Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Warbling We Will Go

It was a day of warblers at Cley Marshes. Just after lunch I was strolling along the footpath adjacent to the coast road when I movement in the reed scrub caught my eye. There for a second was a grasshopper warbler in full view a mere two metres from where I stood. Without thinking and like a well drilled infantryman I shouldered my camera and fired a few rounds. A seamless, silky movement that Eastwood, Stallone or Schwarzeneggar would have been proud of. Problem was I had set the exposure to +1 to compensate for earlier photography of a sedge warbler against the bright sky and despite making a mental note to alter the settings had failed to do so. My muttered curses were also something the aforementioned movie icons would have been equally proud of. No matter. Photoshop enabled me to darken one of the images sufficiently to get something useful.


Grasshopper Warbler

So called because its reeling song, usually delivered from within deep cover,
is likened to the chirrup of a grasshopper. in reality it more closely resembles
the sound made by the reeling of a fishing line. A close view like this is a privilege.

Whilst I was standing stock still waiting for the grasshopper warbler to reappear (it didn’t) I noticed a pair of whitethroats feeding their offspring in a nest placed deep in one of the rampant bramble growths, and within a minute a sedge warbler zipped into the dykeside tangle to feed its own young. To complete the set a reed warbler chuntered away from taller reeds bordering the catch water drain and a Cetti’s warbler blasted its short assault on the eardrums from the depths of a hawthorn. Five warbler species within a ten metre square of verdant roadside foliage. I found this quite interesting and speculated on the vast amount of invertebrate fodder that must be available all over the marsh to support this kind of density. Given the whole area was under several feet of salt water 18 months ago it seems to have recovered well.



There are several pairs utilising the scrubby areas fringing the coast road


I take this to be the male posing loud and proud

Not so the main scrapes on the reserve which appear to be suffering somewhat. There are far fewer avocets nesting there this year and waders in general have been very scarce (a situation echoed from many places I gather). The good news though is that the newly acquired marshes are full of birds. During the afternoon I led an impromptu taster session birding walk with Rachael a very pleasant and capable fellow volunteer and we were quite surprised at the number of avocets nesting on the area near the ‘Serpentine’. They are well spaced, but nonetheless the species is well represented. I think this is good news for just about everything in that 1). The avocets are not concentrated and will therefore not so easily attract the attention of the marsh harriers, and 2). Their wide spacing allows other birds the freedom to go about their business without being constantly harassed. Nature always sorts it out, albeit with the help of a very able NWT management team.

Earlier during my morning rounds I sat for an hour on the bench outside Bishop’s Hide. I find this to be a useful position from which to engage with members of the public who may otherwise be intimidated or inhibited by the aura of being in a hide. A bonus here was to have periodic close encounters with another highly vocal sedge warbler who was single mindedly attempting to attract a mate to his patch of marsh. During his frequent bursts of song I listened closely to his varied repertoire, delivered in a maniacal frenzy of jumbled whistles, cackles, trills and chatter. I was amused to be able to pick out the mimicked calls of lapwing, redshank, curlew, whimbrel, black-headed gull, house sparrow and corncrake from amidst the maelstrom of notes. No doubt some of these were picked up locally, but where else had this perky little bird been spending his short life and what wonderful things had it encountered? I’m sure a real birder would have been able to glean another dozen snippets which may well have included the calls of exotic foreign species. The lives of these tiny birds are fascinating and it is easy to dismiss them sometimes as just small brown jobs, but as with most wild creatures their outward appearance often masks a much more colourful existence.

Sedge Warbler

Our flamboyant songster, a lovely bird which provided great value.
With patience close views can be obtained. 

Sedge Warbler

Our hero also proclaimed his rights to a patch
of emergent reed.

Reed Bunting

Several males can be found singing alongside the boardwalks at Cley.
As the season progresses they become more tolerant of humans and can
sometimes allow close approach.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

A Willing Volunteer

There are pockets of Broadland that are almost inaccessible and cloak their secrets in a veil of thick reed or a screen of dense willow scrub. 'Move on, there's nothing to see here' is the message, 'do not disturb, no trespass, leave us in peace'. And for the most part these areas are pretty much left to their own devices. The otters, deer, foxes and water voles live out their short span without a human eye ever witnessing their daily struggles. The reed warblers, cuckoos, bitterns and harriers claim their territories, make their nests and raise their young seldom encountering the unwelcome sight of man. In this 21st century whirlwind we have created it is quite astounding that such areas exist, but they do; I know they do because I squelched my way through one earlier in the week.

As part of the Trinity Broads Partnership, Norfolk Wildlife Trust is working closely with Essex and Suffolk Water and the Broads Authority to manage and improve the area around Filby, Ormesby and Rollesby Broads, pristine and precious landscapes that are largely bypassed by the holidaying public. A special part of this hidden landscape is an area called Burgh Common which comprises several acres of wet reed marsh bordering a dryer area of open sedge and grass fen. Ideal habitat for all sorts of wonderful creatures. My task as one of a small team of volunteers is to undertake a swallowtail survey throughout the summer. On our induction slosh through the wellie sucking, peaty mire the first thing we saw was a basking grass snake dozing in the soporific warmth of the May sunshine atop a small pile of cut reed. A cuckoo called loudly from a nearby willow and we saw it well as it flew across the fen advertising its presence to any prospective mate. Reed, Cetti's and sedge warblers sang from the depths of the reed bed whilst tracks of red deer crisis-crossed the swampy ooze.  Apart from nearly losing my rubber footwear a couple of times it was a good start I thought, and obviously the area has great potential. Watch this pace for updates throughout the summer.

Earlier that day I helped create new GPS survey points to map the distribution and relative abundance of aquatic plants growing within one of the smaller broads. Boat work this, but carried out in a beautifully quiet, seldom visited sanctuary reached by pushing our way slowly along a narrow waterway through tangled overhanging willow scrub. Our reward for a few bumps and scrapes was to be able to cruise sedately around an area of clear water fringed by emergent water lilies where damselflies chased one another and kingfishers waited patiently on a favoured perch. Coots, grebes, swans and mallards tended their young and long tailed tits buzzed their way through the surrounding tangle. Real Swallows and Amazons stuff and what better place could there be to while away a couple of hours? I do realise how lucky I am.


GPS tagging suitable spots for aquatic plant surveys


Mute Swan

A territorial cob cruisin' for a bruisin'

These wetland excursions capped a rather busy few days volunteering. Wednesday afternoon saw  me given a taster of what is involved in volunteering for the National Trust at Blakeney Point. To protect sensitive breeding birds along the shingle spit a no dogs policy is in force between May and August. Part of the role is therefore to police the area to advise transgressors in as diplomatic and sensitive a way as possible they are infringing the rules. Other invaluable work is to record the occupancy by little terns of the specially roped off breeding areas dotted along the point. It was a lovely sunny afternoon as we made our way along this isolated and beautiful arm of sand and shingle that juts out at an angle from the main coast, although deep grey clouds in the distance forbade of more turbulent experiences ahead. Hardly any people had chosen to make the 7 mile return yomp, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We did see several little terns, although sadly none seemed to have set up home within the fenced off zones despite dummy birds being placed there as a lure. Instead we discovered nests of a single black headed gull pair which had been built in the middle of the beach, together with those of two oystercatcher pairs. I hasten to add we did not actively search for these nests, rather they happened to be situated in the places we were watching for the terns. Lovely things to see nonetheless and we watched the incubating birds resettle from a safe distance.


Black-headed Gull's Nest

Very unusual to find an isolated nest of this colonial nesting species,
especially in the middle of a beach quite some way from fresh water.


Oystercatcher's Nest

If nest it can be called, but very difficult to spot.

Thursday I led a walk around Cley Marshes to look at the breeding birds inhabiting the diverse habitats of the marsh. Highlights here were a hunting kestrel that managed to capture a vole just outside the central hides and close up views of singing sedge warbler, reed warbler and reed bunting, typical birds of the reed bed and scrubby margins. Later that afternoon I had the good fortune to watch 'Blondie' the resident female marsh harrier, she of the lovely variegated plumage, hunting low over the fresh marsh. It seems that either she has hatched her eggs and is actively seeking prey to feed her offspring or that the original nest has failed. The pair have been collecting nest material during the course of the week and it is not clear whether this is an attempt to bulk up the existing nest or to build a fresh one. Time will tell.



I think the prey is a poor unfortunate bank vole

Kestrel With Prey

Moorhen With Chick

These cute balls of down are currently being tended by their parents
in the catch water drain alongside the coast road

Little Egret

These photogenic herons have a small breeding colony in the wood
opposite East Bank

Blondie - Looking Good Kid

In an attempt to open up the delights of nature to a wider audience, NWT are actively seeking young people (ideally aged between 8 and 18) to assist with family events throughout the summer. The idea being that young prospective naturalists will more easily engage with people of their own age as opposed to a rusting hulk such as me. It is a great way for youngsters to become more confident, learn social skills and become involved in wildlife conservation. If you know of anybody who may be interested let me know and I will provide appropriate contact details.

Monday, 18 May 2015

A Goodie the Sad and the Cuddly

Did you know that adult cuckoos only spend about 6 weeks with us here in the UK every year? Nope neither did I, but thanks to the remarkable work of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) who have attached satellite tags to a few of these charismatic summer visitors (including Chris the cuckoo made famous by BBCs Springwatch) we now know this to be an indisputable fact. Cuckoos folks, and brace yourselves for the bad news, are not really British birds. They are an African bird that chooses to spend a short spell in our green and pleasant land for the sole purposes of mating and depositing their eggs in the nests of host species such as reed warbler, meadow pipit and dunnock (females can lay over 20 eggs in a season). This and many other interesting snippets could be gleaned from an engaging talk delivered by Ieuan Evans at the Norfolk Bird Fair which took place at Mannington Hall over the weekend.

A Goodie

This is the second year the event has taken place in this most wonderful of rural settings and many exhibitors were present whose specialisms ranged from raptor rehabilitation to carving sculptures of wooden owls with a chainsaw. For a nominal fee you could even have a beautiful 10 foot long boa constrictor draped around your shoulders. However the star attraction this year was that loveable, cuddly, comedic icon that is Bill Oddie who gave an entertaining talk on his earlier life and what led him to become the naturalist and wildlife champion we all know and love today. He was in a jolly mood cracking jokes, posing for pictures etc and you would think that with such a big name in attendance the place would be swarming with people, but sadly that was not the case. There were sufficient folk around to fill the small lecture hall, but to be honest the rest of the site was generally pretty empty. That is a real shame because an awful lot of hard work goes into organising events such as these and it is all for such a good cause. However, one (amongst many) very valuable thing I learnt during my time working for Norfolk Wildlife Trust was that you have to promote like hell to ensure your events occupy the public consciousness (thanks Gemma). Perhaps this event simply wasnt promoted well enough.

Mr Oddie in Full Flow

Post Lecture Relaxation

Wood Carving on a Grand Scale

The Sad

Anyway lets get back to those cuckoos.  I was captivated by the way in which science has been applied to shed light on the mystery of how, where and when cuckoos migrate between their homeland of Africa and Northern Europe. Prior to satellite technology being employed there was only a single recovery record of a UK ringed cuckoo from Africa (Cameroon) dating back to 1930. In the last few years our knowledge has taken a quantum leap providing invaluable data of precisely how cuckoos spend their time throughout the year. What I found particularly interesting is that: 1) Cuckoos do not actually 'winter' in Cameroon, rather they spend their time in staged migration through Europe, before moving into Africa to reside in the regions around the Congo; 2) the Norfolk tagged birds seem to take a very arduous migration route around the western coast of Africa, resulting in flight distances nearly twice as far as other populations that elect to travel directly south across the Mediterranean and the Sahara. Data indicates a mortality rate of nearly 50% for individuals choosing this longer migration route as opposed to only 10% for the direct flight path; and 3) On their northwards migration the birds choosing the longer route (the Norfolk birds) are forced to linger in Western Africa awaiting the rains to produce plants/insects to sustain them for the long flight across the desert regions. These rains are not influenced by local climatic conditions but by higher level atmospherics (I wouldn't pretend to begin to understand the detail). The result is akin to the cuckoos being caught in the slow moving post office queue whilst all around others are being processed much quicker. In other words the migration of other birds is being conditioned by our changing climate, but the cuckoo has to wait for other higher level factors to kick in before its needs are satisfied. So, whereas many other summer migrants are arriving in the UK up to three weeks earlier than they were a few decades ago, cuckoos are not and are therefore behind the curve. What does this matter? Well it means cuckoos are unable to up their game and may be arriving too late to properly exploit the breeding cycle of host species. Damn interesting this science. Weird isn't it though that on the one hand we have humans in the UK dedicating large amounts of money and hard labour to finding out how best to conserve the cuckoo whilst on the other we have humans in Africa, ignorant and impoverished by our standards, killing the very same birds for sport/food/profit. Is there really hope? Sometimes I despair I really do.

To round off a very interesting afternoon, Yoav Perlman, an Israeli guy now living in Norwich and working at the UEA, spoke about the conservation efforts he undertakes in his native country to mitigate the challenges faced by wildlife confronted with a rapidly increasing human population. As an idea of the rate of population growth in Israel, in 1948 when the state was formed some 600,000 people occupied the country. That figure now stands at 8,000,000 and is rising at a rate higher than that of Bangladesh. Frightening. We did see evidence of some of this at first hand a few weeks ago (road and house building, increasing agricultural settlements, water extraction etc),  but it is heartening to learn that people like Yoav care deeply about their wildlife and are working with national and local government, landowners and the population at large to inform, educate and invoke change.

The Cuddly

Ural Owl

What a Sweetie!

Little Owl

Almost Pocket Sized

Look at those big liquid eyes

Eagle Owl

Try cuddling this and your cuddling days could soon be over

Eagle Owl

All in all it was potentially a really great event with plenty to see and do to keep people, including children, occupied. Lets hope it continues for next year and that more people make the effort to attend.

Saturday, 16 May 2015


Most of our summer migrants have now arrived in force. Some species, the warblers and swallows, started to arrive a few weeks ago; some species, nightjars and spotted flycatchers for example, have only now turned up. All will soon be engaged in the hectic task of reproduction. Standing on the North Norfolk coast with eyes watering in the teeth of yet another spring gale does make you wonder why these small vulnerable birds make the arduous journey from mainly warm and food rich parts of Africa to spend a couple of short summer months with us. It cant be the scenery, as lovely as it is, it certainly isnt the weather, so what drives these lightweight bundles of feathers to risk life and limb to seek out that small copse, patch of reeds or windswept moor and set up a seasonal home here in the UK?  Beats me!

Im joking of course. There are very clear and logical reasons for this migration, since nothing happens by mistake in the natural world. The answer lies in the long hours of daylight which affords the maximum opportunity to exploit the super abundance of insects that proliferate in our short but bountiful summer. What better way to ensure the needs of your voracious offspring can be met? Thats all well and good, but surely there is plenty of food in Africa? Well, lets dig a little deeper and the purpose for this northwards dispersal becomes more reasoned. Think about how difficult it would be if the whole population of a certain species was vying for nesting sites and food in a limited geographical area. Competition would be immense and reproductive success would suffer as a consequence. Surely better then to spread over a much larger area, i.e. Europe, Scandinavia and even the Arctic to take advantage of lush and widespread vegetation, ample nesting sites and an emerging food source where each bird stood a reasonable chance of finding territory and breeding successfully. Similarly a concentration of breeding birds in a small area would inevitably attract a concentration of predators with the result that many young would never make it to the fledging stage. Such a waste of energy and resources could have a serious effect on the population of some species, so better to disperse widely and make predators work harder for their meal. Other reasons revolve around minimising the likelihood of disease or local climatic extremes decimating a densely packed population. When these issues are factored into the life of a bird it does make sense to leave the oppressive heat of Africa behind for a few months and return when it is more temperate and has its own fresh supply of insect fodder.

It is tempting when looking at our grey skies and wondering when we can actually turn off the central heating to muse that birds have got it all wrong, but in fact they have it all worked out. Better still it gives us a chance to make acquaintance with these lovely jewels anew each spring and use them to chart the passage of our own lives as we move through the yearly cycle.

Anyway, a few pictures of some of our local migrants to cheer us up during this somewhat disappointing spring.


This is a female seen at Cley last week. These perky lovers of open ground
begin to arrive in late March and move through the county until late May.
Later birds are quite often of the larger, deeper coloured Greenland race,
and there has been several of those seen recently. Formerly a widespread
 breeder hereabouts they are nowadays mainly confined to the uplands of
the north and west although a few pairs cling on in Breckland.    


We saw many of these lovely songsters migrating through Israel a couple of
weeks ago. This one was photographed at RSPB Strumpshaw Fen yesterday.
Our birds will winter in sub-Saharan Africa and begin to arrive
back here during April. Generally milder conditions over the last 30 years together
with an abundance of artificial food supplies has allowed a growing population
 to overwinter here in the UK although it is believed these birds originate from
 Germany and other central European countries. Interestingly, these birds
have an easier return migration, arriving earlier than those making the trip from
Africa. This allows them to select prime breeding territories and raise more young.
The young are genetically programmed to follow the adults migration route thus
increasing the numbers making the journey to our shores. Research has shown that
these birds are already showing signs of having shorter wing feathering (no need for
long flight feathers if you aren't flying far) and could be evolving into a new sub-species. 


Several of these distinctive warblers are delivering their scratchy songs
from bramble patches along the coast road at Cley.

Reed Warbler

I surprised this one searching for insects along the boardwalk at Cley.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Raptor Rapture

Walking wearily back to our apartment in Eilat two weeks ago after most of the day spent at the Marine Park looking at the wonderfully varied and abundant inhabitants of the Red Sea coral reef, we noticed a raptor, probably a Steppe buzzard, flying low over the street. Thinking that maybe some kind of mini-migration event was taking place we brewed a cuppa and sat on our balcony and waited to see what would happen. Boy oh boy! Were we in for a pleasant surprise. For the next couple of hours until the sun began to set, turning the sky a deep gold, we saw streams of honey buzzards, black kites, the aforementioned Steppe buzzards and smooth, streamlined Levant sparrowhawks flying purposefully north between the mountain ranges of Israel and Jordan. Most of these birds passed at little more than rooftop level affording excellent views.

Over the next couple of days we spent quite a bit of time, early in the morning and later in the afternoon repeating this experience (much better prepared this time, me with a glass or two of a mellow red wine, Denise with a good book). The passage on Sunday 26th April was simply fantastic with hundreds of raptors, including Egyptian vultures, steppe eagles, long-legged buzzards and booted eagles gracing the cloudless skies above our dwelling. Black storks, bee-eaters, swifts and swallows joined the throng, and would you believe nobody else looked up to see the spectacle of mass migration taking place just 100 feet above their heads. Too busy sunbathing and trying to look cool to be bothered with the real wonder of Eilat. But at least a couple of middle-aged English folk had the good sense to notice. A few pics taken from the balcony to give a flavour of what it was like:


Steppe Buzzard

Possibly a young bird making its first northwards migration

Levant Sparrowhawk

A male passing at little more than head height

Steppe Buzzard Mobbed by House Crow

The local house crows take exception to large raptors
passing so low.

A couple of miles north of the city, created on a site that was previously the municipal rubbish dump, lies the International Birding and Research Centre Eilat  (IBRCE). Here you will find a warm welcome, several hides, an information centre and shop selling various goodies and ice cream and, most importantly, birds. Lots of birds. The site is not very big, just a few acres, but has pools of fresh and salt water as well as plenty of low bushes and a few trees which provide shelter and food for enormous numbers of migrants making their way out of Africa and northwards into central and Eastern Europe. For me it was like being in a sweet shop and not really knowing which jar of sugar laden treats to plunder first, or maybe a more suitable analogy would be visiting a beer festival and not knowing which sugar laden ale to sup first. Birds were everywhere, the scrub held warblers, buntings and shrikes; the ponds, waders, herons and gulls, and the skies above buzzards, eagles and falcons. Everywhere you looked there was something new, almost too much to take in to be truthful. We visited twice and each time logged a different cast of characters zipping around in the bushes with a never-ending stream of tired migrants passing overhead.

The heat was quite oppressive at times, even late in the afternoon, so we sought refuge in one of the hides overlooking a fresh water lagoon. Fresh water is an uncommon resource in this part of the world and acts like a magnet to all kinds of wildlife, so sitting quietly for an hour means you are likely to see all kinds of birds feeding, resting and dropping in for a much needed drink. In the latter sense we had the good fortune to see at close quarters a fine male honey buzzard alight on the far bank for a well-earned guzzle and a male Levant sparrowhawk sipping the sparkling waters from the pool edge. Gull-billed and Caspian terns likewise stopped for refreshment and a quick rest, whilst herons of six species fished in the shallows. A party of spoonbills tarried for a few minutes gliding over marsh sandpipers, black-winged stilts, spur-winged plovers and ruff attempting to nap on a small island, tucking their heads under their wing and standing on a single leg. Unmoved by all the commotion a pied kingfisher sat patiently on a post waiting for some hapless fish to swim too close to the surface. He had obviously seen it all before and didnt flinch, not even when sparrowhawks and a booted eagle passed within striking distance causing mass panic amongst the intermittently slumbering waders.

Plans are afoot to enhance this area and make it even better for birds and people. I hope to return one day and spend a more relaxed day or two there, but I guess if youre not a birder it has limited appeal. Anyway a few more pics to show what can be easily seen during the wonderful season that is spring:

Red-necked Phalaropes

These active needle-billed waders were using the salt pools to feed on the
numerous small flies.

Masked Shrike

Beautiful birds and normally very shy, this one allowed close
approach at IBRCE


Booted Eagle

A fine specimen that buzzed the wader pools causing mass panic (not only
with the birds). Looking at this picture and the one above of the osprey it is
easy to see how people could mistake one for the other, but believe me
they are totally different. 

Little Green Bee-eater

One of the most wonderful creations in the bird world in my opinion opinion unlikely to be held by this unfortunate bee.


A party of five dropped in briefly

Spur-winged Plover

These birds had a nest somewhere close to the footpath and were voicing
their displeasure at our trespass

Levant Sparrowhawk (male)

Caught against the towering hills of Jordan only a couple of kilometres
from the Israeli border

Levant Sparrowhawk (female)

We flushed this fine bird from a bush as we left the reserve towards dusk

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Fen Magic

Strumpshaw Fen (RSPB) is a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours. It always surprises me how few visitors it gets given it is only a few miles from a large city, but then that's the essence of its charm; an oasis of calm and tranquillity amidst the hurly burly of the 21st century. I've been visiting pretty much since it opened to the public in the late 1970s, in fact probably before then if our trespassing teen selves had anything to do with it. In those early days I helped lead a YOC group and we took the kids to the reserve every spring for a good trek through the woods and along the river bank. Our group raised quite a bit of money for the reserve by undertaking various fundraising activities such as a sponsored birdwatch. This helped to purchase various implements for the warden to use in his endeavours to pump mud from the silted up broad and generally look after the place. I got to know this hard working individual, Mike Blackburn, quite well but to this day am not sure whether he was literally pulling my leg when, during a talk he was giving to the kids, he tied a bit of string to my right peg whilst I was operating the slide projector. Whenever he wanted the next picture shown he would pull on the string and I would oblige by presenting the next slide. It worked very well, but I cant help thinking he could just as easily have given me a nod.

In those far off days the reserve needed an awful lot of backbreaking work to bring it back to health after many years of neglect and decline. Mike and his team worked tirelessly to create the foundations for the brilliant place it is today. When marsh harriers began breeding in the reed bed, which was then accessible from the river bank, a 24 hour watch was mounted and I talked my way into doing the early morning shift, and by early I mean 5am. But it was worth getting up for because the fen at dawn as the pale golden sun rose through swirling tendrils of mist was quite magical. Within minutes the air was vibrating with the songs of myriad warblers, cuckoos called out their name and snipe drummed overhead. The reserve has come a long way since then developing into something quite amazing. I volunteered there for a few years and well remember the very quiet day when out of nowhere a party of displaced black terns descended from on high to feast on newly emerged flies over the broad. Having sated themselves they spiralled high into the early May sky and continued their journey eastwards. They were only on show for 20 minutes and I was the only person lucky enough to see them. Then the extraordinary sight of an osprey being mobbed by four young marsh harriers as it sat in a dead tree close to the reception hide, or a startled coypu crashing through the ice covering the shallow margin of the river one freezing winters day, or the sound of whistling otters and rasping spotted crakes one balmy June evening. There is always something to see at Strumpshaw and it is without doubt my most favourite of reserves.

And by way of coming full circle I was talking to two ladies in the Fen Hide on Thursday and felt sure I recognised one of them but could not for the life of me place her. That is until her friend called her by name, then it fell into place. She was one of our YOC members, the daughter of my co-leader, who I had last seen when she was about 14. She really hadn't changed that much (and I told her so) ......regrettably I don't think the same can be said for me.

Oh and Rebecca if you're reading this, the bittern was performing very well yesterday!

Male Marsh Harrier

A pair have set up home quite close to Fen Hide and this male seems to
regularly pass very close to the hide.

Marsh Harrier

Startling pale yellow eye at close range


This male sometimes performs on the specially positioned perch above the shallow water.

Willow Warbler

The area along the path leading to the river is full of these enchanting
summer visitors at present.

Common Tern

As always you are battling the light as a photographer in the UK, but this
common tern hovered so close to me I couldn't resist taking a couple of snaps.

Chinese Water Deer

A frequently encountered inhabitant of the wet fen.