Friday was able to go ahead as originally planned as fewer showers were forecast & we were going somewhere with hides and most of those faced north and the strong winds were blasting from the south. The most disappointing thing for me was that the winds were also in the worst possible directions for catching the unusual call of a Savi’s Warbler, which has been singing to the north east of where the hides are sighted at Blacktoft Sands. Peter spotted a male Marsh Harrier in the fields to the south of the car park – it was to be a day of exceptional sightings of this raptor species.
Before we had even reached the Visitor centre the morning group had located an extremely confiding young Hare eating grass by the footpath. This permitted me to get extremely close, actually too close. I had to pull in my telephoto lens, and even so I was only able to obtain a head & shoulders shot. We travelled first to Marshland hide we saw 6 Spotted Redshanks in their smart black summer plumage hunkered down with 2 bog-standard Redshanks and a few Lapwings on one of the tiny islands made of bricks. There wasn’t much else here, just a pair of Shelducks and a Shoveler identified by Andy.
Spotted Redshank (& 2 standard Redshank)
Spotted Redshank (Coot & Mallard)
As we left the main area of hides there was one Reed Warbler which gave several excellent views, but too brief to be photographed. The afternoon group saw this bird even more briefly, but had a much more prolonged views of a Sedge Warbler. At Ousefleet there was more water than is usual for the time of year, so in addition to 3 completely different male Ruffs and a single Reeve, and a single Green Sandpiper there were plenty duck species, including: Shelduck, Teal, Tufted, and Shoveler. In Xerox we only just failed to have a big fat zero, but we weren’t exactly overwhelmed with birds. There were a few Tufted Ducks and Pochard just starting to go into eclipse, and 4 feisty Konik ponies. Andy spotted a Little Grebe in the far left hand corner of the pool, while Caroline identified a Spotted Redshank, which spent a couple of minutes here before flying west.
We leap-frogged 2 hides and made our way to Singleton. There were relatively few birds here, in what can often be the most interesting hide. However, there were a few Cormorants on the bare part of an island with Pochard and Tufted Ducks, but when 2 Crows flew in all the ducks left. A Mute Swan sporting a ring flew in to this pool in the afternoon. However, the best sightings here were the many Marsh Harriers – a maximum of 7 – hunting over the reserve. It was noted that these were invariably male birds in the morning, but in the afternoon they were nearly all female-type individuals. The birds were struggling in the stiff winds, but that also made them easier to photograph than usual as they attempted to control their position over the reedbed as they hunted, so the attached pictures of Harriers should be better than I’m normally able to obtain.
Marsh Harrier - 1st time eye visible on one of my photos