Weather: Cloudy with rain at times. Quite mild.
Bird Total: 44
Plus: Grey Squirrel; Muntjac.
The weather this week was forecast for overcast skies, with today being the best of a bad bunch. There was some sunshine but we also got a few light rain showers.
There were still extra lakes, lagoons and ponds to be seen on the journey down, while the water levels around the Reserve were still quite high. I didn't think we'd had that much rain.
Still no sign of Benny the Buzzard on the trip down, but Harry the Heron looks as if he has relocated to the back of the adjacent fields. Along with Eddie the Egret.
I made my way down the trail towards Hall Marsh Scrape and the Teal Hide. I had already encountered plenty of dog-walkers already and was keen to avoid being used as a p*ss-post again. But then, a woman with 3 dogs walked towards me, with one of the dogs using a wooden bench as a marking post. Said dog then looked up at me and I just glared at it, before walking on.
Before crossing the canal I had to wait for 2 more women with 10 (ten) dogs to cross. Then another woman with 2 more. I thought that if this keeps up I'm going to get another wet leg again!
Then I arrived at the usual spot, looking out over Friday Lake. I was a bit surprised to see a pair of Greylag Geese close in, obviously looking for handouts. But I was even more surprised to see that they had 2 little Goslings with them! Wow, I know that we've had a mild winter but it's not quite Spring yet. Or is it?
There was a third Greylag Goose in the area too, but it was chased off by the pair. This time I remembered to bring the last of my brown bread with me, plus some birdseed. I fed a slice to the parents. A pair of Mallards then appeared out of nowhere, as did a Coot.
Another surprise was the absence of birds out on the Lake. Only a few more Coot and some Tufted Ducks. No Grebes anywhere.
Then a bloke with 2 dogs turned up, saw the Goslings and sat down on the bench. He started to take a few photos too, while one of his dogs barked at the birds. Standing up, he told me that the Goslings were too early and would probably die in the next harsh frost, before stomping off.
I ignored him and continued to try and concentrate on keeping a dry leg, before moving off myself. Just as I left I could hear a Greenfinch wheezing out.
I sat down in the Teal Hide, grateful to have succeeded in avoiding a wet leg from all those dogs.
Looking out I could see about a dozen or so Wigeon, in 2 separate groups. One group was feeding, while the other was sleeping. There were also Shoveler and Teal dotted around the area. A Grey Heron was out to the left, by the pylon, in its' usual stalk mode.
I could hear the plaintiff call of a Little Grebe somewhere out on the lagoon, but it remained hidden from view. There was one lone Lapwing standing on one of the little islands. Further back I could see a pair of Pheasants, one of which was black. Or should that be 'dark morph'?
Just before I headed off I witnessed a pair of Moorhens mating, just in front of the Hide. Spring is definitely on the way!
But I had to leave, because the Hide smelt of stale beer. Which is why I left all the shutters open.
I took another look out over Friday Lake from this end, but couldn't see any Grebes. Just another Grey Heron.
It was a fairly brisk walk through the lakes. I didn't see much point in hanging around as there was a constant stream of dog-walkers. But I did see a Water Rail fly past me, along the adjacent stream. Out on the lakes the first GCGs showed up, one or two pairs starting the head-shaking before seeing me watching them and stopping. Can birds be embarrassed?
It was actually quite warm when the sun came out from behind the few clouds in the sky. This was, in fact, the best part of the day. It clouded over quite badly in the afternoon and I was fortunate enough to avoid the few showers that appeared by sitting in Hides. There was also a strong, cold wind every now and then, especially in the open areas. It certainly chilled my open areas!
There was a noticeable lack of any passerines around the Reserve today, especially in this particular area. I got talking to a couple of other Birders in the Hides and we speculated that we might be seeing a passage movement starting up, with various species starting on the migration.
Just before I reached the main trail I spotted a Little Grebe and a pair of Long-tail Tits. There was nothing to see from the Bridge but out on Hooks Marsh Lake there was another Little Grebe in continual dive mode.
I was approaching the Bittern Hide when I spotted a Little Egret on the relief channel. I managed to fire off a quick couple of shots before it was scared off by a jogger.
There were a few people in the Hide when I arrived. Nobody had seen any Bitterns today, but 3 had been reported over at the Pochard Hide. In fact, despite two visits here today, I didn't see anything like the action of last week.
Great Hardmead Lake was practically devoid of birds. Only Coot and a few ducks, plus the obligatory Gulls waiting to be fed were around. I got talking to a fellow Birder and we speculated on the migration theory. I was also amused to hear that he had similar views about dog-walkers as myself. Only worse. He sounded even more right-wing than Genghis Khan!
There may have been nothing to see out on the Lake but there was a bit of action on the lagoon outside the Hide. The feeders were practically empty but there was a steady stream of Great and Blue Tits on the nut feeder. Then a Water Rail appeared a couple of times, giving some very good views.
We were also entertained by a pair of GCGs, both in glorious breeding plumage and both fishing continually in front of us. Earlier, we witnessed a pair of Sparrowhawks fly over the lake, with one of them being chased and harassed by about a couple of dozen BHGs.
Then, not one, but two Muntjac appeared on the other side of the lagoon, to our right. Both could see us in the Hide but ignored us and carried on feeding. In fact, today saw a record number seen, 10 (ten) in total.
Heading off up to the Grebe Hide I spotted a third just as I entered the trail. As I tried to sneak closer for a decent photo I flushed a nearby Grey Heron, which also spooked the deer.
Further on I spotted another Muntjac and again flushed another Grey Heron, possibly the same one. Further on from there another pair of Muntjac appeared but were scared off by a pair of very noisy Chinook helicopters. Are they still flying?
Just past Holyfield Weir, which yielded nothing, I spotted another Muntjac. And just as I approached the Hide, yet another Muntjac appeared. More GCGs and Grey Herons were about on the relief channel and the adjacent lake. Then a Kingfisher landed on a branch to my left, over a sheltered lagoon, but flew off when it spotted me. I couldn't help it, I had no cover.
I settled in to an empty Grebe Hide and, looking out, I could eventually see up to a dozen more GCGs. There were plenty of Pochard; a few Shoveler; a few Tufties and another Grey Heron.
Then one of the GCGs became very vocal and began swimming around, head down, in threat mode. As I continued to watch it paired up with another and then both entered into a territorial dispute with another pair. Over the course of about 15 minutes, both pairs railed at the other, crests raised and there were even one or two bouts of fisticuffs. It was exciting stuff!
They eventually calmed down with both pairs starting the head-shaking to their partners, affirming the bond. A fifth bird appeared a little later and I thought it might kick things off again, but nothing happened.
Out in the distance, on an island at the back of the lagoon, I could just make out an Egyptian Goose.
Then another guy appeared and sat down next to me. We again postulated on the quiet day, with migration in action being debated. While we were talking a drake and 2 female Goosander appeared out to our right, before flying off to the back of the lagoon.
Then a pair of Grey Herons flew around the island, chasing each other. A Little Egret appeared in the distance and then a Kingfisher flashed past. Possibly the same one seen earlier.
Time was getting on, so I headed off back down the trail. On the way back a Jay and a pair of Green Woodpeckers were seen. Over the relief channel, looking towards the Farm, by the fence-line another pair of Muntjac could be seen. Then another, the tenth of the day, was spotted by the clearing on the right.
I made it back to the Bittern Hide without further sightings or incidents. There was no change since the last visit, only another, good, sighting of a Water Rail. I broke up the last of the bread and, together with some bird seed, fed the mallards and moorhens outside the Hide. They seemed suitably grateful.
I debated on whether to wait it out to see if any Bitterns flew in to roost, but decided to head back. On the trail back to the station I heard, first, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and then a Song Thrush. Top day!
'A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.'