I visited Blacktoft today for the first time in ages! I got there about 11am and the sky was clear and fairly bright. There was a slight breeze but nothing to prevent the birds from flying. I realised some time ago that wind is much more of a problem when birding than rain. It doesn’t take much more than a light breeze to keep small birds tucked-up out of sight. That said, it can be much easier trying to photograph birds like Swifts or even Gannets struggling to make headway when flying into a howling gale!
Recent sightings-blog entries for Blacktoft have talked about the number of waders currently present on-site and I wanted to see what was there for myself.
At the Reception Hide the RSPB chap I spoke to informed me that Singleton Hide was very much the place to be today; Ousefleet was completely dry and Townend Hide was closed because of essential maintenance. That reduced me to four hides from which to choose today. Singleton and Marshlands are very much my favourites at Blacktoft, so there was no problem in that regard.
I walked down to Singleton Hide first and found a good many other birders in the hide when I got there. That’s normal for Singleton; it’s usually the best hide at Blacktoft, certainly for Marsh Harriers at least.
The headline news at Singleton today was the presence of a Great White Egret. It had been a while since I’d last seen one back at Welney Wetlands Centre in May, and I was glad to see one again today. There were loads of Little Egret and Heron about as well; at one point I counted no less than fifteen egrets on the water before me, (including the Great White) and about five Heron.
Other birds in large numbers were Black Tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank. There were also a smattering of Ruff and Snipe on one of the islands.
I watched all the birds for a good hour or so. Several times the Great White Egret was very closely-approached by one or more Heron. These birds often clash over their feeding territory and I sat poised, ready for any squabbling between them, but this Great White Egret was either very docile or the Herons were too afraid to challenge its dominance. At one point the Great White did ‘bully’ a Little White Egret briefly, but otherwise good behaviour prevailed! Drat!!
I moved up to Marshlands Hide next to see what was going on up there. In passing, I briefly looked-in at First Hide and Xerox Hide, but both seemed very quiet today. At Marshlands Hide I discovered the water level to be very low indeed. The water’s edge is usually about twenty to twenty five feet from the front of the hide. Today it was about double that with much of the mud being bone-dry.
However, there were a good many birds to be seen once I looked carefully; a large number of Lapwing were clearly visible, but it was only after peering very closely at the mud-bank for a while that I began to make out a number of Snipe roosting there. Their camouflage is so good that they were barely visible.
A flock of mid-moult Goldfinches landed briefly on one of the islands. It’s been a while since I’ve seen any of those too. I managed to capture a couple of half-decent images of the flock in flight. I really love the way my Nikon D750 can lock-on focus so quickly. Similarly, my Sigma 150-600 lens is really good at isolating birds in flight against an out-of-focus background. As with most things in this world ‘you get what you pay for’. There’s no doubt that the quality of the images I’m able to achieve is largely down to the quality of my kit.
Let’s hope my next birding ‘expedition’ produces more good images.