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Saturday, 21 March 2020

A Brief Spell at Rutland Water - on 27th February, 2020

It's been some time since I last posted to this blog, primarily because I have just returned from a stay on the Isles of Scilly. We arrived home late on Monday 16th to a nearly empty larder. Lindsay and I then went into immediate total self-isolation, and we have spent most of our time since then trying to source food. We now have some basic supplies, but how long they will last, and when the next delivery slots from supermarkets will be available is anyone's guess.

This is a post that I drafted before my departure. 

With a long spell of cold, wet, and windy weather in the weeks before my departure, I have little to offer. I had planned to spend a long afternoon at Rutland Water on Thursday 29th February, as I had to attend a pre-season briefing meeting for the volunteers on the Osprey Project that evening. However, my plans went awry when my car developed a minor fault that had to be attended to before I headed down to Cornwall for the flight to the Scillies, and the only time that the garage could fit me in before my departure was at 14h00 on 29th February! 

In the event, I got away from the garage in Leicester at 14h45, and was at Rutland Water by 16h10, having had a hold up at one point on my route where a long-wheelbase van  had tried to do a u-turn on a single-track road by reversing into a field (where people regularly get stuck!) and then getting his rear wheels sunk in the mud with his front end fully reaching the far side of the road. He managed in the end by putting a couple of blankets under the rear wheels.

I had parked at the Volunteer Training Centre, as that was where the meeting was going to be that evening, starting at 18h00, and I needed to be back at the VTC at 17h45 in order to have my picnic tea before the meeting. I then walked in to the reserve.

The sun was low by this time, but shining brightly, and I was going to have to dash around somewhat and be picky about where I settled, although I guessed that Crake Hide might be most productive in the time I had available.

I first called into Plover Hide, overlooking Lagoon 4. The low sun was facing the hide, and made photography difficult and there was little to photograph anyway, so after firing off a few shots of a Mute Swan, I moved on to Bittern Hide, overlooking Lagoon 3. Here, the reeds obscured most of the view, but I did see a Cormorant briefly before it dived - I waited, but I never saw it surface again!

Next was Shoveler Hide, again overlooking Lagoon 3.  I don't know why I was surprised by the high water level, considering all the rain we have had, but I was, and it was by far the highest level I have seen on Lagoon 3. I had a quick look around but everything was at a great distance, and little of interest was seen. 

Buzzard Hide, similarly overlooking Lagoon 3, was even less productive. Perhaps the strong cold wind was keeping the birds hidden. I then set off for Crake Hide, which overlooks an end of South Arm III and, as expected, this is where I decided to spend the rest of what little time I had left.

A drake Goosander soon flew in to a point on the far side of the water.

Goosander (Mergus merganser) (male) - Rutland Egleton, from Crake Hide
I was hoping that this bird would come a little nearer, however it promptly started swimming back to whence it came.

A Cormorant flew in, landing in a most ungainly fashion, but was a little more cooperative, in that it stayed a while and was a little closer. It was exhibiting a distinct lack of buoyancy.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) Rutland Egleton, from Crake Hide
There was a brief spell of excitement when I saw a Great White Egret heading my way. Unfortunately it descended on the far side of the bank that separates Lagoon 3 from South Arm III.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - Rutland Egleton, from Crake Hide
A Mute Swan wandered around for a while, looking serene - as they do.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Rutland Egleton, from Crake Hide
The shadows were getting long now, and the sun was no longer on the water in front of the hide. Suddenly, I noticed that a Great Crested Grebe had appeared from somewhere and was quite close, but behind some reeds. In spite of the blurred intrusion of the reeds in this image, I quite like the result.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - Rutland Egleton, from Crake Hide
A little later, a small dark bird flashed past in front of the hide. I eventually found the bird in a bush on the bank to the right of the hide - a Kingfisher. Without the sun on it, it had appeared almost black as it passed. Sadly, it was only just visible through the branches. It then flew in front of the hide and I found it again in a bush to the left of the hide, this time a little more visible, but it flew before I could attempt a shot with the camera.

It was now time for me to quickly head back to the VTC for my picnic. It had been a short, but most enjoyable session, even if nothing particularly remarkable had been seen or achieved.

There was a bonus on my way home that night after the meeting - my first Barn Owl of the year flew past me as I headed down the road near South Croxton.

What's next? Well, our visit to the Isles of Scilly was relatively quiet from a wildlife point of view, but I did get some photos that I think I am going to be pleased with - I've still got to process the majority of them. The trip also ended on a somewhat massive high, but you'll have to wait for a while before I'm ready to write another blog post.

In the mean time, I urge you all to become 'Garden (back yard, if you're on the other side of the pond) Naturalists. Stay safe and well, and with care I hope that we will all get to the other side.

Footnote: My concentration is shot, my spelling is deteriorating with age, and Blogger no longer has a spellchecker, so please forgive any blunders!


  1. Stunning is Great Crested Grebe, each are vividly Richard.

    1. Thank you, Bob. The Great Crested Grebe might be a common bird, but it is always a delight to see close-up.

      Take great care and stay safe and well - - - Richard

  2. Good to hear from you Richard. Some cracking shots as usual. Look forward to the next post. Expect you're still on a high I suspect.

    1. Thank you for those kind words, Marc. Yep, that sighting on the Scillies would have overtaken the Snowy Owl as my lifetime highlight if I'd got any decent shots of it!

      I'm now extremely envious of you with your garden pond, as I rather suspect that this is going to be a dragonfly-free year for me - and I had great plans afoot!

      I hope that you and the family stay safe and well - take great care - - - - Richard

  3. Replies
    1. Thank you, Margaret. Take good care of yourself in these difficult times. My best wishes - - - Richard

  4. I have a spell checker using Chrome as the browser. Stay safe.

    1. Thank you, Adrian - I have not tried Chrome. I'll have a look at it. Look after yourself in these difficult times - - - Richard

  5. Is Common Merganser (Goosander) a bit of a rarity, Richard? it is very common at here at certain times of the year, especially right about now. Sometimes there are rafts of them numbering into the thousand and two days ago I saw a couple of hundred on the Conestogo River near St. Jacobs. Our challenge when taking pictures of this species with our little cameras is to get a shot where the eye can be seen. Good that you were able to get out for a while before the Osprey meeting and the shot of the Great Crested Grebe is the kind that will get non birders hooked on birding! Look forward to hearing of your Scilly adventures.

    1. Not a rarity, David - they even breed on the upland rivers of the county to the north of us (Derbyshire), but I rarely see them - except in the winter when they seem to favour lakes at a lower altitude. I know what you mean about getting shots with the eye visible - it needs just the right light conditions and is usually a matter of luck!

      I've probably got another week of photo processing before I start on a Scillies blog post, and it might be in two parts.

      I hope that you and Miriam will take great care and stay safe and well in the difficult times we all have ahead of us - - - Richard

  6. Hi Richard! Beautiful photos of birds. Some migratory birds have also arrived here.

    1. These were all birds that had spent the winter here, Anne, but the Goosander has probably departed to higher ground already. Stay safe and well - - - Richard

  7. All things are relative and our perspectives are shaped by experience and expectation.

    You feel as though "nothing particularly remarkable had been seen or achieved". I would be overcome with joy to catch sight of a Great Crested Grebe! Mergansers are seen here only during migration and usually in very small numbers. Not only did you see a very nice collection of birds, in my opinion, you achieved the no small feat of sharing your sightings with birders, photographers, nature lovers and curious people from all over the planet! "Nothing remarkable" seen or achieved?? I humbly, but forcefully, disagree!

    Hello, Richard! Gini and I hope you and Lindsay are recovering from your trip to the Scilly Isles and are managing to cope with self-isolation. (Our cache of buried Spam is still available should things become critical.)

    All here is as good as can be expected. No "stay at home" edict yet, but I suspect it will happen soon. Once a snowball begins its downhill journey, it's not easy to stop.

    We will all be fine. Just darned inconvenient!

    1. Thank you for your very kind, and encouraging, words, Wally.

      Thank you also for the offer of Spam. Please leave it buried in the ground, The last time I had Spam was in Spam fritters which used to be served up regularly at school (I was at a boarding school) getting on for 60 years ago. I found it to be particularly unpleasant to the extent that it used to make me feel ill, so it should remain buried deep, as is often the case with toxic materials.

      We managed to get a food delivery this evening (the first for nearly a month) - most of it is now in quarantine in the garage, and will be dealt with tomorrow - we can live again!

      I hope that you and Gini are taking great care, and staying safe and well. Keep in touch - - - Richard

  8. Hello Richard
    the great crested diver swam into the camera perfectly, but the kingfisher quickly said goodbye .. ;-)) it is never a day like the other .....
    stays healthy
    Regards Frank

    1. Hi Frank. Thank you for your visit and comment. Please take great care and stay well - - - Richard

  9. Hello Richard, a wonderful blog with some great photos. The Great Crested Crebe is indeed wonderful. Nice to know there are Kingfishers close by. Good for better times when we can go out again without having to think about a virus that hunts us.
    Stay save and all will be well.

    1. Thank you, Roos. I hope that all is well with you and that you are managing to get all your requirements for staying at home. All is going well here still, and we are starting to get used to self-isolation. I'm looking forward to getting to know my garden, and its occupants, better over the coming weeks!

      Take great care and please stay safe - - - Richard

  10. I wish we had some water nearby where i coud find some water birds but there really is nothing around here. We are allowed out for a walk, but only carrying a permit, and within a 2 km radius of the house. This means there is only one short loop that I can walk. Having said that we have had a lot to do in the garden so I have not had time to walk anyway. Supermarkets do not deliver here and again with a permit, we are allowed to shop. Have not tried it out yet as we have plenty in the house, but may try for milk and eggs, yogurt and cheese etc tomorrow at lunchtime when the French have better things to do than shop!
    Take care and stay safe, Diane

    1. Hi Diane. I think that, over the next few weeks/months, those of us that are lucky enoughh to have gardens will be really appreciating them!

      I hope that your shopping forray went as planned and that you managed to get the necessities of life.

      My very best wishes to you and Nigel. Take great care and stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Beautiful photos of this birds. Stay healthy. Greetings Caroline

    1. Thank you, Caroline. Take great care and stay safe - - - Richard

  12. Hi Richard. I follow you now on twitter. Take care.

    1. Thank you, Caroline. Your set-up does not let me see your Twitter account! Best wishes - - - Richard


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