An Alternative Day Out...
Well recently I decided to forgo a Company
trip into town and take the time instead to visit, to me at least, a far more
appealing environment; for some time I've had the Fens in Cambridgeshire
on my wishlist of places to explore, so I decided to start with Wood Walton
Wood Walton Fen is one of a few remaining
areas of the ancient fen which covered the area and is a haven for many
wildlife species. Charles Rothschild had already purchased part of Wicken
Fen, whch he had gifted to the National Trust and had intended to do the same
with Wood Walton. The National Trust were unable to take the site on so
he maintained it as a private reserve for some time before donating it to the
Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. Today, Wood Walton is maintained by Natural
England and is classed as a National Nature Reserve, a RAMSAR site and a
Special Area of Conservation.
After an interesting drive (navigation is not
one of my strong points, however I did have an unexpected tour of some of the
beautiful surrounding countryside!) I finally arrived. It was a bright
and sunny day, lots of blue sky with 'interesting' clouds and it was very
I'd decided to try and find my way around both sides of the Fen, so started heading in the direction of the 'Waterbirds' trail. The first thing that struck me was how free from everyday noise - cars, sirens - it was, then how lushly green and vibrant it looked. I wandered along by the Ramsey Drain, ahead of me a pair of Jays kept dropping onto the path, eyeing me curiously and then flying up and into the trees on the left hand side.
All along the path I could hear and was catching brief glimses of Chiff Chaffs as they flitted around in the Hawthorn and Sallow. From the reed along the drainside, every now and then, there would be a loud declaration from a Wren, before it would flit across the path in front of me, then off into the undergrowth.
Here and there were small troupes of Long Tailed Tits chattering through the branches as well as Dunnocks, Great and Blue Tits.
As I walked, just above the grasses and stinging nettles, I was catching glimpses of fluttering silvery wings, so paused a while, peering about and waiting to see if the owners would settle. Suddenly one did so on a Hawthorn branch. A brightly coloured Large Red Damselfly - one of the earliest of our Damsels to appear and my first of the year!
This one settled to bask in the sunshine for quite sometime, unconcerned by my proximity, so I was able to view it at very close quarters before it decided to continue it's search for a mate.
The spring brood of these butterflies have slightly different markings to those seen later in the year and the one which had settled and 'posed' was a male, judging by the lack of spots on the wings.
As I carried on along the path, there was a loud 'honking' chorus from the field the other side of the drain. Suddenly half a dozen low flying Greylag Geese appeared over the dyke travelling at speed!
As I progressed, I passed a few grassy rides and drains on my left, however decided to continue along and then walk up the side of the reserve. More silvery wings caught my eye and I paused to admire another Large Red Damselfly basking on a log.
As I turned, a brilliant flash of azure blue caught my eye as a Kingfisher went past me at full pelt along the drain. All the while I was surrounded by birdsong, when suddenly I heard an unexpected song.
Satisfied that I was no threat, it then turned it's attention to finding a snack amongst the fresh oak leaves and blossom.As I turned the corner at the end of the path, it was much less sheltered and very windy indeed, after a while I found a route back along the 'top' part of the reserve, which was far more sheltered. As I walked, I watched a Buzzard hang gliding above the fields and listened to the chattering and singing of smaller songbirds, deep inside the Hawthorns which lined my route.
Turning a corner, I had a huge surprise! Perched about half way up a large Oak tree, was the russet back of just the biggest bird I have ever seen. I stood there with the silliest of grins as I watched a Red Kite turn and look at me, then take off with a resigned air at being accidentaly disturbed.
Momentarily coming to my senses, I grabbed the camera and just about managed a photo through the network of branches above me. Just very occasionally at home and near to where I work, we occasionally see one or two Red Kites as they pass through; the only other times I have seen them is over in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and in great numbers when we travel down to the Forest of Dean. So to see one this close.... well the silly grin was there for quite a while, I can tell you!
The male then flew off and so I followed the female's progress along the tree line,
Before she disappeared into the reeds.
Whilst I was watching them, there were a further two food passes, with the female returning to the same spot in the reedbed each time, so I suspect that youngsters were being fed.
From what I could see, after each successful hunt, there was a duckling clutched in his talons (and no doubt an unhappy Mother duck somewhere too)
I thoroughly enjoyed my wander and hope to return on a much less blustery day - I've a feeling that I have not yet seen a fraction of all the creatures that live there. Wood Walton is absolutely beautiful and I am very much looking forward to a return visit!