Colin and I had a fairly short day out last Sunday, and ended up visiting a couple of sites new to us.
The intention was to go to Holme Fen and see the regular Rough legged Buzzard (we saw one here a few years ago) plus the Short Eared Owls. However, with thick fog at home and further north, we decided to try a couple of other long staying birds.
Ferry meadows in Peterborough is a well known spot and regularly featured in one of the birding magazines back in the 80's and 90's, but I have never been there before. However since we were in the area and there was a now rather scarce Red Necked Grebe present we headed there first. We eventually left the fog behind, and arrived to bright sunshine and a rather heavy frost. Needless to say it was rather cold as well.
The grebe had been seen regularly near the site of the Roman barn not far from the car park so we went straight there. Unfortunately, while there were a few Great Crested Grebes here, plus a few Mallards and Tufted Ducks, most of the birds seemed to be on the far side so we gradually made our way there with the occasional detour to the other bodies of water on the way.
M most of the dabbling ducks were on one of the smaller reedy lakes and some looked really stunning in the cold sunshine, so i had to get a few snaps of the nearby drake Wigeon.
We eventually reached the far side of the main lake where the ducks were and started scanning, but failed to find the Red Necked. However, in a short space of time Colin found one of two treecreepers which proved hard to track in the camera and while we were trying to follow on of them two very loud Kingfishers flew past. I managed to get a few Treecreeper images.
Continuing on to the car park I stopped off to get some shots of the autumn colour by the river.
Checking over the lake form a new vantage point I spotted two Grebes near the distant island, heads tucked in but swimming purposefully. One looked a bit small and dark but unfortunately remained a long way off. Shame really as the nearby bay would have been a better location. It must have read my mind as it gradually made it's way towards us and ended up feeding in the bay very close to us. Probably the closets we have ever got to this now rather rare grebe.
After a cup of coffee we went through a few options and chose Stanwick gravel pits, another new site. Expecting a typical mature pit complex we discovered it was more of a country park using the disused railway line, so proved to be an easy stroll. We were after egrets, though reports suggested they were at the far northern end a mile away.
There were a lot of Redwings on the way up, and a rather nice bonus of a very loud low flying Raven.
We reached the last pit, found the herd of cattle and noted two egrets in the water though a long way off. The larger one was obviously a Great White and the smaller appeared to be a Little-confirmed when I was able to access the field edge. Not what we wanted though. I spent quite some time checking the cattle and a flock of sheep in a field further north, but it seemed like our target Cattle Egrets weren't present. Disappointed we started to return bumping into a birder and letting him know we were unsuccessful.
About ten minutes later I was some way back to the car and had found a small Goldcrest flock containing a single Chiffchaff when we heard someone call us. A jogger had appeared and she asked us if it we were looking for Cattle Egrets. Having confirmed that we were, we found out the birder we had chatted to had found them and asked her to pass the message on. Very gratefully we made our way north again.
As it turned out we were only a few hundred yards short of a second field with cattle in, and there were three Cattle Egrets with them. Thanks to the obscuring bushes and their mobility it was hard to get decent images but, I ended up with some decent shots.
After lunch we finally drove over to Holme Fen, meeting up with a group of regulars parked by what barely passes for a road and spent some time scanning the area. They told me that the Buzzard had been seen on and off to the north, and had on previous days been quite close to the road, but the one report earlier in the day had it perched in a tree around a mile to the north east. The regulars were waiting for the Short Eared Owls, of which up to six are wintering here, but they hadn't shown by 2pm. As I needed to get home before dark to get some of the more tender plants into shelter, we left them to it. The camera lens I had wasn't ideal for low light flight images anyway, so if we get another opportunity I hope to be better prepared.