30 Days Wild: Creaks and drumming at dusk

Usually mornings are best for birding – but not always. Particularly at this time of year, some great sights and sounds can be had in the evening and this week a walk on the RSPB’s Nene Washes reserve at sunset was a real treat. There were loads of Snipe drumming out their display flights, accompanied by the wildly haunting calls of Redshank and Lapwing. It’s really unusual to see so many waders breeding in this part of the world but what we’d come for was something I’d only heard previously on the Outer Hebrides – Corncrakes. But a really successful re-introduction project means that this rare sound can now be heard on summer nights in Cambridgeshire. And hear them we did – two males competing, no more than 100m from us. If you’ve never experienced the creaking, rasping sound, I really recommend you go. It’s just 20 miles east of Rutland Water – try listening from Long Drove off the B1040.

Before dark we moved on to the bank at Eldernell to look out across the vast wetland area. We didn’t see the Cranes that breed here, but we did manage a Marsh Harrier being mobbed by waders, a Hobby, and also a Great White Egret going to roost. Two Barn Owls came out to hunt over the marsh and one flew over our heads carrying prey back towards its nest. A far-away Cuckoo called repeatedly in the gathering darkness. But it was the strange rasping sounds of the Corncrakes that were the real highlight of the night. The lights of Peterborough were not far away but the wildness of this place at twilight was just magical.

Photo by Barrie Galpin

Photo by Barrie Galpin