After a leisurely start to our weekend, we hastily plumped to undertake our postponed trip to Welney. Giving the Admiral very little notice, we picked him up and headed eastwards.
Purely coincidentally, we arrived at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site on the Ouse Washes, just as the restaurant started serving lunch. So following a warming bowl of leek and potato soup, we headed over the footbridge to the hides.
Flocks of Lapwing, Golden Plover, Wigeon and Starlings made linear patterns across the sky, a Marsh Harrier quartered the reeds at the opposite side of the Washes and I was amazed at the number of Pintail on the water. Our lass is still unable to potter too far or too fast, so the Admiral and I left her in the heated observation room taking photos of Whooper Swans and Pochard ducks, whilst we wandered along the edge of the banks to another hide. Here, we had distant views of Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Snipe and Curlew.
Meeting up again, we all gently ambled in the other direction, and bumped into a chap who informed us that, "The Glossy Ibis is showing well from the Lyle Hide!" We were then rapidly overtaken by another birder, in a state of some excitement, hurrying to said hide.
O-oh, cue inadvertent twitch.
Arriving at the Lyle Hide, it was immediately apparent that, a. it was pretty crowded; b. all optics were pointed in the same direction; and c. "showing well" is a very subjective term. With our limited magnification power, and in less-than-perfect light, we struggled to make out the dark brown bird from the dark brown background that it was stood against. Fortunately, a kindly lady birder, packing the sort of optics of a size and price to make you nervous removing it from its protective packaginging, took pity on us and allowed views through her 'scope. Thank you, kindly lady, for my first Glossy Ibis. Our lass was a bit non-plussed, as she had assumed that "glossy" meant white (she's probably been watching too many home makeover programmes) and thought that "vinyl silk" might've been a better description. The trudge back to the Visitors' Centre was accompanied by much muttering of a disgruntled nature. Lighten up, my love, Bossy Gladys is a life tick!
Fortuitously, the mood was lifted as the mini-twitch and the mid-afternoon swan feeding session meant that the restaurant was suitably empty for a leisurely Tense Towers Team tea and cake break. Galvanised against the elements once more, we returned to the fray to watch and wait as dusk fell. Against a backdrop of glowing clouds, formations of swans, skeins of geese and flocks of ducks flew low over the hide, as the birds returned from feeding in the Norfolk fields to spend the night on the Ouse Washes. The evening air was filled with the bugling calls of the Whoopers, the whistling of countless Wigeon and the flight calls of Lapwing.
We sat, mesmerised by the wonderful sky and soundscape, until with the fading light, the chill of the air turned our thoughts to returning home. As is often the case on these occasions, the final treat was a Barn Owl, this particular one perched on a fence post, as we drove away from Welney.