I started the blog with the best of intentions wanting to write about the plants and their biology which I have found fascinating for years but the pressure of work and then the stress of redundancy in September rather destroyed that. I plan to carry on in 2012.

Just as a start my family are mostly ecologists some are professional and some are amateur. On the first day of every year there is a race to find as many species of bird as possible. It is as if we have never seen a bird before and all bets are off. This year we broke with tradition and instead of rushing to the North Norfolk Coast we concetrated our seach at Rutland water. This is nearer for us and as our income has halved, money for fuel is in short supply.

We started the day as it was just getting light on the North shore at the fishermans car park looking for the long tailed duck that had been reported. There was one other birdwatcher there who was looking for an otter and had seen the duck. We stood around for an hour during which time we saw, siskin, robin, wren, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit, a jay was a colourful sight, great crested grebe, goldeneye, tufted duck, coot, widgeon, mallard and a buzzard in the field opposite. We decided to return later and went to the visitors centre which was now open. from the comfort of the heated viewing area we saw the four bewick swans that had been reported earlier. Teal, little egret,grey heron, mute swan,  Canada geese, gadwell, pied wagtail and pheasant were all appreciated and it was lovely to get warm again.

We moved on round the reserve heading for the lagoon hides. We checked the bird feeders but the presence of Tim Appleton’s dogs in the van had scared off all the birds. Thankfully before we reached the first hide in the small fields we found a song thrush with fieldfares and redwings. quite a few flew over our heads making their characteristic call. We found 2 bullfinches in the trees and saw most of the common corvids carrion crow, rook, magpie and jackdaw. The numbers of lapwing and golden plover in the lagoon hides were fantastic and when they all took off simultaneously it was quite a spectacle. We noted a kestrel hunting over the fields. As we made out way round in lagoon 1 and 2 we caught up with shoveler, pochard, pintail and shellduck. Lagoon 4 gave us all of the common gulls not only the ubiquitous blackheaded gull but common gull, herring gull, lesser and a greater black backed gull. As we were thinking of moving on three goosander flew into the lefthand side 1 male with the lovely plummage of this species and 2 females. On lagoon 3 we searched for the whooper swan that had been reported without success. However we did find a couple of waders redshank living up to its name and dunlin. One of the best highlights of the day were 4 female smew on logoon 3, we spent quite a while watching them. We headed back to the visitors centre to get lunch. Getting up at 6am makes you hungry by 1pm. We stopped off at the feeders and were treated to repeated sightings of a willow tit coming to feed as well as many of the other common garden birds, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, robin and in the trees above the feeders a great spooted woodpecker was highly visible. Following food we went back to look for the long tailed duck, which we located amongst the great crested grebes. Once we had all examined in in the telescope and seen the goldcrest that obligingly stayed moving around the trees in the car park. We decided to finish the day with a visit to the old hall ares to look for the snow bunting. We eventually found the area and walked around the pathway when on the shoreline a group of small birds was sighted. We moved closer and were treated to the sight of a group of meadow pipits and one female snow bunting feeding by the shoreline. Happy with this success we were prepared to go home when we were told of a little owl roost at the edge of the eyebrook reservoir. With only an hour of daylight we drove to eyebrook walked to the tree indicated and set up the telescope and immediately found the little owl looking very cross as little owls always do. Bridwatching doesn’t get easier than that. Then having been told that up the hill was a short eared owl we drove a short distance and went to look at the rough grassland a favourite hunting ground for this bird. We found red legged partridge and lots of hares in the fields, 4 in one field alone, but no owl. We decided to head for home and were just settling into the car when ahead of us the owl flew across the road. We were out of the car in record time and were up the hill watching the owl quarter the field and then perch up. After a few minutes and with the light starting to fade we decided to leave we drove past the reservoir but a group of parked cars by the side of the water made us stop and ask what was about at the edge of the reservoir was a green winged teal feeding with a group of standard teal its white flank stripe clearly visible. We drove home tired but very happy. We had seen 73 species in the day that is quite astonishing for the first day of the year.

Next time my trip to North Norfolk and the species we saw


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