Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Fenland Washes

Wednesday 5 August

If Monday is "Washing Day" the Wednesday, today, was "Washes Day!"  Lovely blue sky with some broken cloud and very warming sunshine as I set out for Eldernell near Whittlesey for a visit to the Nene Washes.  Still a very strong breeze when I arrived at 9.30 but standing on the bridge near the car park I had a lovely view of a distant quartering Marsh Harrier.  Lots of Carrion Crows and Wood Pigeons about and then the first of the Barn Swallows feeding over the stream as they made their way westwards.  On the stream itself a pair of Mute Swans with a single cygnet and lower down the stream I was to find another two pairs, the first with three well-grown cygnets.

Mute Swan Cynus olor family
Mute Swan Cygnus olor with family

Searching the fields it was not so much the second, closer Marsh Harrier but the pale "bump" above the tall grasses that drew my attention.  With the scope trained on the spot the bump finally revealed itself as the neck and head of a Common Crane.  Nothing before and now two individuals within days of each other.  Unfortunately, the wind was too strong to take the distant photograph with my camera.

Common Crane Grus grus
The walk on down the stream revealed both a Mallard and a Coot on the pond on the other side of the high bank and as I turned for the return walk a quintet of Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew over towards the south and passed a single Cormorant flying in the opposite direction.  Reaching the car park for a final looked over the fen with its lush green grasses and feeding cattle, another handsome male Marsh Harrier followed by a flock of almost fifty Jackdaws.

With so little to see I decided to move across to the RSPB Ouse Washes near Manea, March, also in Cambridgeshire, and recorded both Pheasant and Kestrel on the way. Only 45 minutes away and really looking forward to visiting the hides and seeing some good birds, so you can imagine my great disappointment to arrive and not only find toilets and Reception closed but also all hides and the paths leading to same.    Maintenance work on the high banks so no chance of even getting a view of the area.  Therefore, left with the sighting of the usual Wood Pigeons and Carrion Crows along with a small number of House Sparrows and a calling Tree Sparrow.  However, the Barn Swallows were starting to flock up with a maximum of eighteen on the wires above the entrance.  And as I was to see depart a male Blackbird fly across the shaded car park.

What to da as still not 2 o'clock?  The Welney Wetland Centre seemed a good option being only about thirty minutes away so back on the road and the temperature now up into the high twenties and very humid.  Upon arrival, yet more disappointment.  Well into the afternoon and the reserve due to close about 4 but still an entrance fee of £6.90!   Whilst I contemplated the idea looking out at the almost dry scrapes below I thought I might be better off making my way back to Stamford and get this report completed today rather than tomorrow.  However, looking through the window I did note the eight Redshank below and both Mallard and Moorhen feeding on the droppings below the feeders which hosted three House and two Tree Sparrows.  Also nearby both Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove and a large flock of Starlings gorging themselves on the ripening blackberries.  A pair of juvenile Pied Wagtails were also present near the scrape.  Add on another Marsh Harrier and a couple of Carrion Crows and my fifteen minutes on site had produced 11 species!

So, very few birds seen but, on the other hand, a delightful tour of rural Cambridgeshire with some lovely villages and all looking very healthy.  Considering I was in "proper" fenland, readers will not be surprised to hear that nearly every road ended with the name "Drove" and I was forever driving along narrow, perfectly straight lanes for miles at a time and often more undulating than a sheet of corrugated cardboard!  So, so different from winter visits when the fields are flooded and masses of wildfowl to be seen.

Birds seen:
Mute Swan, Pheasant, Cormorant, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Redshank, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Blackbird, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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