Getting to Welney was arduous though to say the least, the drive taking us almost 3 hours! It used to take just over half of that! We have some serious traffic issues in this country, and I realise that by being on the road that we are contributing to the problem, but it really does need a solution before the country's roads achieve gridlock. Surely all of the house building in rural areas is the main problem since the people moving out of the cities to live in the countryside are still having to travel back into the cities for work. The only "quiet" days on the roads now are at weekends when people are at home. Enough of my poor grasp of politics and on with the birding though.
We arrived, eventually, at Welney and were greeted by a fine Tree Sparrow singing from the visitor centre roof. We have very few Tree Sparrows left locally, I must try to find some in Oxfordshire again, so it's always good to see them on our travels.
The Lyle Hide was favoured because it "juts" out a bit into the surrounding reeds and wet marsh, although this year the only water visible was contained in a few pools. Normally, by this time of year, the entire area would be under water now but the very dry summer has had a marked effect upon the Fens just as it has back home. We passed the Alder tree, where a few years ago we had stood for almost 5 hours waiting for a fine male Bluethroat to emerge and, when it did, was only seen by us since everyone else that day had given up and gone home.
|male "white-spotted" Bluethroat, WWT Welney, 19th April 2011
|record shot of the Pallid Harrier
|The warden on his "Cowazaki"! (....I'll get my coat)
|Crane family, juvenile on the left
|returning Whooper Swans
|female Marsh Harrier
|Common Buzzard & Lapwing
Another raptor passed reasonably close by the hide, this time a Kestrel and a multitude of Black-headed Gulls had appeared and were presumably catching flying insects that had taken to the air now the day had warmed up. Some of the Whooper Swans noisily departed to the west leaving just a few relaxing on the pool.
|Whooper Swans heading off to the fields
|Pallid & Marsh Harrier. I love that Marsh Harrier!
We had been rewarded by waiting patiently for almost 3 hours with a sighting of a beautiful bird of prey and much better views than we'd had on the Sussex downs previously. The juvenile Pallid is a stunning orangey colour underneath and sports a prominent white rump (in keeping with most female Harrier species). Equally striking are the whitish eye patches which look like a pair of headlights as can be seen in the photo below. This particular bird appeared to be moulting a couple of tail feathers which may account for its prolonged stay.
|Those "headlight" eye patches.
I finished the day off by taking a few images of the Tree Sparrows that were visiting the feeders provided, along with their larger and more common House Sparrow cousins, which provided a nice bit of symmetry to the days proceedings.