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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!