Given that it has been Christmas it was time time for the all too necessary tour of the country to visit those parents and relatives that need to be kept primed for gift giving. Me a skeptic, surely not?! As my other half is from Leeds and I am originally from the Midlands this did at least offer the chance to check out a few sites away from my normal birding area.
In Leeds we visited a small Wildlife Trust reserve at Golden Acre park, and enjoyed a very nice walk around Fewston Reservoir. The reservoir offered up the expected waterfowl including Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Teal, Canadaand Greylag Geese. A nice surprise was a huge flock of several hundred Lapwings feeding in a field nearby. The reserve at Golden Acre park was much more varied including my first Marsh Tit of the year. Also present were a good number of Teal and a couple of Whooper Swans out on the main lake. The biggest surprise of the day however went to the Red Kite that drifted over the site as we were preparing to leave. These birds really can be seen just about anywhere these days. On the mammal front it was nice to see a group of three foxes enjoying a lazy afternoon down by the waterside. I don’t think the birds could say the same thing though.
Back in the Midlands we spent a very cold few hours at the Upton Warren nature reserve. The temperature completely failed to get above freezing all day with all the vegetation covered in a layer of frost and ice. This did however seem to bring the birds very close to the hides. Our first stop showed up approximately fifteen Great Crested Grebes and a hundred or so Coots on the grass in front of the hide. A Sparrowhawk briefly put everything up into the air and a single Snipe was sat very still no doubt wondering why he couldn’t get his beak into the ground anymore. Further round the reserve a very active Goldcrest was observed at incredibly short distances hovering in an attempt to reach the underside of vegetation. I can’t help but think that the energy it was expending in search could not possibly be made up for by the presumably meager findings. The next hide provided the highlight of the day with no fewer than three separate Water Rails seen running across open ground before entering the reeds and disappearing. The feeders here also brought out a couple of Reed Buntings and an extraordinary fight between a Dunnock and a Robin. I have seen birds have disagreements before but this one was full on with feet locked together and beaks going for eyes. At one point I seriously thought that one bird would be seriously injured but the Robin eventually broke free and quickly retreated. Over in the second part of the reserve a single Redwing was visible along with several more Snipe at the main feeding station.