Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Swan Feed at WWT Welney

Last Saturday was cold day, teetering on the brink of spring,
but with one foot definitely still in winter. 
We headed off to Norfolk (UK) in search of swans at WWT Welney
This is the migrating season,
so we were not sure how many would still be there ...

We left Ely and Littleport and drove through the fens, 
between dykes and wide fields of black soil. 
You can see which way leads to the swans! 

A hare-spotting walk was in progress when we arrived,
and while we were too late for this,
we kept an eye out for these lovely animals.
We were rewarded with a couple of fairly distant sightings.

The wind was brisk at times,
and there were bursts of activity on the marsh
during the calmer spells. 
We enjoyed keeping an eye open for Reed Buntings. 

We love looking out over the Ouse Washes,
and enjoying the sense of space.
East Anglia is renowned for its wide skies.

Almost all of the Bewick's Swans had already departed 
for their breeding grounds in Russia.
However there were some stunning birds left, 
like the Whooper above and the Mute swan below. 

We watched two swan feeds during our time on the reserve,
each accompanied by a commentary.
I found it particularly helpful to learn
that Whooper swans have a yellow wedge 
(beginning with 'w' for Whooper) on their bill, 
while Bewick's swans have a distinguishing yellow blob
('b', of course, for Bewick's).
Mute swans are easy to recognise
with their orange bills - no mnemonic necessary!
There is a useful swan ID chart here.

The swans were surrounded by male Pochard. 
Most of the females are currently in Spain.

Whooper swans are so elegant ...

... and so are the Wigeon.

How's this for waterfront camouflage?

Pochard have bright eyes,
but the camera seems to have enhanced this particular one a bit! 

There was a bit of feather ruffling going on ...

... and a bit of sleeping. I love the feathers. 

I'm guessing that this duck
 is probably a domestic variant of the Mallard. 

The hares were not very active - but just wait until March arrives!

As the daylight began to fade,
we noticed a Kestrel hovering above the water. 

The sun began to set as huge flocks took to the sky. 
We particularly enjoyed watching the Lapwing. 

A sense of peace pervaded the reserve
in between the frantic bursts of activity.

The sunset was stunning ...

... and the Shelduck were still going about their business.

Welney - what a place!

Every so often it got very stormy. 
This was the view from the the hide
as the dark clouds tried to get the upper hand.

It was soon time
for the evening swan-feed ...

... which was a popular event for birds and humans alike ...

... in bitter temperatures beneath the February moon.



This was the car roof the following morning.

Monday, 16 February 2015

My First Ladybird of 2015

We saw our first Ladybird of 2015 in the garden on Saturday 14 February. I hope there will be many more.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Spring comes to Ickworth in Geraldine's Walk

Some of you may have read my two previous posts about our recent visit to NT Ickworth. I mentioned that we were on a quest to see snowdrops ...

We took the path that snakes its way through the wood that straddles Geraldine's Walk.

It was not long before we saw some catkins (below). I was keen to observe the tiny flowers. You can see one in the photo above. The photo below shows the position of the flower on the branch.

Catkins are always a sign that spring is on the way, but there were other signs, too ...

... such as my first primrose of 2015. The flowers were a bit ragged, but they were there.

The photo below shows a tiny Treecreeper on a huge trunk!

This view of Geraldine's Walk shows fallen leaves and beechmast from autumn, bare branches from winter and a glimmer of spring sunlight.

And here are the snowdrops!

I suspect the Snowdrops below had been decimated by some creature,
but mice and most rodents are not usually attracted to these flowers. 
There were quite a few petals strewn about and a few flower heads and stalks. 

What a perfect place to spend an afternoon in early spring!

There were quite a few Aconites ...

... still wet with dew drops ...

There was a clump of daffodils ...

... and high up in the treetops a rook was busy making a nest.

You can read a littler more about Lady Geraldine's Walk here.

Ickworth is a lovely place to visit in all four seasons.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Fox-watching on a Winter's afternoon

The Rotunda at NT Ickworth

We saw our first fox of 2015 at Ickworth last weekend. We had had a lovely afternoon in Geraldine's Wood, looking for snowdrops and aconites, and decided to move to a more open part of the estate before the light gave way. The fox was small and active. It sat, then ran, then scampered back and sat for a moment. However, what interested me most was its pale colouring, which does not show up very well on these record shots.

I think you will see, however, that there is quite a large pointed area of white fur at the side of the neck. Apparently the fur above the brush is sometimes a grey colour, as can be seen in my photo below.

I found a fox colour chart, and discovered that foxes come in many classified shades.