Saturday, 17 January 2015

Saturday 17th January - West Side Story

Thought it was high time I took a bit of a longer explore around the lake - not a full days bird race, more a quarter days bird explore-the-place-at-a-reasonably-slowish-pace.

Or something like that. Schedule, roughly - Stuart Hutchings Hide briefly, Southern Hide for the feeders, SH again for a quick double check, explore the west side a bit more properly from the watersports centre on down, and a very quick double check back at the hides.

The water levels are now up a lot higher after only a few nights of heavy wintery rain, but our first glance out of the hide windows revealed disappointingly few birds. Many of the usual suspects were present on or around the feeders from the hide on our arrival on the other side of the road however, although not all - the Water Rail was doing his/her stuff, but no Greenfinch or Goldfinch, House Sparrow or Great Spotted Woodpecker. Numbers also a bit on the low side - aside 2 Reed Bunting, numbers a little depressed for everything else (maybe it was too early in the day). There were also 7 roosting Snipe on the marsh.

The view from the Stuart Hutchings hide - becoming a lot wetter

In contrast, things had picked up a lot on our return to the main hide overlooking the southern end of the reservoir - the Slavonian Grebe showing well along with 10 of its smaller brethren (the Littles), 40+ Wigeon, a quartet of smart wing hanging Cormorants, 15 Meadow Pipits and so on. Many of the birds were starting to show better and at closer range, now that the water was lapping a lot closer to the hide itself. Small flotilla after flotilla were gently appearing now, presumably as the watersports function of the reservoir to our north started kicking in on this fine Saturday morning. The best ducks were saved till last - 4 Goldeneye become 6, although all female type, and fairly distant (so not actually that exciting really, if we're going to be totally honest). Even a large fox and a rabbit (not both in the same time and place) kickstarted the mammalian side of the experience. A fly over Peregrine sadly eluded me however - too many trees in my way and an armful of feeding paraphernalia I should have just dropped largely to blame.

A feeding duck is a happy duck - male and female Wigeon

Cormorants now in 'summer' plumage

The excitement continued on exiting the hide as a couple of small passerines eventually revealed themselves as 2 each of Chiffchaff and Goldcrests tumbling in and out of the pines outside the hides- tail flicking and darting, gravity defying bounces between the close knit needles very entertaining but not good for trying to get a record shot. (In the end I put the camera away and just enjoyed them instead, which was really the sensible thing to be doing.)

A Pheasant hopping up out of the road and into someone's garden was a personal yeartick but probably too far from the reservoir itself to sensibly make it onto the Stithians yearlist. A few Rooks around the perimeter, probably were close enough however, as were a grand total of 3 Song Thrushes in the field adjacent to the 'parking' at the southern end.

And so to the north. We ended up driving and parking at the Watersports Centre, and not too long after passing through the thronging watersports devotees kitting up and lugging wet sail things into and around the waters edge, we came upon one of Wednesdays Ringed Plovers, longer views this time, and a nice bird for the visit (along with many of their family, they certainly have the 'cute' factor). Carrying on around, worries about walking into the sun dissipated a little as the clouds started to come out now and then. We could still see. Highlights in brief (ish) would be the flock of 90 Canada Geese lingering offshore, a Little Egret, a smart Grey Wagtail, an inlet of the lake with a small Cover of 15 Coots (the collective noun for a group of Coots - although I am rather liking the alternative suggestion of a 'Quarrel of Coots) and so on ...

Ringed Plover

It wasn't long before we'd picked up our first Stonechat for the year, perhaps a little oddly standing in the middle of a short-grassed field - they typically like a perch to survey from, and this one was a long way from anything at all perchlike or even vaguely vertiginously perpendicular to the general plane of its field, but perhaps he (it was a male) was just copying the rest of the Meadow Pipits, thrushes and Starlings also about. The thrushes consisting of 30+ Redwing and a fair few Blackbird. Continuing around and there were then 3 Stonechat on the remaining exposed shoreline, another Reed Bunting and 4 Bullfinch in a hedgerow tree. Waterfowl weren't featuring too strongly any more, with more Little Grebes adding up to 25 in total for the lake, and the odd Tufted Duck, but this was really of no consequence at all in terms of our enjoyment. One bird that should of course never be forgotten (he says, ever so slightly tongue in cheek) is the magnificent Feral Pigeon - a flock of c20 wheeling over towards the village almost instantly forgettable (I just about remembered to include them in this account).

That typical waterside species, the Stonechat

A Redwing - quite smart birds to be honest

On our return north and to the car, the northern cutoff contained one perching Common Buzzard on its perimeter, and one overhead, Grey Heron, Little Egret (presumably the same as earlier?), a bunch of Mallard and another 6 roosting Snipe (which Samuel insisted on trying to check for Wilson's Snipe, the N American equivalent to ours - well, you never know ... )

Three Curlew in the curlew field on our way back weren't that exciting, a last check before we totally left revealed an impressively tightly bunched 160 or so Herring Gull and 4 Common Gulls on two of the remaining exposed muddy islets (I would have tried to capture the exciting scene, but my camera battery had now died), and so we continued on our way.

View of some Coot and distant Watersports Centre

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