Naturelog: January 24th

Posted: January 25, 2016 in Birds, Natural History, Norfolk, UK
Tags: , , ,
Whooper Swans

Whooper Swans

Sunday found me on a RSPB group outing to Welney Wildfowl centre in Norfolk. This is one of my favourite reserves in the UK and I always try to visit at least once a year. Last Summer it gave me my best morning’s birdwatching when I found both Red-necked Phalarope and Common Quail within 30 minutes. But mid-winter visits present different opportunities. We made good time from London and made the journey to Norfolk in just under 2 hours. First up was a brief look over Lady Fen, where a large group of whooper swans were present, along with a large party of Lapwing.

Lady Fen

Lady Fen

 

Whooper Swans

Whooper Swans

Then onto the main observatory which overlooks the wash. The washes were created to take the winter flood waters from surrounding rivers and as such benefit both the wildlife and the local population. The were good numbers of Eurasian Wigeon, Coot, Common Pochard and Mallard along with some close Whooper swans.

The Ouse Washes

The Ouse Washes

 

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

 

Time for coffee in the reserve centre cafeteria, which overlooks Lady Fen and the feeder station so there is no loss of birdwatching time. My target species here was the increasingly rare Tree Sparrow, but which is still frequently seen here at the feeder station. Goldfinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits and a Greenfnch were feeding. A pair of Reed Buntings were making trips from the nearby reed-bed to take food dropped from the feeders. Suddenly a brown headed bird landed on one of the feeders and I was able to get some good photos of a Tree Sparrow!

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow

 

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

 

Back over to the wash and again a look in the main observatory. I found a male Pintail dozing amongst the Wigeon and one of the Wardens found a Bewick’s Swan amongst the Whooper and Mute Swans resting on a small expanses of land. The Bewick’s Swan is the rarest of our Swans and a although there are around a 1000 roosting on the reserve they spend most of their time feeding on the surrounding agricultural fields, only returning to the reserve at dusk, so it is often difficult to find one during the day. It was quite distant but through the telescope the characteristic bill pattern cold clearly be seen.

Bewick's Swan (left) alongside larger Whooper Swan

Bewick’s Swan (left) alongside larger Whooper Swan

Then onto Nelson-Lyall hide further along the wash. Here the number of wildfowl was lower, but there were some Northern Shoveler and Gadwall. Cetti’s Warbler was heard from the reed-bed and a party of Long-tailed Tits flew past.

View from Nelson-Lyall hide

View from Nelson-Lyall hide

Time to retrace my steps on the way back to the centre. Another stop at the main observatory added Dunlin and Black-tailed Godwit to the day’s lost.

Lady Fen in the late afternoon

Lady Fen in the late afternoon

The last stop of the day was the observation platform overlooking Lady Fen, where a number of the group had gathered in the hope of seeing a Short-eared Owl which frequents the fen. A Marsh Harrier was hunting and gave good views. As time ticked closer to departure time it looked as though we might be unlucky. Our attention was distracted by the arrival of a small goose, which was identified as a Pink-footed goose. Then as if on cue the Short-eared owl appeared circling and hunting over the fen. A great end to a good day.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Pink-footed Goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus columbianus bewickii)
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Dunlin [sp] (Calidris alpina)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Gull (Larus canus canus)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Short-eared Owl [sp] (Asio flammeus)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow [sp] (Passer montanus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

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