I decided that it was high time I dug Skippy out of his nice, warm, dry garage to brave the wind and the cold and do a bit of camping and photography. On and off over the years I’ve been attempting to get really good photographs of birds in flight so a trip to a local bird reserve seemed like a good idea.
I also love camping in Skippy so I planned to have an overnight stop followed by a full day of photography. With plenty to eat and drink in the van I set off after work on Wednesday and arrived at the Wetland Trust’s car-park after everyone had gone home which meant that I had the place to myself. Free camping, my favourite price. After a lovely warm sleep I had coffee and breakfast while watching hundreds of swans fly overhead and waited for the place to open.
The car park, cafe and visitor centre are separated from the actual reserve by the New Bedford River which is crossed by means of a footbridge from the cafe, and the River Delph and Old Bedford River run along the rear of the reserve. All these rivers enter the River Great Ouse at Denver sluice and form part of the crucial water management system protecting these low lying Fens from dangerous flooding.
The reserve costs about £8 for the day but I paid an extra £15 for unlimited access to a special water level hide underneath the main observatory. You can see the unglazed observation slots underneath the sloping windows of the heated part of the observatory. The observation ports I was using are about knee high and are hidden by the reeds in this photo. The hooped structure to the right of the observatory is part of the netting system the conservationists use to trap and ring the birds.
One of the four main hides on the reserve is this one, called Willow Hide, and as you can see from the gentle access slope and lack of steps, they have put a lot of thought and effort into making the majority of the reserve accessible to people in wheelchairs.
I didn’t have any trouble finding birds, there were thousands of them, unfortunately the majority of the swans had flown off to feed on the surrounding farmland so I had to make do with various ducks and smaller birds. I’ve tentatively identified this as a flock of Ringed Plover and the next photograph as a flock of Golden Plover, but I’m ready to stand corrected if anyone knows better.
I’m pretty confident that the birds in the picture below are Red head Ducks. A couple in the hide as I took this photograph were talking about the ducks we could see. She quietly asked me what the ducks with the brown heads were called so I told her. A few minutes later I heard her asking her friend about the ducks with the green heads and the guy confidently identified them as ‘Green Head Ducks’. They left shortly afterwards so I never did find out what the ‘brown all over’ ducks were called.
One of the Red Head Ducks.
…and one of the “Green Head Ducks”.
…and this, I expect, is a female ‘Brown all over Duck’.
I did have some success with flying birds but I can’t help comparing my photographs (negatively) with some of the bird photographs I see on the likes of Flikr.
As promised earlier in my blog, here is this post’s ‘selfie’. My Nanuk of the North impression, and it was still flipping freezing.
The next couple of photographs show Whooper swans, which are smaller than our common Mute swan and very similar to the Berwick’s swan. They overwinter in Britain, flying down from their summer home in Iceland.
“DUCK” !!! “Nope, just a low flying swan”
This next duck I couldn’t identify in any of my bird books, but the warden at Welney told me it was an Egyptian Goose. The very friendly and knowledgeable warden then went on to explain that these geese had been introduced to the UK as an ornamental wildfowl species and having escaped into the wild, are now successfully breeding in a feral state.
All in all a very enjoyable day, and the campervan behaved himself impeccably. I still don’t enjoy driving it in the dark though.