Wednesday, 30 April 2014
Dunc rang me this morning with the news that a wood warbler was singing in a tree along Deacon's Lane, next to the Paradise sports ground. It was easy to locate where the bird was when i arrived ten minutes later, as with yesterday's lesser whitethroat, it's rattling song could be heard from the dense canopy. After a few minutes of wondering how I was going to get a view of this misplaced songster, lost as it was amongst the verdant growth, the bird suddenly flew to a young tree just coming into leaf. the warbler's greenish-yellow throat mirrored the new leaf shoots, giving the impression that part of the tree had become animate in order to rid itself of the myriad of tiny insects that must fill every crack and crevice. It poked at every bud and became so possessive of its tree that when a goldfinch landed nearby, it sprang forth and chased the finch off in a flurry of green and gold.
Tuesday, 29 April 2014
With mamma away and a bag full of beans needing to release some pent up energy I decided to take a walk along the Ouse Washes. My intention was to see if I could identify the cattle egret and just enjoy being outside. It had rained and there were plenty of puddles (muddy ones!). Of course we were wearing appropriate footwear for splashing in puddles, NOT. It did encourage walking though and not carrying, splash after splash after splash.
We walked down to the most likely hide to see the cattle egret (there were detailed maps on the visitors hut telling us which). Mission accomplished: one tired little cookie. as for the egret, I'm not convinced, you?
I met Mark Welch on the train one morning and he told me how he, Andrew Balmford and a few others cleaned the tern rafts, eventually ;-) So hey presto, my next walk through the Wild Space and there they were. Two common terns dipping into the water and making a right old racket!
A little late, but better late than never...
Having been told there was a male marsh harrier carrying nesting material in Ely Wild Space I decided that I would go and have a look. I combined this with a lovely walk with my 2 year old and wife. We arrived and on cue the male was wheeling around with something obviously in his talons. He promptly landed in the middle of the reed bed, popping up a few minute late, circled around again and landed in a tree!
I ran off a few shots and then just watched the two until he flew off and she landed on "the nest site". A great time with some magnificent birds. I went home and had a look at the photos. Were they mating or not? It looks from the photos that he was bringing her food and passing it to her. You can see here she is now carrying something.
Monday, 28 April 2014
Moving on to the moody Adventurers' Fen we got a Grey Heron, a male Marsh Harrier, some Avocet and a number of Canada and Greylag Geese. Further on there were Coal Tits, Long Tailed Tits and Goldfinch.
Once out of the fen and into the hedgerows between Wicken and Soham we saw loads of skylarks, seven or eight of them, and got a good view of a Willow Warbler. The hedgerows were full of singing Robins and at least one Wood Warbler. The kids weren't especially impressed with the Marsh Harrier, which surprised me, but were really taken with a low altitude flyover of Greylags. They were also quite into the skylarks. Trying to get them interested in a Wood Warbler they couldn't see was a lost cause. I don't know, kids these days...
Friday, 25 April 2014
Monday, 21 April 2014
Further down at Welney a couple of Great White Egrets have been in residence but were not visible in the brief time I had in the hide. From the café, where I did have a much longer time to watch birds coming and going on Lady Fen, a lone Whimbrel, Little Ringed Plover and a very smart White Wagtail were the highlights.
After a short walk up river we were able to watch the increasing numbers of Martins and Swallows at a closer range. A short while later the Red-rumped Swallow was located at mid-distance hawking over the southern end of the Washes. Although it was tempting to stay and hope for closer views eight days of solid birding had preceded and home truly beckoned. Shortly after leaving Upware a second Red-rumped Swallow was found - amazebobs.
Other birds around the E10 over the week have included CattleEgret, Glossy Ibis, Spotted Crake, Green-winged Teal and the Baikal Teal on the Ouse Washes and a couple of Ring Ouzels around too. With a month more of migration to come it looks like this spring has every chance of providing lots more opportunities to experience some exciting birds and birding.
Thursday, 10 April 2014
I had a lovely quiet couple of hours at the washes this afternoon. Most of the big flocks have gone, including the Godwits I was hoping to catch. As it was, I got one on it's own, in beautiful red breeding plumage. Don't know who it's going to breed with.
More successful, romantically speaking, were the displaying Great Crested Grebes and the Ruffs, one of which was puffing itself up with some enthusiasm to protect its Reeves from skinnier onlookers.
There were plenty of Redshank looking especially red-shanked, Avocet and Oyster Catchers, as well as upwards of twenty Little Egret. The couple of Grey Heron looked a bit lost and bemused amongst them. The Spoonbill wasn't obvious, but there were a lot of white, heron-ish birds out there, beyond the range of the scope (at least beyond the range of my scope).
Duck-wise, there were hundreds of Wigeon and Gadwall, many Pochard and Teal, quite a lot of Shoveler, Mallard and Tufted and just one rogue female Ruddy Duck, an increasingly rare survivor of the eradication programme.
The recently spotted Baikal Teal and Pectoral Sandpiper were lying low.
I digi-scoped a shot of an Avocet but it's so rubbish it could pass for a Tamworth Pig, so I'm not going to post it.
Wednesday, 9 April 2014
The Washes have drained and drained over the week. On Sunday 5th April a dawn raid at Sutton Gault and up to Chain Corner did not reveal the hoped for Baikal Teal. This bird has, to it's credit, started to move north-east from Fen Drayton. I'm not sure whether a shift of less than 10 miles constitutes a migrational trend though?
Garganey were not so much evident as hard worked for and Ben and I found 3 in an hour or so search. When we got up to Four Balls Farm to look for the Ring-necked Duck near enough the first bird seen was an adult (or near as damn it) Spoonbill, that flew south and alighted for a short spell, allowing a blurry record shot at 1/4 mile. Later we saw it flying up the Wash towards the RSPB reserve from Pymoor. There were also single Sand and House Martin moving west.
Today an afternoons safari took in some great skydancing Harriers near Ely, wild swans on the Washes, an American vagrant, a cage jumper, a declining breeder and some up for it colonists.
Monday, 7 April 2014
So we put wellies and raincoats on and go to Kingfisher Bridge. They love the wild horse and the noisy geese. I teach Laura to check if an electric fence is or or not with a piece of grass. A big Grey Heron chases a Little Egret over the reed beds right in front of us and a rabbit crosses our path.
We climb the 'mountain' and go into the hide. Scanning across the reeds I get a Bittern, almost immediately, right off to the far left, skulking in the edge of a reed patch with neck and head held vertically. The camouflage is very effective and if it were stood amongst the reeds I'd have no chance, but it's just at the very edge. I watch it for two or three minutes while Laura fills in the hide record and Alice falls off the bench.
Outside a big, male Marsh Harrier generously flies right over us on the track back to the car. Grey Heron, Little Egret, Bittern, Marsh Harrier; for some people three of those four would be significant ticks. We were only there forty minutes. You do get some good birding round here.
Sunday, 6 April 2014
quick colour sketch of the ring-necked duck near pymoor this morning, done from memory when i got back home into the warm and out of the wind. it was quite distant when duncan and i watched it, but its face pattern stood out reassuringly. to be honest i'm on;ly posting this to see if i can.
And if you have a Crane in the fridge (which I think most of us do from time to time), you might find this page illuminating.
Saturday, 5 April 2014
Today most of the slabs were laid. My parents, down from Yorkshire, are always great at helping me get things done and their Easter trips over the last 4 years have also had great birds over the garden. The first year a pair of Peregrine lazed over the house and put on a great display tumbling and play fighting, the year after we were working in the garden and a female Goshawk circled over and south, a couple of years ago it was the Hen Harrier/Pallid Harrier hybrid that wizzed over and fortunately allowed pursuit across the causeway to the beet pits allowing Ben and Stuart Sharp to enjoy it.
I did comment this morning that we were due an Osprey but it was pretty quiet all day in the skies. Before jumping in the shower this evening I had a quick scan out of the back bedroom window that looks across to Kingfishers Bridge in the distance. 2 scans and I'd picked up a big old bird at distance, following it across the skyline it turned to a more horizontal profile - chuffing hell a Crane and another appeared just behind it. Both birds flew across the horizon heading, I guess, over Little Thetford and onwards NW and lost to view. What a great garden tick. There must be plenty of alternative names for Crane from the past, in medieval times I believe they were known as Lunch.
Francesca Greenoak's patchily informative book All the Birds of the Air points out that the two were regarded as one species until 1897 and that consequently there are no folk names for the Willow Tit, it being just too new to the party to have earned any. The Marsh Tit though has a few, my favourite of which is the East Anglian name Joe Ben. The others are predictably descriptive - Black-Headed Tit and so on - but I love the folkiness of Joe Ben. There is no attempt at explaining how it came about, which for me just adds to the folky attraction.
As I was on Ely Island Way
I met Joe Ben at Witcham Toll,
Singing to me from the high hawthorne,
I met Joe Ben in the mor-ning.
The best birds of the week though were the two Laughing Geese in the stubble field outside Landbeach and the flock of Pudding Bags outside my office.