Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Out on the Washes

I had some binocular and scope testing to do yesterday, so I took myself off into the Fens to do it. Perfect, really – wide horizons, plenty of fencelines and ditches to help judge distance, and a misty murk in which you get to see the difference that top-end Austrian and German optical technology can make.

I had some hopes of seeing the Rough-legged Buzzard that has been around Parson Drove, or the Bramblings that have hung around nearby, but I missed out on both, so to finish the testing I headed over to Eldernell at dusk.

I'm glad I did. The flooded Nene Washes were a mass of wildfowl, with the air full of the whistling of Wigeon and the hollering of Whooper Swans. A Marsh Harrier glided past, and just as I was packing up to leave, a Short-eared Owl quartered the nearest meadow then perched on a gatepost, its yellow eyes standing out from the many shades of brown and grey around it.

It's hard to believe, standing atop the grass bank there, looking out over this enormous wetland teeming with birdlife, that you're only a few miles outside a major city. It's a strange landscape, being very much shaped by man, despite the fact that here, at least, the river is allowed to overflow annually. But it has something that many British wildlife sites (and sights) don't – scale. You can stand there and be convinced that there's nothing in the world other than you and thousands upon thousands of birds.

The Snettisham 'spectacular' is one natural event that does rival this for size, and now's just about the best time to see it at the RSPB reserve in Norfolk. If you want to know more about it, you could always read about it in my book, A Sky Full Of Birds.

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