Waders were represented by Redshank, Ruff, Dunlin, Snipe and large flocks of Lapwing and Golden Plover were constantly on the wing. More Whooper Swans and Bewick Swans were also noted and other additions included a couple of ♀Marsh Harrier, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, plus Meadow Pipit, Little Grebe and Water Rail, the later heard but not seen.

With the day closing in our final stop was Wicken Fen, National Trust Reserve, the very first nature reserve to be owned by the National Trust and has been in their care since 1899. It remains one of the most important wetlands in Europe and a great place to watch harriers coming in to roost. I have to say, we were not disappointed!! A fly-by Kingfisher along one of the ditches before we eventually arrived at the tower hide for our vigil.

Wicken Fen - Library Image 
As dusk approached at least a half dozen ♀Marsh Harrier came in over the reedbed and a huge flock of Jackdaw were seen and heard clucking away in the distance, a lone Cetti's Warbler briefly called within the reeds. At least two dozen Cormorant had claimed a high lookout point, plus a trio of Fieldfare perched close to our vantage point, a solitary Mistle Thrush over. It seemed to me that we'd all gathered to witness the highlight of the day, which were undoubtedly the trio of Hen Harriers, a female and two stunning males, which entertained us until the light had almost gone. A stunning end to another excellent away-day and a very bright Venus off to the west in the now cloudless skies, Wow!!