Rye Levels 21st February 2021

With only a couple of hours to spare today, I thought I’d take the bike down the Railway Line and undertake a bit of “Rye Levels watching”. It’s a bit like seawatching, although I actually stand a chance of recognising what I’m looking at with the inland version. So setting up the telescope (at TQ196147, for those who collect such information) and planning not to move for the duration, I had a good scan of the floods by Rye Farm for an hour and a half and noted the following: Wigeon 230, Teal 205, Pintail 20, Shoveler 60, Lapwing 500, Blackheaded Gull 100 and Common Gull 20. Geese were strangely thin on the ground, with just 6 Greylags and a final count of 40 Canada Goose. A nice bonus was a Little Egret that flew up from a ditch, giving me year tick number 66.

WeBS Survey 14th February 2021

Nothing says romance like a bird survey, so a WeBS survey on Valentine’s Day was a welcome distraction. The cold and overcast weather didn’t help to enhance proceedings but with plenty of floodwater on the fields by the river there were still lots of waterbirds to be seen. The floods south of Buckwish Farm did indeed hold good numbers, but unfortunately these were rather distant, even with the scope. Eventually Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard were picked out in various numbers, along with a few Lapwing. Heading up the river added more Teal, these were numerous in the meadows east of the river between New Inn Farm and the tank track, and there was an overall count of 123 of this species. The waterbirds thinned out as I continued up river, but in the ditches south-west of Chates were more Shovelers and my first Gadwall of the year. They marked the final birds of the WeBS survey, but further interest was found in a Barn Owl hunting near Betley and a flock of circa 1,000 Starlings to the west of the river. The latter had been noted by Val a few days previously, and gave an impressive sight as they took to the skies.

Area 4 this morning

After last week’s trip south, it was back to my usual patch in Area 4 for a morning walk up to Betley and back down the river to West End Lane. Mercifully there was no shooting this time, and with the fields still flooded there was some wildfowl around. Mainly Canada Geese, but amongst them was a lone Shelduck. A Barn Owl gave great views as it hunted south of Betley, and in the same area a singing Skylark was a reminder that spring is not that far away (although it does feel like it at the moment!). In the same vein there were two pairs of Stonechats along the river with the males in summer plumage, also looking dapper were several male Reed Buntings in their breeding finery. On a lawn alongside West End Lane a pair of Mistle Thrushes were feeding, these were regulars last year so will hopefully be nesting again. A total of 38 species recorded, although despite hearing several Green Woodpeckers I’m still to see one in 2021!

Rye Levels 24th January 2021

Tom and myself took a jaunt south into Area 9 (socially distanced, of course), hoping to get a good look at the large number of birds on the floods by Rye Farm. Arriving at the wooden gate it didn’t disappoint, with hundreds of wildfowl etc in front of us….. and then the shooting began. Within minutes the floods were deserted and that was that. We did manage to see Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Pintail, and Canada and Greylag Geese before they went up, but exact counts were impossible.

Cutting our losses we headed south and a Peregrine dashing over the Downslink was a bit of compensation. Along the Mill Stream were 2 Snipe and a Buzzard perched on a fence. The rain kicked in at this point, and heading back via Broardmere Common there wasn’t a great deal to be seen, but the conversation and banter made up for it. So despite the shooting and weather (where did the snow go?) a very enjoyable walk was had by the pair of us.

My first Wetland Bird Survey!

Having taken over from Roger French on the Area 4 patch, this morning was my first solo Wetland Bird Survey (or WeBS for short). Luckily some recent rain had flooded some of the fields either side of the river between New Inn  Farm and Betley Bridge, plus the patch to the south-west of Rye Farm had plenty of surface water. This gave me a chance to actually record something! And there was indeed a bit about. Final figures were:

Mute Swan 19, Egyptian Goose 1, Shoveler 8, Wigeon 76, Mallard 16, Teal 35, Lapwing 1, Snipe 2, Black-headed Gull 71, Common Gull 31, Herring Gull 8.

Also of note, but outside of the WeBS remit, were 4 Skylarks west of Chates, with one in full song. That was a bit unexpected on a January morning!

West End Levels

A Great White Egret just west of Chates this morning, heading north. Gave great views as it flew past. Other highlights were a Kingfisher flying up river and a Treecreeper in West End Lane. Much rain recently has meant some of the fields by the river have now started to flood drawing in good numbers of wildfowl and Black-headed Gulls, plus a few Lapwing. A reminder that winter isn’t too at away, but a lone Swallow heading west showes that autumn migration ain’t quite over just yet!