Sometimes it all works out

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.

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8 Replies to “Sometimes it all works out”

  1. Kestrels already mating by the house this morning in a winter landscape and then flying to their box. lets hope it is due to the number of voles present in the area.

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  2. That was a special walk Mark,don't think I have ever said but for the past 10 years we have never seen a Water Rail even though they are resident probably everywhere we go.We have heard them then someone said there was one at Greylake very obliging close to hide so we were due a day out on levels so went and presto within a few minutes it gave us good views.

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    1. Dennis - excellent! Yes it was a special walk. Glad you saw a water rail eventually - you'll probably see them everywhere all the time now. Hope so any way. What else would be on your must-see list?

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  3. That is a problem to know what to put on must see list as although we are no way twitchers must admit when a bird such as Cranes come in the area or other rare birds within say 30 miles and we can combine a nice day out with a walk and reasonable chance of seeing that bird well off we go.This Water Rail has been a obsession for so long although we have not until a couple of weeks ago made a deliberate attempt to see one that we will have to have a think.We are always relatively lucky at seeing different birds and O H was paid the compliment of being a good spotter by Dave Sexton which of course thrilled her,a good spotter is definitely a really good help.Marsh Harrier was say 5 years ago one we wanted to see then about 3 or 4 years ago bred at Weymouth and we saw them and astonishing how well they are doing as we now see them everywhere where there are reeds.

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  4. I had a similarly good day at my local patch yesterday! it almost felt as if you were writing my very own experience! A glance down my scope at an unfrozen area of water revealed the commoner ducks and geese, but also a redhead smew! lovely! And a kingfisher on the river Trent!

    sadly no bittern or water rail, though i was on the lookout! A frozen snowy day at Attenborough in Notts is one of my favourite birding experiences, i'm glad you had a similar experience yourself!

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  5. That's a cracker Mark,it is a joke we met on April fools day and that's all I will say.Think "A good spotter" is just about the biggest compliment anyone can give to a bird watcher.

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