Early Start

Early Start - Gadwall
Early Start – Gadwall

I planned an early start today, may aim was to get out for first light this morning, my idea was to get to the patch very early, well before any dog walkers and their ilk had walked the paths and flushed all the exciting birds. I say I planned to get an early start, as it happens I completely forgot yesterday was Monday, so my early night (in preparation for the early start) was curtailed by the walking dead (if you’ve read my post (A Game of Two Halves) you’ll know I have a bit of a zombie thing going on in my life.

So first light came and went and I was still in bed! However I was up and out of the door before 7 so only and hour after sunrise!

WARNING: Today’s post is quite photo heavy, it was a good day with the camera.

Early Start

Now for those outside the UK, Sunday was the first official day of spring, the vernal equinox, and today, 2 days in we had frost carpeting the ground, we truly do live in unusual times!

As I headed to the patch the grass crunched lightly under my feet, and a low mist clung to those areas the warm, early morning sun, had failed to clear. Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard drumming from the stand of trees outside my house, always a good start to the day, and a sure sign that the warmer days are on their way.

Rather than wandering slowly, I decided to walk at pace straight to the main hide on the farm pits, my goal of being out early, before the dog walkers seemed to have paid off (it was at least an hour before I saw my first), and the atmospheric mist, still clinging to the water, made for a beautiful start to the day.

Light Misty Morning
Light Misty Morning

 

Ducks in the Mist
Ducks in the Mist

 

Bridge in the Mist
Bridge in the Mist
Looking our through the open windows of the hide, I was pleased to witness multiple Lapwings as they performed dazzling feats of aerial acrobatics, buzzing and humming their electronic tunes as they swooped about the sky, I was also privileged enough to witness a number of mating attempts (my embarrassment at seeing such acts hidden behind my joy that once again these stunning green, purple, black and white birds would be raising families on the patch).
Lapwing
Lapwing

 

Lapwing
Lapwing
In amongst the flying lapwings there were at least 5 Redshank, piping almost constantly, and rarely standing still for more than a few moments, these wonderful little waders gave me some brilliant view.
Lone Redshank standing vigil
Lone Redshank standing vigil

 

Redhsank
Redhsank

 

Redshank standing on an island
Redshank standing on an island

 

Pair of Redshank
Pair of Redshank

 

Redshank reflections
Redshank reflections

Ducks

Of course it was not just about waders, sat in my elevated position, I was lucky enough to have a number of duck species come and pay me a visit, many of them allowing me photo opportunities that I would normally not have, these ranged from Gadwall, to Tufted Duck, Teal to Mallard, you can see the photos below (there were also Shoveler, 1 Goosander (female) a couple of Wigeon and a lone male Pochard, although these never came within camera range).

Mirror Mallard
Mirror Mallard

 

Pair of Mallard
Pair of Mallard

 

Female and Male Mallards
Female and Male Mallards

 

Lone Male Mallard

 

Male Gadwall
Male Gadwall

 

Mirror Image
Mirror Image

 

Gadwall
Gadwall

 

Tufted Duck in Flight
Tufted Duck in Flight

 

Male Teal standing in mud
Male Teal standing in mud

 

Swimming Male Teal
Swimming Male Teal

 

Female Gadwall Swimming
Female Gadwall Swimming

 

Female Gadwall exiting the water
Female Gadwall exiting the water

Western Hide

After having spent a couple of hours enjoying the comings and goings in front of the main hide, I decided to head off to the western hide and see what could be found in the channels and rivulets. While I headed towards the hide I stumbled across a small flock of Redpoll feeding on the seed heads of the weeds growing beside the lakes edge, one of the birds allowed me a real close approach (again, photos below).

Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll

 

Lesser Redpoll feeding
Lesser Redpoll feeding

After leaving the redpoll to feed I entered the hide; only managing to disturb a few of the small finches and a couple of Goldfinch that were feeding near the hide itself.

From the hide there was sadly very little birds; A few flyby Little Egret; and Grey Heron; the odd Canada Goose; and Broken wing (the resident Greylag Goose). But not much else.

River Walk

With plenty of time still ahead of me I headed riverside and began to follow the meandering route. Chiffchaffs were singing all around me, the first in full song I have heard this year. While Reed bunting feasted on the seed heads of the riverside weeds; and a male Chaffinch gave me extremely close views.

Male Chaffinch
Male Chaffinch

Reaching the western lake, there was sadly little of any note, a few loafing gull (Black Headed and Common Gull) and a few Tufted duck but that was it. So I retraced my steps along the river and headed through the cattle creep under the canal.

Pumping Station

Once on the opposite side of the aqueduct I decided to have a short break and settled down on the benches beside the pumping station, overhead the grey of a male Sparrowhawk gently floated on the high thermals, slowly drifting around in moving circles, occasionally being mobbed by passing Crows and Jackdaws.

From the stand of trees across the river a Little Owl suddenly called out in alarm, before going back to silence, a brief snippet my only clue as to its location. A pair of Long-Tailed Tits alerted to the owls call, went back to building their spherical nest, deep in the bramble pile while a Dunnock began singing loudly above. Suddenly all hell broke loose as a female Sparrowhawk shot through the bushes, sending tits and thrushes flying all around, before peace once again returned.

This brief pause and the ensuing excitement reinvigorated me to head back to the hides and spend another hour or so watching for passing migrants.

Blue Tit
Blue Tit

Final Flurry

Heading back to the main hide, I settled in once again and began to watch. To my right the pair of Oystercatchers could be seen; at first on one of the small shingle islands, before giving me a flyby worthy of the red arrows.

A Common Snipe dropped to the edge of the island just in front of the hide allowing me a few brief moments to capture its image before moving off again. Appearing to fly right under the hide. I flushed three of these beautiful waders as I exited the hide later, so I assume it joined its friends in the pools either side of the hide entrance. All the while the background noise was Lapwing and Redshank calling away.

Common Snipe
Common Snipe
There were no new surprises as I sat and watched. And as the cloud cover began to fill the sky, and a chill took to the air I decided I’d had the best of the day and so headed home. My early start delivering a few nice photo opportunities.

Final Photos

Goldfinch
Goldfinch

 

Little Egret in flight

 

Male Mallard
Male Mallard

 

Little Egret Fishing
Little Egret Fishing

 

Pied Wagtail
Pied Wagtail

 

Grey Heron in Flight
Grey Heron in Flight

 

Lapwing display flight
Lapwing display flight

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