Posts Tagged ‘Welney WWT’

And so to the last day of our Norfolk Journey -for this year at least- and we find ourselves back at the Wildfowl reserve at Welney on the Norfolk – Cambridgeshire border.

I got talking to one of the volunteer wardens as I was surprised to already see Whooper Swans on the reserve as these are winter visitors from the Arctic. She explained that they now have a small resident population made up of pairs where one of the pair has been injured and so cannot fly well enough to migrate in the spring and the autumn. The wonderful thing is that although one of the pair is perfectly ok, their pair-bonding is so strong that they stay on with their mate rather than migrate with the rest of the population. These pairs have begun to breed, but the youngsters do not stay with their parents when it comes time to migrate the following spring but go north with the rest of the birds to their normal breeding grounds.

Sue and I spent two weeks exploring the north of Norfolk and would like to share some of the highlights of our trip.

 

Our first stop on arriving in Norfolk was at the WWT reserve at Welney in Fenland. This reserve is best known for its wintering migratory swans but it is good all year round. The really good thing is that you can birdwatch why you eat your lunch in the restaurant (if you can get a table by the windows!). We were lucky and so were able to look out over Lady Fen and the feeding stations. The former was quiet with just a couple of Little Egrets, but the feeders didn’t disappoint with House Sparrows, Dunnock, Goldfinch and a single Tree Sparrow present.

The view from the cafe in the Welney visitor centre -wildlife watching whilst you eat

Little Egret

Tree Sparrow

 

After finishing our lunch, we made our way over to the main hide where there was a large group of Ruff along with Lapwing and Black-Tailed Godwits.  Sue found a group of Common Snipe feeding in the margins and we counted a maximum of 14 birds at different times. A female Marsh Harrier was seen in the distance,

Common Snipe

We made our way back to the balcony overlooking Lady Fen and were treated to a fly-past by a Eurasian Hobby

Leaving Welney we made our way to East Barsham, north of Fakenham, which would be our base for the next two weeks. Relaxing over a cup of tea in the garden we saw a family of pheasants who with white backs, probably one of the variants originally bred for shooting which now is now breeding in the wild. A Common Whitethroat, amongst other small birds, was seen in a hedge.

Common Pheasants in the garden (normal plumage)

 

As the sun began to set we were excited to see a Barn Owl fly through the meadow beyond the garden and land in a tree where there is a breeding box. After a brief stop, he went away over the fields. Later he settled on a post at end of the garden.

 

Barn Owl in field behind our cottage

 

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Eurasian Hobby [sp] (Falco subbuteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Western Barn Owl [sp] (Tyto alba)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow [sp] (Passer montanus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

 

Whooper Swan

Posted: February 10, 2016 in Birds, Natural History, Norfolk, UK
Tags: ,

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The Whooper Swan is the largest of the 2 migratory swan species which visit the UK in the winter. It is estimated that about 15,000 birds winter in the Uk of which around 7-8.000 winter on the Ouse washes in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire.  It can be separated from other swan species by the large yellow triangular marking on the bill.

 

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Whooper Swans

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Some more photos from my trip to Norfolk at the weekend

Tree Sparrow

Tree Sparrow

 

Pochard

Pochard

 

Moorhen

Moorhen

 

Coot

Coot

 

Goldfinches

Goldfinches

 

Whooper Swans

Whooper Swans

 

Mute Swans

Mute Swans

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)

Welney

Welney

Have been in Cambridgeshire for a short visit staying at Ely and time to do a morning’s nature watching on the way back to London on Sunday. The weather could be better, but then it could be a lot worse. Our first stop is at Welney Wildfowl reserve in Norfolk. OK not strictly on the way back to London as it lies 10 miles in the opposite direction, but on hearing their sightings from Saturday, the lure of the possibility of a lifetime first species is too big. We arrive at the reserve at 1000 and there is hardly anyone else there – not an encouraging sign but we make our way to the reserve centre. The warden has been out this morning but has not been able to re-locate the bird, a Red-necked Phalarope, but we are here now and lets give it a go. It had been seen in 2 places on the reserve and we make our way to the first hide, but there is no sign. We make our way along the path when we are brought short by a strange and distinctive song coming from the undergrowth. I am puzzled for a while but the thought of Quail, also a life first species, goes through my brain but I dismiss it.

Lyle Pool Welney

Lyle Pool Welney

On ward we go and arrive at the Lyle hide. I begin to scan the pool and it seems there is nothing but Shelduck and Redshank and then suddenly there it is, swimming at the back of the pool – a Red-necked Phalarope in summer plumage. A longer look and a few record shots and then back to the reserve centre letting others know on the way that the bird is still there.

Red-necked Phalarope at Welney

Red-necked Phalarope at Welney

After a celebration coffee its off to Wicken Fen.

Wicken Fen

Wicken Fen

Feeling lucky I want to chance my arm at one of the best Dragonfly reserves in the UK and hopefully pick up a few new species for the year and another potential life first species, the Variable Damselfly. But the weather is against me – in fact I draw a big fat zero when it comes to Dragonflies and butterflies. Well you can chance your luck too much.

Windmill used to control water level on fen

Windmill used to control water level on fen

Oh and by the way that strange song we heard was later confirmed by listening to a recording and subsequent confirmation by other birders to be a singing male Quail, so it was two lifers in one morning and you cant complain about that!

Wicken Fen

Wicken Fen

Red-legged Partridge [sp] (Alectoris rufa)
Common Quail [sp] (Coturnix coturnix)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

The final day of our Suffolk trip and we travel west to the Wildfowl and Wetlands reserve at Welney. This is a reserve famous for its wintering Swans, but which also play host to a number of wader species on their migration.

On arrival after a two hour drive we stop for refreshment in the café, but this reserve is so well designed that even from here you have a great chance of seeing good birds as it overlooks the newly formed Lady Fen. When I first started vsiting this reserve back in the 1980s this was all farm land, but now it has been transformed into a wetland habitat. From the windows there are excellent views of Goldfinches on the feeder station, whilst Little Egrets patrol the shallows.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

Little Egret

Little Egret

In the distance a large flock of Golden Plover wheel across the sky.

The main reserve is a wetland created by the washes, a system designed to prevent the flooding of the surrounding low-lying agricultural fields. We tend to think of flood alleviation schemes as being a modern one but the washes system dates back to the 17th century when King Charles granted a charter to the Earl of Bedford who engaged the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden to construct the two Bedford rivers to improve the drainage of the River Ouse. Today they are an important site for natural history and particularly for wintering wildfowl.

The washes at Welney

The washes at Welney

Whooper Swans and Ducks on the Washes

Whooper Swans and Ducks on the Washes

Grey lag Goose

Grey lag Goose

Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon

Pochard

Pochard

Whoopwer Swan

Whoopwer Swan

Although it is only early March, most of the Swans have already left and begun their journey north to their breeding grounds. We are fortunate to find one remaining Bewicks Swan together with a dozen or so Whooper Swans present.

Also present on the islands are a good selection of wading birds – a large flock of over 100 Black-tailed Godwit together with a group of Snipe, some Redshank, two Common Sandpipers, a Ruffe and a Ruddy Turnstone.

Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwit
Photo by K.Koshy (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kkoshy/)

Common Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Photo by Sergey Yeliseev (https://www.flickr.com/photos/yeliseev/)

Ruddy Turnstone
Ruddy Turnstone
Photo by Andy Morffew (https://www.flickr.com/photos/andymorffew/)

A great days birdwatching but we have to make our way home.

Arriving home at 1800 we are greeted by the sound of our local Tawny Owl, the first time we have heard him this year, which is a perfect way to end the weekend.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Bewick’s Swan (Cygnus columbianus)
Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Tawny Owl [sp] (Strix aluco)
Rook [sp] (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)