6th Dec. We were drawn to park life today despite the cold air and poor light. The feeding station close to the entrance was surprisingly quiet and according to PD, has been in recent days, the birds clearly finding plenty of natural food. Both Nuthatch and Treecreeper showed well among some other common woodland birds. Sam and I had heard that there maybe up to five Bitterns in the reserve at present and it seems even that might be an under estimate, so it seemed more than possible that we might see one today.
We eventually left the hide at the feeding station and headed out on our usual circular walk. The reserve was quiet in terms of both people and birds, and the atmosphere was typical of a winter’s day. This time last year after heavy rain I seem to remember that the paths were extremely muddy, but today there were relatively dry and covered in fallen leaves. In the quietness of the still wood I stopped as I heard a breeze drift through the trees. It was if someone had opened a door and allowed a light draught to enter the woodland. I turned to look back along the pathway and watched momentarily as leaves fell, from what I believe was an oak tree. The leaves reflected what little light existed and drifted slowly and erratically down to the ground in the manner that snowflakes fall on a calm windless day. The silence helped tune me into the habitat around me and it was all quite magical. Shortly afterwards Roe Deer ran at speed across our path and were lost sight off as quickly as they had appeared in view. The squawk of invisible Jays broke the silence as did our own speech. There is still a good amount of leaf still to fall and very noticeable was a hazel tree holding what appeared to be almost new green growth. I noticed that the ruins of the old boat house are now more clearly seen after work to clear the area. The fact that this ruin is no where near the edge of the pond now,simply reflects the changing habitat over the years. When we did look across the pond we found it still frozen in many areas.
We were walking anti clockwise so came to the small hide first. The one and only occupant that we met there and chatted to informed us that at least two Bitterns had been active. After a short time we had sightings of two, maybe three Bitterns, one of which flew across in front of the hide before dropping into the reed-bed. Wrens called on either side of us, a Goosander flew around above us apparently trying to find open water on which to land and Sam was sure that he heard Siskins fly over the hide. Sure enough when we left the hide we found a mixed flock of birds nearby which included a numbers of Siskins, Long tailed Tits and a Goldcrest. The flash outside of the reserve held Teal, Tufted Duck, Coots and gulls.
A short stop in the other larger hide was not rewarded with sightings, although by now the light was rather better and the winter colours of the reed-bed and backing of trees showed more clearly. We left, completed the circular walk of the reserve and decided to walk back to our own patch where we found two male Goosanders on the lake along with the likes of Gadwall and Shoveler. It had been an enjoyable refreshing and atmospheric walk and I’m only too pleased that I can complete these walks now as there have been times this year I could not.
The Natural History Society talk last Friday had been excellent. Nick Davies passion came across really well as he talked about the habits of Cuckoo’s and we were managed to get our books signed by him. If you haven’t read the book it is certainly worth a read and its title is simply Cuckoo, Cheating by Nature.