Sunday, 26 December 2010

Bittern Takes to the Woods

It just goes on getting colder, the thermometer on the side of the Centre was showing -5 degrees when I opened up this morning. I went round the reserve to open up the hides through frost covered trees and over crunching frozen snow.
Ivy Lake was completely frozen over, although I still opened the Ivy South hide and then walked back along the Ellingham path. Crossing the bridge there was the rare sight of the Dockens Water frozen from side to side although there are still ice free patches where the flow is fastest.
Ellingham Lake still has good areas of open water, but no more birds than a couple of days ago, the depth of water makes it less likely to freeze but means there is not much food.
Heading back towards the Centre I was stopped in the car park by Martin Devine with news of a bittern standing beside the Dockens Water and sure enough there it was standing out in the open. A bittern in the open is never a good sign, it means the bird is very stressed and at real risk of starvation.
It was looking around and very slowly moved off up the bank. When it raised a foot the enormously long toes and long claws showed well.It also did the looking straight towards me but under the beak trick, which I always find somewhat disconcerting.
I had a fairly good look around the reserve during the day, so I can give around up of where the birds are at present. Ivy Lake was not actually completely frozen but the tiny patch of water right int he north-east corner held just a few mallard and teal. Ellingham Lake has a good area of water but few birds.
Ibsley Water has just a small area of open water well up on the western side, which is best seen from the Lapwing hide, the Tern hide remains difficult to get to and the birds are a very long way off from there. The open water had a range of commoner ducks including a few pintail and goldeneye and at dusk 140 goosander were reported coming into roost along with a redhead red-breasted merganser. The gulls at dusk were few and most if not all seemed to stop to bathe and then carry on south, presumably to the coast.
Rockford Lake still has two areas of open water with all the usual species including about 750 coot, 87 mute swan and 100 gadwall. A distressing sight was a swan and two coot tied together by fishing line, there is no way to get to them so I suspect they are doomed.
Blashford (aka Spinnaker) Lake has a large area of open water at the southern end and this held at least 380 gadwall along with a variety of other wildfowl, although without anything out of the ordinary that I could see.
Lastly Snails lake also still has a reasonable area of water, enough for about 300 coot and a scatter of other wildfowl.
Returning to the Centre in the afternoon I was passing the Ivy Silt pond when I heard bearded tit calls, a pair were hopping about on the ice at the base of the reeds close to the path, presumably the birds that had been near the Ivy North hide recently. These birds are almost completely dependent upon the seeds of common reed, but these must be getting hard to find although they are probably well preserved in the frozen seed heads.
Today was my last day at the reserve this year and so my last chance to add to the BTO Challenge total. If you are planning to visit int he next few days I am still hoping for a common (mealy) redpoll or perhaps a glaucous gull to round off the year.
Rather belatedly I did hear of one extra record from last Wednesday, although it was only a "fly over", 2 great bustard were reported flying north, seen from the path between Blashford and Snails lakes. They would have made a truly "mega" garden tick for a certain local birder and may have more or less flown right over his house!

1 comment:

  1. It was interesting to see the reserve under ice today and we enjoyed seeing lots of woodland birds. We didn't see the bearded tits or the bittern unfortuately but we did see a mink. It was under a footbridge over Dockens Water opposite the parking area. At first, from a distance and from behind, we thought it was an otter but viewed from the next footbrdge we could clearly see that it was a mink. It was very glossy and healthy looking and it ate two large fish as we watched. We have some photos if anybody wishes to see them.