Sunday, 27 November 2016
My girls treated me to a stopover in Brancaster, on the Norfolk coast which allowed an early morning on the beach at Salthouse where a few Shore Larks have taken up residence and an Arctic Redpoll was a possibility. After a bit of searching the Shore Larks popped up onto the ridge in front of me and then settled around a muddy pool.
A Stonechat popped up briefly close by and Turnstone are as confiding here as anywhere I know. A Snow Bunting rippled over and offshore a constant movement of Red-throated Diver were accompanied by Eider, Common and Velvet Scoter.
The giggle of Pink-footed Geese accompanied throughout the day and one flock near Burnham Market held a little posse of Tundra Bean Geese, which didn't hang around for very long before flying over the hedgerow and out of view. A Barn Owl was more obliging and allowed close approach on it's roadside vigil.
A brief pop in at Denver Sluice in the hope of a seabird that may have drifted upriver did reap dividends as a couple of drake Goosander were joined by a Shag, still a bird I've not seen in the Ely10 with Denver being a 3 or 4 miles outside the 10.
Saturday, 26 November 2016
After Phragmites, the Common Reed, Willow is the plant matter synonymous with the Fen. Across the Ely wet meadows stunted stands of mature Willow give this piece of land a dream like quality, a remnant of forgotten and sodden history, to all intents and purposes lost now to the dyke and plough. Walking down the tow path of the Great Ouse, into the yet to be burnt off mist, the silhouette of the Ibis stood proud by the gnarled and twisted trunk of a stunted willow. It flew to the waters edge and fed voraciously and as the sun rose higher it's feathers shimmered with oily greens and hints of rouge. I was joined by David and Sallie who said some lovely things about the blog and we enjoyed close and prolonged views of our lingering visitor as it fed and ingratiated amongst the Canada Geese and Moorhens. We arranged to meet at the Country Park to look for the Siberian Chiffchaff.
I'd only looked at a couple of birds at the edge of the Sewage Work before finding the tristis bouncing around in a patch of young tree growth dominated by a large Willow. I'm pleased that I'd heard it calling well last week, as it gave a little added confidence in the identification, to my eye though this is a classic brown and buff Siberian Chiffchaff and it did show well today. I had been hoping I'd see the bird again and hoped I'd get the chance to get some photo's today the bird put on quite a show allowing close scrutiny and opportunities to get some reasonable record shots which folk can analyse and make their own decisions as to the credentials of the bird. Apart from cropping and a little sharpening I have not messed around with these pics at all as it's all about colour hues with these enigmatic little phylloscs. The bird showed well for some 10 minutes and allowed David and Sallie to enjoy it's subtlety too. I may be missing more recent advances in identifying tristis but this article is a very good overview of the key features, challenges and pitfalls of identifying trickier Chiffs.
Sunday, 20 November 2016
I had a good drive around the Fen looking for finch flocks and mostly getting diverted by plentiful flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing. I did see quite a few Corn Buntings including flocks of 20 and 15 but didn't locate Yellowhammer or Reed Buntings which are potential carriers for rarer species. The Washes were quiet but I had left looking around the city sites until the end as it was raining when I set out. At the Sewage Work a Grey Wagtail was vocal amidst the throng of yarelli. I did track down a Chiffchaff in the buddleia tangles and when it flew closer it called before I could get bins on it - a classic tristis peep, which it did frequently I got a minutes worth of views down to 10m and it looked spot on too. Unfortunately I hadn't taken my camera with me but I'm sure that pics will emerge over time as it isn't likely to go anywhere soon. For that very reason I did take my camera in a pessimistic stroll along the river. A Glossy Ibis was seen here during the week but I hadn't been able to see it looking from the roadside layby. Even when along the tow path I was looking out into the wet field and it wasn't until I looked right by me that I saw it, ridiculously close and oblivious to passers by. Not a bad morning out.
The WEBS count at the settling beds last week was the busiest I've seen it. The lack of water on the Washes must be having some effect several hundred Teal, Greylag Goose and Mallard jostled with Gadwall, Shoveller, Wigeon and the odd diving duck and the little Richardson' Canada Goose. The Whoopers Swan remain on the arable and numbered 28. Later these birds flew over the house at dusk on their way to Kingfishers Bridge to roost. A bit of birding out of the back bedroom window turned into a bit of photography as the light became very sharp.
Helen sent me some pictures of a handsome melanistic male Pheasant in her Witcham garden, a cracking bird.
Friday, 4 November 2016
It's always the same. Days, sometimes weeks but never months go by when the pace and fervour of the unnatural working world engulfs me for a while.......
and then the Big Sky Homecoming
our Fens are just awesome for it. I've been welcomed home by it out on the Norfolk coast, the Tibetan plateau, the Otago Plains, the Arctic Tundra, the Australian Outback, against the Himalaya's and on each of the World's Oceans but it's always been The Fen for me...how strange.
So full of connectivity, and joy and awe the sky began it's kaleidoscopic pinking. Stood on the bank at Pymoor the wild swans bugled and commuted. Geese, less wild, bar the lone Bean that flew North-west, honked and fed and flew in bunches, away. A more fluid and excitable bugle rippled over the Wash and a flock of 20 Crane rose over the far bank almost bobbing on elastic as the dipped and peaked over and around one another. They landed, a straggling herd, in the monochromatic gloom enveloping the damp grasslands. Just bloody brilliant.