Monday, 23 November 2015

first shiver of winter

Now comes the cold. We at last awake to a frost in the chill air, and set the nets in the winter darkness. Redwings gradually appear, floating down into the scrub in small groups of five or six. In fact all the thrushes are active in the first hours of the cold day; Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush all seem frantic in their search for food. But it is the Redwing that is most evident at the moment and we catch three, allowing us to see up close the terracotta underwing that is usually hidden from view. The bold facial pattern gives them the look of one used to bracing weather- creased by facing the north wind, with lowered brow and puckered cheeks. 

The sun shines over the black fen and in the distance a young Tiercel is hunting. The horizon fills with swirling and turning flocks of Lapwing ,Golden Plover, Rooks and Jackdaws, but it is the ball of Starlings that are most in danger. They contract and pulse as the Peregrine jack-knives, then straightens into a low sprint across the fields.
Out on Burwell Fen the waders and ducks stay close to the tussocks of sedge and rushes. Godwits and Ruff mingle in a group, and four Dunlin trudge past a gathering of male Shovelers. The open water is empty save for a pair of Whooper Swans with their cygnet. Two more swans drop in- Bewick's this time, but they don't stay long, and when they take off they are soon followed by the Whoopers. The sun is still bright, but is sinking fast when the Phantom appears over the bank in front of us.
Ermine vest and black velvet gloves.
Using the following wind the Hen Harrier glides across towards the reserve, the epitome of simple beauty and perfect hunter-over Harrison's Drove, where a flock of fieldfare have been blowing through the willows, and onto the roost. In the fading light at least two males and a Ringtail circle low, quartering the area before disappearing in the winter darkness.

Thursday, 19 November 2015


It seems that the leaves have only just dropped, but already they are being blown away by the winter wind. The water is rising on the wash and the swans have arrived- not in huge numbers yet, but their voices carry on the breeze across the fen. On Tuesday morning I stood on the bank at Welney as the first light of a grey dawn penetrated the mist, and for a few minutes I was able to count them waiting for the air to clear. The mist returned quickly, and it wasn't until a few hours later that the swans made their way out into the fields. Nearly two thousand Whoopers and two hundred Bewicks, spread out between Pymoor and Southery, with the biggest flock just west of Littleport. On the edge of one group, ten Cranes, bustles flapping in the wind, and Lapwing and Golden plover shining in the sunlight.
Yesterday the weather worsened, and as darkness crept across the sky the swans struggled into the oncoming stormwall. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Pretty Polly

I saw a striking photo on a colleagues filing cabinet in the finance office at work.  It turns out that the photo of a Ring-necked Parakeet was taken in a Fordham garden and the bird has been visiting morning and afternoon for a couple of months.  Thanks to Wendy Vigrass for sending the pictures and especially to her daughter, Amy who took such cracking shots.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

november shroud

 A veil that dissolves form, leaving only shadows of what was. The mist has turned the world into a ghost of itself, and beyond the bank the lonely cries of Lapwing are the only clue to the presence of something within the great nothingness. Swans bugle as the wash becomes real, the sun is now a weak lemon disc, the green appears, and the pond in front of us is a pearl within that green. With form comes life, the shapes of wildfowl drift on the water, and on the fringes there is a restless fidget of Snipe. They scurry about, hopping, probing and fanning their raised tails. Other waders appear, Ruff and Lapwing dropping in and preening at the water's edge. Out of the lush vegetation a pipit creeps, winding through the thick reed stems- there, then gone. The play is over and the curtain comes down, and all is nothing again.


The afternoon sun has blazed away, and as the clear evening turns pink the waders are back at the pool. The Ruff arrive first with a single Redshank, but soon there is a whirling flock of Lapwing, stirring up the mist as they circle. Further down, a gang of Rooks maraud out onto the flat-finding fence posts  protruding from the vapour like an old wreck grounded on a reef.
The mist laps around the bushes and banks as the winter swans, blue in the cooling sky, head up the wash and the Sun sinks slowly.