Location This guide only deals with the washes from Peterborough east to Rings End. The area dealt with lies predominately between Mortons Leam and the river Nene. The washes are of national and international importance for seven species of wintering wildfowl and hold some of the countries highest densities of breeding waders that are associated with lowland wet grassland and fenland habitats. From a birding point of view many rarities have been recorded here, i.e. Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, Red-footed Falcon, Black-winged Stilt, Lesser Yellowlegs, Caspian and White-winged Black Terns to mention but a few plus regular Cambridgeshire rarities like Montagu's Harrier and white-winged gulls. The washes are split into five main sections and dealt with separately starting at the west end but not including Stanground.
Location This is the area of private washland to the west of the B1040 abutting the north bank road and is best viewed from this point. Facilities None. Access This can be done by pulling into one of the many lay-bys beside the river Nene and walking on to the barrier bank which provides a good vantage point. Birds It is often the poorest section of washland and really only worth checking at times of flood and when receded winter floods have left pools behind into the spring. Whimbrel like the drier western fields and the series of hedgerows near the north bank turn have held RingOuzel in the spring. The river Nene is non-tidal along this stretch and has played host to several good birds especially during hard weather. These include both Red and Black-necked Grebes, Red-throated Diver, Scaup, Common Scoter and Smew. Rarities include Caspian and White-winged Black Terns. The Dog-in-a-Doublet sluice is a well known landmark and is the tidal limit of the Nene. This is always worth checking at any time especially during hard weather as it remains ice free. Regular birds are Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher with occasional Water Pipit and Goosander. It is also a good Cambs. locality for wintering Shag, though not annually. Autumn wader passage here and down the tidal river usually finds Green and Common sandpiper, Ruff and anything’s possible. Guillemot and Puffin have also turned up as have seals! On the washes opposite is the skating field that can be good in late winter/early spring.
Location The reserve covers over 700 acres of the low wash starting immediately east of the B1040 and is the only section with access onto the washes. Facilities None Access Is via a rough track off the B1040 on the south side of the Dog-in-a-Doublet bridge, or beside the plantation 1.5 km north of the main Whittlesey roundabout. Parking is available here or along the track as far as the wooden gate at grid ref: TL 278992, and it is requested that vehicles do not proceed beyond this point. Birds . During the winter months walking the central track usually causes a lot of disturbance resulting in distant views of wildfowl. It is therefore recommended that you view from the south barrier bank accessed via Eldernell. The best months are from February through to June with the flood conditions dictating numbers of wildfowl and breeding and passage waders. The central track is at its best in May with large concentrations of breeding waders, many of which nest close to the track and sometimes on it so please do not remain in one position for too long as you'll probably be keeping birds off nests. The best pools for migrant waders are between 2 and 3 kms down with water often remaining to late May. Occurring in varying numbers are Spotted Redshank, Greenshank. Ruff, Wood Sandpiper and Grey Plover with annual though rare visitors being Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Knot and Sanderling. The main floods are kept wet into June-and attract a good late winter gull roost that has produced several Glaucous and Mediterranean Gulls, annual Little Gulls and more recently Yellow-legged Gull. Black Terns pass through in small but variable numbers from late April and both Hobby and Marsh Harrier are present through the summer. Wintering passerines include Stonechat which are best found at the west end along the fences and cattle pens or in the reed-fen area at the east end. Water Pipit occur annually with birds often remaining to early April when in summer plumage. Careful checking of the flood edges especially where the wind has blown flotsam may reveal them though they are very flighty. Peregrine occur all winter usually where the higher concentrations of wildfowl are which may be off the reserve. Favoured perching spots are Lord's Holt, Decoy Wood, west end of March Farmers and, more recently, pylons to the south of the reserve.
North Side/Thorney Dyke This is the area of arable immediately north of the washes and subsequently attracts wintering swans and often wild geese. Flocks can be anywhere depending on disturbance and crop type but, considering that all the regular goose species including Barnacle and Bean have been recorded , it’s worth a look in January/February. Please remember that the only viewing is from the Thorney Dyke road found on your right 1.5 kms north of the Dog-in-a-Doublet.
Location Mid way between Whittlesey and Rings end and approx 1/2 a mile NE of Coates
Facilities Car park and Information board at the north end of Eldernell lane. Access Access is gained along Eldernell lane which comes off the A605 just east of Coates almost opposite the last in a line of council type houses there is a large John Deere agricultural sales site at the lane entrance. Continue until you reach the wash barrier bank and park in the small car-park between the bank and Moretons Leam (Grid ref: TL 318992). Do not drive onto the washes. This is a good central point from which all the best areas can be viewed, westward to the reserve and eastward to March Farmers along the Nene Way footpath, and is an excellent spot for a days winter birding. Birds When the washes are dry this area can seem very dull with the only interest being the harrier roost in the rough area. However its far from dull with wintering Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl and Merlin, Barn Owl all year round and autumn Marsh Harrier roost peaking between mid-August and mid-September. The Decoy Wood also attracts roosting raptors, Buzzard when they're around and wintering Peregrine. A key point to remember whilst birding the south bank is to walk along the south side of it and pop your head up at regular intervals so as to remain hidden from the often close birds on the washes. The reed fringed pit on the south side has become quite reliable for wintering Bittern although a lot of patience is required, dusk being the best time when birds may fly on to the washes to feed. Cranes are now being seen regularly from the carpark . March Farmers/Ring's End Location Eastern end of the washes
Access Either along the Nene Way footpath from Eldernell or Ring's End, or by road along the A 605. About three miles east from Eldernell Lane turn left into a side road with a large sign for "aph" travel up this road for approx half a mile and park in a layby on the right approx 100 yards past the "aph" premises .Viewing is possible from the barrier bank (Grid ref: TF 353008)
Birds If the farmland is flooded it may attract large numbers of Bewick’s Swan, Pochard, Pintail and smaller numbers of White-fronted Geese, with rarer visitors like Bean Goose and Scaup recorded in good years. The isolated trees should be checked for Peregrine. A gull roost may also develop and, with its close proximity to March tip has attracted Glaucous and Mediterranean Gulls. The pools along the edge attract migrant waders especially Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank, their more easterly position often makes them better than the reserve pools to receive such species. Just east of March Farmers bank is the sheep field, an area that regularly holds water and is always worth checking in winter and spring. The Counter Drain running parallel with the washes on the south side of the bank is good for Bearded Tit and has held Bittern