Thursday, 21 November 2013

Swanning around

Nice weather forecast, winter setting in and I've still not managed to see either of our two winter visiting swans yet this year: whooper or bewicks. These long-distance travellers visit us from Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia (whoopers) or almost entirely from Russia (bewicks). Unlike our mute swans with orange bills they are distinguished by having yellow and black on the bill. In the case of whoopers it is mainly yellow with a black base and reversed for the bewicks and is nicely shown in the attached link.

Anyway, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Welney in Norfolk is home to large numbers, in the thousands for whoopers and hundreds for bewicks) and they have started arriving. A regular evening feed ensures some are always around the centre with others scattered in the fields eating rotting potatoes, their favourite food!!!
So, we set out on what should have a 90 minute drive but which took almost an hour more due to an accident on the A1!! Still, refreshed with a nice of cup of tea and a slightly disappointing stale scone from the cafeteria we went into the main hide. If you haven't been there it is bird watching in luxury. Entirely indoors with seats, central heating and large panoramic glass windows the birds are on the flooded meadow in front of you, or at least they should be.

With the weather still mild only about 30 or whoopers and barely 2 or 3 bewicks were around. There were plenty of ducks - wigeon, teal, pintail, pochard, tufted, mallard, geese - mainly canadas, and a few waders - lapwing, black-tailed godwit, redshank and dunlin.

Even though we walked the length of the reserve swans were pretty much always distant. To get them closer you need to be early, but the reserve doesn't open till 10, or late for the evening feed from about 2.30 onwards.

On the way back we did catch a gorgeous marsh harrier quartering Lady Fen behind the reserve and at great distance saw the flocks of swans, numbering into the many hundreds or more. With the 'scope you could make out both types but way too far out for photos. We did agree to come back over Xmas or when the weather gets cold though when they should be a lot closer. Anyway, 2 more year ticks so up to 225.