I know that this is going to sound like a busman’s holiday but yes, I do go birding on my days off! I went over to RSPB Ouse Washes yesterday and there were SO many birds to see! The water levels were just right and the sheer number of birds blew me away. I might as well be honest, the main reason I went was to see this tiny little wader:
Illustration: Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
If you are not sure what it is, it’s a Temminck’s Stint. The tiny little waders (they are about the same size as sparrows!) are rather scarce in Britain and they are most often encountered as passage migrants on the east coast in May. They are rare winter visitors but this bird has been present for a couple of weeks.
I ventured into Grose hide expecting this bird to be a needle in a haystack job and it wasn’t far from the truth! There were plenty of places for this tiny little bird to hide in such a large area of wetland. However, after a bit of searching I tracked down the little blighter feeding on a small island next to a redshank.
The bird was feeding in typical fashion which I often liken to a cross between a common sandpiper and a mouse. The redshank behind it looked as large as an ostrich in comparison to this little chap! We had good views of it for a while before turning our attention to some of the other birds that were assembled in front of us.....................
Three species of wader really stood out: There were around 1000 golden plovers, a similar number of lapwing sand an incredible 2,200 black tailed godwits. Add this to a massive load of wigeon and teal, there really was plenty to see! At various points, the flocks were disturbed and hit the sky. The culprits were firstly a female marsh harrier and secondly a common buzzard.
Most of the whooper and Bewick’s swans feed out in the field during the day but there were still around 50 whooper swans in the area. At one point, a large flock of swans flew up from the other side of the washes. A flock of around 50 grey geese also flew up which I am pretty sure were the flock of tundra bean geese that have been hanging around on or near the washes recently.
I had a great morning out at the Ouse Washes and if you would like to do the same, please visit their website for details: http://bit.ly/wZVh3M
It is amazing that we are almost at the end of January. Wherever does the time go?! There are plenty of things to update you on but first things first here is a belated report from Saturday. One lucky visitor saw two otters playing in the channel near the pumping station at the west end of the reserve. It is a long walk to this area but if you are interested we will be visiting it on our “long walk” on Sunday February 26. Please see: http://bit.ly/AfCLHC for more details.
On Sunday morning, there were treecreepers and marsh tits in East Wood. All six cranes were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint and a short eared owl was seen north of the river. Our barn owl walk was very successful as at least two were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint. Perhaps another bird was seen from the riverbank on the way back to the centre. The group were also treated with great views of a single crane from the viewpoint.
As I write, it’s currently snowing here. However, there were still a few good birds around this morning. At least three marsh harriers were hunting over New Fen North and a sparrowhawk flew into West Wood. A single corn bunting flew over and several bearded tits were pinging from deep in the reedbed. A kingfisher flew through the murk in front of New Fen viewpoint. As usual, a sighting of one of these jewel like little birds really brightened up my day. We hope to see you soon.
Here at Lakenheath Fen, we are below sea level. This usually means two things: Firstly, when it is cold, it’s really cold. Secondly, when it’s really cold, it’s often very misty here! This has certainly been the case for the last two mornings!
It was very misty yesterday morning while we were doing our Big Garden Birdwatch. It did eventually lift and a water rail kept making forays out into the open in front of the visitor centre.
I headed down to Joist Fen viewpoint at lunchtime for an hour or so and there was certainly plenty going on. An unseen green sandpiper called nearby and there were at least five marsh harriers hunting in the distance. Two cranes appeared from north of the river and flew low over the reedbed. They were joined by another bird and all three landed just by the railway line.
A bittern flew directly towards the viewpoint and provided a fantastic sight as it flew by at close quarters before eventually landing in a pool behind the viewpoint. We all got very excited all of a sudden as it seemed that a large flock of cranes flew out of the grazing marsh near the railway line. However, on second glance it was the three cranes followed by around 20 greylag geese. It’s amazing how similar they can look sometimes!
Initially, all three cranes seemed to be flying north but soon, two headed north and the other bird circled back around and returned to the area near the railway line. Several bearded tits were calling nearby and a Cetti’s warbler was skulking near the viewpoint.
This morning was even colder and mistier than today. However, three snipe flew up from the riverbank and several great spotted woodpeckers were drumming in East Wood. As I type the visibility is gradually improving so we hope to see you soon!
Please note that the barn owl walk tomorrow (Sunday January 29) is FULLY BOOKED. Unfortunately, we can only accommodate those who have booked in advance. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused.
As I am lucky enough to have a garden, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch from the visitor centre here at RSPB Lakenheath Fen. Here is a blow by blow account of what we saw:
The local blue tits were milling around the feeders and we saw five in total. The goldfinches were keeping us on our toes by moving between the two nyger feeders. We saw seven in total and thy added plenty of colour to the proceedings. The chaffinches were a lot harder to count as they kept feeding on the ground in varying numbers. There seemed to be twelve in total.
Although initially it seemed that there was only a pair of reed buntings, a total of six birds appeared out of the woodwork over the course of the hour. Two great tits were present for most of the hour along with a single male blackbird. Regular customer “Phil” the pheasant was present under the feeders for most of the hour along with two moorhens.
The stars of the show had to be the siskins and lesser redpolls though. On the feeders, in the alders and on the track we reached staggering totals of 27 siskins and eight lesser redpolls. Although we can’t count water rails, as they are not recognised Big Garden Birdwatch species, there were two sneaking around under the bird feeders.
Coal tits are fairly scarce visitors to the reserve, but one did visit the feeders during the hour. There were also singles of dunnock and robin present. The icing on the cake was provided by a great spotted woodpecker that appeared on the feeders with 30 seconds to go before the end of the hour. Including water rail, that’s 16 species of bird and 80 individuals in total. Amazing!
We had great fun taking part in the Big Garden Birdwatch here. If you are interested in taking part, details can be found here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ The survey runs until the end of tomorrow, so we will be interested to hear how you get on!
Elsewhere on the reserve, three cranes were seen from Joist Fen viewpoint yesterday. There were several barn owls out and about along with the usual compliment of marsh harriers. We hope to see you on the reserve soon!