I only managed to get out for a couple of hours this weekend and spent it all at the local WWT reserve. As my parents were down visiting (and more importantly dropping off Christmas presents) it seemed like the ideal opportunity to once again take in the centres huge Starling murmuration, a spectacle that neither of them had ever seen. Before that though it was the turn of the Michael Powell Hide to deliver with one of the best viewing sessions I have ever had from its draughty confines.
My Mom had barely been hauled up onto one of the hide’s benches (they are very high and she is very short) before the first of three Common Snipe was spotted on the far side of the pond. Scanning along the bank a second was soon in view before our attention was taken by the arrival of a Kingfisher. Its iridescent blue plumage cut through the gloom like a knife through butter as it moved from perch to perch before finally settling on a fence post. It was then the turn of a pair of Greenshank, three Little Egrets, numerous whistling Wigeon and a grooming Grey Heron to keep us occupied until I picked out a distant Sparrowhawk being harried across the marsh by a couple of Crows. When that battle was lost from view we completed the trilogy of Common Snipe, promptly followed by their disappearance over the top of a grassy bank. Above where they had been sat was what I at first thought was the Kingfisher again, only to realise that our bird hadn’t moved from its aforementioned post. We had a pair! The question of whether or not they would be tolerant of each other was soon answered with the new arrival promptly chased away. Throughout all of these antics a Water Rail was discreetly swimming back and forth between one of the small islands and the pond edge, the first time I have ever seen one out in open water. As if that wasn’t enough we rounded off proceedings with another distant bird of prey in the shape of a Peregrine Falcon perched out towards the estuary.
By now the sun was very low in the sky so we headed over to the Millennium Wetlands to take up position in preparation for the Starlings arrival. Once again Water Rails and Cetti’s Warblers were calling from all directions and once again they were impossible to locate. Right on cue the first small groups of Starlings started to appear over the reserve and in no time at all the murmuration was in full swing.
That’s where things started to go a bit wrong however. For some reason, possibly due to climatic conditions, the birds went down into the reeds far quicker than we had expected and in a location that we couldn’t see clearly. We tried to move closer but by then the show was pretty much over. Nevertheless it was still an impressive if somewhat curtailed display and my parents were more than happy.
As an aside I shall take this opportunity to mourn the passing of one of my oldest and most faithful walking companions, my boots. Originally bought way back in 1999 they have since covered hundreds if not thousands of miles. Not once during that time have I had to waterproof them and not once have they leaked as they took me faultlessly to almost every part of the UK.
Despite their somewhat dilapidated appearance they are still going strong with just a small split to the leather in one side and a loss of the original green colouration. The reason for their replacement lies with the soles which have been worn away to such an extent that they are now almost slick. This not only makes walking harder on the feet but has also significantly reduced grip. Therefore it is with a heavy heart that I relegate them to gardening duty and welcome in a new pair of Mammut Mt Trail GTX’s (cool name). Like the old ones they have Gore-Tex technology to aid waterproofing and breathability whilst the memory foam soles and reinforced foot arch should make them very comfortable. All that’s left now is to try them out and cover some of that shine in Welsh mud. There’s plenty of it around at the moment as well with all this rain we’re having.