Monday, 6 February 2017

Rye Meads and a foggy Graffham

On Saturday I decided to go down to Rye Meads, It been quite some time since my last visit and I thought I would be able to pick up a few species to add to my year list.
The first addition was a Little Egret just a few minutes from home, sitting on the side of the stream just past the Sainburys at Poplars. Sarah and Ed saw one here a while back, but this is the first Ive seen in this area.
I got to Rye around 0930 and parked my car under the usual pylon which now houses a Kestrel box.

The centre has had a bit of a revamp since my last visit as well, and there has been quite a bit of work on the various scrapes.
Part of the reed bed on the Draper scrape has been cleared and this has been very attractive to the wintering Water Pipit which was feeding with a pair of Grey and a pair of Pied Wagtails. These were distant and also mobile-I also saw the Pipit and Wagtails later on the islands off the Gadwall hide.
One Cetti's Warbler was calling from time to time, and there was also a single Green Sandpiper here. The Barn Owl nest boxes were as usual occupied by Stock Doves.
I didn't see much else until I reached the Gadwall Hide overlooking the north lagoon. The water level is kept low to expose the islands which were attractive to Lapwing and Snipe. Three Shelduck and a variety of wildfowl were on the water but I never saw any Grebes and there weren't any gulls apart from Black Heads.
Walking up to the Meads produced a few tits and Song Thrushes plus a Grey Heron which I had been inadvertently flushing all morning as it tried to feed in the drains crossing the reserve.

No Siskin or Redpolls in the Alders. I stopped off at the Kingfisher hide briefly-no action here and decided to leave as I heard that Waxwings had been seen again down the road at Turnford, before flying off to a nearby estate.
Unfortunately by the time I got there I couldn't  find any birders, let alone Waxwings and after fifteen minutes of driving around the area I gave up and returned home.

Sunday was intended to be a rather quiet short day out with Colin but it turned out to be rather more abbreviated than planned.
We drove up to Graffham Water, leaving a fairly bright Stevenage and headed up the A1 getting rather worried by the amount of mist and fog on the way. Visibility at Graffham was about 100 yards when we got there, it seemed to improve a bit and then gradually deteriorated.
Parking at the Plummer car park we soon reached the dam seeing little apart from a few Robins and Blackbirds. One Redshank, several Pied Wagtails and a Meadow Pipit were the only birds on the dam, with a small flock of Tufted Duck and three Goldeneyes on the water.
A long cold spell on the centre of the dam produced a few Great Crested Grebes. Staring out into the murk I eventually found a Great Northern Diver. The problem was how to get Colin on it. A nearby orange buoy was a good marker and slightly more visible than the diver but was also very hard to find in the fog but reasonably easy during the brief clear spells. I got the scope on it an it proved to be a rather well marked juvenile with a broad dark neck band. A second bird was later found-this one with a far less prominent neck band. At one point I suspected that the third Great Northern was also in the area as three large birds were seen together far out in the murk. Not surprisingly  failed completely to find the Red Necked Grebe.
The plan after leaving Graffham was to go to Paxton and Diddington pits for the Ring Necked Duck and then head off to Burwell for the Owls, but with no sign of the fog lifting it would have been pointless.
However the very elusive Little Bunting at Great Barford was on the way home and had been reported in the morning. Didn't know it had only been seen briefly by a single observer. Met a few familiar (and rather despondent) faces when we got to the footbridge where it had been seen. There were a lot of Reed Buntings flitting around as well as Linnets and Yellowhammers, but the viewing conditions were not good with the birds flying up from the ground into thick bushes and distant trees. I was later told that the game crops on the field edge ran for a considerable distance and birds were ranging a long way up and down. We stuck out for a bit and then decided to call it a day. On the way back I picked up a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and a calling Chiffchaff.

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