Opening the Tern hide 3 red-crested pochard were unexpected, two fine drakes and a duck, otherwise just a few black-tailed godwit and good numbers of wigeon. I also saw a large white lump, at first I thought a dead swan, but then realised it was a paper lantern, the sort that floats off with a candle inside. This turned out to be the first of at least ten I found during the day. I was only able to retrieve three as the rest were out on the ice, in the water or stuck up trees. No doubt they looked charming as they drifted off into the night sky, sadly last night's delight is today's unsightly rubbish.
Around the Centre car park and Woodland hide the number of brambling seems to have increased considerably, often outnumbering chaffinch. At the Ivy North hide I heard water rail and cetti's warbler as I opened up, although I could not find the bittern that was seen a few times later in the day.
Overall the reserve was busy all day, with a combination of year listing birders and people trying to work off festive excess. The Woodland hide as always offered spectacle, the Ivy North the promise of a bittern for those with patience, whilst the Tern and Lapwing hides gave the chance of smew, goosander and were crowded with gull watchers, especially late in the day. Only the icy Ivy South hide and the Goosander hide, also mostly looking out on ice, disappointed.
However there will always be some who choose a different path, one such was a person who walked down the western shore of Ibsley Water at lunchtime, scattering the birds as he went, sitting behind a clump of rushes with his camera did not even fool the one remaining moorhen, which kept 50m or more away, who says fieldcraft is dead?
I ate my lunch in the Lapwing hide and got a picture of these wigeon at the same time, feeding just below the hide. The bird nearest the camera is a first winter drake, the new grey feathers are very obvious amongst the brown juvenile ones. The number of goosander on the bank south of the hide were impressive, at least seventy, no doubt a reflection of the record count of 231 made at dawn yesterday, as they left the roost.
A look at Rockford Lake showed that it is still very busy with wildfowl, especially wigeon, coot and gadwall. There were also 2 black-tailed godwit roosting on the ice out in the middle of the lake and a green sandpiper feeding on the southern shore.
As the day drew to a close the Tern hide filled, well actually more than filled, with hopeful gull watchers. I decided to move to the Lapwing hide,a s it turned out a good move as it was slightly less busy and there was an Iceland gull there. This was clearly not the bird seen one evening earlier in the winter, which was a second winter bird, this was browner and I would say a first winter, in age at least and strictly juvenile in plumage. Unlike most gulls they do not moult out of juvenile plumage in the autumn but keep it throughout their first winter of life.
In addition to the Iceland gull there was a redhead smew, the 3 red-crested pochard, some half dozen yellow-legged gull and, even by 16:10 already over 140 goosander. Walking back to the Centre I saw my first little egret of the day in the Dockens Water and also encountered the only goldcrest I saw all day, several were going to roost in an ivy covered oak tree beside the Dockens.