Sunday, 27 November 2016

The Ouse Washes

Yesterday twenty five of us boarded the coach and headed north to Cambridgeshire, it was RSPB Havering Local Group's coach outing. This month's destination is the RSPB's Ouse Washes nature reserve right in the heart of The Fens, the Ouse Washes forms the largest area of grazing pasture that floods in the winter in the UK and attracts thousands of wildfowl. During the journey the fog enshrouding the countryside was getting denser as we neared our destination, we were all preparing for tricky viewing conditions. But as we arrived the sun broke through and very soon burned off the fog leaving a beautiful blue sky and a sunny day :-)
Tree Sparrow (right) with female House Sparrow
First stop after our coach driver was giving a round of applause for expertly manoeuvring the coach around the tight 'Ship Inn' bend was the visitor centre feeders. Good numbers of Tree Sparrow were feeding with House Sparrows, Blue & Great Tits, Goldfinches and Collared Doves, The UK tree sparrow population has suffered a severe decline, estimated at 93 per cent between 1970 and 2008. However, recent Breeding Bird Survey data is encouraging, suggesting that numbers may have started to increase, albeit from a very low point. They have all but disappeared from Essex, so very nice to see they are doing ok here.
Tree Sparrow (top) with male House Sparrow for comparison (Tom Bell)
Out on the flooded fens, where the flood water has only recently been let in, were hundreds if not thousands of wildfowl, the majority being Wigeon and Teal, but also good numbers of Whooper Swans. They never came particularly close to any of the eleven hides, but did provide spectacular views with their comings and goings and display antics. There were also Pintail and Goldeneyes seen, along with Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and Kestrel. Some were lucky enough to also see Peregrine and Barn Owl. Kingfisher showed well near the pumping station at the entrance to the reserve. All in all a fantastic day with over sixty different species of bird seen.
Whooper Swan (Tom Bell)

Looking out from one of the eleven hides!

We had a huge blue sky all day!