Trip reports

Coach Trip to Rutland Water  -  18 September 2016

Sunday, 18 September 2016

                        Coach Trip to Rutland Water  -  18 September 2016
Weather - Dry, Bright, Cloudy, Calm, Warm/Close
Like a lot of other pastimes bird watching involves a certain amount of luck, especially when you arrange a trip six or more months in advance.
The end of the summer and the beginning of autumn can be excellent bird-wise with migrant waders stopping off on their way south but it can also be tricky, even if you discount the possibility of hitting a sudden spell of bad weather, which can happen when living on an island at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean.
As we headed north mist clung to the trees and hedgerows, thicker in some places bringing forth memories of odd days in the past looking for birds in fog, at best a frustrating exercise. 
However with luck on our side the cloud cover gradually thinned, the mist was banished by the strengthening sunlight, and one could only be optimistic when the sparkling waters of the reservoir came into view, framed by woodland and sheep-grazed fields below the road to the left. 
Very soon after pulling into the car park all 40'ish of us were booked-in, watered and ready to go and after sorting out some juvenile gold and green finches our little group headed north, along the well surfaced path past sheep pastures, checking out the local jackdaws and listening to a chiffchaff.  
The bird watching area of the reservoir is at its Western end, and the many hides are found mainly along the shore lines, both North and South of the Visitor Centre, our first stop being at the Redshank Hide. Once seated comfortably inside we were soon watching a hobby that swooped back and forth hunting dragonflies over the water and marshy ground, eating the unfortunate insects on the wing, as is their habit. The light wasn't ideal but I could make out the hobbies face pattern, very similar to the stockier, and shorter winged peregrine.  
Masses of duck, a large proportion in eclipse plumage, floated sociably on the open water and with a little effort it was possible to sort out the diminutive teal from the wigeon, the pintail from the shoveler, the mallard from the gadwall and the tufties from the pochard. 
Luck plays no part in this sort of exercise as the shape, comparative size and plumage details of birds only become familiar if one takes time to look properly and get ones bird guide out to compare and confirm. 
I am very much aware that people go on coach trips to enjoy the social aspect, I certainly do, but I'm sure some would enjoy the days even more with just a little effort, making the very common birds less mysterious than some still seem to find them.
Few however had any trouble identifying the little egret, the great white egret and the grey heron, that were all quite close, and at times all in the same binocular view together! 
However, being too similar in their feeding methods the heron and the great white soon fell out over territory.
Waders were a bit thin on the ground but our group managed to find black-tailed godwits, greenshank, green sandpiper, dunlin, lapwing, ringed plover and a good number of snipe that fed in the open at a number of locations.
A significant part of the reserve was left unexplored by our little group but I think the group as a whole saw most of what was on offer bird-wise and all seemed to be pleased with their day.
On our way home I went through the bird list as usual and was surprised by a report of wood warblers that sounded exceptional. I was shown excellent photographs of the birds but my very limited knowledge of warblers meant I was unable to confirm the I.D.  
The following day, with the benefit of many years of birding, our good friend Ralph Todd was able to say "fresh plumage chiffchaffs" which goes to prove that I certainly have a lot to learn.
My total for the day was an enjoyable 49 and the total for the group as a whole was 69. 
Birds seen:
Little grebe, great crested grebe,  cormorant, little egret, great white egret, grey heron, grey lag goose, Canada goose, Egyptian goose, wigeon, gadwall, teal, mallard, pintail, shoveler, pochard, tufted duck, red kite, hen harrier, sparrow hawk, buzzard, hobby, pheasant, water rail, moorhen, coot, ringed plover, lapwing, dunlin, snipe, black tailed godwit, greenshank, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, black headed, common, herring, greater black backed and lesser black backed gulls, stock dove, wood pigeon, collared dove, kingfisher, green and great spotted woodpecker, sand martin, swallow, house martin, pied wagtail, wren, dunnock, robin, blackbird, Cettis warbler, chiffchaff, gold crest, long-tailed tit, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, magpie, jackdaw, crow, starling, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, linnet, reed bunting.