Monday, 18 June 2018

Bittern Bonanza at Lakenheath Fen

7th June 2018

We had such a good time with the Bitterns at Lakenheath Fen, so time for a second visit to try for some more photos, but first a quick visit to Lackford Lakes.

It had been hoped that there would be a sprinkling of warblers hopping around in the bushes, but only a single male Blackcap put in an appearance and therefore we had to made do with a lone Bee Orchid in front of the old Bernard's Hide site and a female Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing.

Now on to Lakenheath and wait for the Bitterns to perform. Fairly quiet for a while with only a Buzzard to keep us company.

But then the first flights of the day, although not all in photographic range.

At that point my son Stuart spotted with his naked eye a Bittern climbing up the reeds. Although not completely visible it did provide some shots.............

...................and even preened for the camera. The main advantage of it clinging on to reeds is that it will eventually fly, so plenty of time to pre-focus and test all the settings.

And then it launched itself into the air allowing a superb sequence of shots to be taken of this most amazing bird.

I suspect that Lakenheath Fen is now one of the top sites in the UK for seeing and photographing Bitterns, with 8 booming males present in 2017, and the development of the site from a carrot field in 1995 to today's fen habitat is an amazing achievement.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

A Day at Blue House Farm and Rainham Marshes

3rd June 2018

There had been reports of families of Avocets on the islands immediately in front of the first hide at Blue House Farm in North Fambridge, so time for another visit to this lovely reserve on the banks of the River Crouch. As I walked out to the hide I came across two species that I have never seen before at this site, Barnacle Goose and Corn Bunting. The Barnacles, up to eight in all, were all very distant but the lone Corn Bunting did allow a few shots before it flew.

At the hide, disaster!! The heavy rains over the last few days had raised the water levels considerably and the islands in front of the hide were now no more than a few feet square, just large enough for a couple of Mallard. Let us hope that the Avocet chicks were able to swim to a larger island.

I therefore re-located to Rainham Marshes to enjoy the din of the Reed Warblers and the occasional burst from a Cetti's Warbler. Uncharacteristically, one of the Cetti's showed itself and played peek-a-boo from a bush.

The streams were absolutely teaming with Rudd with their diagnostic protruding lower lip, but today the only bird on show at the MDZ was this rather smart male Tufted Duck.

The juvenile Goldfinch was so engrossed in looking for seeds that it was totally unaware of my presence, allowing me to get to within just eight yards................

...............and it would appear that the Redshank have once again had a successful breeding season as there were several young in the long grass judging by the number of Redshanks sitting on posts by the path giving alarm calls.

But the highlight of the day was back at Blue House Farm where I saw my first Clouded Yellow of the year. Even more special because they don't settle very often and luckily this one chose a rather colourful sprig of Common Vetch to nectar on. How good is that?

Sunday, 10 June 2018

A Trip to Abberton Reservoir and Copt Hall

28th May 2018

Time for a Summer visit to Abberton and also a recce of a new area, Copt Hall, but first off breakfast at the Layer Breton causeway. The reservoir was eerily quiet with all the waterfowl long gone back to their breeding grounds with just a couple of pairs of Great Crested Grebes and a handfiul of Mute Swans left.

The Egyptian and Greylag Geese are also resident, but the appearance of a rather smart Barnacle Goose was a pleasant surprise, presumably a stray from one of the local feral flocks.

At the south end of the causeway by the weir a Grey Heron had found a useful overhanging branch it could use as a vantage point out over the water. At one point it lunged into the water so hard it ended hanging upside down, still hanging on the the branch.

An unexpected bonus today was a pair of Stock Doves that were feeding quite happily on the banks of the causeway. Always in my opinion a totally under-rated bird with its subtle pastel colours.

At the Layer de La Haye causeway one of the nesting Cormorants flew over and a Pied Wagtail posed on the wall, but most attention was focussed on the Little Ringed Plovers which had congregated around the southen end of the main reservoir.

On the reserve there were really good numbers of butterflies with Common Blues nectaring on the White Clover and Holly Blues on the shrubs. It was also good to see so many Small Heaths.

The only birds of note from the Hide Bay Hide were Common Terns on fishing trips from the neaby tern rafts.

Now on to Copt Hall for a recce in preparation for the winter months. I have been as far as the car park before and it was encouraging to see that my favourite sign was still on display. Why not just tell the walkers to get a move on!!!

Not surprisingly the salt-marsh was very quiet at this time of the year so most of the activity was on the land side of the sea wall. A rather smart Reed Bunting had a mouthful of insects for its young, but the star of the show today was this cracking male Yellowhammer. Yellowhammers can be fairly difficult to get close to but this particular individual was most obliging, so why can't they all be like that?

So the salt-marsh was fairly quiet today as expected, but it will be interesting to see what it is like during the winter months.