Friday, 16 January 2015
Long old day counting swans- I'm sure I can still hear them in the distance. Starting at dawn at Welney I was lucky enough to be a part of the team that recorded the roosting Whoopers and Bewicks before they flew out onto the fen to feed. It was a shame to have to concentrate on the survey work rather than just stand and take it all in as wigeon and Teal called all around me and 1000 swans bugled in the half light of a golden dawn, drifting around the shallow ponds of Lady Fen. As it got lighter they were off, family party after family party in a steady trickle that grew until suddenly there were none left, and the long task of tracking them down on the beet fields around Southery and Prickwillow could begin.
We spent the daylight hours driving down the bumpy droves, coming across herds of two or three hundred at a time, sometimes in out of the way wheat fields, sometimes surprisingly close to the road. One flock was brave enough to remain on a black field covered in beet tops while the farmer slowly dragged his plough through the sodden peat soil, the swans slowly squeezed into a tighter and tighter huddle.
There were other highlights too- Fieldfare everywhere, and Barn owls and Buzzards. A distant Red Kite flew in from the east, but best bird of the day was a superb male Hen Harrier that rowed across between our car and the swans that we were in the middle of counting. It had a tracking device strapped to it's back, so, someone, somewhere knows exactly where it's been, and hopefully where it's going for some time to come.