Six pm. Bored daft. What to do?
Well, you have to get in the car and drive 25 miles to do something you have never done before. In this case it was to hear the singing Spotted Crakes reported on the Ouse Washes at Welches Dam.
Most times I have visited this site it has been wet 'n' windy. I have never appreciated how amazing it is on a still Spring evening. I arrived just after 7pm and was surprised to find myself the only person there. It stayed this way until I left at 9:30pm.
I'm sorry to say that there are no photographs today, just too dark. I ensconsed myself in Kingfisher Hide and scanned the Washes. Two Kingfishers zipped back & forward along the river while a Great Spotted Woodpecker tried to give a telegraph pole a set of windows and a door! There were a few waders about including a Little Ringed Plover, several Avocet and a Spotted Redshank. There were also loads of Grey Herons & Little Egrets. A "dumpy" Egret made me look twice and this turned out to be the elusive Cattle Egret. Not great views...but good enough. Two large, distant, white birds coming into a roost made me think of Great White Egret but they were flying with their necks out stretched...Spoonbills, another first for 2014. Another year tick followed shortly after as I caught sight of a Bittern flying over the wetlands. It landed almost immediately and proceeded to "Boom" every few minutes. I could still hear it when I got back to the car.
The pool in front of Kingfisher Hide filled up with duck as the light dropped. However, it was still light enough to pick out 4 Garganey (3 drakes) amongst the Shoveler, Wigeon & Teal. I decided to stretch my legs and headed out the hide. While I stood outside the door a Tawny Owl gave itself away by giving (I suppose) its version of a yawn. Had some nice views before it melted away into the trees.
As the light dimmed, the sounds also changed. Singing thrushes, warblers & finches turned into calling Herons, drumming Snipe and screaming Lapwings. Always the Bittern.
A mammalian surprise came quietly along the track in front of and below the hide. A Vixen, followed a few seconds later by a cub less than half her size. I was well chuffed to be so close.
As the noise of the local bird life diminished to just the odd quack, caw & boom I heard what I had been waiting for. Impossible to see, of course, but the sound was unmistakeable. The "whip crack" of a singing Spotted Crake! I was very impressed. Even more so when a second bird joined in. I listened to them for about 15 minutes and headed back to the car. A magical evening over.
Started the Easter weekend off with a bang at Four Balls Farm near Pymoor. The Baikal Teal was bit a bit shy but eventually showed quite well thanks to a local Marsh Harrier. Lots of Grey Herons & Little Egrets at the nearby roost. Not a lot else to see though so headed off to Welches Dam to see if the Cattle Egret was still on show (it wasn't). Driving from Welney to Manea I almost massacred a flock of 20 Yellow Wagtails on the road. Missed 'em all. At Welches Dam a Whitethroat in the car park was a year tick and a few others followed on the way to Stockdale Hide. Garganey, House Martin andCommon Tern added to my year list. A Common Crane was also present.
Garganey, Welches Dam, Ouse Washes
Even though the drake Ring-necked Duck hadn't been reported for a day or so, I headed off to Poplar House Farm on the Nene Washes to see if it was there. Loads of wildfowl there but no sign of the Ring-necked Duck. However, I did find another goody in the form of a probable Ferruginous Duck. It was quite distant and the only photograph is heavily cropped. You decide.
probable Ferruginous Duck, Poplar House Farm, Nene Washes
Also at the same site were four more Common Cranes.
Common Cranes, Poplar House Farm, Nene Washes
Saturday and Sunday were limited to Snettisham Coastal Park. Some nice birds turned up including Whimbrel, Cuckoo, Ring Ouzel, Lesser Whitethroat and the ever elusive Grasshopper Warblers. Also found a tolerant Redpoll which was colour ringed. Waiting to hear back from BTO about this bird.