I last went to Welney on a scheduled visit on the 2nd November 2014 on our way home from holiday on the North Norfolk coast, but this visit was different. We had planned to go to Dungeness but the weather forecast was for a front clearing from the north-west and so Welney was predicted to be in full sun from 11.00am, whilst Dungeness could be under cloud all day. Yeh right!!
As we were on our way to Welney, blue skies started to appear and I though that the weather front had gone through faster than expected. WRONG!!! As we drove down the last few miles to Welney the heavens opened and it got darker and darker. OK, during our visit it did clear a couple of times so we did manage to salvage a reasonable day.
For the first time in over 30 years I decided to explore the hides away from the Main Observation Hide and the Wing Hides. On our way past the Swan Tunnel, a familiar visitor was making the most of the seed that had been spilt during the late afternoon feeds. Brown Rats are now familiar visitors to anywhere with seed on the ground or left unattended and this particular individual was no exception.
There wasn't much in the way of birds in front of the hides and what there were were fairly distant. The only exception was this Lapwing which was illuminated by the low afternoon sunshine.
I therefore elected to cut my losses and head back the the main hide and get some shots of the Whooper Swans before the sun went down. As I left the hide and rejoined the main path a pair of Stonechats appeared from nowhere. The male sat at the top of a sallow for just a few seconds before dropping into the reeds, just enough time for a couple of shots. As is so often the case the female was far more confiding.
Back at the Main Hide I chose to photograph from the northern Wing Hide to avoid having to shoot through glass. One of the spectacles today which I cannot recall seeing here before was the large flock of Black-tailed Godwits which would take to the air every time the slightest threat was detected, an absolute spectacle as they wheeled around in the sunshine.
But the main purpose of coming here today was the Whooper Swans. The beauty of photographing these birds here in the afternoon sun is that the birds shine against the deep blue water. I also love the smokey grey plumage of the juvenile birds compared to the dull brown of young Mute Swans.
And it is important to look after those feathers after such a long journey.