November’s trip took us to Welney Wetland Centre. Hundreds of wintering Wigeons and Lapwings, as well as many diving Pochard and several Whooper Swans with three-month old cygnets making the 1200 mile trip from Iceland to enjoy warmth of an English winter. Also delicately marked Pintail and Gadwall. To outdoor hides later to see Marsh Harriers, a very well camouflaged Snipe, then fairly distant but clear view of four Cranes on the grasslands beyond the lagoons. Back to the main hide for the daily swan feed. A few slightly smaller Bewick’s Swans were pointed out, having flown from Siberia. 32 different species recorded and possibly a Barn Owl flying alongside us as we headed home after a very interesting day in the Fens.
October found numbers boosted by new members and 11 of us enjoyed a first trip to Grafham Water Reservoir. More fine weather and masses of Coot, Tufted Duck, Great-Crested Grebe and many Teal, some Pochard and flying Lapwing flocks. Later a Red Kite mobbed by crows until it got away and came closer to give fine views of its distinctive shape and lovely under-wing markings, especially when a Buzzard flew near to allow us to compare the two impressive raptors. Another 37 species scored between the group.
RSPB Minsmere was postponed from July to September and well worth the delay. We recorded 38 different species with another 2 (Cetti’s Warbler and Bearded Tit) heard bit not seen. Highlights included Marsh Harriers soaring, Avocet, Spotted Redshank, Snipe, Pintail, a Grey Plover close by for good camera shots of its delicate markings. A Curlew that we had hoped might be an elusive Stone Curlew, then a Bittern flying away from the last hide to set us up for the return home.
In June we went to Fingringhoe Wick, an Essex Wildlife Trust site not visited for some years. Highlights were a quite rare turtle dove and a young kestrel displaying well, as well as butterflies, damsel-flies and wild flowers. A good varied site by the Colne estuary. Minsmere in July was postponed until the autumn, as too many regulars were unavailable.
Click on these photos from our Fingringhoe Wick outing in June by Brian Eastcott.
Feb – May 2016
In February we visited Fen Drayton, on the guided bus route between Swavesey and St Ives near the Great Ouse. A cold sunny day, seeing 36 different species including bullfinches, several goldeneye diving on the lakes, lapwings and various ducks, gulls and geese. Then a fox was spotted in the long dead grass, before a surprise sighting of some fieldfare and redwing through our binoculars while looking for a green woodpecker.
Next was Lackford Lakes in March near Bury St Edmunds. Cold wind coming into the hides, but rewarded with 43 species including kingfisher, oystercatcher, Egyptian geese, goldeneye, teal, siskin, redwing and red-crested pochards.
April was Rye Meads on the Lea near Hoddesdon, again cloudy and cold, but a good day with kingfishers at nest site, kestrel fledglings and over 30 species and heard others including Cetti’s and sedge warbler.
In May, an extra trip to Wicken Fen, as we had the opportunity of a guided wildlife walk with a resident volunteer. Many species heard and spotted that we could have missed. Marsh harriers, several hobbies, cuckoos heard and seen, blackcaps and whitethroats, orange tip butterflies, konik ponies and Highland cattle and many others.
Click on these Wicken Fen photos to enlarge
Then Lakenheath Fen another raw day, but memorable for two distant cranes, that we saw circling later, march harriers, cuckoo, reed buntings, several wrens, shovelar, egret, tern and booming bittern (but not seen this year).