Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Buckenham Marshes

In contrast to the Snettisham bird, which spent all of its time hanging around with the local Greylags, the track record of the Yare Valley, and the birds choice of company (permanently attached to the flock of Taiga Bean Geese) gave the Buckenham Lesser White-fronted Goose as good a credentials as anyone could ask for. Its appearance last winter resulted in it becoming the first accepted British record since the Juvenile at Slimbridge in 2003.

Despite being present with a mixed flock of Taigas and White fronts when we arrived, the dips and hollows of the grazing marshes were enough to conceal the bird throughout the morning. Looking east from the track made viewing conditions somewhat challenging, with the choice of either viewing from nearest the railway line (closer to the birds but looking into the sun) or viewing from the car park at the end of the track (greater distance but viewing under better light) By mid day the sun had moved around enough to improve viewing conditions from the start of the track, where the Taigas had gradually come closer throughout the morning.

At Ranworth Broad, the female Ring-necked Duck showed well with the small flock of Pochards and Tufted Duck, before swimming out to the middle of the broad and flying off towards the main body of water. My first sighting of a female, having seen five different drakes. Arriving back at Buckenham the adult Lesser White-fronted Goose was showing on arrival, feeding with the Beans Geese close to the railway line. Not as close as it could have been, but still better views than a lot of people will have had, and near enough to make out most of the necessary features. Two Chinese Water Deer were running across the fields and a Bittern make a very brief flight appearance, whilst the skies were filled with flocks of swirling Lapwing and golden Plover, possible as a result of the two lingering Peregrines.

As the light bean to fade, several large flocks of Starling made their way across the grazing fields, heading towards the main reedbed at Strumpshaw RSPB, and the first waves of corvids appeared in the distance, heading for the fields behind the car park, where they would roost in the woodland opposite the church. After turning the field into a solid black mass, a second flock, numbering something close to 20,000 birds, appeared over the woodland, looking towards Strumpshaw Fen. With numbers now at their peak (70,000?) the birds from the fields began to lift, joining the flocks already swirling in tight clusters over the woodland, untill the fields were clear of birds, and the skies were turned black with crows.

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