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Saturday, 29 May 2010

Day two in the Fens

Another fine day beckons.
A huge head appeared!

Dancing above the reed stems!

Nervously watching me!!

Drake Garganey below!
Day two of my sortie to the Fens and I was again greeted by a magnificent sunrise.It was 4.30 am and I had the whole of the reserve to myself, well at least for a couple of hours anyway! It`s that special time of day for me when I`m full of anticipation for what might lay ahead
The dawn chorus was almost deafening as I made my way out of the carpark towards the embankment,I was hoping to catch sight of a drake Garganey that had been reported the previous day.Scanning the river and washlands, I found it close to the bank in the shallows, feeding with the Mallard and Coot.what a splendid looking individual it was too with its vivid white eyestripe and contrasting grey flanks,beautifull!
Moving on down to the first viewpoint,I skirted the many drains and dykes that had been specially dug, they are a maze of channels which help to flood the reserve, all controlled by a sluice gate.Sedge and Reed warblers nest within the reeds and vegitation their scratchy songs came from deep within!Something moved to my left and disappeared under the water sending a trail of bubbles to the surface.Possibly a coot or Grebe,what I didn`t expect to see was a huge head appear with whiskers and a snout,Otter, the camera was raised and I grabbed a few shots before he slipped away into the sanctuary of the reedbed,wow does this get any better I thought!!!
The male Marsh Harrier was again showing well, gliding effortlessly across the reedbed.He hovered for a while just touching the top of the stems with his feet,wings flapping vigoursly to keep his position steady!Maybe he`d seen a small bird or rodent to feast upon!I decided to rest for 15 mins and take in all that was around me.Bitterns boomed,Cuckoos called relentlessly and in the Poplar plantation ahead, I could hear the melancholy call of the Golden Oriole.Two males had been reported, seen and heard in the last week,now this was a bird I would love to see and hopefully photograph.Lakenheath reserve used to be a stronghold for these charismatic birds with up to 20 pairs breeding,now wer`e down to 2 possibly 3 pair here,with an odd pair present elsewhere.
Whilst finishing my coffee, I watched a roe deer move silently through the long grass,she stared at me intently, ears upright,
nose twitching nervously,then I heard two little bleats that I thought was an Otter cub.Watching the area in front, the grass moved and two fawns only a few days old moved closer to their mother.The first ones I`d ever seen in the wild,a wonderful encounter and a privelege to see.Boy was it worth getting up early for,as in my oppinion you just would not see these things later in the day!It was not yet 6 o`clock and and I`d already enjoyed some marvellous sights,the icing on the cake though would be to see the rare Golden Oriole and I`ll tell you how I got on in my next blog down here in the Fens!!!!

Friday, 28 May 2010

May in Norfolk and Suffolk!

With the weather being favourable,I decided on visiting Norfolk and Suffolk for a few days!May is a fatastic time down there, as it coicides with the breeding season of most of our birds.The birds are at their most active,nest building,looking for a mate and of course feeding youngsters!I hoped to see and of course photograph a few of the rarer species that inhabit that neck of the woods!
Hobbies are one of our rarer breeding falcons and Lakenheath in Suffolk holds good numbers.They seem to meet up there in early May and feed on the abundant insects and Dragonflies.On my first morning at the reserve I counted no less than 47 birds hawking the insects, an absolutely tremendous spectacle!I managed a few flight shots of one bird that came within reach.I had one adult Hobby land within 10 metres of me in a tree,but as I aimed the lens at him a Mistlethrush came and chased it off,defending its territory!
Another of our summer migrant bird was evident by its call,the Cuckoo, they seemed to be everywhere on the reserve, their constant calling alerting every Reed and Sedge Warbler to be on their guard!!I only wish they would carry on flying further North as they are sadly declining in numbers around the North West!
Marsh Harrier too were present, with about 5 breeding pairs busy nest building.They would fly low to the reed beds searching for prey.The male would carry bits of reed in its talons to line its nest!Bitterns were booming often,but seeing them was another matter,I did manage to see one flyingbut not close enough to photograph.
Late one evening I observed a Barn Owl quartering the washlands and constantly dropping down on its prey,small shrews and fieldmice I think.I discovered that someone had put up an owl box in a small clump of trees and the owl had made good use of it, with hungry youngsters heard screeching and calling for food!I spent a good few hours watching the Owls hunting, something I will never get tired of.
The habitat at Lakenheath Reserve supports all sorts of wildlife as well as birds and in my next blog I`ll tell you of a close early morning encounter I had with a very special secretive mammal!!!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Two trips for a Dotterel!

It is the time of year when the Dotterel start to appear locally on their Northwards journey to their breeding grounds.A few had been reported at nearby Pendle Hill, so I decided to venture forth with the camera in the hope of a few close shots!
They can be a very obliging bird for the photographer as they will come to within a few metres, providing one remains still and keeps low to the ground.They dont seem to have any fear of man.It is also one of the birds where the female is more handsome than the male!It is he that does all the incubating of the eggs and tending of the hatchlings.
An early start was arranged and I headed off to Pendle, only to be greeted by very low cloud and visibility down to about 20 metres!Terrible conditions for photography.I had a good idea where the birds may be located and as I headed up the hill, 2 in fact came whizzing right past me towards their favourite area.
Trying to get decent images of the two birds was nigh on impossible in the conditions,so after a few hours of hanging about and watching the birds,I decided to call it a day.A few other birders had got wind of the birds and I left them enjoying the close views to be had!
At the foot of Pendle I got talking to the farmer who owns the land and we chatted away for the best part of an hour about various topics.He told me that there used to be as many as 12/15 birds dropping in on the summit 20 + years back,now we`re lucky to get 2 or 3 present.On glancing back up the hill the cloud seemed to be lifting,little bits of blue sky began to appear.Hmmn should I go back up and try for some better images!A quick brew and sandwich back at the car and I was again winding my way back to the summit.After all these birds don`t usually hang around very long and we may not get anymore stopping off.Must be bloody mad to do this again,I told myself.
At the top the cloud had lifted considerably.There was still another birder present who utterd the words, they`ve just flown off 5 mins ago in that direction,and pointed North!I searched all the likely looking areas but no sign!Ah well it wasn`t ment to be.I`ll just do another circuit in the hope they come back.About 200 metres from the Trig point in a Westerly direction I scanned hard with the binoculars,and lo and behold both birds were observed preening.Magic, I`m in business and I`ve got them at close quarters.whilst merrily clicking away, I was joined by 2 other birders who also got in on the act.It was a truly memorable experience photographing the two female Dotterel today,one that I hope to repeat again in the coming years!!!