Monday, 9 February 2015

Signs of spring at Potteric Carr

Yesterday I was once again off on my monthly jaunt with the West Midland Bird Club, this time to Potteric Carr nature reserve near Doncaster. I like going there as it's a return to my Yorkshire homelands, and as such my parents (who still live in York) usually swing by to meet me there. Today the plan was to meet them for lunch at the restaurant then enjoy a pleasant stroll round the reserve in the afternoon.

We arrived a bit before 11 and set off around the Decoy Marsh. With nothing much on the water except for a pair of Mute Swans smashing through the ice (resulting in some weird and cool sounds), we instead concentrated on the woodland where we were soon enjoying a multitude of small cute birds! As well as Blue and Great Tits, we found a Coal Tit and flock of Long-tailed Tits; also a Treecreeper and best of all some very confiding Goldcrests, which fed for ages in the Alders and Birches right next to the path, lovely stuff! We continued on but didn't see much from the next hide apart from a Buzzard, due to the marsh being frozen. The reedbeds did look marvellous in the low sun though.

Common Reed (Phragmites australis) seedhead.
Then I received a text from my Dad saying they'd arrived, so I ambled over to the restaurant. While waiting for them to arrive I saw a Jay in the willows near the feeding station, and a female Pheasant crashing around in the undergrowth. Soon my parents and I were enjoying our packed lunches out in the sun on the picnic benches - the weather was lovely, I had been anticipating much colder temperatures but was able to forego my hat and mittens! It was great to see my Mum and Dad and to catch up with them :o) They brought be this book which my Mum had found in the charity shop where she volunteers, should come in handy for European adventures!

After lunch we headed down to the main marsh area, stopping via the bridge en route to see if we could see a Kingfisher - alas not, but never mind as we would be passing that way again later! We found some Snipe from the Piper Marsh hide, along with Grey Heron, Shelduck, Shoveler, Lapwing, Teal and Pochard. Further on we spotted several Little Egrets. We caught up with Andy and Mike in the 360° hide where they pointed out a Pintail and a Common Gull that they'd found. I also attempted a couple of drawings.

I started well with the sleeping Greylag, but things went progressively downhill from there!
From there we continued along the path, parallel to a bank which must have provided a warm microclimate for plants as we discovered flowering Colt's-foot and Common Field Speedwell (I think):

Colt's-foot (Tussilago farfara).
Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica).
From the next hide we added Stock Dove, Wigeon and a pair of Little Grebes; I also attempted some digiscoped photos of which this was probably the best attempt.

Lapwings and Teal in the winter sun.
Continuing onwards we spotted a female Kestrel hunting over the rough grassland, and then managed to track down a singing Song Thrush obscured in thick Hawthorn. As we headed towards the bridge we saw a few other West Midlands birders there - they were watching a female Kingfisher. She flew off pretty soon after we arrived, but before long she was back again and we all had super views of her sitting on the branches over the middle of the stream for a good long time. My parents were dead pleased as it was the best view of a Kingfisher they had ever had.

One of the bridges where Kingfisher may be seen.
Spot the Kingfisher!
Finally we stopped off at the feeding station where the light from the setting sun was pretty spectacular. Although we hadn't seen much out of the ordinary bird-wise, I had had a great time spending the day outdoors in lovely winter weather with both my usual birding buddies and my parents! Good times :o)

View from the feeding station hide.

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