A clear, starry, sky overnight led to a beautiful bright morning with a crisp frosty crunch underfoot. Heading out into the Ouse Valley, with a stunning blue sky overhead I couldn't think of a better way to spend my 41st birthday (obviously in the loving embrace of my family but work and school gets in the way there) beautiful scenery, great birds and some peace and quiet.
Pintails and People
Strolling through the old lock the sounds of birds surrounded me, small parties of Dunnock chipped and hopped around in the undergrowth, while flocks of Blue Tit seemed to be everywhere I looked, as I reached the river Ouse I stood to watch a Little Egret wading through the swollen, muddy waters, its delicate breeding plumage starting to appear, and chatted with an old friend, but my real goal was seeing if the two male pintail that had been reported on Saturday were still on the lakes, even though I have already seen a couple in flight over in January, seeing the males on the water is always worth some effort.
|Little Egret Fishing in the River Ouse|
So that is where I quickly headed, entering across the wild flower meadow, in the South West corner, I spotted the wintering female Stonechat as she hopped up onto the fence, before flitting off over the reserve and in front of the Aqueduct hide, where she was joined by her male companion.
I headed over to take a closer look and watched as the pair of birds searched the weedy grounds for any food they could find, as they searched a couple of over protective European Robins chased them and each other away each time one entered their small parcel of land.
Scanning across the slightly misty lakes 6 Goosander could be seen swimming the deeper waters, while tiny Teal fed in the shallow margins and brightly coloured Shoveler swept their comical bills through the grey waters.
|Male Reed Bunting in front of Aqueduct Hide|
|Dunnock on Barbed Wire Fence|
|A 3 image Panorama view from the Aqueduct Hide|
Flight of Pintail
As I slowly walked the southern path a large duck suddenly flew into sight, circling around this, western, lake a couple of times, the long slender body, chocolate brown head and pin sharp tail of an adult male Pintail was clear for all to see, he eventually landed just beyond the scrubby willow swam for a few moments then headed back east over the farm hide and out of sight.
|Male Pintail in Flight|
|Pintail coming in to land|
|Pintail Swimming the waters of the Floodplain Forest Nature Reserve|
Feeling very lucky to have been in the right place at the right time I carried on my walk hoping for further views later on.
Plethora of People
It's not often I see other birders and wildlife photographers down here, perhaps it;s the time of day or the fact it is usually weekdays that I am found walking the rubberised paths of the Floodplain Forest Nature reserve, but apart from one or two regulars I'm lucky if I see one or two a week, today seemed to be very different, there were at least 5 people wandering the lakes with large camera lenses (or digiscoping setups) and a further two or three birders. I think I saw less people at the Black-winged Stilt twitch.
pushing onward I bypassed the farm hide and surrounding water, scanning only briefly to see the male Pintail swimming in with the Wigeon, Gadwall and Mallard, but choosing not to stop as there were enough people already gather to look at ahwat was a stunning bird.
Reaching the eastern pits and the viaduct hide I was tempted to walk on as there was little to be seen at first glance, but decided to pop into the hide for a sit down (as a quick side note the "youth" who frequent the hide in the darker hours really could learn to crack a window when they "smoke" as the place stank of illicit substances).
Staring out through the thin hide window the scene in front of me, while not being bird filled was stunning, the glassy surface of the lakes waters reflecting the blues, whites and greys of the sky back like a mirror.
|Glassy Waters of the Floodplain Forest|
Slowly the bird life began to pick up as first one, then two and eventually four Goosander flew in and set about displaying to each other on the distant waters. Close by a Lesser Black-backed Gull sat preening near several Cormorant one looking splendid in with heavy amounts of white on the head. Common Coot dived in front of the hide, while Black-headed and Common Gulls commuted between the water and the recycling centre nearby.
|Common or Eurasian Coot|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull in Flight|
|Lesser Black-backed Gull in Flight (2)|
|Cormorant Looking Fine in its White Headdress|
|Black Headed Gull|
The longer I sat the more appeared, distant groups of Common Snipe (6); small parties of swimming Tufted Duck and Pochard; Wigeon and Teal leaving the banks and entering the water; A Grey heron stalked the shallower water; and 3 Little Egrets chased each other around the lake margins.
|Grey Heron hunting in the Margins|
|Grey Heron in Flight|
|Grey Heron in Flight (2)|
|Grey Heron in Flight (3)|
|Another Image of a Grey Heron|
|Wigeon in Flight, with Goosander and Pochard|
|Black Headed Gull|
|Cormorant coming in to land|
After having my fill of the Viaduct hide I headed back to have another brief look at the stunning Pintail, sadly just to far away for decent photos, but I managed one for cropping.
|Male Pintail Swimming|
With a doctors appointment due I headed off home, pausing only to check on the Stonechats once more, and for a few photo opportunities, such as the carpet of Snowdrops surrounding a few of the gravestones in the old church.
|Snowdrops around grave stones|
|The Old Church|
|Views over the Ouse Valley, it's amazing what changes in a few hours, same spot as the first image on this page|
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