For many years, Lindsay and I celebrated Christmas with a Christmas Day picnic lunch in the countryside. However, for the past three years we have, at their request, enjoyed Christmas Day lunch with our daughter and granddaughter in their house. Developments in the effects of our granddaughter's autism have now resulted in Christmas having to be a non-event for our daughter and granddaughter, and so Lindsay and I decided that we'd revert to the Christmas Day picnic.
We'd decided to revisit a local nature reserve for the event - until a friend told us seven days beforehand that the area was inaccessible because of floods! We therefore started looking for alternatives.
Things got more complicated when Lindsay started a heavy cold on 23rd December. She did feel well enough, however, to visit our favourite Thai restaurant, 'Thai Marina' at Barton Marina, for lunch on Christmas Eve, and a very fine lunch it was too. On the way back, our route took us close to the flooded nature reserve and Lindsay agreed to us checking it out as a possibility.
The nature reserve has a private drive of around three quarters of a mile (1 km) length, accessible through a secure gate. Part-way along this drive we found the problem, with considerable lengths of the approach road under water. If I had not known the road well, and if we had not been in our 4x4 with good ground clearance, I would not have attempted it. However, we managed to get through with caution and, having arrived in the car park and checked out the state of the hides, we decided that, given that the weather forecast was very good for the following day, we'd go for it!
Lindsay was feeling rather worse when we woke up on Christmas Day, but was determined to carry on as planned, although we did simplify the picnic somewhat. We chose and prepared our own fare, with Lindsay opting for crackers, a dip, crisps, Christmas cake, and a flask of coffee, and me making up a turkey and mayo baguette, and packing a sloe gin mince tart, and a bottle of elderflower tonic water.
By the time we left home, the forecast of unbroken sunshine had moderated to unbroken cloud cover! The journey there was pleasant and the roads weren't too busy, and the floods were negotiated once more without difficulty. We settled in the first hide and, having unpacked our lunch, enjoyed the view whilst eating.
|the view during Christmas Lunch
Although the view was splendid, nothing was seen of any great interest, and the birds stayed very distant for most of the time. The grey day also made photography difficult.
Ducks were there in the form of Gadwall, Mallard, Wigeon, and Goldeneye. I did attempt a few shots of a very distant drake Goldeneye but failed, with the best I could do shown below
|Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) (male)
At one point, I tried to photograph a duck that flew past and had me mystified at the time. I can see now that it was a female Goldeneye.
|Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) (female)
I didn't attempt any photos of the Cormorants, but now wish I had as one was in rather fine plumage exhibiting much white. However, it was a very long way away. There were a few Grey Heron and a couple flew a bit closer.
|Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
At one point, a heron flew in and made a most inelegant landing, although it soon regained its composure!
|Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
The real stars of our visit were, however, the delightful Long-tailed Tits. A flock of 12 birds was almost constantly in attendance and, on occasion, came much closer to us than any of the other birds, keeping us entertained during our stay.
|Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)
After about half an hour, the cold was getting to Lindsay, and it was time to head home and finish our picnic in the warmth. The heated seats in the car were put to good use during the journey!
It had been a most enjoyable interlude, in spite of not seeing anything outstanding, and the change of scenery had been most welcome.
You may have noticed that I have refrained from stating the location of our picnic. I have to confess that this is entirely for selfish reasons. Both times that we have been here on Christmas Day, ours has been the only car on the reserve, and not one other soul has been seen - we quite like it that way!
I wish all my readers a happy and healthy New Year. My 2020 vision is that it should be a better year for the planet, and the wildlife that the planet belongs to. Please do all you can to further this objective.