We took our Extreme Photographer up the motorway to meet up with CV and little H. Not far out of town we had about eight or nine Whooper Swans fly across the road a little way in front of us.
We had arranged to meet at the Bearded Tit grit trays, the birds change their diet from summer insects to winter seeds in the autumn and require grit in their crops to be able to grind the seeds, so the feeding station doesn't have food but fine grit.
We got there early and unloading the Land Rover in the car park we were treated to a calling Bullfinch and singing Song Thrush. We ambled down the lane and stood and waited for a) the Beardies and b) the kids.
A queue was already there as we approached but enquiries on arrival revealed no-one had seen anything yet and some folk had been there since first light, some before!
It's that time of year when most of the Beardies have maxed out on their gritting so only a few birds still visit the trays and then only irregularly, we were in for a wait. The best way of ascertaining whether they are about or not is to listen out for their distinctive pinging calls - not easy when the Sunday morning shoot over the way is making the reserve sound like a Damascus suburb, sure one of the Pheasant murderers was using a howitzer rather than a shotgun.
At last a ping was heard and a movement seen and two of the little beauts appeared on the tray.
The barrage of shots disturbed numerous ducks, Mallard, Teal and a few Gadwall as when a good wisp of Snipe, about 30 of them.
More Snipe were flushed when a Marsh Harrier quartered the reedbed and the haunting call of a Curlew was heard while a silent Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen flying over the reedbed.The family appeared in the end...crikey where did they get too - over an hour fro getting off the bus!!! They'd missed the Beardies as as far as we are aware they weren't seen again all day. Rain started to fall and the nearest hide wasn't too far away so we bunked in there. Not much was out there, a Shoveler, a few Mallards and Tufted Ducks including this close one.
We had hoped to see the three Scaup that had been there all week but had no luck. we could barely see to the far end of the pool anyway.
We quizzed arrivals from the farther hide but they had negative news about the Scaup. They'd all seen Otters though and it wasn't long before the shout went up in our hide. Sure enough there was a an Otter making its way across the front of the reeds to the left of the island in the pic above. we've got a bit blase with these stunning mammals thinking we 'see em all the time' back at our nature reserve but a check of our records showed this to be our first sighting of the year!
Others had also seen a Kingfisher not far up the track so we braved the rain and went for a look. A little distant but we did see him, a male, dive for a fish but come up empty beaked. We got great views as it came towards us and weaved through the trees over our heads to take up a new position along the dyke behind us.
The walk back to the main hide gave us a Christmas card encounter, possibly the world's friendliest Robin was being photographed by a young family with their phones, great so see so many youngsters out in not the most pleasant weather conditions. Once they'd finished we stood were they had been a decided macro would be a better setting and we edged closer, the lens being no more than six inches from its beak in the end.
Once he'd sussed we weren't a threat he wasn't bothered by our close presence, perhaps more bothered by the fact we didn't have any food!
We had a look at the Marsh Tits at the feeding station but they refused to come into range of our Extreme Photographer's long lens.
As soon as we got in to the hide two Kingfishers had a game of chase me right in front of us - brill!.
In the distance the Long Tailed Duck took a while to show itself and then performed rather well! There was plenty of the usual but nothing of the unusual there, others had had brief views of Bitterns and it did seem like a Bitterny sort of a day but we didn't find any skulking along the reed edge.
Our next port of call was in anticipation of some Red Deer hiding in the woods but they too weren't for showing themselves.
Lots of Snipe here feeding out in the open alongside Wigeon and Teal until a Grey Heron dropped in and spooked them. They did come back and started feeding again but they were a little too distant for decent pics.
|Taken through a window - good hides but it would be better if all windows were openable|
Retracing our steps a bit we visited the final hide where a Marsh Harrier was perched up on a snag in the distance and Teal dabbled actively almost under our noses.
By now it was getting pretty dark so we called it a day...and a good one at that, could have been better but then it always can. And it wasn't quite over either, the walk back to the car-park gave us a couple of loud Green Woodpecker calls but we unfortunately couldn't locate the bird. Was great to have 7yo H to look after all day and what a star he was, no moaning he was cold or bored nor that his wellies had sucked his socks off, if indeed they had ours always used too - why/how did they do that?...That ISpy book was an inspirational purchase, he finished the day well over 300 points although somehow managed to tick off a Bewick's Swan, for 50 points, as well as the Mute Swans - none of us adults spotted that one!
We left H and his Pops to get their coach back to the Midlands, really great to see them again, and we waltzed off in the Land Rover the other way to see if there were any Starlings murmurating. We pulled up on the roadside overlooking the reserve and could hear them we'd missed them but we were spotted by one of our marine biology chums DB.
Today nothing much was out on a very grey sea, about half a dozen Great Crested Grebes, nothing like the 124 seen yesterday, and a couple of Red Throated Divers.
Where to next? A day off tomorrow to look after Frank while Wifey is in the Big Smoke so we should be able to get out somewhere to try to claw a few species back on Monika's lead.
In the meantime let us know what's emerging from the gloom in your outback.