The recent, warmer and wetter weather has resulted in a change to the birdlife, as some species move back into the Fen, such as stonechat, due the warmer weather, and lapwing and shelduck, in response to the increased water levels. The rain is a welcome addition, combining with our own management of the water levels as we progress in our restoration work to re-wet parts of the Great Fen (see Kester's Docking below).
Birds of prey include a range of species, though this year seems not to be one for the short-eared owls, with no current sightings on the Fen. Barn owl, buzzard, kestrel, marsh harrier, merlin, peregrine and red kite are being seen regularly. There seem to be a number of pale buzzards (pictured below) around at the moment, easily misidentified as rough-legged buzzard, which has been recorded recently.
The wild bird seed fields up at Froghall, continue to support large flocks of Linnet, and elsewhere, but chaffinch and brambling numbers are decreasing, but groups of yellowhammer, over 20 strong have been seen, a very impressive sight. In some places skylark are gathering in flocks, as well as singings on sunnier days. Last weekend, it was noticeable that a number of species had started singing, especially the great tits.
Much of this information is gathered by the Great Fen Monitors, Wildlife Trust volunteers making monthly visits to various places across the Fen, and helping to gather this useful ecological data on birds overwintering with us in the Great Fen, benefitting from the restoration work. As a result, last month, Bewick and whooper swans continue to been seen near the northern end of the Great Fen, while the meres in the national nature reserves (Holme and Woodwalton Fens) are supporting good numbers of duck, such as gadwall, mallard, teal, tufted duck and wigeon, plus a few rather stunning looking goldeneye.
Birds are often passing through the Great Fen, some simply stopping off, others arriving in spring, to breed, others over wintering, to feed and shelter on the Fen. In some cases we get very interesting information from our monitoring projects, and this year we have had a particularly exciting result. Our community bird migrations project, supported by Vine House Farm, has been highlighted by the travels on one particular little bird.
This winter, a young tree sparrow, recorded at Vine House Farm last May, decide to head south and, just before Christmas, appeared in a flock of sparrows and finches in the Great Fen itself; a very exciting piece of news and another link between the Great Fen and Vine House Farm!
If you are interested in joining the team and getting involved at the start of this year’s round of survey and monitoring, why not get in touch?
Henry Stanier (Great Fen Monitoring and Research Officer)