As the sun started to rise on Sunday morning, myself and Katherine were ready and waiting at Joist Fen viewpoint, in order to see how many cranes had roosted on the reserve the previous evening. There had been regular sightings of two pairs during the week, but we weren’t sure if they were heading off elsewhere at night...
The early start was definitely worth it though, as we were able to confirm that both pairs had indeed roosted on the reserve. After leaving their evening haunts, creating a bit of noise with their distinctive calls, both pairs settled on to the river bank.
First light is a great time to be out and about, watching (and listening) as the wildlife wakes up and the reserve steadily comes to life. The rooks, jackdaws and crows made a racket leaving the wood in their thousands, marsh harriers emerged from the reedbed (even managing a little bit of early morning sky dancing), a bittern flew right past us at the viewpoint and the bearded tits started calling, idyllic really!
Sunday was also the monthly WeBS count (Wetland Bird Survey – organised by the BTO) and after a brief stop at the centre for a hot drink, we headed back out to continue counting.
First stop was the Washland, which at first appeared quiet, but on closer inspection had plenty to see including a great white egret, 2 little egret, 43 teal, 11 gadwall, 21 shoveler and the highlight for me, a kingfisher perched on the reeds.
From there onward we headed down the reserve and, once again, the ducks provided a challenge to count - they have a tendency to hide themselves away and then fly off whilst you’re in the middle of counting! However, we managed to get some fairly good totals including 202 mallard, 37 gadwall, 48 coot, 40 tufted duck, 21 wigeon, 28 mute swan and 126 teal.
Other highlights included 7 snipe (we’re planning a full site survey soon), a second great white egret in Botany Bay, a single woodcock, 4 grey heron and a stonechat perched nicely on a fence line.
The cranes were showing off well throughout the morning and also spending time in the areas of reedbed we have recently cut and cleared – it’s nice to know all the hard work has paid off!
They have also made some more starring appearances on the trail cameras – I’ll post another blog about this soon, but here’s a taste for now...
Finally, the recent beautiful, frosty, sunny mornings have provided some brilliant bearded tit viewing opportunities. A big thank you to Matt Walton for sharing these amazing photos. Now, where's my camera?!
(Image credits - Matt Walton)