As Jim surmised in his posting, at least one bittern was seen from both the North and South Ivy Lake hides yesterday. One of these sightings was of a bird with a large tench, too large for it to swallow, which it carried into the reeds outside the North hide, presumably to dismember and eat in peace (or pieces?). The great white egret was spotted, briefly, from the same hide. Also reported yesterday were a small flock of Brent geese on Ibsley Water, although not obviously there when I opened up this morning.
I was, however, lucky enough to see one of the bittern as it stalked the reed edges visible to the south of Ivy Lake. At first almost invisible to the naked eye, and even in binoculars, it emerged and wandered along in front of the reeds for at least an hour. Never one to pass up an opportunity to post, yet another, distant, dark and blurred image, this is what I saw..
Some lucky visitors also saw a water rail from the Ivy North hide.
But it’s not all about distant images of the more rare species. One of the great perquisites* of my job is being the first to see which birds are on parade immediately outside the hides when they are opened each morning. Carefully opening the door and treading quietly, many birds are unaware of one’s presence and its possible to get reasonably close images with my modest camera. Even though we have a large number of coot on the reserve, it’s not always possible to see them at close range.
They are often followed by gadwall, a species for which the reserve has designated conservation status, as we have something like 1% of Britain’s wintering population here. They have a similar diet to that of the coot, a liking for the plants that grow in the depths of the lakes. Being dabbling ducks, they can’t dive to retrieve plant material, the lakes are quite deep, the gadwall have learned that they can live quite well by scavenging the left-overs from the plants the coot bring up. So in a curious way it’s probably the presence of so many coot that allow the gadwall to survive the winter here in such numbers and give the reserve its conservation designation.
For the casual spectator, gadwall can appear to be quite drab looking ‘grey’ ducks, but a close-up reveals some quite intricate patterning within the feathers, making them, for me, one of our most attractive waterfowl.
This image was taken through the glass in the hide window on a dull day and doesn’t do full justice to the splendour of these birds, but do try to look closely on a fine sunny day – absolutely stunning.
Across the reserve the numbers and range of birds are much as I reported last week. Winter hasn’t really started to bite too deeply and the natural food supply allows means many of the woodland birds are still able to resist the temptation of our well-stocked seed feeders.
One regular visitor to the Woodland Hide area, a buzzard, is often only seen as (s)he flies through, so I took the opportunity of grabbing an image of this bird perched on a branch nearby.
As you can see its yet another in my now famous series of slightly fuzzy pictures!!
*perquisite (perk) -‘an incidental benefit gained from a certain type of employment’
**vermiculation – Wormlike marks or carvings, as in a mosaic or masonry.