Saturday, 11 January 2014

Merlin at Broom Pits

Today turned out to be a bit of a let down, even though it was a nice day and we saw a number of good birds.
We were a bit unsure of what to do, but decided that as a Glossy Ibis has been at Langford near Biggleswade i.e. just up the road for a week or so that we would start there and wing it.
We arrived around 0820, rather cold but sunny. Never been here before, but it looks like a nice place, one flooded pit, and a couple of damp meadows to the south alongside the river Ivel. A number of other birders were with us for the hour or so we were there, but despite intensive searching the ibis did not show. We did see Kingfisher, and rather unusually it was very adept at hovering, presumably due to the lack of perches in the area it was fishing. Two Green Sandpipers and a Grey Wagtail were also noteworthy.

Having obtained directions we moved a few miles north to Broom Pits. We have visited before, but being working pits had never really figured out where to go. Most are now disused and have been landscaped, and access is pretty straightforward. The reason to visit is the male Merlin  which has been wintering for a few years now. Rather distant, it was sitting on the ground and enjoying the sun.

Further up the A1 at Holme Fen there has been a pretty regular Great Grey Shrike. The best bet seemed to be to walk through the woods and observe from the hide overlooking a small mere, but we decided to try and scan from the road.
It never showed here nor at an alternative site near the village. However we did see a large number of Mistle Thrushes on the wires, plus Red Kite and a superb low flying Common Buzzard.

Driving through the fens proved to be very quiet, and a stop over at the RSPB Ouse Washes was a waste-the water levels are very high as expected, but there were hardly any wildfowl-just vast expanses of empty water. Guess it is too mild and few duck are wintering here. No swans either.
Our last visit late in the afternoon was to Spinks Lodge in Thetford Forest. The parrot Crossbills are still being reported, though as it turned out, no-one had seen any all afternoon. Heard a few Common Crossbills, plus Siskin and Redpolls. The odd thing was the number of Great Spotted Woodpeckers visiting the garden-at least six in one tree and several more nearby.

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