Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Fenland focus !

It's many years since I visited the Nene Washes, east of Peterborough, so I was really looking forward to this visit.  It's not the easiest place to find but, if you've a SatNav, then simply pop in the following post code reference and any confusion is totally dispelled........PE7 2DD.

There appears to be no general access to or trails around this RSPB reserve other than along a flood bank on the boundary, but much of the site can be viewed from the car park. Sadly it was somewhat dry today , but when the site is fulfilling its washland role then the transformation must be enormous both in terms of its appearance and the numbers and variety of birds present.  A list on the reserve noticeboard of the birds present in mid February was mouth-wateringly good!!!  Ducks abound but accompanied by a wide variety of other species. In future I shall ensure a future visit falls within January or February. As it was I had a few duck and geese but also a pair of Common Cranes that were the highlight of the visit. A close second though was a diminutive Long-tailed Tit, its bill full of nesting material, which sat on the superstructure of a bridge across a drainage dyke nearby and scolded me with deliberate intent !!!  The nearest bushes were a distance away but, nonetheless, the bird made no pretence of what it thought of my presence or what I should do. I retired, admonished, to the car and breakfast.  It must be said that it's not just the winter communities this reserve is famed for. It is the most notable site in England for breeding Black-tailed Godwit and also for the reintroduction scheme (in England ) for Corncrake.  I found this intriguing, comparing the physical attributes on site to those where Corncrakes occur on Islay  ( not a nettle bed or Flag Iris in sight here ! ) and would like to come back in mid summer to view the situation.  So a site to visit as opportunity allows.

On then to a site I've visited without success in the past......the Yaxley area.  Part of the Great Fen project, the area is typical central fenland with an impressive birch woodland  to boot. Nice views of a Great-spotted Woodpecker as I arrived augured well, or so I thought.  A Rough-legged Buzzard had been reported from this area in recent times so I set about my quest!!  Visiting and scrutinizing various areas for at least an hour produced nothing but a Red Kite and a Kestrel . And then I found a Common Buzzard "worming " on an area of rough ground, and then another and a Kestrel too. One of the CB's, and then a Carrion Crow, flew towards a bird I'd not seen previously, and there it was, the Rough-legged Buzzard !!   Quite good views were finally obtained, although not in the form that I'd perhaps first expected.

I then moved into what I always personally consider to be "central Fenland" and looked at the area around Welney. Some good views were obtained of Bewick's Swans and a few Whooper Swan, but little else despite scouring a whole series of areas. Much of the Fens is now showing Spring crops coming through and what areas remain are generally being prepared for cultivation. As I travelled towards my selected overnight base near Mildenhall, a female Marsh Harrier drifted across the road and provided an apt completion to a good Fenland day!!