Bird Watching (UK) - - Challenge -

Spring fever

March is re­garded as a quiet time for birds, but the first wave of spring mi­grants comes through at this time. The first Sand Martins, Wheatears and Lit­tle Ringed Plovers help keep the year list tick­ing over and the first singing Chif­fchaff is al­ways a sig­nal to up the year-list­ing game. Wood­land birds are get­ting frisky You can’t be ev­ery­where at once. In the PBC area, I have found that (his­tor­i­cally) most of the ‘elite’ birds are found at four main sites. These are Ferry Mead­ows CP, the Nene Washes, Wood­wal­ton Fen and Deep­ing Lakes LWT (and nearby sites).

Ferry Mead­ows CP in Peter­bor­ough con­tains a mix of lakes and wood­land plus scrub and grass­land all wrapped in a me­an­der of the River Nene, so part of a pre-ex­ist­ing ‘fly­way’. I cy­cle through there on my route to and from work, which helps make this a key site; and a cou­ple of very keen lo­cal watch­ers work the site daily.

The Nene Washes is an ex­ten­sive RSPB man­aged area of grass­land by the chan­nel of the River Nene (a few miles east of the city), which pe­ri­od­i­cally floods. It is the last refuge for breed­ing Black-tailed God­wits in the UK, but is also ex­cel­lent for low­land breed­ing waders (Snipe, Lap­wing and Red­shank), is the cen­tre for Corn Crake rein­tro­duc­tion and has breed­ing Crane, Bit­tern, Lit­tle Egret and Marsh Har­rier. It has fantastic win­ter­ing wild­fowl and some of the best pas­sage wader habi­tat. Any­thing can and does turn up.

The reedbeds, fen and carr habi­tats of WWF still (just) hold breed­ing Long-eared Owl (right), boom­ing Bit­tern, rod­ing Woodcock, and Grasshop­per War­bler. In win­ter it is the best Peter­bor­ough area site for Mealy Red­poll and Bearded Tit.

Deep­ing Lakes LWT next to the River Wel­land is one of the best sites for scarce wild­fowl, herons and grebes, as well as pas­sage waders and an­nual Ospreys and the odd juicy passer­ine, plus win­ter­ing Long-eared Owl.

May good­ies you may So, this is the ob­vi­ous time lo­cal ‘bird race’, when I have birds in 24 hours on a few

Sum­mer ‘dol­drums’

From a fen­land per­spec­tive, May into June is a time for bird­ing at night. There are call­ing adult and ju­ve­nile Long-eared Owls, there are Corn Crakes (rein­tro­duced east of Peter­bor­ough) and pos­si­ble Spot­ted Crakes to lis­ten for, as well as Quails out in the agri­cul­ture fields. Bit­terns boom and Grasshop­per War­blers reel. June and July are cer­tainly qui­eter months for birds mov­ing. But, one great thing is that a lot of the birds that are mi­grat­ing are of­ten rare. Watch the ther­mal rich skies for rap­tors or per­haps a stork. A rare marsh tern may drop in to your lo­cal gravel pit. And there are al­ways waders,

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