It was a lovely crisp, sunny but cold winter's day today, and my grandparents and I went to RSPB Nene Washes, in search of Short-eared Owls that have eluded my life list thus far.
First we stopped off at Dogsthorpe Star Pit Nature Reserve in the hope of some rare gulls, but it was a big ask considering that I'm an incredibly inexperienced gull-er and my grandparents aren't so keen on them either! We arrived and saw masses of gulls in the sky over the nearby tip, and it was promising to see the lake at the reserve blanketed with white and grey splodges of different sizes. So we scanned the lake for short while but I couldn't make out anything special amongst the Black-headeds and Herrings. We did have some nice views of Fieldfare, and heard a very noisy tree covered in Starlings! After finding a Grey Heron out on the ice and losing the feeling in my toes, we decided to move on to Nene Washes at Eldernell.
We arrived and had 2 year ticks very quickly; a fly-by Green Woodpecker and my grandma soon spotted a Kingfisher in a tree overhanging the dyke which continued to show well (a little too distant for anything other than record shots though) throughout the day. Whilst we were admiring the Kingfisher a Sparrowhawk sauntered over, and a Red Kite put in an appearance and seemed unusually large as it drifted over the bank - an unexpected but very welcome year tick. We started to walk along the track looking out over the fen, seeing quite a few Kestrels, a mixed flock of Linnets and Meadow Pipits, around 30 Snipe, and 12 Whooper Swans. After making our way back to the car we went to the nearby town for a pub lunch.
After returning and waiting just 15 minutes or so in the warmth of the car, a Short-eared Owl was spotted by the gathering crowd of birders, so I rushed out of the car and watched in awe as a lifer drifted by! Over the course of about an hour we saw 3 individuals and watched some interesting behaviour too, including interactions between the individual owls, and with and Marsh Harriers and corvids. It was truly amazing to see the birds both in flight and perched with glorious scope views, but what made it even better were the repeated sightings of Cranes in the distance, with a total of 12 birds seen, again with lovely views in flight and stood on the ground.
And just when I thought the day couldn't get any better, a Barn Owl appeared out of nowhere and perched on a barn reasonably close to us, providing the best views of the bird I've ever had. But then, just as I was belted up in the car ready to leave, I spotted the Barnie again and this time it quartered over the fens right in front of us! What an end to a super day with 18 year ticks, and a lifer!
Here are some photos from the day: a record shot of the Kingfisher, Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl and a frosty teasel head.
I'm Sorrel, a young birder and wildlife artist based in the East Midlands - this is my blog all about my birding and wildlife adventures.