The heady scent of smouldering wood filled the air as light smoke rose from the small stoves housed on the local barges, when my journey along the still dark canal began. I wanted an early start for my peaceful Sunday morning wanderings at the Floodplain Forest Nature reserve, avoiding too many people. Never an easy thing in mid winter, as the sun doesn’t appear until after 8am.
Peaceful Sunday Morning Wanderings at the Floodplain Forest
The golden hour was upon me by the time I reached the floodplains. Mallard could be seen swimming the margins, small packs of them, gathering together for safety. A couple of Common Coot began an early sparring session. A battle of scrabbling feet, a precursor to the mass, bloody battles to come as the days lengthen.
As I walked the path towards the farm hide, the sun was beginning to break the horizon. The first golden tendrils becoming visible amongst the clouds. In the willow and scrub beside me Reed Bunting flittered about, skipping from branch to branch trying to always stay one step ahead of me as I moved along. In the fields towards the farm buildings, where the Konik Ponies are currently sequestered, a scattering of winter thrushes peppered the grass. A regular mix of eye striped Redwing, and the larger cousin, the Fieldfare.
My progress through the reserve was suddenly halted by a deep murky rivulet of water. The rains of recent days having flooded the reserve enough to push the water onto the dark rubber path. Near knee deep, muddy, floodwaters totally blocked the path for the next 5 meters plus. There was no way I would be able to continue so I decided to wait for sunrise in the Farm hide.
On the water itself, more Mallards gathered, while small flocks of Wigeon whistled away, huddled as close to the water soaked willow as they could be. Overhead parties of Teal flew, their tiny wings beating fast and stiff as they moved between water bodies. While large gaggles of Greylags and Canada Geese honked in noisy excitement.
Leaving the hide
I didn’t stop long in the hides, I’m still not sure if we are meant to be using them this lockdown. Once outside a female Stonechat hopped up briefly (as you know one of my favourite birds), she didn’t perch well for photos sadly, but was a pleasure to watch. In the ancient oak the lone Little Owl was briefly visible, and a distant Red Kite wheeled in the greying skies.
Amongst the Reed Bunting, several Great Tit mingled. Their bright yellow vests strikingly standing out against the dull browns of the weeds they currently inhabit. Long-Tailed Tit’s gathering in small flocks teased their presence, occasionally coming close, but mainly staying tantalisingly beyond the deep floods. They were accompanied by two out of season Chiffchaffs, a much more common over winterer these days than they once were. Great to see so early in the year.
By now the action of the birds was growing; The sun was well and truly up, although playing hide and seek behind the thickening clouds; And more annoyingly, the presence of people was increasing. A sure sign to me that it was time to head home, and warm up inside.
I hope you liked Peaceful Sunday Morning Wanderings at the Floodplain Forest. If you did, please let me know in the comments. And don’t forget to share with friends and family.