Monday, 17 November 2014


No shade, No shine, No butterflies, No bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

I’m rather fond of Thomas Hood’s ‘November’ but the final verse has always seemed a bit much – especially about the birds! Plenty of shine (and consequent shade) when I surfaced this morning and a bumblebee on a flower of our winter honeysuckle. Over to Wicken Fen. Many leaves still evident on the trees, arguably even more impressive in their golds and yellows than their summer hues. Fruits still abundant too; the black berries of Privet and the tempting glossy red berries of Guelder Rose. Some Hawthorns visibly sagging under the weight of all their haws.

A quiet half hour by the Brick Pit watching the comings-and-goings on the bird-feeders. Lovely close-up views of Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Robin, Wren and Great Spotted Woodpecker. A solitary Redwing briefly perched in the sunshine. Walking towards Baker’s Fen lots of Fieldfare passing over. To the West Mere hide and the first bird I set eyes on as I open the flap is a Great Egret! Remarkably, my 3rd of the year, but by far the best views I’ve yet obtained – quite stunning in the sun, though this individual seems to have a penchant for catching twigs.

Over to Burwell Fen. Kestrels are absolutely everywhere and manage to replace Wood Pigeon as my ‘Ooh, what’s that?!’ bird for the afternoon. 3 Stonechat flicking about and perching on the tops of Burdock. The water level has risen in the pools by Reach Lode and the mud seems to have been covered for now. Fewer waders in consequence, though decent flocks of Lapwing and some Golden Plover wheeling about. A mystery warbler scolds me from a ditch. A noticeable white eye ring and the hint of an eye stripe. Quite a stiff tail, or is it just holding it like that to balance? A continual ‘chit, chit, chit’ call, a little like a sharper version of a Blackbird. Crossed with a Stonechat. Or something… Cetti’s or a late Reed? I give up.

Threatening black clouds thankfully skirt the Fen, making the sunlight seem even more intense as I head back. Instead it rains owls… 2 Short-Eareds appear and quarter the rough ground, occasionally flying up together in some sort of spat. A Barn Owl joins them and for one brief moment all 3 are together in my 'scope. I briefly wonder which is the more beautiful but give this impossible-to-answer question up and concentrate on enjoying the moment. A 3rd, then a 4th Short-Eared Owl joins in, then a 2nd Barn Owl. I need a neck like a…well, owl, to keep track of what’s going on. No sooner does one bird go to ground than another pops up. And every so often one flies straight towards me and I get to look right into that perfect face. As if that wasn’t quite enough a ringtail Hen Harrier joins the party and I'm spoilt yet more as it briefly shares the ‘scope with a Short-Eared Owl...

Things quieten down and I move on, but there are 2 more Barn Owls waiting for me on Harrison’s Drove, one sitting close-by on a post and allowing me to ‘scope him (or her) as he (or she) stares back. A Snipe hurtles overhead and as I skirt Baker’s Fen a Water Rail squeals. As the light fails I take the path along by St. Edmund’s Fen. There’s a decent corvid roost forming and as I pass I disturb the occupants of those trees closest to the path, the clamour rising in volume, no doubt in protest at having to  re-establish sleeping arrangements.

No birds? Hood should have got out more. Although I didn’t see a butterfly. I’ll give him that.