Great White Egret, Narford Lake, 4th February
Arriving at Welney the Whooper Swans behind the centre provided the first atraction for the group and 10 Snipe were seen on the fen while we were signing in. We saw the first of 3 Goldeneye from the observatory and then headed over to Reedbed Hide. While we were there a small group of Pochard flew in and I noticed one bird had a female Scaup-like white patch on its face. I wondered if it might be a Scaup but I only got the briefest of views and didn't notice Scaup wing-bars. I suspected they had gone down in front of the observatory but couldn't see it there.
We headed over to the observatory just in time for the swan feed, at the start of which I relocated the Scaup-faced bird. It was immediately obvious that it wasn't a Scaup. Structurally it was much like a Pochard and it had grey Pochard-like wing-bars. I considered the possibility that it was just an aberrant Pochard, but I don't think so - it also had a less contrasting dark breast than other female Pochards there and the bill pattern wasn't normal. I'm aware that female Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrids typically show a white face, more extensive than is usually present on either parent species, but they are also normally smaller than Pochard, have a different bill pattern and often a hint of a tuft. I have seen photos of one individual that looked very similar to this bird - its identity was never fully resolved but one suggestion was that it might be a Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid backcrossed with Pochard. I suppose it could be a Pochard x Scaup hybrid, a combination I have never come across before, but I'm not convinced.
possible Pochard x Tufted Duck hybrid, Welney, 4th February
Whooper Swans, Welney, 4th February
Pochard, Welney, 4th February
Tufted Duck, Welney, 4th February
A drake Pintail appeared while the swan feed was going on and just afterwards a Water Rail appeared to the right of the observatory. Then a group of about 20 Bewick's Swans flew in.
Water Rail, Welney, 4th February
Bewick's Swans, Welney, 4th February
Mute Swans, Welney, 4th February
We headed up to Lyle Hide from where I picked up a Great White Egret. The first-winter Glaucous Gull that had been present a few days was feeding on a dead swan at the far edge and more Bewick's Swans and Snipe were visible from here. Kate picked up a pair of Stonechats outside Lyle Hide and then another pair behind Friends Hide.
Snipe, Welney, 4th February
Greylag Geese, Welney, 4th February
Shoveler, Welney, 4th February
Tufted Duck, Welney, 4th February
Wigeon, Welney, 4th February (including yet another female with white behind the eye)
Wren, Welney, 4th February
Lapwing, Welney, 4th February
Glaucous Gull, Welney, 4th February
swan feed, Welney, 4th February
Back at the centre a Peregrine came towards us disappearing over the centre before the whole group could get on it, and we saw a small group of White-fronted Geese on Lady Fen.
On Sunday afternoon I headed to a field where I have seen Jack Snipe in the past. Given that they tend not to flush until you practically walk on them I had to walk up and down the field 24 times to cover it fully! In doing so I flushed 23 Snipe and, eventually, 3 Jack Snipe. Grey Wagtail flew over and nearby 2 Barn Owls were hunting.
On Tuesday there were still 12 White-fronted Geese on the patch, and a count of 84 Gadwall on a lake which has been pretty birdless on most recent visits.
On ThursdayI intended to go to Sparham Pools but somehow missed the turn and ended up at Lenwade. I took the opportunity to return towards Lyng along the back road through Lyng Easthaugh and paused to wander round Catch 22 fishing lakes. Apart from 4 Greylag Goose x Canada Goose hybrids there wasn't much happening, although a fleeting view of a falcon was frustrating. Had a Merlin feel about it but I'm not sure. Merlin would be my first in the valley I think.
Great Crested Grebe, Catch 22 pits, 8th February
I did get to Sparham Pools in the end but there wasn't much happening there - a Treecreeper being the highlight! I'd had a text about some White-fronted Geese near Sparham and as I'd been planning to stop off there anyway in case the Great Grey Shrike might still be lurking in the area, I headed there next. A flock of Greylags was in the air as I arrived and I could see some White-fronts among them. Eventually they landed in the field nearby and sure enough there were 16 White-fronted Geese among them.
Yestserday's visit to the patch produced nothing better than 3 Bullfinches.