Every autumn we eagerly await the the arrival of our wintering population of stonechats.
These attractive little birds bring a splash of colour to the many ditches at the Great Fen, along with various other species that join us at this time of year, some of which may only be passing through.
Many stonechats were ringed in 2020/21, and we followed their movements around the Living Landscape. Due to the large size of the Great Fen, as you can see from its boundary, this is not an easy task, but thanks to our many volunteers we re-sighted (recorded subsequent sightings of birds, after they are ringed) a good number of birds, and obtained some useful data.
The stonechats are not the only birds arriving, or passing through the Great Fen at the moment, and so, as this weekend is World Bird Migration Day, it seems appropriate to mention a couple of other species.
The whinchat can be seen perching atop of the dead stems of hemlock at this time of year. The birds don't breed in the Great Fen, but this is a particularly productive time to look out for them. They are very distinctive, with their prominent, creamy eyestripe.
The wheatear is our own little 'roadrunner', most often seen darting along the bare tracks in the Fen. Their long legs suit the ground dwelling habits of this species, hunting for insects as it explores our trails; the distinctive white rump of the bird is visible, as it flies ahead of you. Only yesterday I was watching such a bird on the the Northern Loop, This month, there are heading down from the north, heading abroad, to Africa, south of the Sahara. They stop off with us to refuel, seeking out the drier, open ground, where they can hunt for insects. In spring, they can be seen again, heading back north, and we have spotted them on the tracks but also, around the wet farming test beds.