Thursday, May 23, 2024

Rarity chasing in Cambridgeshire part 2.

Last post left you on the edge of your seats as your intrepid birders ticked off the first of three potential rarities and headed off in search of the second. We left Ouse Fen and drove down to Fen Drayton for the first-summer male Red-Footed Falcon.

We arrived and on consulting birdguides realised we were at the wrong end so set off on the old gravel lorry path to the southern-most pit. It was for exactly this scenario I bought a 4x4 several years ago and it worked out fine. It wasn't just that the path had many pot holes, its that they were very deep. Fortunately we navigated the path without incident, found a few parked cars and fellow birders soon had us at the viewpoint watching the target bird in the distance. The bird slowly came nearer and flew over our heads. The heavy grey sky meant we couldn't get great visibility on it but the underside was clearly finely barred, quite dark, and had red feet. Slightly longer tailed than a Hobby (there was one around too) and without the scythe wings. Very nice. There were a couple of Cuckoos including a hepatic bird, a few terns and plenty of warblers too. 

Two down. We headed off to Berry Fen following instructions we had been given by a helpful local for a sighting of the Black-Winged Stilt, our final target bird. We were unable to find any sign of it, so decided to call it a day and arrived at the A14 services for a relaxing coffee just as the forecast rain started. We were very happy with two out of three.

I checked Birdguides again just before we left and the Stilt was at Ouse Fen! Seemingly on the huge pit we had casually looked over. What to do? Were we really going to drive back just to pull up at the gate and tick it in the rain? Well why not? It's not as though we were just going to turn up, pile out of the car and ask someone to set my scope up on it. Surely there would be some birding skill involved.

We arrived, pulled up at the gate, piled out of the car and found a helpful RSPB ranger. It was raining, there was a lot of water to look over, so why waste time? "Would it be possible for you to just put my scope on the Stilt?"  And there, in the far distance, was a Black-Winged Stilt picking its way through some distant vegetation. Even at that range it had that distinctive jazz ion the bird, and a nice clean white head. Fantastic. Three out of three - how often does that happen? We set off home, wet but happy.

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