Less than a week after returning from North Wales it was time to head off once more on Friday for a long weekend in the Cotswolds. Regular readers will no doubt note that this is a location that neither has a coastline nor mountains, an unusual departure from our destinations of recent years. All will become clear I promise but first let us deal with Friday which found us driving west along what must be a contender for most boring road in the world, the M4. Needless to say an excuse to break the monotony was required and it just so happened that the RSPB Newport Wetlands reserve came up trumps. The fact that it’s currently home to a young family of Bearded Tits was pure coincidence of course and had absolutely no bearing on my route planning or subsequent disappointment at their complete no show. Fortunately however one of my bogey birds, Reed Warbler, turned out to be the complete polar opposite with a couple showing down to less than a meter right outside the visitor centre.
The shot above was easily my best after an increasingly frustrating twenty minutes or so of cursing the wind, birds and even mother nature for creating such a diabolical habitat as the reed bed. No matter the position of a photographers quarry reeds will always find a way to suddenly leap into shot at the last possible moment. Even on a calm day stiff breezes develop at the merest hint of autofocus with an uncanny ability to perfectly align reed stem with birds eye. These phenomena only increase with the subjects rarity and proximity, though by now I probably sound like some madman who has a vendetta against reeds and atmospheric pressure differences. I digress.
This particular Reed Warbler is an adult and judging from persistent calls heard nearby it had young somewhere in the vicinity. This was backed up further by several sightings of it with a beak full of insects though the reeds blocked every opportunity to grab a photo. Have you ever noticed how the wind always picks up ……….
Walking out to the main reserve delivered a chorus of Cetti’s Warbler, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and the pleasing and ever more common sound of Goldfinches overhead. I’m not sure if it’s just me but it seems these days as if no walk is without the delightful sight of these colourful little birds. It was good to see Swallows still in abundance though they were nowhere near the volume of Sand Martins which seemed to be on the move. Several large flocks numbering hundreds of individuals passed through while we were present, perhaps an early sign of autumn migration. It seems far too early to talk of such things right now though with so much new life on show including this noisy young Coot who was busy feeding near the pontoon.
Given that this was the location where the Bearded Tits have typically been seen (though admittedly much earlier in the day) we spent a good while scanning the area for any signs of movement. As it turned out there was plenty of that with Reed Warblers and Sedge Warblers popping into view at regular intervals before once more slipping out of sight. A couple of Little Egrets and begging Mallards were about as varied as things got however before it was time to admit defeat and head on beyond the lighthouse.
By now temperatures were really climbing which only seemed to enhance the activity levels of those butterflies and dragonflies on the wing. The latter led me a happy chase but I was fortunate to capture both a Gatekeeper and stunning Marbled White on camera. The Marbled White was a particularly fine find as its my first sighting since getting back into nature several years ago.
A few Pochard and Teal rounded things off before it was once more time to take to the car and complete our journey. As luck would have it traffic was kind and we arrived in good time to enjoy this sunset across a tranquil Cotswold Water Park.