Silently hunting along the river

Chris and I escaped to the fens for a few hours, in search of the water pipits that have taken up residence at Baston Fen. Our hopes rose when we saw three other birdwatchers in the distance, but by the time we got to the right part of the site the flock of five birds had disappeared - we missed them by minutes! Chris had a probable sighting but we decided that they couldn't be added to our year list. A pair of stonechats on the way back to the car was some consolation.

We stopped briefly at Langtoft Pits, where we spotted a distant group of three red-crested pochard, as well as several oystercatcher, recently returned to their breeding ground. From there, we drove to Deeping Lakes NR and walked along the bank of the River Welland, hoping to spot a little owl. No luck with that, but we did get the chance to watch a pair of barn owls hunting over the river banks and adjacent grassy fields - such elegant birds, one of the most charismatic of the fenland species.

The afternoon's outing brought my 2019 total up to 98 species, boosted by the redpolls that I saw on the 2nd February. I posted images of them on a local Facebook page, where more experienced birders identified them as a mix of arctic and mealy redpoll, rather than the usual lesser redpoll. The bird which appears in my blip is an arctic redpoll - I had tentatively identified it as this species, but then discounted it because they're so rare!

This sighting has caused a lot of excitement in local and national birding circles (my photograph may even  appear in the online Birdguide magazine) and many people have been out hunting for them, though no-one else has managed to definitively find them yet. It was just a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right lens!

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