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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A Day At Lakenheath!

So my final day was to be spent at Lakenheath Reserve.The weather,unlike the previous day ,was a lot cooler with plenty of cloud cover.As I pulled onto the carpark,I was surprised to find I was the only one there!It was only 7.30am as I made my way down the path to the first viewing point.Nice and quiet, just as I like it.Don`t get me wrong,I like company and a good chinwag,but early morning,I do like to be on my own for a few hours.I just love the piece and solitude it offers.Sometimes I just observe, and listen to the goings on,taking it all in.

A few Coot and a Grebe were having a good squabble on the open water in front.Not much else was about!I wandered 400yds further on and heard the honking of the Cranes in the distance,They were on the move as I scanned for them with my glasses,I just caught site of them, as they disappeared over the river and landed amongst the crop fields.The last time I was down here I only caught fleeting glimpses of them in the distance.

Moving on again towards the last viewpoint,a Bearded Tit started zitting in the reeds to my right.I hadn`t seen these the last time I was here,so I froze and made ready with the camera.As if by magic,it suddenly appeared ,pearched on a reed stem, no more than 10yds away.I took a few quick shots before it disappeared out of view.What a bonny little bird I thought!I was quite chuffed at hearing and spotting it, and hoped to come across them again later in the day.

Out towards the river,a Barn Owl glided into view carrying a small field mouse.I followed it low across the meadow.It seemed to be making a bee line for a small building in the corner of the reserve,Walking around the side of the Poplar trees,I could just make it out, perched in the window opening.I was told later that 4 youngsters had fledged and were still in the vicinity of the building,what a fantastic brood.Mind you the habitat was superb for them here!

Whilst having a cup of coffee, another guy came walking down towards the shelter.It was Dave,a local lad I had met on my last visit.He asked me if i`d seen the Cranes.I told him that they flew across the river about 2 hrs ago.Ahh ...thats were they go to feed in the crop fields.Out of the two chicks that had hatched,only 1 was left.The other having been predated by a fox.Sad news indeed I thought!Nature at its worst!They should return back to the pasture shortly, he informed me.

We chatted away for an hour,whilst watching the Marsh Harrier combing the reeds.The Golden Oriole had since dispersed,as had a lot of the juv Harriers.They usually go first, followed by the adults he said.Whilst checking the notice board,Dave shouted` Cranes approaching from the right`.Iwas instantly on the camera, as they flew directly in front of us.Two adults and the juv all present.They landed way out of sight,but I was happy I`d had the opportunity to see them at close quarters.What a marvellous end to my trip to the Fens,I thought,I couldn`t have planned it any better, and am already looking forward to next year, when I will return!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Minsmere Suffolk

After rising early,I decided on the 65 mile journey, across country, to spend a day on the Suffolk coast at Minsmere!However after getting lost, the 65 mile quickly became 100 mile, and I finally arrived at my destination a good hour late(.I really will have to invest in a sat nav)
Walking down to the visitor centre,I noticed how busy it was becoming,with cars and coaches being directed into allocated parking lots.The weather was glorious sunshine well into the 70`s but really muggy and humid!It was going to be a long day, so I went back to the car and stocked up on cool drinks from the cool box.
There were several hides to choose from on the reserve,so I started off in the bittern hide,which gives good all round views of the reedbeds.A couple of hours were spent in there, and I observed a few Marsh Harriers in the distance and a couple of Bittern flying low across the top of the reeds.With the weather being so clammy,I suppose things were lying low in the reedbeds where it would be alot cooler.
Farther on round the reserve,I came to the East hide, which overlooked the wader scrapes. There were numerous Avocets feeding and a good flock of Black Tailed Godwits gave a brief flypast.A few Greenshank piped in the distance along with Spotted and Common Redshank!It was a lot cooler on that side, as a nice breeze had sprung up, and I spent a pleasent hour watching the activities of the birds ,on the shallow pools.Some local birders were saying that they had never seen the water levels so low.This contributed to the waders being some distance away from the hide!
The rest of the hides were briefly visited, but all were quiet,the only birds of note were a few Snipe,a dozen or so Teal and a fleeting glimpse of a Sparrowhawk, as it hunted at the edge of the reedbeds.I suppose early August isn`t the ideal time to visitMinsmere, especially with the weather being so hot,however I now have a feel for the place, and will definately return again next May, when I`m sure it will be a completely different encounter.I`ll try to get there very early morning next time,when it will of course be a lot quieter and of course cooler.
It will be my last day of my break tomorrow,so again I`ll rise early and probably spend the day at Lakenheath Reserve, before my long drive North.I`ll post that account at a later date!

Thursday, 20 August 2009


After leaving Cambridgeshire,I headed for the Suffolk/Norfolk border.One of the wardens at Fen Drayton had told me about a small secluded spot,where there was a good chance of seeing Stone Curlew at relatively close quarters!He mentioned that on occassions, he`d seen up to 12 of these birds post breeding.
The directions he gaveme, were spot on ,and it wasn`t long before I was scanning the Heathland with my binoculars.I located three birds at a distance of about 120yds.They were well hidden in the heather with just their heads visible.I took a few shots and decided to move on!
About 200yds further down the track,I stoped for a quick recce with the binoculars. Scanning left and right,I picked up a group of 7 birds amongst the heather,possibly some of these were juvs.I clicked away merrily with the camera for a good few minutes.
Walking back down the track towards the car,I heard Yellowhammer and Woodlark singing ,quite close by.The Yellowhammer was posing nicely on top of a gorse bush.It seemed to be feeding youngsters, as it had a beakfull of insects.The female was also in close attendance,so I quickly moved away, in order for them to carry on with their parental duties!We don`t have many Yellowhammers in my neck of the woods, so it was a moment to savour watching these colourful little birds!
The Woodlark was chasing insects in the vicinity of the gorse.Every now and then it would run,stop,cock its head then sort of jump onto some sort of prey it had spotted in the short grass.Again another rare bird we don`t have up north,and I was glad to take a few pictures of its daily routine.
Driving back to my base,I wondered what tomorrow might have in store for me,I`d had a cracking day`s birding, and managed a few decent shots with the camera as a bonus.
Maybe I`d have a chance to see a Hobby.A bird that has always been in the back of my mind for a while.At present it`s being very elusive, but things come to those who wait,so people say,
So I`ll continue at a later date about my ramblings ,and hope you enjoy my goings on in the Brecklands.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Fenstanton Cambs.

A trip to Norfolk was beckoning,so with that in mind I set off on the 225 mile journey, Southeast, across the M62 and down the A1 into Cambridgeshire,where I decided to pop into the RSPB reserve at Fen Drayton.Here there are a series of large mature gravel pits, closely knitted with easy access footpaths.On the first main pit I came to, I noticed a small floating raft,put out to encourage Terns to breed .A pair of common Terns had taken residence and where busily feeding a nearly fledged chick!
There are a good number of these birds here,all breeding well inland.However a lot of the chicks were predated by various gulls and the resident Marsh Harrier, according to one of the wardens!
It was the first year Marsh Harrier have bred successfully and they are hoping for more to follow,however it will be at the expense of the Tern chicks, unfortunately!
They have had Bittern there too,but as yet haven`t bred.I`m sure it is only a matter of time before this happens.Everybody I spoke to seemed quite positive about the whole reserve in general.The habitat they have there is superb, and needs little development!
Through the autumn they have good numbers of waders and wildfowl passing through.Osprey,merlin,hen harrier,peregrine all use the reserve as a stop off place to rest and feed!In early May good numbers of Hobby gather, to feast on the abundant Dragonfly that the reserve attracts.All in all, the place is well worth a visit,no matter what time of year.I for one will be returning to this relatively new reserve in the coming months..........

Monday, 3 August 2009

Early morning stroll.

As the forecast was quite good, I decided on a short walk round Brockholes, in the hope of spotting a Hobby that gets reported frequently from there.
On arrival I had the place to myself,unusual for a Sunday morn I thought.Scanning in front of me I located a few Black Tailed Godwit feeding in the margins,the usual Mallard and Lapwing and a few Oystercatchers.A heron was in its usual place by a small willow,it`s head tucked under its wing.
I moved further round the footpath to a gate,which gives good all round views of the main lake and the wood .Immediately over the wood ,I picked up a small raptor,Kestrel.It lazily drifted towards me then turned away over the belt of trees to my left.Something a lot larger appeared on the horizon,As it got closer I identified a Buzzard.It began to hover over the wasteland looking for its next meal.No such luck this time though.I took a few snaps with the camera before it departed.Not that long ago a Buzzard was a rare sight in these parts,they seem to be spreading a bit further South now, from the the Lakes and Cumbria!
The Hobby I hoped for, never materialised, but I`m a determined sort of guy,and i`m sure before they depart South to Africa, I`ll get onto one with the camera.They should be about to fledge youngsters about now, which further increases my chances.If I do, you`ll be the first to know.So with that in mind,I`ll leave this post and continue the story later!!!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Visit to the Fens (2)

Day 2 of my mini break was spent at Wicken Fen in Cambs.This is owned by the national Trust and reputed to be the oldest reserve in the country.It was a glorious morning, the sun was up,T so I decided to walk the perimeter of the reserve in order to catch bathing butterflies and dragonflies.The paths were raised in places by means of a boardwalk which made for a pleasant stroll.Butterflies were everywhere,Painted Ladies,Small Tortoiseshell,Red Admirals,Peacock were all in attendance.Commas and Gatekeeper were also present!Reed and Sedge warblers sang in harmony in the lush vegitation, an odd Cettis warbler could be heard.Dragonflies hawked insects over the pools.I noted Black Tailed Skimmer,Emperor and Red Darter,all these species which I am slowly beginning to familiarise myself with!There are over 20 different dragonflies recorded at Wicken,but I`m sure more are to follow.

Later that day I returned to a small reserve managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust ,where good views of Kingfisher were to be had.I set my stall and it wasn`t too long before one appeared less than 10 yds away,He was perched in a small Willow which overhung the water,an ideal place to ambush stickleback and minnow.Suddenly he was plummeting into the shallows but he missed his prey and landed on a small branch directly in front of me.I grabbed the opportunity and took numerous photos before he departed elsewhere.

Hope you enjoy the snaps