On Tuesday we were able to stick with the original plan & visit Tophill Low. One of the best birds was seen on the approach road when Len in the car in front had a close encounter with a female Merlin, which headed across the road and disappeared into the farmland.
First 3 Kestrel pics (c) 2013 Chris Cox
All remaining pics (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
The same Kestrel seen in the am?
When we actually started there were single Treecreepers, Goldcrests and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker near the visitor centre, so all augured well. This was increased by a good sighting of a first-year male Kingfisher on South Lagoon.
There were a pair of Pintail on SME, plus a Goldeneye, some Shoveler and plenty of Teal. A Barn Owl flew not very close to the hide before taking a look in at us and then moving off higher and with more speed. In the other hide we saw 4 drake Goldeneye with one female, plus a slightly larger flock of Tufted duck. We could also hear 2 distinct Water Rails from here, and Claude may have caught sight of one of them flying from the left bank into the central Reedbed island.
There were plenty of Wigeon on the 'O' reservoir, and David got a glimpse of the a Great Crested Grebe. Unfortunately, the water level was very low, so we couldn't see what else was sheltering in the lee of the reservoir wall.
Goldeneye (left), Tufted Duck (right)
Goldeneye (female right)
At Watton Borrow pits there were 2 Redshanks, 3 Juvenile Cormorants and a few Gadwall. However, the best bird here was a female Smew (sometimes called a Redhead when it can't be differentiated from 1st-winter drakes). Not everyone could find this tiny duck easily, but later she hauled herself out on the the bank to preen herself, and this is when her white underparts could be studied. Someone also spotted a Barn Owl roosting at the bank just to the left of the island. On the return journey we saw yet another one of these flying around South Lagoon. This is probably a legacy of the aftermath of the snowy weather when the owls found hunting for food very difficult.
Redhead Smew behind Tufted Ducks
On 'D' reservoir there were literally hundreds of ducks - the highlight being another 6 Pintail. The total tally we saw was therefore 8, most I've seen in any one day at this site!
On the return to the visitor centre Richard, the warden, had located a Woodcock, so those who hadn't already gone home, or were visiting other parts of the reserve, were able to get decency view of it after staring at bits of vegetation for over half an hour. Unfortunately, before the afternoon group arrived it was frightened off by a prowling cat - at a site where all domestic pets were supposed to be banned. In the afternoon the best photo opportunity came from a very confiding and extremely colourful male Kestrel.