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Sunday, 20 October 2019

Back to Birding - at Rutland Water on 10th October, 2019

With a rather poor run of health this summer, what 'wild time' I have managed has been mainly focused on dragonflies and butterflies. With the season drawing to a close, it was always on  the cards that my birding interest would be revitalised, and so it was that, on this day, I headed to Rutland Water for a spot of birding.

For technical reasons (mainly concerning a Nuthatch in the garden!), I didn't get away from home until just after 10 a.m., so arrived at the car park on the Egleton side at just before mid-day. Having wolfed down my picnic, I headed into the visitor centre to check for any news.

A Spoonbill was visible from the visitor centre, but it was rather distant, and asleep with its head tucked in, so I didn't wait around, particularly as a message had come in via the WhatsApp group to say that a possible Ring-necked Duck had been seen on Lagoon 3, so I set off in that direction. 

The possible Ring-necked Duck became a confirmed Lesser Scaup as I made my way to Lagoon 3. However, I did get briefly distracted by some dragonflies, one of which is perplexing me to this day as I only had a very brief glimpse and it looked like a small hawker but seemed to have a bright completely powder-blue abdomen! I've since come to the conclusion that, unless this was an extremely unusual aberrant, I was seeing things! Here's one dragonfly I did see. 

Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) (male)
Near to that particular darter was a caterpillar which I believe to be that of one of the Tiger moth species. Any help with ID would be appreciated.

possible Tiger sp. (larva)
I made my first stop at Shoveler hide, expecting to find it full as the car park had been full, with the overflow car park in operation. However, there was only one person in there when I arrived, and he was totally unaware of the potential excitement. 

There was little of interest at close quarters, with any ducks being at too great a distance to sort a lone Lesser Scaup from the rest of a raft of Tufted Ducks! I took a shot of a Great White Egret over on the far side of the lagoon, which Google Earth tells me was nearly 400 metres away, and an Egyptian Goose, which was somewhat nearer.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - from Shoveler Hide
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) - from Shoveler Hide

We were soon joined by a third person. With little happening, and my two companions chatting away, totally unaware of what might be going on outside the hide, I decided to depart and head round the corner to Buzzard Hide to look at Lagoon 3 from a different angle. Here I found a gentleman with a scope, already well settled in, and who had not yet found the Lesser Scaup. I stayed for a while during which time the gentleman located the bird for a second or two before losing it again. It subsequently transpired that it had departed to the North Arm of Rutland Water.

I had a quick look in at Smew hide, and found myself looking straight into the sun, with not much close in except a female Shoveler, and the photos were grim!

I next moved on the short distance to Crake Hide, which gives onto a corner of South Arm III, and here I stayed for the next two hours as the action was virtually non-stop!

Shortly after my arrival at Crake Hide, a Great White Egret flew in and landed by the far bank. It only stopped briefly, and by the time I'd checked my camera settings (they weren't good!) and looked up again it had departed.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - from Crake Hide
A Grey Heron also made a brief appearance.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - from Crake Hide
There were a few Great Crested Grebe, in varying states of plumage, out on the water in front of the hide, and to the right of the hide.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - from Crake Hide
Black-headed Gulls were making a nuisance of themselves, trying to steal fish from the Cormorants.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - from Crake Hide
An immature male Teal had me scratching my head ID-wise for a while.

Teal (Anas crecca) (immature male) - from Crake hide
Twice, a Marsh Harrier passed by - possibly the same individual.

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) (female) - from Crake Hide (1st pass)

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) (female) - from Crake Hide (2nd pass)
The real stars of the show were, however, the Little Grebes, Cormorants, and Little Egrets.

At first, two Little Grebes were fishing in a shaded area to the right of the hide, mainly obscured by vegetation. I did manage to get one shot of one of them in the open with a good-sized fish - I'm rather pleased by the effect of the light on the water in this shot.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - from Crake Hide
On my previous visit to Crake Hide, the water level in South Arm III was extremely low and there was just a trickle of water running through the mud in front of the hide. Now, the water level was much higher and came right up to the hide. It seems that the reeds in front of the hide had grown, but had recently been cut, leaving an area of reedy water in front of the hide, surrounded by high reeds. After a while, the Little Grebes moved into the area in front of the hide.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - in front of Crake Hide
At one point, one of the grebes managed to come up from a dive with a dead and decaying fish. I think the second image, below, shows its look of disgust after dropping the corpse back into the water!

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - in front of Crake Hide
The Cormorants were very active and mainly fishing in the water beyond the reeds in front of the hide, and they were very vocal, with noisy squabbles over fish catches.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - from Crake Hide
Occasionally a Cormorant would swim underwater through the reeds (detectable by bubbles) and end up right in front of the hide. They seemed to be very successful in fishing in this area but I failed to get a shot of one with a fish.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - in front of Crake Hide

For me, it was the Little Egrets that really stole the show, however. When I first arrived, they were starting to gather on the far shore.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - from Crake Hide
After a while, they started to disperse to other roost points. The first was to the right of the hide, and totally hidden behind a Willow.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - from Crake Hide

The second roost was to the left of the hide, and out of sight behind tall reeds. They then started to come in to a third roost - immediately in front of the hide! As they arrived, and dropped down, probably only 3 or 4 metres in front of the hide, they spotted me sitting in the hide and departed again. I then employed the tactic of sitting well back and peering round the edge of the closed shutter to the left of my open one. 

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - from Crake Hide
All was going rather well, until the lady who was one of the two I'd left behind at Shoveler Hide arrived and started opening the rest of the shutters in the hide. I explained the situation to her and how, with care, she'd see some great bird action. Sadly, she paid little heed and opened the shutter that I'd been hiding behind and came to sit beside me. It didn't help that she kept leaning out of the hide window and peering around, and also felt the need to chatter. It was soon time for me to depart!

Although nothing of great rarity was seen, it had been a very rewarding, and entertaining afternoon at Rutland Water, with even more bird action than I usually see there.

I'm sorry to say that my health had been improving to such a great extent that I got a little careless, and did something really stupid which seems to have set me back more than a little, so I have not managed to get out again since that day. Therefore, I'm not sure when my next blog post will be or what it will feature - watch this space.

My apologies (particularly to Diane with her slow internet connection!) for the length of this post. Thank you for dropping by.


  1. Looks like a good session with some lovely photography. Like you, I think the birding bug is starting to kick back in.

    1. It was good to be back with the birds again, Marc, but I'll surely miss the dragons. Weather and health permitting, I might just have a last look for some dragons this week!

  2. There are some truly exceptional shots in this post, Richard, and the sequence with the Little Grebe is quite wonderful. I enjoyed the shot of the Great Egret and the Little Egret side by side too, showing clearly the differences in the two species. And the Little Egrets put on quite a show for you. I sympathize with you in dealing with the chatterbox in the hide. I think under those circumstances you did the only sensible thing, which is to leave! Just be grateful you weren't married to her!

    1. Thank you for those kind words of encouragement, David. It's always a thrill when the birds seem to put on a show for one's own benefit - until someone gatecrashes the party!

  3. Excellent as always. Cormorants always make me smile and the third Harrier shot is perfect.

    1. I too find Cormorants can be very entertaining, Adrian, and they were particularly so on this occasion. I prefer the last Harrier shot to that third one, as the pale feathering in the third one is so 'clean' that it makes it look as if the image has been over-sharpened!

  4. Hello Richard, a fantastic series of photos of these birds. Glad you saw so many different Egrets.
    Warm regards,

    1. Thank you, Roos - it was a splendid afternoon out, with so much to see.

  5. Beeeeeeeeautiful array of water birds, those that I could remember was Little Egret, fantastic. A Little Grebe with a fish, it was beyond me Richard. Great shooting.

    1. It was amazing to see the size of the fish that the Little Grebes were catching and swallowing, Bob!

  6. Hello Richard,
    the white heron stands very well in contrast to the dark background
    great post again
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank, I was very lucky to have such a splendid afternoon! Best wishes from England where the rain is falling yet again! - - - Richard

  7. First, Richard, Gini and I are distressed on hearing about your setback. Hopefully, things are now heading in a more positive direction. Please take care of yourself!

    Your post is simply wonderful. Our local migration has included passerines but no waterfowl yet. So your fantastic photographs have whetted my appetite for what will be coming in a few weeks!

    My favorite images are all the Little Egrets with their golden slippers and the Little Grebe, even though his meal wasn't to his liking.

    Finally catching up to some degree with blogging and making more trips as migration under way in earnest.

    All our best to you and Lindsay as we approach the weekend. Behave yourself!

    1. Hi Wally. The doctor sent me for an x-ray (yet again!) on Monday, saying that he thought I'd just overworked a few muscles that had atrophied due to my illness, but that he thought it wise to check. I'm pleased to say that the x-ray came back clear, with no further action needed. Recently I looked up the 'complex pleural effusions' condition that I had on the internet, and was somewhat startled to read that it had a 15% mortality rate - I need no further instructions to be careful!!!

      I am greatly looking forward to seeing more accounts from you of migration in your neck of the woods. I'm probably not going to be out in the field for a little while, and have been missing some interesting arrivals and passages already.

      We currently have localised flood warnings for the weekend, but they tend to be a bit over-cautious (he said with, fingers crossed!). However I'm off to our daughter's place on Sunday to do a little bit of basic (and very gentle!) electrical work for her.

      My best wishes to you both. Have a great weekend, and take good care - - - Richard

  8. Hello Richard,
    this is again a beautiful blog full of beautiful birds. I especially like your little egret. I hardly see them so I really enjoy this. You could also catch the flying harrier. Great to see the Tachybaptus ruficollis with a fish wow !!!! Beautifully photographed.
    Debnk well to yourself.

    Kind regards, Helma

    1. Greetings, Helma! Ten years ago, a Little Egret was an uncommon sight in UK, but now they are very common and in good numbers too. The Great White Egret is now also getting far more common. I have just read a report of 14 of them coming in to roost this evening at Rutland Water (the subject of this blog post). The Little Grebe will always be a favourite, and I'm always surprised at the size of the fish it can swallow!

      Thank you for your visit and kind words. Take good care - - - Richard

    2. Hello Richard,
      It is very nice to read that the Little Black Egret is more common with you. I think this will happen to us too. The great egret is already very numerous here.
      Yes, I am also surprised at the huge fish that slide down the throat hahahaha ....

      Greetings Helma and think of yourself.

  9. Fantástica sesión fotográfica, me han gustado mucho todas las fotos y en especial las del aguilucho lagunero en vuelo, son extraordinarias. Enhorabuena Richard, un abrazo desde España. Todo lo mejor!!!

    1. Obtenemos buenos números de Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) en Rutland Water y siempre son emocionantes de ver. Gracias por su visita y sus amables palabras, Germán - siempre es un placer saber de usted. Cuídate bien - - - - Richard

  10. Nice to see you back in the Field again Richard,super post with some of my favourites,first is the Marsh Harrier,and second is the little Grebe with a catch of the day.
    Brilliant post.

    1. We're doing quite well for Marsh Harriers at Rutland Water, John, and I must try and get there more often. However, it's 50 miles from my home, so I have to be a bit practical about it! I find Little Grebes to be very nervous birds, and have only ever got anything like decent shots from a hide. Thank you for your visit and kind words. My very best wishes to you and Sue - - - Richard

  11. Very beautiful pictures Richard. De Marsh Harrier is very beautiful. And the little grebe with the fish, The little egret is also my favorite. Have a nice evening. Greetings Caroline

    1. Thank you, Caroline. I'm delighted that you enjoyed this blog post. Best wishes - - - Richard


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