Sunday, May 29, 2005

I'm reelin' - a nightbird extravaganza

Grasshopper Warbler Woodwalton Fen
Leica APO Televid with 20xWW | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Our friend Chris Jones joined Liz and me for a couple of days of 'nightbirding' around the fens and Brecks this weekend.

Yesterday was spent around Farcet Fen and the Benefield area enjoying great views of Grey Partridge, Hobby and Red Kites while the evening was spent at a rather chilly Woodwalton Fen where we had great Woodcock, Hobby and Long-eared Owl action. But this was topped with views of Chinese Water Deer and . . . Badger! Wow! While watching a baby LEO, a Badger came trotting right up to us along the ride! I've never seen Badger in the fens before so this was pretty cool!

We followed this up with some amazing Barn Owl watching and 1-2 calling Spotted Crakes.

Summary of the days highlights -
Grey Partridge - 2
Spotted Crake - 1-2 calling birds
Red Kite - 5+
Marsh Harrier - 4+ birds
Hobby - 3 (at two sites)
Woodcock -3+
Long-eared Owl - 3+ squeeking young
Tawny Owl - 1 calling
Barn Owl - 1 perched hunting in car headlights
Nightingale - only one bird on a cool night
Chinese Water Deer - 1
Badger - 1 - a fen first for me!

Today dawned late after yesterday's late night, and over breakfast in the garden we emptied the moth trap. I was pleasantly surprised at the quantity and was amazed at the quality since I thought the cool night would have been a no-hoper.

Alder Moth New for the garden

Rustic Shoulder-knot

Marbled Minor

Pale Prominent

Common Swift

The Lynchis

Large Nutmeg
All moths | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

The afternoon was spent at Woodwalton Fen enjoying dragons (including Scarce Chaser and Hairy Drag) and damselfies (mainly Red-eyed and Azure Blue). Birds were a little quiet, but included more Hobby action, some great views of Marsh Harrier, a Little Owl we watched whilst having lunch, and a party of well-guarded cygnets lead to a rather long detour to avoid stressing mum and dad and us!

Mute Swan cygnets Woodwalton Fen
Leica APO Televid with 20xWW | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Last night was so cool that we only heard a single Nightingale as we left, and not a single Grasshopper Warbler (recently up to 5+ reeling birds heard). So we were surprised when a Gropper started reeling along one of the rides. It was presumably the same bird Liz and I had failed to pin down a couple of weeks back, so I didn't hold out much hope. Amazingly, I found it sat in the top of a dwarf willow low in the reeds and could just about squeeze a near-reed-free scope view through the reeds. Fantastic!

Grasshopper Warbler Woodwalton Fen
Leica APO Televid with 20xWW | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Our walk back to the car was interrupted briefly by this caterpillar

Yellow-tail moth caterpillar
Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

We finished the day off in Brecks. Our first stop was a Breck heath whre we enjoyed a pair of Stone-curlews gaurding their single small chick from a circling Common Buzzard, before moving on to Thetford Forest for dusk with Woodcocks and Nightjars. It was simply magical (as any good Nightjar night should be). Cloud cover, warm and loads of churring males. We had at least five males delivering their eerie songs and two birds in particular really showing off with countless bouts of wing-clapping and 'dancing' around a single tall tree in the middle of a clear-fell area. The only odd thing about the evening was not a single female was seen.

Summary of the days highlights -
Mute Swan - pair with cygnets
Marsh Harrier - 4+
Hobby - 2+
Stone-curlew - pair with chick
Woodcock - 5+
Turtle Dove - 2 in garden
Little Owl - 1
Long-eared Owl - single calling young
Nightjar - 5+ churring males
Kingfisher - 1+
Grasshopper Warbler - great views of reeling male
Garden Warbler - many singing and one seen well
Tree Sparrow - in garden
Scarce Chaser - 2
Hairy Dragonfly - 1
Yellow-tail moth - 1 caterpillar
Alder Moth - new for the garden

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