Yesterday was a cold morning but the air was still and so it didn’t feel bitter on my regular walk around Stanwick Lakes.
Great tits, dunnocks, chaffinches and robins were singing in the cold morning air.
The lakes in the ex-gravel pits were partly frozen but most had small open areas of water in which all the waterfowl were concentrated. Most of these areas were full of coots, tufted ducks, great crested grebes, pochard, wigeon, mallard, gadwall and a few shoveler. On one of these crowded areas there was a redhead smew – just the type of bird you hope to see on a day like this, in weather like this, at a site like this, on a date like this, but it rarely works out like this.
With much of the water and the ground frozen you also hope to see kingfisher on the few running streams – and I did. And you think that your chances of a water rail are a bit higher than usual – and I saw one of those too. Cold days in winter in this wetland also make you think that there might be a bittern about – and I saw one of those too!
The bittern was perched in full view at the top of an alder tree – a fairly distant view but a very good one and a rather unexpected one.
Three goosanders, a snipe, a red kite, some little egrets, six dunlin (quite unusual here) and lots of commoner species made this a lovely walk which delivered, because I have checked my records on Birdtrack, a record February list of 56 species.
But perhaps the most unusual sighting would hardly have been noted by you if you had accompanied me. There were three hares chasing and boxing in the winter wheat field over the river. I’ve never seen hares in that field, and not many very close to here, in hundreds of visits to Stanwick – never.
That’s the simple joy of having a local patch that you get to know. You get a feel for what you might see, and are sometimes, like yesterday, rewarded by seeing it all. And you also can be surprised and delighted by simple sightings that you know are special for your well-known patch.
And now it’s snowing.
Last weekend I had a great day’s birding on the Norfolk coast with the local RSPB mid-Nene Group. I’ve put an account of that into the monthly newsblast which is sent out on Wednesday this week. Sign up, it’s free, if you haven’t already done so.