Swans' calls fill the air by Ouse

PUBLISHED: 15:10 01 February 2008 | UPDATED: 12:17 29 April 2010

I had a very productive day birdwatching on the east side of the Ouse Washes recently. With the Welney and Sutton Gault roads flooded, access to and across the washes was difficult at the time and required a few detours. Fortunately, the long way round

I had a very productive day birdwatching on the east side of the Ouse Washes recently.

With the Welney and Sutton Gault roads flooded, access to and across the washes was difficult at the time and required a few detours. Fortunately, the 'long way round' provided some welcome sights.

A very large flock of swans were gathered near Wardy Hill. There were almost four figures in all and the group stretched across three fields. Most of them were Bewick's swans, but it was the calls of the larger and much noisier whoopers that dominated, the wind carrying them far across the fen.

I noticed two men standing very close to the flock, sneaking carefully around the edge. They were swan researchers, scientists that record the neck and leg ring colours and inscriptions that are fitted to some of the birds. This allows the movements of

individual swans to be tracked from country to country.

The Ouse Washes swans have provided lots of valuable data over the years and helped us to learn so much about these birds, their movements and breeding productivity.

A great white egret has been in residence in ditches near Pymore and I was lucky to see this rarity from the roadside. Walking up a farm track enabled me to pin it down standing in a flood in a field with two or more score shelducks. Great whites are really tall birds and seem even larger and more slender than grey herons. It was quite a sight to see one in a fenland wheat field.

On to Welney, where a male and female bean goose were accompanied by a youngster on a field behind the centre. I was excited to see that one of the birds was an old friend. The male bird has an unusual bill pattern in that it is virtually all orange (rather than the usual mainly black with a bit of orange), making him stand out from the other bean geese that visit Welney in varying numbers from the Arctic tundra. This was about the 10th winter I've seen him at Welney (and once at the Nene Washes).

Driving home on the back roads I thought how nice it would be to end with a little owl and, right on cue, I spied a 'lump' on top of a barn.

I pulled in and had lovely views of this miniature owl staring back at me with fierce eyes. Its expression was made all the more scowling by the feathery white 'eyebrows' on its face.

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