Above photo of Waxwings at Holme, Norfolk by Brian Linford.
Group Co-ordinator: Brian Linford – 01799 531 392 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The group is open to all members and enquiries are welcome. With some new members joining us since September, we are just about full now, although the possibility of a second group for new members or beginners could be explored subject to demand.
We are interested in watching, and listening to, birds and all forms of wildlife, animals, flowers, trees etc. We share cars and offer a contribution to the driver towards fuel costs, and enjoy a day out in the country with some pleasant walking and company too.
The usual start is 9.00 am and we leave in shared cars from SW Leisure Centre.
In the past we have been to The Lodge, Sandy; Paxton Pits; Fen Drayton; Rye Meads; Lakenheath; Minsmere; Rutland Water; Cley Marshes; Rainham Marshes and Welney. Ideas for future trips are always welcome.
We generally record 30+ different species each time, including many fascinating sightings such as kingfishers, bitterns, cuckoos, marsh harriers, cranes, water rail, many waders and warblers, as well as deer, water voles etc.
Our present group is full, but we could put new members on a waiting list and/or help start a second group with a mix of experience.
12 of us met at Paxton Pits in March, with thankfully dry but cool weather after the February visit had been snowed off. We had an interesting and informative guide in Trevor, who has been a volunteer there since it was opened as a reserve. He took us to parts not normally open to visitors, and stayed with us until lunch in the visitor centre, longer than expected. An afternoon walk on our own in a different area afterwards. 44 bird species seen or heard, plus a couple of mammals. Nothing too unusual, but those with good eyesight spotted what they were sure was a peregrine in distant skies. No otter, kingfisher or bittern, but that’s nature.
In late April, Chris took us to Wicken Fen, where he volunteers. An experienced guide, David, led us around and despite the cold drizzle we saw quite a lot, including a Ross’s Snow goose, which originates from North America and is likely to be an escapee from captivity. Other highlights from 38 species seen and/or heard were the nice markings of a male Garganey, a summer migrant, hearing the first cuckoo, and starting to differentiate warbler song from Chris’s recent cribsheet. Interesting to learn that Chris and David did a further walk in the afternoon, after we had aborted for home, and managed to see 6 cranes flying over the edge of the Sedge Fen. We are not sure whether they have started to nest at Wicken Fen yet or just passing through but fingers crossed they may decide to breed.
The 22nd dawned bright, relatively still and above freezing at least, as we drove to Hanningfield Reservoir, where we met, Bill, the Warden who took us for a guided tour of the reserve
We visited two of the four hides on the edge of the reservoir. Hanningfield is man-made and was created in 1957 by flooding a valley, which included a number of farms and the village of Peasdown, it now covers nearly a thousand acres. We were all surprised to discover that two of our number had lived on one of the farms that were drowned by the creation of the reservoir, a homecoming in a sense for them.
We saw a number of waterfowl from the hides, the most notable being goosander and goldeneye. A number of teal were also seen and a significant flock of widgeon were observed on the meadows adjacent to the reservoir as were a pair of shelduck.
A most satisfying day from the point of view of the weather, company, a delightful walk and for the fact that we recorded 36 bird species.
A bitterly cold morning walk around Fowlmere, with a good number of sightings, particularly a tiny goldcrest flitting in and out of brambles just below the hide. Then to The Chequers where 14 of the regulars had an enjoyable pre-Christmas lunch, with hot soup being a popular starter.
On October 25th we visited Rainham Marshes, another RSPB site alongside the Thames. It was a beautiful day, very warm for late October and we all enjoyed the walk around the reserve. We saw over 30 species including a large flock of Goldfinches, many Canada and Greylag Geese, Heron and Egrets, and some raptors, namely Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and one Peregrine Falcon sunning itself beside one of the pools. There were also still dragonflies and butterflies still around enjoying the warm sunshine.
Our September outing, on Tuesday 26th, was to Rye Meads RSPB site Nr Hoddesden. Several regulars were unable to make it but 10 of us set off to explore on a bright mild day.
We saw many of the usual suspects from coots to cormorants on the lagoons and the kestrel on the pylon in the car park, but the highlight for most of us was the show put on by the kingfisher, appropriately at the kingfisher hide. It flew from perch to perch, dived for fish, and posed for about 10 minutes for photographers. It alone was worth the visit.
In all we saw about 30 species of birds plus many dragonflies most of which wouldn’t stay still to be identified.
Our July trip took us to RSPB’s Lakenheath Fen in Suffolk. A breezy day with the variety of species rather less than usual, but several kingfisher sightings and a bittern in a brief flight were the highlights. Some great crested grebes with growing chicks, kestrels, common tern and distant marsh harriers amongst others. Also several red admiral butterflies and a painted lady; some orange and black striped cinnabar moth caterpillars (with venomous spines), and interesting wild flowers, such as large hemp-nettle (quite poisonous), while old English longhorn and some belted Galloway cattle were seen grazing.
We break for the summer and regroup in September, when it is hoped that members can share the choosing of sites and dates for our monthly visits.
Thanks to Brian Eastcott for these photos taken at Lakenheath. Click on photos to enlarge.
The Spring and Summer months were over-shadowed by the sudden death on Easter Sunday of Lucy Chapman, a popular and knowledgeable member originating from South Africa, who loved talking about birds here and in her native land, as well as her frequent travels to family back home and in USA. She is much missed.
March found us at sunny, windy Lackford Lakes. Another 39 different species recorded, including a treecreeper climbing up a silver birch trunk close to our path, then flying down to start again on another two trunks in turn.
In April, we tried an evening outing for the “wader spectacular” at Snettisham on the Wash, but the spectacular turned out to be heavy rainfall driving horizontally from behind as we hurried to a small hide. We did see many waders, mainly knots, rising together as the high tide swept them from mudbanks, but all rather distant.
May’s outing was an excellent guided tour at Wicken Fen, with 38 different species recorded, as well as many butterflies and dragon/damselflies. Also Highland cattle and Konik ponies grazing, frisky roe deer and a healthy looking fox ambling away from a hide. Then in June, we cancelled as it was too hot for us!
Click on photos to enlarge.
In February we visited Essex Wildlife Trust’s site at Fingringhoe Wick on the Colne estuary. Many waders and wildfowl, such as ringed and golden plovers, oystercatcher, wigeon, avocet and red-breasted merganser. Inland, a field with many dark-bellied brent geese from Siberia and on gravel lakes several dabchick, gadwall and tufted duck, then a glimpse of a kingfisher in flight. Marsh harrier and buzzards overhead and a couple of handsome greater-spotted woodpeckers on bird feeders by the visitor centre. 38 different species recorded plus a noisy elusive wren.