Our Lass and I had a day trip to Welney this week, ostensibly to see how the Winter wildfowl flocks are building up at the WWT reserve, but also with eyes open for a possible rarity in the form of a Ferruginous Duck.
The Ouse Washes were... er... awash, with the road to Welney village closed to traffic due to flooding. This didn't immediately dissuade several articulated lorry drivers, who must've had fun reversing to a suitable place to turn around. Our day was punctuated with the distant mournful 'beep, beep, beep' of large vehicles going backwards.
So, yeah, there was plenty of water filling the meadows of the Hundred Foot Washes between the Old and New Bedford Rivers and the River Delph. The many five-barred gates in the fields were only visible by their top rung, whilst the occasional fence post was home to a Cormorant or a duck of some sort.
In fact, there was so much water, the only hide that was accessible was the large one nearest the Visitor Centre. The paths to all the others were submerged and unusable unless you had a wet suit. This brought a few challenges for the staff too, as the wheelbarrow used to carry the grain for the swan feeds had a large inner tube strapped to it as a floatation device.
And as for the procedure in case of a fire...
Looking out from the main hide across the watery vista, there were a few Mute Swans and recently-arrived Whooper Swans to be seen, a Marsh Harrier glided serenely by, small flocks of Wigeon and Teal bobbed about in the distance, but the most abundant species was Pochard.
Pleasing to look at though these diving ducks are, the fact that they hybridise with Ferruginous Ducks made me wonder whether we'd be able to identify the latter if we were fortunate enough to see it. Our ID book pointed out the salient features: Head is chestnut (male) or dark brown (female); pure white under tail; dark eye; and plumage darkest on back and palest on flanks.
After much scanning of the assembled Pochard flock, we spotted the odd lady out, tucked away in the reeds some distance to the left of the hide. Indeed, we needn't have worried, there wasn't much chance of confusion with either a male or female Pochard.
As the cloud cover became heavier and there was no sign of the Ferruginous Duck leaving cover, we repaired to the cafe for lunch. Ham, egg and chips, washed down with copious amounts of tea. Just the ticket.
During the early afternoon, Froo (as she became known in Tenseworld) dozed fitfully in the reeds, but by 3pm she had roused herself sufficiently to put in an appearance in front of the main hide.
As the WWT staff readied for the first of the day's swan feeding sessions, the number of folk in the hide steadily grew. We took this as our cue to return to the cafe for afternoon tea and were pleasantly surprised to find there wasn't a queue or even another customer. So, free choice of tables too. Marvellous.
With the setting of the sun, we headed into the nearby city of Ely, a place that we had always intended to visit, but never quite managed. We wandered around the streets as night fell, through the market place, down to the marina on the river, then back up the hill to the cathedral and finally to Prezzo, a rather decent Italian restaurant in a period building on the High Street. As Our Lass remarked, "We'll have to come back to Ely when it's light!"