12th Jan. The plan today was to spend time at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve before heading to the coast for some photography and a little more birding. Well the best of plans and all that…… In the event, with Sam and I having been caught in the sleet shower which seemed to last for ever, we got no further than Gosforth Park. No matter, as this allowed us to adopt a slower pace and we thoroughly enjoyed the few hours we spent at the reserve despite it being rather quiet. As well as getting rather wet, the walk was rather like being on army manoeuvres such was the state of the ground. Surely the reserve has never been so muddy? We were shin deep in water and mud in places and I suspect were two of very few people who attempted to walk the full circular route. On arrival we had found lots of cars. I know the reserve is getting more popular, but not that popular I thought! We later found out that the group were involved in the Red Squirrel project.
We initially passed by the feeding station and were soon watching three Roe Deer and a flock of woodland birds including both Treecreeper and Nuthatch. The Treecreeper was coming down to the mud and water to bathe. Apart from Blackbirds there was little other in the way of birds showing.
Once at the hide we found that two Bitterns had been seen. We watched for them for some time, but they didn’t show again. At least three Jays were seen flying across the reed-bed.
Moving along to the larger hide, which is actually quite small, we found that we had missed the Water Rail again. I caught sight of a flock of Common Snipe flying some distance away and counted twelve of them. The flock began to circle the area and gradually came closer and closer to us. Clearly looking to land, we were lucky that they chose to do so close to the hide. We had nice sightings of these birds, but it was not to last. As well as our eyes being upon them, the Sparrowhawk had also been watching and flew in making no little noise in the process. It landed right in front of us in the reeds and we initially thought it had caught prey such was its behaviour. In fact it hadn’t, but of course the Common Snipe disappeared. I’m not sure if a few went deeper into the reed-bed but when we saw the flock flying later, it contained only six birds. The pond itself was very quiet with only Mute Swan, Mallards, Moorhens, Coots, a pair of Wigeon and a pair of Teal. The sighting of the Common Snipe and the Sparrowhawk would have made the visit well worthwhile had we seen nothing else. It certainly provided one of my better sightings of Sparrowhawk.