If the weather keeps on like this, we're going to run out of superlatives! The lakes are now 90% frozen over, with only small patches of water being kept open by the feeding activities of the coots, swans and other waterfowl.
A co-ordinated count of the bitterns, this afternoon, confirmed at least 8 birds to be present. The best locations were Drayton Lagoon (4) and Oxholme Lake (3) - one bird spending most of the day sitting up in the willow bushes on the Drayton Lagoon island for all to see. One bird was seen feeding along the edge of Ferry Mere.
The starlings, although reduced in numbers to around 2,000 still put on a good show, as did the 2 sparrowhawks that made a kill apiece. The chosen roost site was amongst the reeds at the Ferry Pond, but not before they flew over Holywell Lake several times first. Whilst watching the starlings flying over Holywell Lake, a woodcock flew across and landed amongst the trees on the eastern side.
Other sightings today included the drake smew still on Swavesey Lake, with 5 black-tailed godwits there; 4 goosanders flying along the river Great Ouse; 2 little egrets over Drayton Lagoon; water rail; and barn owl.
With temperatures back into positive figures, just, and the ice receeding, it's actually getting a little bit more tricky to see birds like bitterns and water rails. However, careful watching of the lake shores and islands today produced 3 bitterns at Drayton Lagoon, Oxholme Lake and flying into Holywell Lake. Water rails can still be heard, squealing like little pigs, around many of the lakes, even if seeing them has become harder.
We still have 3 smew, including 1 drake, and a goosander present. As the ice melts and the lakes open up, we should start to see more of these species.
The black-tailed godwits, 3, are still favouring the northern shore of Swavesey Lake and 2 golden plovers flew over, this afternoon.
The starling roost, as predicted, is coming to an end. Around 300 birds came in this afternoon, which still attracted the attentions of 2 sparrowhawks.
A little treat came as I headed off the site at around 4:20pm - a short-eared owl was sitting on a fence post next ot the Entrance Track, but unfortunately flew off before I could stop & get my bins on it.
I've added a very nice photograph of a frosty Ferry Lagoon to the Gallery. The photo was sent to us by Dave Messenger and was taken on 7th December 2010.
Lakes Watch is a new initiative, a partnership between the RSPB at Fen Drayton Lakes and Cambridgeshire Constabulary, and it will be launched on Sunday 19 December.
It is based on the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, and our neighbours and regular visitors are encouraged to join in.
Since the RSPB acquired Fen Drayton Lakes, there has been a marked decrease in vandalism here - and with your help, we'd like to reduce it to zero. Lakes Watchers will receive a welcome pack, including a handy little card of useful phone numbers. Anyone who discovers something that they are concerned about - a cow or sheep on a footpath, some fly-tipping, or someone where perhaps they shouldn't be - can instantly report what they have found (assuming they are carrying the card and a mobile phone, of course).
Join us on Sunday, if the ice and snow doesn't prevent your visit - or contact us by e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) at any time if you'd like to help in this way.
The freezing conditions have returned and many of the lakes are completely frozen over. What little open water remains is crammed full of waterfowl, jostling for position in what can only be described as a scrum!
Not too many reports from Saturday; perhaps the lure of Christmas shopping was too great. A peregrine was seen over Ferry Lagoon, and later at Mare Fen, there were two smew on Swavesey Lake and 6 goosanders were seen at Drayton Lagoon. Most interesting was a bittern which dropped into a small area of reeds beside the river. We have always suspected that the bitterns feed along the river when the lakes freeze over, but haven't been able to proove it before now.
Sunday was the monthly Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) count. The increased coverage, plus the keen eyes of volunteers and visitor led to some nice sightings. The smew numbers were up to 15, with 2 drakes and 13 redheads on Swavesey Lake early on before the dispersed around the site. 7 goosanders dropped in briefly onto the Trout Pond before heading off towards the river. There were 3 bittern sightings, two from Holywell Lake and one from Far Fen Lake. There were 8 Bewick's swans on Drayton Lagoon and a pink-footed goose amongst the greylags at Ferry Lagoon.
Some of the best sightings came from the water rails. As well as a calling bird at Ferry Lagoon and a brief sighting at Far Fen Lake, there were at least 5 in the Oxholme Drain. The movement of the water through the drain keeps it relatively clear of ice and this encourages the water rails to move from the lake shores as they search for food.
Predatory birds are also searching hard for food. There were two sightings of peregrines on Sunday and it's possible 2 birds were involved. A barn owl was out in daylight hours, quartering over Elney Lake.