Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates over the last few weeks. I seem to be spending more time away from here than I am here at the moment! I will try my best to resume usual service over the coming weeks.
Anyhow, I enjoyed a fantastic 10km walk around the reserve yesterday afternoon. I walked all the way along the riverbank down to Botany Bay SSSI and there was plenty to see. There were large numbers of thrushes in the bushes. This consisted of mainly fieldfares of redwings, with a few mistle thrushes and blackbirds mixed in.
As I reached New Fen North, a pipit flew up from the riverbank and disappeared into cover. Unusually, it didn’t call which made me suspect that it might be a water pipit. Sure enough, it flew up and uttered a strident, single note call which proved my theory! Great stuff!
Just beyond Joist Fen viewpoint, a bittern flew up and I had a great view of it as it flew almost all the way down to the west end of the reserve. Two marsh harriers were floating around, including a juvenile male and an adult female.
There are around 50 pools on the reserve. However, most of them are fairly difficult to see. One of the largest is known as Whittlesey mere, and is partially visible from the riverbank. As I approached it, there was lots of noise coming from it! Although I could hear (and see) plenty of Canada geese, the main source of the commotion was the lucid tones of several whooper swans...........
Lo and behold, I could only see five! However, judging by the amount of noise, I felt sure there were more. Sure enough, a flock of 14 flew out of the pool. As I walked further, I counted a total of 22 in flight. Whether this was an additional group or the same group I wasn’t sure, but it was great to see them anyway.
A peregrine was also seen from Joist Fen viewpoint earlier on in the day, which is a good record. Hopefully some more wintering raptors will appear in the next couple of weeks. We had up to three hen harriers and a merlin last year, so fingers crossed for this year!
It’s amazing how things can change in 10 days or so. Just before I went on holiday, it was relatively warm and virtually the only winter visitors to speak of were two whooper swans that were around on Friday 7th & Saturday 8th. A grey wagtail near Joist Fen viewpoint was also fairly unusual on Saturday 8th.
In the past week though, it seems that winter visitors have been appearing left right and centre. Large numbers of winter thrushes are “in” now, and redwings and fieldfares can be encountered at various points on the reserve. A flock of siskins were in the alders near the visitor centre this morning and it is also worth looking out for redpolls in similar areas.
You may have heard that there has been a large influx of short eared owls into the country during the last week. For example, on Thursday 13th, at least 50 passed through RSPB Titchwell Marsh. Additionally, on Sunday 15th, 18 passed through Portland Bill in Dorset. In the light of all of these sightings, I felt sure that one would turn up here in my absence.............................
Sure enough, one was photographed just west of the reserve on Thursday 13th. There was another report of one over the weekend, so hopefully one of these beautiful owls with fierce yellow eyes will spend the winter here. We live in hope!
There are still several bitterns around and they are best seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. Bearded tits were showing well in the sun on Sunday 16th. Autumn is probably the best time to see this often elusive species, so listen out for their pinging calls when you are out on the reserve.
The five cranes remain elusive, but are popping up from time to time, so it is well worth keeping an eye out for them. There are several marsh harriers around, which are mainly seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. It is also worth looking out for passing hen harriers and merlins, which will occasionally spend the winter here.
At last, autumn is here! After a brief excursion back to summer last week, it is suddenly feeling more like it should be at this time of year. It certainly has been pretty windy and chilly over the last couple of days anyway!
Every autumn, I always look forward to the re-opening of the interior path around New Fen North. For those of you who are not familiar with the reserve, this is the first area of reedbed. It is closed in summer to prevent disturbance to rare nesting birds such as bitterns and marsh harriers.
As it was only cut on Tuesday, I was very privileged to be the first person to walk round it in a couple of months. Although it was fairly bumpy and uneven, it was a lovely walk. There were lots of common and ruddy darters whizzing around, and I disturbed a few meadow pipits.
The best part if it though was the view from the south-west corner of the reedbed. This is slightly raised up, so you get a great view of both the reedbed behind you and the grazing marsh by the railway line. The path is not open to the public just yet, as we are waiting for it to flatten out a bit. However, it should be open in the next couple of weeks, so watch this space.
Despite the wind, there has been plenty of good stuff out on the reserve. Although bearded tits have been keeping well down in the strong winds, there has been plenty of activity from our other reedbed birds. There are up to half a dozen marsh harriers around, and one or two hobbys can still be seen in pursuit of insects.
The five cranes seemed to have gone for a wonder again, but as ever, they could reappear at any point. There are several bitterns around, and your best chance to see them would be to spend some time at either New Fen or Joist Fen viewpoints.
If you would like to come for a guided walk around the reserve, Paul Holness, one of our volunteers will be leading an “Outstanding October” walk on Sunday October 16th 10.15am-1pm. This will be a circular walk of around three miles. The cost is Adults £4, Children £2 (RSPB members half price.) Booking is essential. To book, please ring 01842 863400 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
After all of the crane related excitement of Sunday, things have returned to some state of normality on the reserve. Although there are five cranes in the area again, that doesn’t make them any easier to see...........................
Take Monday for example, Dave, our Site Manager went for an extensive crane search and despite visiting most of their regular haunts; there was no sign of them. However, three were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint yesterday afternoon.
This is particularly interesting, as I was at Welney yesterday and while I was there, three flew along the washes. Whether these were the same three that were seen here or another three is anyone’s guess. They are certainly getting around at the moment!
A few hobbys are lingering on here, and I saw a marsh harrier as I got out of my car this morning. A kingfisher was seen fishing in the pool in front of New Fen viewpoint and it was showing off its hunting skills by hovering in quite a stiff breeze!
The weather has changed rather suddenly, and it is feeling a lot more autumnal. This should bring in some of our winter visitors. Over the next few weeks, it will be well worth looking out for fieldfares, redwings and the odd siskin. There also may be the odd flock of whooper swans that stops off on the washland on the way to the nearby Ouse Washes.