On the 8th January we find ourselves driving across Nottingham at 7am heading for Clumber Park. Despite being dark the blackbirds are singing vociferously accompanied by a songthrush and a robin. It is still dark as we drive across the countryside a possible Woodcock flies over the car in the gloom. Most of the houses we pass, still have their curtains drawn, but a few have lights on.
We get to Clumber just a dawn is breaking but everything looks grey. The sound of the Jackdaws is deafening as they fly off to feed. We park the car and amble towards the chapel where the Hawfinches are often seen.
We stand around in the cold and gloom for about an hour, Nuthatches and Treecreepers are abundant as are Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Goldfinches, Robins, Dunnocks and a noisy Wren scolds us from the rhodedendrons. A single Greenfinch is also found, since disease has wipe out many of their number, they are quite difficult to locate in this area. A Mistle Thrush flies over.
After an hour I decide to visit the toilets and leave the others waiting. Sure enough five minutes later my mobile shrills into life to announce that a Hawfinch is showing well. I jog as briskly as I am able back to the others (I must get fit this year) to see a solitary Hawfinch perched high in a chestnut tree. It stays in the tree for some 10 minutes or more, occassionally adjusting its profile. As the light improves, we can admire the huge bill, the slight pinkinsh tinge to the feathers on the breast and the colourful wings. After we have all had a good look, the bird flies off. We debate the next course of action and decide to try to see the Mandarin ducks that have been showing down by the bridge. We walk back to the car along the lake (we could walk but we want to go to Carsington reservoir later and we will need the car for that), Mallard, Tufted duck, Mute Swans, Canada Geese a Cormorant and Goldeneye are all feeding on the lake. We drive slowly to the bridge and park by the feeders. these are covered in birds and we are silenced by the spectacle in front of us a Great Spotted Woodpecker is spinning on an old chicken leg, Chaffinches are everywhere over the leaf litter looking for seeds and amongst them a single Brambling female is hopping just in front of the car. Great Tits and Blue Tits are flying in from all directions and the whole scene is so busy it is hard to concentrate on any one bird. This idyllic scence is shattered when a dog walker goes by and every bird disappears. Another car pulls in beside us parks so far ahead of us the view is abscured and the driver gets out for a walk. Ten minutes later and the Brambling still has not returned, however several cyclists and a couple more dog walkers have disturbed the birds so we walk to the bridge and look for the Mandarin. Just under the bridge, 7 male Mandarin drakes and three females are calmly swimming away from us. We watch them for several minutes, as they swim into the overhanging foliage at the edge of the river. We return to the car and get out the flask for a coffee. In front of us we can now see a Dunnock on the leaf litter, a Robin in the low branches of a tree a Goldcrest searcing for insects at the top of the tree 3 female Great Spotted Woodpeckers on the feeding station and 1 male in the birch tree, a Nuthatch, a Treecreeper, a flock of Long Tailed Tits, a pair of Coal Tits as well as the continuous stream of Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches. Suddenly we see the bird we have been hoping for, a Marsh Tit flies from a tree on the left lands on the bird table stays for a few seconds and flies off to the right. We wait possible another 30 minutes and this pattern is repeated by the Marsh Tit several times. We head off to Carsington Water We have seen 4 species new for the year Mandarin, Marsh tit, Brambling and Hawfinch making a toatl of 115 species and 40 species for that location in a couple of hours. A lovely start to a Sunday morning.