Friday, 15 January 2016

Winter marvels at Rutland Water

On Sunday it was the first West Midland Bird Club trip of the new year, to our usual January destination of Rutland Water. As always we were on the lookout for Red Kites from the coach in the vicinity of Kettering and Corby, and we saw good numbers of them patrolling the roads and surrounding fields! A nice surprise also was two groups of Grey Partridge in the fields from the coach.

Our first stop was at the dam end of the reservoir to look for anything that might be out on the water. There had been reports of a Great Skua, Great Northern Diver, Red-necked and Black-necked Grebes recently but we didn't have much luck with those, perhaps because there were quite a few small fishing boats out on the water. We did see plenty of Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebes, Wigeons, Cormorants and a Little Grebe but that was about it!

View near the dam (HDR).
Then it was off to the main nature reserve at Egleton. We started with a look out over the lagoons from the viewing gallery in the visitor centre, finding plenty including Pintail, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Stonechat, Linnet and Stock Dove. More excitingly there was a Great White Egret, the first of a few we would see that day (or maybe just one very mobile individual?!) sneaking along at the back of one of the lagoons. 

Great White Egret.
There was also a gull provoking much discussion; as it resembled a Herring Gull but with mucky yellow legs some had suggested it might be a Yellow-legged Gull. I'm not a gull fan particularly but its small dark eye and very white head dredged up something about Caspian Gulls from the depths of my brain. I couldn't remember what colour their legs were but with the help of Andy H's ID app we ascertained that it was indeed a Caspian Gull, hurrah.  

View from the visitor centre (HDR).
We then headed off around the reserve, and from the various hides (the names of which I can never remember!) we added to our lists Greylag and Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Snipe, Curlew, Redshank, Little Egret, and Goosander. There were also gulls aplenty - Herring, Lesser and Great Black-backed, and Common. In the woods and bushes around the lagoon and field edges we found Siskin, Redwing, Fieldfare, Goldfinch and Long-tailed Tit among others. Another of the day's highlights was two lovely redhead Smew in the corner of one of the lagoons; they were perfectly lit by the low sun, which illuminated their deep crimson crowns in a most pleasing manner.

View of the reserve (HDR).
View of the reserve (HDR).

We ended the day as we normally do, looking out for Barn Owl hunting over the marsh as the sun set. Sadly there was no sign of one this time - in the past we've often seen one, but perhaps it's not around any more. We did enjoy watching the various waterfowl, waders and gulls coming into roost though, and one birder (not from our group) helpfully pointed out a first-winter Mediterranean Gull to us. We also had two more Great White Egret sightings - the same bird as earlier, or a different one/s? And it was as always lovely to watch the changing light and cloud patterns as the sun set. All in all we'd had a good day and my year list is looking fairly respectable already, with a few species I don't always get every year :o)

Great White Egret again.
Changing light over the reserve (HDR).
Changing light over the reserve (HDR).
Changing light over the reserve (HDR).

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