Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Saturday, Sunday and Monday 16th-18th December

Bufflehead (c) Bark
On Saturday morning there was still frozen snow lying along the bridle way, in the carpark and on the trails to the screens, by Sunday most of it had disappeared. The lagoons were partially frozen with the northern one much more open than the southern.
Disconsolate ducks (c) JR
The ducks were standing glumly around on the ice or paddling disconsolately in the open water. The ring ditch beside the bridleway looked strange, as if it had been filled with milk. Snow had clearly fallen on top of ice and had then been trapped by a partial thaw that had refrozen, hence the opaque white colour on what is normally very clear water. 
Scuttling Water Rail (c) Bark
A Water Rail scuttled along the far side of the ditch accelerating to get across the areas of open ice.
We spotted a Bittern out in the open on the far side of the southern lagoon warming up and preening in the early sunshine. It colouration perfectly matched the ochres of the dry reeds. It stayed in the same spot for twenty minutes or so, I just happened to be watching it through my scope as it did its disappearing act, simply melting back into the reeds …..first you see it ….and then you don’t!
Well hidden Bittern (c) Bark
A Little Grebe suddenly appeared amongst the ducks and seeing it up close to a Mallard really emphasised it diminutive size. We watched it diving near the edge of the ice and wondered how it could be sure to surface in open water.
Diminutive Grebe (c) Bark
There must have been some casualty or other out in the reedbed as three or four Red Kites and three Magpies spent a lot of time time flying back and forth over an area in the northern section. There were certainly three different Marsh Harriers patrolling over the reeds and one of the second winter male Hen Harriers was seen on Saturday with two appearing together at the evening roost on Sunday. Perhaps there have been two all along!

Marsh Harriers above (c) JR    Lower 2 (c) Tom N-L

Water levels are finally starting to rise. This is especially noticeable on Ashgrave in front of the hide. With the thaw and with increased water I would expect our wildfowl numbers to rise markedly and perhaps draw in some more Pintail and Pochard.

Teal, Canada Goose and Chilly ducks (c) Bark

The Starling roost has quite a high attrition rate and we frequently find small piles of feathers and raptor pellets that contain bird bones and feathers.
Magpies are not black and white (c) Bark
On Sunday we found a Starling that had met a different fate, having tangled its wing on an especially thorny bramble and being unable to get free had perished there in the night. Unfortunate as this was for the bird, it did allow us a close-up view of its exceptionally beautifully marked plumage.
Casualty (c) Bark
There are several parties of Bullfinches working the hedgerows some are in the Carpark Field while another group can usually be found along the path to the first screen. The pink of the males shines out most brightly in the low red dawn sunshine.
ullfinches (c) Bark
After the intense cold of last week it was good to hear Cetti’s calling from at least three different spots this weekend, we lost them for over a year the last time we had sustained low temperatures.
Bank Vole ? beside the hide (c) JR
There is a pattern beginning to emerge! At least four times in the last few months an interesting bird has shown up while I have been writing this on a Monday morning. This time it was a female Bufflehead, a north American diving duck that usually only appears in the UK as an escape from collections. Just in case it was later identified as being a properly wild bird I went down to see it. Whatever its’ provenance it is a very attractive little bird. It was out on the northern lagoon diving and feeding on the edge of the ice sheet and looking very happy and settled. It was later seen to be carrying a metal ring on its leg and is almost certainly the same individual that was seen at Staines Reservoir last week. Not eligible for the year-list but a pleasure to see nonetheless. It does seem a little odd that a Penduline Tit that has appeared near Gloucester also with a ring on its leg is regarded as being properly wild….do they not ring ducks in North America?

Bufflehead (c) Bark

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