The news that there were a pair of Summer plumaged Black-Necked Grebes viewable from the Draper hide at Rye Meads had me rushing down there as soon as possible. They were found by Alan Harris and fortunately they stayed for the day allowing quite a few people to see them.
The female showed a more rusty/red neck than the all black on the male bird.
There may have been the odd one that had dropped in, but the last time a pair lingered, and had a failed breeding attempt was 2014.
Stunning birds and a shame that they departed so soon! Also great to see a few familiar faces in the hide.
My Brother in Law and a mate were coming down from North Yorkshire for a few days birding in the Norfolk area so it was a good chance to meet up for one of the days and show them some sites in the Brecks. First stop was Lakenheath and their first visit to the reserve in its present form. First up was some good views of a female Marsh Harrier at the first viewpoint.
Sedge and Reed Warblers were constantly calling and this Reed Warbler showed well.
A few Reed Bunting were also present.
As always the F15's were a constant presence!
We saw and heard quite a few Cuckoo's around the reserve, but the best I could get was this distant record shot.
At Joist Fen there were at least 7 or 8 Hobbies, but all distant and we had no luck with a Crane fly by. Walking back however two Bittern landed close by in the reedbed, but too quick for shots. The Dragonflies were more co-operative, including Four-spotted Chaser.
And also this Scarce Chaser.
The Washland held a few Redshank, Avocet and Shelduck as well as two male Garganey.
On the way out, we were treated to good views of Whitethroat.
Next was a short trip to Weeting Heath. As usual the Stone Curlew were distant and viewed through a heat haze. However, a short stop at the pond gave some great photo opportunities for initially Goldfinch -
And finally Chiffchaff.
The final stop was Cavenham Heath with Grey Wagtail on the river.
Skylarks singing and sometimes perching up!
Also good to see Linnets.
A wheatear gave fleeting views.
We also managed to locate only one Woodlark, but what a super little bird!
Stonechats were much more common.
Hares are also good to see and this one posed before racing off.
And finally, a couple of Stone Curlew that were a bit nearer!
A fitting end to a great day!
A Glossy Ibis had been reported at Hall Marsh so the following day I popped down to see if it had stayed around. The news was negative but a walk up to Holyfield Weir was rewarded with a couple of Oystercatchers and a distant view of Greenshank on the Goose Field".
A Lesser Whitethroat was singing and at least three Nightingales were singing, but as usual, very well hidden! A more confiding songster was this showy Wren.
A brief shower did not dampen the spirits of this Dunnock!
Even the Greylag goslings have a certain charm.
The warmer weather is now tempting insects out and I had my first Banded Demoiselle of the year.
But on to the Warblers as it is a good time to see them while they are still singing and holding territory. A total of nine species seen or heard, with good pictures of three of them, starting with Chiffchaff.
Whitethroats were numerous, but sometimes rather shy.
Garden Warblers have few distinguishing features but have a certain elegance and a lovely song. There were quite a few along the Flood Relief Channel, but this one gave a fantastic display.
Another great few hours in the Lee Valley.
Spring migration started slowly with cold northerly winds restricting bird movement and Amwell has been fairly quiet apart from the usual suspects. That changed on the 2nd May when I was alerted by Roland Powers of the presence of a Wood Sandpiper. A quick dash allowed me to get some shots before it departed later in the day.
Another fairly unexpected visitor is this White Fronted Goose which at the time of writing is still present on the "Goose Field".
And finally, on the 3rd May, low cloud and rain brought in two Sandwich Terns and six Arctic Terns. Sadly I missed the Sandwich Terns as they only stayed for around 20 minutes. I did however get some shots of the very graceful Arctic Terns.
What will turn up next?
I love Cambridgeshire and I had heard that Water Voles had been showing well on one of the rivers, so time for a trip to see if I could get some pictures. Before that however, always some time for birds including Reed Bunting and Great Tit.
It was also good to see a Willow Warbler. The song gave it away together with the pale legs and longer wing projection.
It was also a good opportunity to see how the Marsh Harriers were progressing.
Along the river I had my first Dragonflies of the season in the shape of Large Red Damselfly.
Also one of five Mallard ducklings.
After a short wait, the Water Voles showed both swimming, and eating the water cress and other vegetation. Often alerted to their presence by a plop in the water, rustling in the undergrowth or munching on plants. It was a family group and great to see the youngsters, though I only managed pictures of the adults.
Such an experience to watch these beautiful creatures!
A trip down to Amwell turned up two big surprises, the first one was a surprise Whimbrel that dropped in at the Viewpoint for less than 60 seconds before heading off South. It was at about 9.00am and with clear blue skies. An annual visitor, but scarce here so a great year tick.
Next was a walk up to Hardmead Lock with a singing Wren and flyover Raven on the way.
It was also good to see my first Whitethroat of the year, albeit staying in quite dense cover!
By the Lock is always a good place for Grey Wagtails and this one certainly showed well, feeding quietly on the short grass.
Back at the Viewpoint, it is fairly common to see a Fox on the far bank, but this one came out onto one of the shallow chain of islands. It certainly put the Gulls up!
It was determined in its route and when the islands ran out, it simply carried on.
Until it was swimming towards the main island.
It then disappeared from sight until about 20 minutes later, the Gulls all went up again as it made the return journey.
It was carrying something and on closer inspection it turned out to be the head of a Cormorant, which nest on the island. How it managed to get this is a bit of a mystery, but what wonderful behaviour to observe!
Never a dull moment at Amwell!
With better, southerly winds and warmer temperatures migrants are starting to make their way into the country. Stanborough GP has been turning up some good birds recently so time for a trip and making sure I stuck to the public footpath through the working quarry. I was soon checked out by a low flying Red Kite.
There were quite a few commoner farmland birds including Skylark, Linnet, Meadow Pipit and Yellowhammer plus Brown Hares in the fields. However, the target was Yellow Wagtail and at least three were present, but reasonably distant.
The site also yielded Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper, White Wagtail and Mandarin, but the highlight for me were the hirundines, starting with Sand Martin.
I also took a bit of video footage.
The Swallows were also using the wires to rest between feeding.
Luckily I managed some flight shots.
And a short Swallow video.
A great few hours!
It has been a slow start to Spring, so with not much happening at Amwell, time to pop down to Rye Meads to see what was about. Usual suspect at Water Vole corner, but it certainly wasn't a Vole!
Distant Kingfisher at the Draper Hide and lots of Shoveler, but otherwise quiet. However, on the paths lots of bird song including this showy and noisy Wren.
Chiffchaff were very evident and I managed to get a shot of one, albeit from virtually underneath.
I love the explosive call of Cetti's Warbler, but they are usually really difficult to see. This particular one was a lot more forthcoming!
Next stop was the Kingfisher Hub where a pair of Pochard gave close views. A couple of shots of the male who spent quite a lot of time asleep.
I believe the Kingfishers are now on eggs so sightings are sparse at the moment. I did have a brief glimpse of the female but the male perched up for a while reasonably close in.
I did remember to take a bit of video, but almost too late!
A great way to end a pleasant couple of hours!
A little early in the year perhaps but with the good spell of sunny, warm weather decided to have a trip up to The Brecks on the Norfolk/Suffolk border. First port of call was RSPB Lakenheath and we were greeted by the sound of calling Chiffchaffs and a smart male Reed Bunting.
Walking up past the first viewpoint we had brief glimpses of Bearded Tits, but sadly no photo opportunities. However, a pair of Marsh Harriers gave good views, especially this female.
A passing Common Buzzard was soon escorted out of the Harriers airspace!
We were greeted at the hide by this singing Wren.
Otherwise, this area was quiet and the only reward was a Greylag.
More distant Marsh Harriers from Joist Fen, but signs of any Cranes, so it was back along the river to see if we could see anything on the Wash. Redshank, Lapwing and Avocets were added along with good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits coming into full breeding plumage.
A few Ruff were also present and here was a quite distinctive one.
There has been an influx of Garganey nationally and Lakenheath had had some recently. We had almost given up when someone located one on the edge of the Wash. In total there were four drakes and one female. Record shot of two males below.
Next stop was Weeting Heath as Stone Curlews had been reported. It is not the best place for photos as the birds are distant and there is generally a heat haze, but as Rob had never seen one, it was a no brainer. As we entered the West hide, a chap said they had settled down and not been seen for an hour! Thankfully after a couple of minutes both birds popped up allowing distant views and a record shot.
Final stop was Cavenham Heath which did not yield any more Stone Curlew, but plenty of other birds including huge numbers of Jackdaws and Rooks.
By the bridge we had a solitary Fieldfare, flythrough Kingfisher and a Grey Wagtail.
Heading back we added Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and a couple of Stonechats.
A Red Legged Partridge was also a pleasant surprise.
We had almost given up hope of Woodlark when one flew over calling and landed at the side of the track. Edging slowly closer I managed a few shots. This was another lifer for Rob.
A great day out with some cracking birds and a day list of 59 species. I will certainly be back later in the year.
Most of my outings have been very local recently, so with some good weather it was good to head out to Dernford Reservoir initially to see what was about. First sighting was this male Reed Bunting.
Dernford is also a very good site for Skylark and there were good numbers and such a joy to hear them singing.
A Ruddy Shelduck has been present for a while and like most records the origin of the bird is subject to discussion, but still a striking bird.
It was then time to check up on the local Marsh Harriers, but while walking around it was good to hear a few early Chiffchaffs.
The Marsh Harriers showed well, and it was wonderful watching them flying over the reedbed in glorious sunshine.
A great way to end the day.