Cold and grey, my first walk out with the group for two months did not have the best weather forecast, but 15 of us joined Paul for our Sunday walk at this excellent reserve. With its mix of habitats there is always the chance of a surprise or two.
We set off into the wood, with blue tit, great tit, robin, and blackbird making their mark immediately. With a little effort we found treecreeper, great spotted woodpecker, goldfinch, greenfinch and chaffinch. We spent some time scanning the Alder trees for redpoll, but we were not successful on this occasion. They are often in mixed flocks with goldfinch and blue and great tits, so it is always worth spending some time watching if you come across flocks in these distinctive trees in winter.
Soon it was time to move into the more open part of the reserve where the reeds line the path and provide an excellent backdrop for marsh harrier, mute swan, pochard, mallard, tufted duck, great-crested and little grebe. A couple of gadwall kept away from the main group of ducks,
Along the Great Stour we scanned the pools in the fields – John spotted a water pipit which immediately flew off to re-appear some moments later alongside a couple of pied wagtail. A green woodpecker flew ahead of us “yaffling” as it moved through the trees. There were three redshank feeding in one of the pools and a few little egret were also taking advantage of the wet ditches.
We had lunch in the Harrison hide where a female marsh harrier was on the ground when we arrived. Soon after, however, she moved off and we were left watching a couple of greylag geese. Two more marsh harriers flew over and put up a large number of lapwing which had been on the pools towards Grove Ferry.
We returned through the fields which proved an interesting choice as the recent wet weather had made a rather gloopy mess of the path – the more long-standing members recalled the occasion some years ago, when one of our members lost a boot on the same path and had to walk the rest of the way back to the car park with only one. Luckily we all managed to escape with complete footwear on this occasion, and despite looking we could not find the lost boot either!