Tuesday 18 January 2022

Welcome (back) to Cambridge

     So after failing to do much blogging of any sort for a while, one of my New Year's Resolutions - one I actually want to achieve - is to get back to some wildlife writing, and catch up on all that happened last year. Let's see how long this lasts...

    In October 2021, I started my Undergraduate Geography BA Degree at Downing College, Cambridge  and thus far, it's been enjoyable on more or less all fronts. In the wildlife/birding sense, I've got so much going for me - it may be inland but the area is pretty good for birding, the birders locally are quality, the BTO have an office a couple of hundred metres from my front door, and I've got much more freedom to explore, walk, bird and then do it all on repeat when work permits. All with the added bonus of being able to end a day having a drink in the pub with the birders - big shout out to Alex Berryman, Ollie King, Isaac West, Dan Field and Ben Jobson for the company thus far. 



Dernford Res


    So far, alongside having access to places like the Fens, the Wash and Norfolk, I've had time to explore the local area and establish some new local patches. It's very different to the South London landscape I grew up with, but I do enjoy it a lot more than I expected, and so have made fairly regular trips out, either on my own or with other birders. Much of what has been done so far has been by 'greener' means, either by bus or walking, and though it may have been a dismal autumn, there has been plenty to see and do since arriving. A localish Great Grey Shrike in November was worth a bus twitch for, vismigging at Magog brought some rewards (many Brambling, Hawfinch and Tree Pipit the best,) whilst migration spectacles could be enjoyed at times too. I'll get a chance to write about some of last year's trips out soon enough hopefully as well...

Yellow-browed Warbler - not an easy bird to track with the camera, so happy with these efforts!

        After returning on Thursday the 13th, myself and Ollie King - a 24yo birder I've become good mates with since arriving here - decided to try and twitch a Hoopoe which had showed superbly the day before on a housing estate just outside the city. It was one of those strange twitches where you somewhat awkwardly wander round houses in the hope that a bird will be stumbled upon. We failed to find the bird, and drowned our sorrows by visiting local patch Dernford Reservoir on the way back instead, picking up Red-crested Pochard and Goosander as my local ticks, as well as some fenland classics like Grey Partridge and Yellowhammer. 

If only it had focused...

   Yesterday, with some work out the way, I needed a day out and about to refresh, and so decided to walk up to Milton Country Park on the opposite side of Cambridge to see one of very few British overwintering Yellow-browed Warblers, found by Jon Heath. The park was just waking up when I arrived a little before first light, the best being around 25 Siskin, a group which had some singing males in. The Yellow-browed Warbler gave me the run around at first, with 5 calls all coming from completely different places each time. Once Jon turned up, we noticed it was developing a pretty fixed routine, feeding at the top of the woodland behind us at first, before dropping down to trees lining a ditch in front of us, before ascending and hopping back across to the woodland. The views were easily the best I'd had so far of the species, and we spent a good couple of hours watching the bird flit around and occasionally call. Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and more were all in the area too, so eventually I tore myself away to begin the trudge back.


  I'd say yesterday was one of those perfect, crisp, cold and clear winter days, and one well worth spending outside. I thought I'd take the chance to explore an area I hadn't visited yet, and walk back to town along the river. Nothing special was seen or noted, but it was noticeably louder than usual, as many birds were encouraged by the good weather to get into song. Kingfishers were seen all the way down, and showed pretty well albeit from the wrong side of the river. By the end of the day, I'd walked a pretty solid 25km in and around Cambridge, and come back feeling much better for it. All in all, a very much enjoyable start to the year's birding at uni, so fingers crossed it continues to deliver!

River walk