Moments From 2016
Well, just where has this year gone? It seems to have gone by in
One weekend, we did have a trip up to RSPB Fowlmere where we had
a notable encounter with a Muntjac deer. These are usually very shy,
however, this one carried on grazing, not far from the path, seemingly
oblivious to the small crowd of onlookers enjoying such close views.
Another weekend in January I did my 'Big Garden Birdwatch' , where I spent some time watching and counting my regular garden visitors.
February arrived and the local woodland was full of small birds going about their business, this year I had quite a few views of Treecreepers and also Goldcrests. I spent quite sometime watching this Treecreeper, doing 'that thing they do'; Goldcrests? well I'm still in pursuit of a half decent photo although I've spent a lot of time mesmerised by their aerobatics!
Local primroses also began to bloom with the mild weather as well as the Bluebells getting taller. I even spotted Marsh Tits starting to go courting in the local woods. One afternoon I ventured further afield to RSPB Lakenheath for a wander round. I had some lovely views of the Reed Buntings in the sunshine, Lapwings on the wing and even a brief glimpse of one of the Bitterns.
At the end of the afternoon there I also spent some 'quiet time' watching a few Roe Deer, which I had not seen before. A very good afternoon with a bonus of seeing Barn Owls on my way home!
March arrived and with it, the Annual Frog Ball. The pond
was somewhat shallower than last year, however that did not deter the frogs -
indeed there seemed to be even more than last year!
Elsewhere on the local patch, Bluebells began to bloom, more blossom on the Blackthorn and Hawthorn was appearing and many of the smaller birds were nest building, as were these Long Tailed Tits, spring was definitely springing!
Whilst watching the Long Tailed Tit pair, I also had a surprise - members of the Common Lizard colony were out and about sunning themselves and around the same time as this, the row of salix trees was a cloud of yellow and full of bees!
Towards the end of March, the first of many Chiff Chaffs arrived back on the local patch, closely followed by Blackcaps, there was song everywhere in the warm spring sunshine.
April continued as for March on the local patch, however we enjoyed a couple of trips to RSPB Minsmere and Dunwich Heath, where we watched Marsh Harriers, Dartford Warblers, a Bittern pair in flight and Little Egrets.
We also had a few days away in the Forest of Dean, where we saw our first ever Peregrine Falcons at Symonds Yat and also Pied Flycatchers, tiny little black and white birds that are summer visitors.
As always, when we visit the Forest, we went in the hope of seeing Wild Boar and were lucky enough to have privileged views of several adults, although they kept the youngsters well hidden!
Towards the end of the month I found my way to NNR Wood Walton Fen where the highlight of the day was watching a breeding Marsh Harrier pair doing food passes and watching the female returning back to the nest site, a little way off in the reeds in front of the hide.
May arrived and spring continued at some pace on the local patch with the first few butterflies beginning to appear, Comma's, Holly Blues and Speckled Woods.
One weekend, on a very warm day, we had a long afternoon up at RSPB Lakenheath, where we were serenaded by Reed Warblers, whilst listening to a Cuckoo declaring as it moved around the reserve.
The air there was full of Damsel and Dragonflies and we also got to watch several Hobby's hunting and dining on the wing - they must have been spoilt for choice!
I also got to see my first Mayfly that afternoon, correction! first of many Mayflies - along the riverbank the air and grasses were full of them!
After my interview, we went off for a quiet spot of birdwatching around Minsmere in the afternoon. We were treated to some wonderful views of Common Terns and later in the afternoon / early evening, we sat and watched Marsh Harriers and a very smart Kingfisher from the Bittern Hide. I even got to see my first Spotted Redshanks!
Just before we came home, I had an early morning start, with an almost dawn walk on Dingle Marsh, where I was serenaded by Skylarks and Sedge Warblers whilst watching Little Egrets and the other birds going about their morning business.
We also had a little wander on Dunwich Heath where we watched Dartford Warblers, which is always a treat!
July arrived and were were off to the Isle of Mull for our 'big' holiday. I had hoped to see White Tailed Eagles, however luck and the weather were against us on that one - never the less, there were quite a few 'firsts', these being, a male Hen Harrier, goosander, Gannet, Red Breasted Merganser and Common Seal. We had a wonderful, albeit rather waterlogged time and shall definitely be returning again in the future, it is a beautiful place!
On our return, a couple of visits were paid to the local patch during the remainder of July and through August. The birds were all off busy finishing raising youngsters, however there were plenty of other flying and buzzing creatures about as well as a few colourful web inhabitants.
Towards the end of September, I paid a return visit to NNR Wood Walton Fen for a day's wandering. It was bliss! When you go there, it feels like you have the whole reserve to yourself and is wonderful for getting away from the daily hubbub. The highlights of my time there were some excellent views of a very obliging Kingfisher, an up close and personal flyby from one of the Marsh Harriers and some wonderful quiet moments watching Chinese Water Deer at relatively close quarters - I came back much refreshed!
A mild October followed a warm September and autumn appeared to be making a confused arrival. On the home patch, where it had been mostly dry, there was little or no fungi about in the local woodland, with only varieties preferring dead wood appearing.
During October we also had a short break, down in the Forest of Dean. We did a lot of walking and despite occasional showers, managed to watch quite a few favourite species - Fallow Deer, glimpses of Wild Boar, flyby's from the Peregrines at Symonds Yat, Kingfisher at Naghead and an afternoon with us sat under a brolly at Cannop ponds watching the ducks in simultaneous torrential rain and sunshine....
During November, I took advantage of any decent weather at the weekends to visit Burwell Fen in the hope of seeing Short Eared Owls. After seeing them for the first time last December, I wanted to be able to watch them again. On both of the days that I went, there were quite a few about, five the first time, then eight or nine the second. It was very interesting watching them interact with each other - I soon got to learn the 'you're in my spot' screech and watch the ensuing fly off between them. I also watched them take on the local corvids who took issue with their presence. I had a bit of a learning curve photographing the Owls - low light and how fast they go...! Still managed this one which gives a feel of what I was watching.
Whilst I was there, I also watched Fieldfares, saw a Common Snipe, stood listening for ages to a Water Rail and saw two Barn Owls. I was also surprised at the number of Kestrels that appeared at dusk, on both occasions, either going to roost or on a suppertime hunt as the light went.
Whilst we were at Titchwell, we had some lovely views of a Common Snipe, Marsh Harriers and there were plenty of waders about, from Redshanks, Bar Tailed and Black Tailed Godwits to Curlews. We also spent some time at the beach where there were plenty of Oystercatchers and Bar Tailed Godwits about as well.
With time off work over the Christmas holiday, I decided to have another trip to see the Owls. I had a chilly but brilliant afternoon watching thm, with a solo performance by one on my stroll down to Burwell from Wicken, which I watched quartering and catching prey, before it flew off being harassed by a crow.
Later in the afternoon I managed to catch these two in a 'you're in my spot' moment,
and later a flyby from this one.
I also had some lovely close views of a very vocal Fieldfare, concerned that I may have been too close to 'his' Hawthorn berries and on my walk back to the car, I had some lovely moments watching a Roe Deer in the twilight on a bank not ten metres from me!