This weekend started with a common garden visitor that had a rather unusual feature. The individual in question was one of our Starlings that appears to have lost a leg! From the looks of it the loss may have been fairly recent as the bird was definitely unsteady on its feet, falling right over on a couple of occasions. Despite the disability it was still able to feed and drink even though there was a bit of bullying going on from the rest of the flock. It was back on Sunday so hopefully will stick around and I can keep an eye on it.
Mute Swans on the ice at Kenfig
My parents were down visiting on Saturday so I thought it was worth another trip to Kenfig NNR in the hope that the Bitterns would put on a show as impressive as they had done for me a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately the day was grey and cloudy so light for photography was definitely going to be an issue. We arrived at the south hide around midday and after speaking to a very friendly birder ascertained that there were at least a couple of Bittern hiding out in the reeds in front of the hide. The ice appeared to have thawed a bit since my last visit meaning that the furthest left cut looked our best bet for a display. An hour passed during which time we saw a Cetti’s Warbler and heard several Water Rail calling, but no Bittern. I was about to suggest we moved on when a casual scan of the north side of the lake revealed a Bittern flying from left to right! It landed in a gap in the reeds to the left of the north hide. Almost simultaneously Emma spotted another flying again from left to right that landed in the area known as Margam Break. This one walked around in the open for a few minutes before slinking off out of sight. Less than five minutes later a third Bittern erupted from the reeds to the left of the south hide and flew the length of the lake before dropping down next to the north hide. Three Bittern in ten minutes was certainly a personal record but we hadn’t got the close views that I had promised my dad.
Taking a risk of missing the two birds that were still somewhere in front of our current position, we took the decision to move around to the north hide in the hope of stumbling across one of the three birds we had just seen head in that direction. The walk around was pretty quiet apart from a Goldcrest at the hide entrance. We opened the door carefully so as not to cause any disturbance as the window shutters were already wide open. I glanced to the right and there feeding in the channel was one of the Bitterns! I quickly got everyone on the bird as it walked around in full view before moving into the reeds. We were just in the process of congratulating one another when it appeared back in the channel and started a slow walk towards us. As my dad snapped away it got closer and closer until it was barely a couple of meters from the hide. At this point it must have realised it was being a bit too showy as it took flight and headed over to the old boathouse where it proceeded to forage along the waters edge. I don’t think I have ever seen Bitterns in such open conditions which must surely be a measure of how desperate they are becoming.
We returned to the south hide for a final watch to find that the birds there had been giving similarly impressive views. Our share came soon enough with two Bitterns taking to the air from our right before flying off to roost on the west shore.
The magic Bittern reed beds
After several years of searching at Kenfig I can’t believe the quality or quantity of views that I have had over the last couple of weeks. The weather has certainly had its part to play but this isn’t exactly the first time that the lake has frozen over so that can’t be the only reason. As for the total number of Bitterns present I can confirm that there are four definites with the possibly of up to six. It is hard to get an accurate count but having watched the lake for most of the afternoon I am confident in my numbers. Can any other lake in the UK beat that at the moment?