2nd Dec. Sam and I had agreed to spend a short time at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve today and so we left this morning sporting more layers between us than a pickled onion has. It was freezing, but the layers worked and we were both feeling quite snug by the time we made for home. Apart from one of Sam’s feet and both of mine, we were feeling quite warm. My very over priced wellingtons don’t keep my feet warm, although I was thankful for them today. Although the pond was frozen I can’t say everywhere was crisp and even, as at times we had to plodge through mud and pools of water as has been the case most of this year. Speaking to Paul D we were reminded of when he had expressed concern regarding the drought. That seems a long time ago now!
As we’d made the visit with Bitterns in mind we made for the pond hides as soon as we arrived. We heard that a Bittern/s had been seen before our arrival. There was little on the frozen pond apart from Moorhens so we initially contented ourselves with the Common Snipe (at least three) that circled above us, a Grey Heron and a lone Wigeon, both in flight. Sam soon got his eye on a lifting Bittern and soon put me onto it before it dropped into the reeds again. During the morning this Bittern was quite active and we saw it lift on two or three more occasions.
Dancing on Ice
Having moved to another hide we saw another Bittern lift from the reeds at the other end of the pond. We knew it was definitely a different bird as someone in the hide had been watching the one we had originally seen and we saw it again. Then coming in from another direction a third Bittern stayed in the air a very short time before dropping in the area of the second bird we had seen. No sightings were made on the Bitterns on the ground and we had only fairly brief and rather distant sightings of all three in the air. None came close enough for decent photos, but we aren’t going to complain about that. I’m trying to think if I have ever seen three separate Bitterns in one day. Maybe once at Minsmere, but at no other time can I recall having seen three and certainly not in less than an hour. There is no doubt that we saw three separate birds and Paul D confirmed that they are there. We’ll be back hoping for photo opportunities, although I doubt if Sam will, or in fact need, to improve on the images from January. I do know he’ll be trying to.:-)
As we had made along to the hides we had heard and then seen Jays and Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen from the hide as was a sizable flock of what I thing were Goldfinch flying up from the distant tree line.
There were quite a few members in the reserve today and we chatted at some length to one or two. As we continued around the reserve I thought I could hear the sound made by a squirrel. Sam thought he got his eye on a Red Squirrel and there it was! We watched it at length as it entertained us high in the trees. At one point the Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in to take a look at it. We confirmed it was in good health and later made the report. No Grey Squirrels were seen! This is the first Red Squirrel I have seen in the reserve for some years. Near by we had good sightings of three Roe Deer as they slowly moved through the plantation. The visit was proving to be an interesting one. Treecreeper and Kestrel were both seen.
Tolerant of our presence, but on alert
As we got further along the pathway this is where I was definitely glad I’d put up with cold feet and put my wellingtons on. A stream of what seemed like melt water was running across the pathway and past the still quite thinly frozen pools.
A tricky pathway.
The feeding station gave us the chance to take our now customary photo of Great Spotted Woodpecker. We’d seen three or four today. We then decided to make for home but not before having another chat to Paul D and recording our sightings. Paul told us that whilst working in the reserve he had found the Bitterns quite active on Friday but had not seen them at all on Saturday. It had been a good four hours. We’ve had a little spell of no birding, so we’d had time to catch up on some chat and started to make plans for 2013.
Information. Samuel Hood and I are taking a few (few being the word at the moment!) RSPB members around our patch on 5th January. We'll be including lake, village area and parts of the wagon-way system. If anyone would like to join us please contact me either by email (I know some who read my blog have this ) or by giving me a call. Details can be found here.