So, 2016 moves into 2017 and the tyranny of year-listing starts all over again. Although there was a good list of rare birds around (rock and dusky thrush for instance) without any lifers in getable range I decided to concentrate on going a bit more local. Apart from a few garden ticks on the first two days the first trip out was with Judith to Welney on the 3rd.
This is about 90 minutes away and is cracking for winter swans - mainly whoopers but also Bewicks. The weather had been quite mild though so that normally means the swans will all be out in the fields rather than on the reserve. Still, we like a trip here as it has a heated observation hide, always nice in the Winter.
On the way up we stopped once or twice to look at the frosty fields, and saw a couple of very distant hares and some red-legged partridge and corn buntings but otherwise not much. We got to Welney at 10 just as it opened (never know why it opens so late) but were rewarded with a nice cup of tea and a muffin!
There is a short walk across a bridge to the reserve, which is basically a series of hides overlooking a flooded field. In front are lots of wildfowl, mainly pochard and tufties, with whooper swans round the edge.
The rest of the reserve was really quiet, a few waders such as this bar-tailed godwit were around
What were present in good numbers though were raptors - kestrels seemed very numerous all around in the Fens, and there were a lot of buzzards scouting around for opportunities.
Most of the swans though, as I said, were out in the fields which looked lovely with the fresh green growth counter-pointed against the rich black soil and the white of the swans.
After this we went to Burwell Fen, which has been a local hotspot for short-eared owls this Winter. We got there at 2pm which was when they were supposed to start flying.
Our second trip was on the 5th, out to Dungeness in Kent. This was an early start as usual and we arrived to a very frosty but beautifully clear morning on Dungeness beach.
Next we moved onto the RSPB reserve, firstly stopping for a very confiding ring-necked duck at Bolderwall farm on the entrance track.
FOLLOW UP - this bird was retested after I had seen it. There had been a mix up in the laboratory with samples being mixed up. It was only a very plain common stonechat. Ah well.
Initially there was no sign of the bird, but I did find a pair of common stonechats in the quarry, as well as a black redstart. Then two birders came back to the small carpark with news that it was showing on the fence about 300 yards away. A quick sprint and there it was, feeding happily on the ground and flitting up into the low scrub or fence posts.
It was described as "washed out" and by crikey it was. Compared to the normal brownish stonechats it was positively white, reminiscent in some ways of Arctic redpolls. I watched it for I suppose 15 minutes and it seemed quite unconcerned with the small crowd it had attracted.
This is nominally a really rare bird in the UK, and with DNA require to prove provenance will be tricky to nail down in the future, but you suspect more claims will come in now so many people have had good views of this specimen.
So, a reasonable start to the year. After 5 days I'm up to 84 species, but this is still 14 behind my brother-in-law, who has got off to a flyer. Still, its a marathon not a sprint so lets see how we go. I'm pleased with what I've got so far anyway, but lets look out for more lifers to come in the Spring!