Arriving at the Visitor Centre in sunshine it was nice to look out across the reservoir with the warmth streaming in through the large windows. A pair of mallard swam in the pool nearby, a brightly coloured pheasant strolled through the reeds and various birds visited the feeders. Venturing outside was quite a contrast with the warmth of the sun being lost in the cold wind that blew from the south. Disappointingly it was one of our lowest turnouts, with just six members out of a total of 29 registered in the group, although several had sent their apologies.
Walking to the first hide we were accompanied by numerous skylarks rising and singing ( https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/skylark/ ) and you could almost believe that Spring had arrived.
A Sparrowhawk was also seen on two occasions. The first hide looks northeast and always provides something to see – apart from the many birds on the water there was a large flock of meadow pipits feeding on the ground in front of the hide close enough to admire their intricately patterned plumage.
We were unable to identify a large flock of birds sitting on the water that rose up and flew up and down the reservoir, landed and did the same a short while later; we could have benefited from a telescope as they always landed out of range of our binoculars.
We almost missed visiting the second, and east-facing hide, as it looks over a vast expanse of water that you can see from the pathway, but we were glad we didn’t as it provided plenty of sightings. The third hide faces south and immediately we opened the shutters for viewing we knew we wouldn’t be staying long. The wind whipped in and being chilled already we quickly closed them and made our way back to the warmth of the Visitor Centre where mugs of coffee were most welcome.
Half of the group continued on to the causeway and were delighted to spot three Smews, two males and one female. These are beautiful ducks and in winter the male, in particular, is stunning and one of the most attractive of European wildfowl. The females have a grey body and red/brown cap on the head and collectively with the immatures are known as ’redheads’.
Birds: Sparrow, Blackbird, Starling, Blue & Great Tits, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Crow, Wood Pigeon, Pheasant, Sparrowhawk, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot, Little & Great-crested Grebes, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Smew, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Lapwing, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Cormorant, Canada & Greylag Geese, Black-headed & Herring Gulls.
Next Meetings: March 14th Meet at the Lock, Heybridge Basin 10.00 (high tide 10.52) and then onto Chigborough Lakes.