Monday, 27 February 2017

Feb 27th Cley

Avocets at Cley
It was a bit of a chilly, blustery morning at Cley today. There were a few short, drizzly showers during our visit, but it wasn't enough to put us off. The lack of birds, however, was a different story. Normally, a visit to Cley would produce a mini bird paradise with many species of waders, wildfowl and other great things and in large numbers too. Today, I'm afraid, was not one of those memorable visits. That said, there were still some birds on the reserve to see, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.

If there was a theme for today's visit, it would be black and white. Why? Because most of the birds we could see from the hides this morning were mostly black and white. Brent geese dominated one of these pools, covering the water and islands into a mass of black, grey and white bodies with more arriving to add to the mass by the minute. On another pool, it was a welcoming sight to see a flock of avocets back at Cley once again after returning from their wintering sites. They were pretty sleepy though, huddling together with their heads under their wings. That is until a marsh harrier appeared, forcing them move a few metres from their original spot. We also saw a few shelducks, gulls (mainly black-headed and the odd juvenile herring gull), lapwings, a handful of mallards, teal and gadwall and that was pretty much it really.
Brent Geese
Male Mallard
Female Mallard
Marsh Harrier
From East Bank, it was a very quiet scene. A few wigeon, greylags, teal, redshanks, curlews, shelducks, a heron, a little egret and a lot of space between them all. Yep, it was pretty empty with not that many birds to see than usual. At least the bearded tits kept us entertained with a game of hide and seek in which they won as they remained hidden in the reed beds, teasing us with their pinging calls. I only managed to get a brief glimpse of one popping up into the air for half a second before diving back down again. It was the only loser of the game.


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Feb 22nd Strumpshaw Fen

This morning was a rather wet one. I was walking around the woods when it suddenly lashed down a downpour. I was slightly soaked in minutes as I made my retreat to the Reception Hide. I soon dried up under the hide's heater as I watched the wildfowl on the broad. A kingfisher made a brief visit in front of the hide and an otter showed up, but was a bit stealthy for me and my camera. It appeared along the reed bed edge at the near left channel of the broad, then I lost track of it as I reached for my camera. By the time I located the otter again, it was heading down the far left channel and disappeared.

Pointing out wildlife on a guided walk
Today, I was asked to help out with a guided walk. It appears I was the popular choice as wildlife expert for this walk, so of course I helped out. The rain eased off to begin with as we made our way into the woods and as a precaution, I kept my camera hidden to keep it dry and so I didn't use it much during our walk. I showed them the snowdrops and the fungi that I knew as well as pointing out the bird sounds we could hear. There weren't as many species calling as I had expected, but the group enjoyed hearing birds such as song thrushes, dunnocks, robins and long-tailed tits.
Blackthorn blossom
Hazel catkins
But then, as we left the woods and were walking along the river, the rain drizzled heavily for a few minutes before easing off to a near halt. We were a bit wet, but at least we had some great wildlife to look at. The meadows adjacent to the pump house provided us with views of stonechats, a brown hare bounding to cover, two Chinese water deer, two grey herons, a meadow pipit flying past and two mute swans. I was more pleased in seeing the hare, but everyone else seemed to be more at awe with the stonechats.

At Fen Hide, I showed them a couple of marsh harriers, another Chinese water deer, a water rail and a snipe. They were very impressed with my spotting skills with the snipe as it was well hidden in an area of reed stubble. No one even knew it was there, even a pair of my regulars who were in the hide before we invaded did not see it before I pointed it out. The snipe was no surprise to me, though, as there's usually one hiding in the stubble, it is just a case of knowing what your looking for. The thing about snipe is that their movements while feeding always gives them away.

We returned back at Reception Hide to end the walk. While some members of the group disbanded, others stayed on with me in the hide, hoping that a kingfisher would arrive. Sadly, the kingfishers did not show up for them in the end, but they weren't disappointed. They praised me for giving them a great experience and for teaching them all I know about the wildlife we saw. The weather may have been rubbish, but at least it has been a great outing at Strumpshaw for them.
Marsh Harrier