Saturday, 14 April 2012

Easter Weekend

Having spent some time studying the weather forecast for the holiday weekend we decided to go birding on the Friday and Sunday.
Good Friday was spent at Welney WWT and the Ouse Washes in cool but reasonably dry conditions with a few patches of sunshine. We dipped on the Sacred Ibis but were pleased to see our first Sedge Warbler for this year - unfortunately a rather shy one that didn't pose for photos! We also saw a tagged Marsh Harrier - tagged by the NW Norfolk Ringing Group at Sculthorpe Moor, Norfolk on the 10th June (biometrics indicated that it is a male from a brood of 6).
Wing-tagged male Marsh Harrier AA

We also saw Little Ringed Plover and a large group of 11 Snipe on the scrapes left of the main hide.
After lunch we drove round to the Ouse Washes in search of Garganey that had been reported there. With a short walk to the hides overlooking the 'Washes' we spent some time checking out the numerous Teal that were feeding there. Eventually a pair of Garganey were spotted emerging from the vegetation at the side of one of the pools.
 
Then after the Teal were spooked, taking to the sky, they settled in a channel directly opposite the hide. The Garganey had taken off with them and when we found them again there were actually 2 males and a female. It took them a little frantic calling and swimming around in circles before they found each other again.

In just one section of the Washes we counted more than a dozen Little Egret. We also found Ruff, displaying Redshank and a pair each of Pintail and Goldeneye. To our surprise there were still several Whooper Swans grazing on the water meadows.
In contrast we started out in rain on Easter Sunday to travel to Dungeness for our first visit there this year. As it was still raining when we got there we decided to visit the hide on the ARC pit first (we usually go there after a walk around the RSPB reserve). It was a good call as we had fairly close views of the Spoonbill, which has been there for a while, before it retreated to the other side of the pit.
Dungeness Spoonbill

Other birds seen included Snipe, Oystercatcher, Goldeneye, Curlew and Little Ringed Plover. As we returned to the car we spotted a beautiful male Hen Harrier hunting over the scrub opposite Boulderwall Farm, before it flew low over the road and onto the reserve.
The reserve itself was fairly quiet - few people and even fewer birds. There were Marsh Harriers quartering the fields, pristine Common Gulls amongst those sheltering/roosting on Burroughs Pit and a few Swallows flying through.
A visit to Dungeness is not complete without a sea watch. Despite the meanness of the winds coming in off the sea there were good views of Little Gulls patrolling the shoreline and a number of adult Gannets flying through as well as a couple of groups of Common Scoter. We had hoped to find any early migrants near the lighthouse but the poor weather kept them skulking out of sight.

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