I had a good walk round the reserve today and indeed a little beyond, it may surprise many that I rarely get to some of the more distant parts of the site, a consequence of most work being around the access areas and hides. Leaflessness allows the framework of the trees to be seen, I was especially struck by the old ash trees alongside the path on the eastern side of Ivy Lake, they are clearly old trees but their growth speaks of a life spent in a hedgerow. They show signs of repeated cutting and laying from a time when they were part of a field boundary.
The object of a count is to see just how many birds there are on the lakes. It is interesting to see the differences between lakes, as for pretty much the whole of this winter Rockford Lake was again the busiest, a reflection of the heavy weed growth last summer. By contrast Ibsley Water is quiet, it is notable that weed growth there was especially poor last summer.
The totals were really very good, gadwall especially remain in large numbers, the total was 1109 once again getting close to 2% of the NW European population. Other notable counts were 1210 wigeon, 406 tufted duck and 249 pochard and 1509 coot. The numbers grebes are still very low, hopefully they are still on the coast, rather than dead in the freeze. I saw a bittern from the Ivy North hide, but three were reported, I also saw 10 little egret on a small former silt pond south of Snails Lane, the only ones I saw all day. Star birds were the 2 smew again on Rockford Lake, I managed a rather poor picture at distance, but it does show the differences between the birds, one much larger and paler than the other. The larger bird is a young drake and the other a duck, probably also a young bird.
Slightly further afield, there were reports of 15 Bewick's swan at Harbridge today and the great white egret was seen a little further up the valley. The egret is about due to leave, it usually departs before the end of January and even did so last winter despite it being pretty cold at this time. I confess I have yet to see it this year, each time it is one the reserve I am somewhere else.