Sunday 2 August 2020

Willow Tree Fen and Baston Gravel Pits

Sunday 2 August

Up at the (almost) crack of dawn and over to Willow Tree Fen  for a "third time lucky" chance of seeing the Cranes which have bred in Lincolnshire for the first time in over 400 years.  A lovely clear and approaching sunny start but I must admit I had not expected it to be so cold following the recent heat wave!  Looking quiet when I arrived at 6.45 but soon noting both the local Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves.  On the recently harvested meadow a number of Carrion Crows were already  feeding and a couple of Magpies soon put in an appearance.

Brown Hare Lepus europaeus

Looking right I saw the approaching adult female Marsh Harrier only a few minutes after a juvenile had landed at the back of the reserve in front of me viewing from the footbridge entrance to the site.  Suddenly, almost immediately in front of me, a  Grey Partridge moved to give itself away behind a clump of dry grass and seemed to be content to remain there for almost ten minutes.  No sooner had I seen a Brown Hare Lepus europaeus  cross the adjacent track than I found three more on the field away to my right.  And a fifth individual also turned up a little later very close to the resting place of the above partridge.  Also on the field lovely to see the arrival and feeding of two small flocks of Stock Dove making a total of 39 individuals.  A Herring Gull flew over at the back following the course of the River Glen, then a Cormorant whilst nearer to me a pair of cock Pheasants made their way along the back of the harvested meadow.  A couple of House Sparrows were active in the nearby vegetation.  Meanwhile, in the Counter Drain flowing under the bridge, an adult Moorhen to my right and a juvenile to my left.

Grey Partridge Perdix perdix ( Note surviving chick of 8 to the right)
No sign of the Cranes so decided I would wait a further ten minutes till 8 o'clock then wander back to the Baston Gravel Pits.  With less than five minutes to go the duty ranger pointed out one of the  Cranes as it it flew along the back of the reserve giving that very familiar silhouette that we see during winter months in Spain.  At last, and third time lucky, I had seen my first British Crane.

Willow Tree Fen seen from the entrance.  The Crane Grus grus flew along the back from left to right
So, with a contented smile on my face, I made my way back to the nearby Baston Gravel Pit passing a dozen resting Little Egrets and a pair of Mute Swans plus a Kestrel on the roadside wires.  Lots to see and the bulk of the birds were on the eastern lake including many Greylag Geese and Mute Swans.  Closing scrutiny also produced Tufted Duck, Coots and Moorhen along with Black-headed Gulls.  The odd Carrion Crow was seen near both waters with the western lake producing Mallards, Little Egret and a Little Grebe.  Also present were both Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls.

The nearby fields and wires also produced Rooks and Lapwing along with Starlings and Barn Swallows whilst in a sand pit  a short distance up the road, in addition to more gulls, I also found a pair of Green Sandpipers.

A few of the 39 Stock Doves Columba oenas feeding at Willw Tree Fen

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Grey Partridge, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Dove, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, Magpie, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow.

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

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