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Saturday 2 December 2023

An Afternoon at Rutland Water - 24th November, 2023

Largely due to the situation at home, I have not been able to get to Rutland Water as much as I would have liked to this year. However, on this day, the weather was forecast to be sunny, if a little chilly, and the situation at home was relatively stable.

I managed to get away late morning and took my usual cross-country 'owling route' with no expectations of seeing an owl, and this turned out to be the case. It's makes me sad to reflect on past travels on this route when, occasionally, the out and back journey would result in Little Owl sightings just reaching double figures, over the 17 Little Owl nest sites that I passed. Virtually every one of these sites has decayed to the point that they are no longer habitable. 

By one of my old sites, however, I was lucky enough to spot two distant Red Kites, one of which came a little closer to the point that I had stopped at.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - Skeg Hill

I pulled into my usual picnic spot for a late lunch. This is a location where at one time, while sitting in my car, I could monitor three of those Little Owl sites.

Nothing more of interest was seen before I arrived at Rutland Water - again, this route used to yield good sightings of farmland birds, and I have noted a worrying decline in this aspect too.

Having parked in the Visitor Centre car park at the Egleton side of Rutland Water, I checked in by Tree Sparrow Hide to sort out my camera settings, just finding a Blue Tit as a subject.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - from Tree Sparrow Hide
I had made up my mind, as my daylight time was going to be limited and the best prospects were towards the far end of the trail to the north, I would make my way directly to the northern end of the reserve and work my way back.

As I ascended the ramp to Plover Hide, which overlooks Lagoon 4, I was closely observed by some sheep. Here's one of them.

Hebridean Sheep (Ovis aries) - by Plover Hide
I had Plover Hide to myself, and found plenty to entertain me although most was rather distant, and the direction of the sun was unfavourable.

Most impressive from this location was a line of a few hundred Golden Plover, interspersed with a few Lapwing. The first image, below, shows a part of the line with the lens at 400mm.The second image is a heavily cropped image of a smaller section of the same group.

Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria) - from Plover Hide
Much closer, and on the edge of an island opposite the hide, were some Wigeon which were resting, and a male came drifting by.

Wigeon (Mareca penelope) - from Plover Hide

Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (male) - from Plover Hide

Unfortunately distant, I spotted a pair of Pintail. I'd have loved to get a closer shot of the handsome male of the species.

Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) (male + female) - from Plover Hide
A Lapwing was slowly moving around on the island in front of the hide.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) -from Plover Hide
A drake Shoveler drifted into view.

Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) (male) - from Plover Hide
I now felt that it was time to move on. Bittern Hide was next on the list. By the access track to the hide I found a few Shaggy Ink-cap fungi.

Shaggy Ink-cap (Coprinus comatus) - near Bittern Hide
There were no birds visible in front of Bittern Hide (which overlooks Lagoon 3), where I found myself alone once more, and I was on the verge of giving up when a smallish bird of prey flashed by and headed into some distant trees. By the time I found it in the viewfinder and took a few shots, it was far too distant to ID. As it had come from the direction of Shoveler Hide (which also overlooks Lagoon 3, but with a much broader outlook), I hurried there to see if anyone had spotted it and could ID it for me. I was immediately told it was a Peregrine. Here's the best that I could muster - not good enough for an ID shot, but what is visible fits Peregrine.
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) - from Bittern Hide
I spent a while in Shoveler Hide, which was almost full with people, as there were birds to be seen, although nothing of great note, and most being beyond the useful range of my lens or sitting on unattractive artificial structures. Here are a few birds that I did photograph.

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) (male) - from Shoveler Hide

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - from Shoveler Hide

Gadwall (Mareca strepera) (male) - from Shoveler Hide
Keen to see more of the reserve before dusk, I called in at the empty Buzzard Hide (also overlooking Lagoon 3, but with a very narrow field of view) and found little in view except a close-by Cormorant.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - from Buzzard Hide
I decided not to spend time here, and popped over to Smew Hide (Lagoon 2), only to find the view was directly into the bright low sun, and seeing what was out there was virtually impossible, so left again without hesitation.

At Crake Hide, which gives views onto the narrow north-west end of Lagoon 4, I found one other person in attendance. There were good views of Cormorants on the far bank opposite the hide and a Great White Egret a little further away on the far bank. 

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - from Crake Hide

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - from Crake Hide
At one point, the egret flew and joined the Cormorants.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) and Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - from Crake Hide

I spent some very pleasant time chatting with my companion, but when a third person arrived it was my cue to depart as there were still other hides I wished to visit before I departed.

My visit to Sandpiper Hide on Lagoon 4 was a very quick one as everything was very distant, and the light was failing fast. Nothing was photographed from here.

It was now time to start making my way back to the car park, calliing in at three hides as I did so.

I cannot remember whether it was at Osprey Hide or Grebe Hide that I photographed this Moorhen.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Rutland Water, Egleton side
The last hide visited before returning to my car was Redshank Hide. The main item of interest here was a Great White Egret.

Great White Egret (Ardea alba) - from Redshank Hide
My final shots were of a gull that flew past. I am not sure what the ID of this gull was, and neither ObsIdentify nor Merlin can help with its ID. Germán, in Spain, has now advised that this is a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull, which ties in with one of the suggestions from ObsIdentify.

probable Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) (juvenile) - from Redshank Hide
Having got back to the car, I had a short errand to run in Hambleton before heading home, by a faster route, rather than the countrified one, as darkness rolled in. 

It had been a highly enjoyable afternoon out, even though nothing particularly exciting had been seen.


If all goes according to plan, my next post will cover the second half of November, which included four short trips out, as well as some garden observations.

In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


  1. Sad tale about the Little Owl decline. Not surprising, with 17 of your sites of yesteryear no longer habitable. The raptor from the Bittern Hide, I lean towards Sparrowhawk Richard.


    1. The guys at Shoveler hide, which is only 200 metres from Bittern hide, had seen it pass by and saw it land in the tree, clearly seen as Peregrine in their scopes, Pete. I have seen Peregrine at Rutland water on several occasions, but only remember once seeing a Sparrowhawk there.

  2. The kind of outing, Richard, that reinforces why we do all of this. Nothing remarkable, yet everything was remarkable, nothing exciting yet everything was exciting. I have VERY fond memories of Rutland Water, thanks to you, and in fact I was consulting the book, "Rutland Water Ospreys" just before leaving for Cuba. I always note where I acquired my books and this one is inscribed, "Rutland Water, July 2015." Was it really that long ago? I had a fabulous visit to Cuba, but I am happy to be home again with Miriam. Very best wishes to you and Lindsay.

    1. Rutland Water IS a very special place for me too, David, and one for which I have very fond memories, including your visit. However, these days, a visit is always tinged with sadness, partly through the loss of the Little Owls en route, and partly because of the loss of John Truman. I admit that he sometimes drove me nuts, but we shared some great wildlife experiences together.

      I had assumed that Miriam had accompanied you to Cuba but it seems, from what you have said above, that this was not the case.

      My very best wishes to you both - it's good to have you back - - - Richard

  3. Beautiful pictures Richard, the Greeat White Egret, wonderful. Also, Shaggy Ink-cap of favourites and I love the Red Kite, stunning photos.

    1. Thank you, Bob. Please take great care and stay safe in this freezing weather that we are having at the moment! My very best wishes - - - Richard

  4. Lovely shots Richard. Many similar birds on my Somerset trip last year.

    Have to say Richard, the putative Peregrine is a 100% Sparrowhawk for me, don't see Peregrine here at all.

    1. Thank you so much for your much-appreciated input. The people in Shoveler hide were positive about it being a Peregrine, and a couple of my more fuzzy shots seemed to show a 'moustache' and a white throat area. Stupidly, I binned those shots, or I would have appended them for the purpose of this discussion. I hope that you will not be offended if I leave the matter open.

      Incidentally, in my experience, the most common raptors seen over this lagoon (other than Osprey) are Marsh Harrier, Hobby, and Peregrine, in that order - it's with good reason that it's the hide most frequented by birders on the Egleton side of Rutland Water, outstripped by Waderscrape Hide on the Lyndon side of the reserve during the Osprey season.

      My very best wishes - - - Richard

  5. Another set of wonderful photos. The Red Kite is wonderful, it is amazing how the numbers have increased. As for the Blue Tit, they have become one of my favourites of the smaller birds. 'Ours' all have so much character and are the most friendly of the birds here, which in general are very nervous, thanks to all the hunting. That is a fabulous looking sheep.

    All OK here other than N has a trip to hospital tomorrow, one, maybe two nights. Better now though with our holiday booked to Namibia at the end of January. Fingers crossed all will be well.

    Wishing you both all the very best. Keep warm. Cheers Diane

    1. Sorry for the late reply, Diane. It's been a bit hectic here, with me having four hospital visits to three different hospitals since yesterday morning. The last one was for an eye injection this morning and I now have my sight back enough (it takes a while after the injections) to be able to able to sensibly use my PC. Nothing is looking too bad at the moment, however.

      I hope that Nigel's visit to hospital went OK and that he's now home again. I hope that it was not for anything too serious.

      The Red Kite reintroduction programme has been a great success. Lindsay and I saw one close to home a month or so ago, but we were driving at the time and I'd not got a camera with me anyway.

      I'll keep my fingers crossed too that nothing occurs to fould up your Namibia holiday - it sounds absolutely wonderful.

      Take good care - - - Richard

    2. Still not home and no word as to when, but I am hoping soon - we have a luncheon on Saturday so I live in hopes that I will not be going alone!

    3. Fingers remain crossed, Diane!

  6. Hello Richard :=)

    When I read that you saw nothing exciting, I was astonished because each sighting was a delightful series of a variety of ducks the Cormorant, Great White Egret, and so much more I am also saddened by the loss of habitat for the Little Owl.It was the same in the algarve last time I was there, just large fields without any old trees to nest in, or old pylons for the Little Owl to rest in the shade.They had all disappeared, and my favourite owl too.
    All the best Richard

    1. The loss of wildlife habitat is a continuing cause for concern, Sonjia, and I do not see our government doing anything worthwhile to alleviate the situation. It seems that their only concern is looking after their own wealth.

      With my very best wishes - - - Richard

  7. It seems to me, based on the evidence, you had a very nice afternoon at Rutland Water.

    That is quite a gathering of Golden Plover. As migration continues, we are just now beginning to see numbers of waterfowl from the north. The images of the Shoveler and Wigeon remind us we need to head to Florida's east coast where we hope to find those species in large groups.

    Gini and I are well and hope the same can be said of you and Lindsay.

    It is a new week and we look forward to new adventures!

    1. My time at Rutland Water was a real boost to my soul, Wally, even though there were negative aspects on the journey. I'm very much looking forward to returning in the not-too-distant future.

      I hope that you are able to make that east coast trip soon. You've just got my mind straying to thoughts of a visit to our own east coast!

      Medically, things are a little difficult at the moment, but I'm hoping for a reassuring conclusion early next year. I broke all records earlier this week with four visits to three different hospitals inside twenty four hours!

      My very best wishes to you and Gini - take good care - - - Richard

  8. Hello Richard,
    The cormorant and the herons fit together very well in one picture, looks good, what's wrong with the little owls? As I remember, you always showed me very nice pictures of it.
    Nice post,
    Greetings Frank

    1. Hi Frank. It is a complex situation with the Little Owls. The availability of nest sites has been greatly reduced - partly because of Ash die-back disease (Ash trees were favoured by Little Owls) and partly because British Health and Safety regulations have demanded the removal of trees and buildings that were considered as being unsafe. There is also the impact of farming methods which are removing the supply of invertebrates and small mammals as their food source. Climate change is also having an impact with very dry summers and very wet winters making it difficult for the owls to get to some of their food - they like worms. I think that there might be a further factor and that is that these birds arrived through introduction in the late 1800s and the limited gene pool might be having an impact after all these years - there are no immigrant birds to expand the gene pool. It is a sad situation.

      My best wishes - take good care - - - Richard

  9. Always sad to read people’s acknowledgement of diminishing numbers of birds, especially with your Little Owls. I always think of you and the Owls with fondness.

    Glad you got a good days birding in.

    1. It is a very sad situation, Dave, and I am sure that we humans are to blame. You might be interested in my response to Frank, above.

      Best wishes from Leicestershire - - - Richard

  10. Precioso reportaje Richard, me han gustado mucho todas las fotos. El pico de la gaviota de la última foto delata a un Larus marinus juvenil. Un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España, donde por fin comenzó el invierno.

    1. Gracias por tus amables palabras y consejos, Germán. Pondré una nota en el blog para decir que crees que se trata de una gran gaviota sombría.

      Mis mejores deseos desde Inglaterra, donde las temperaturas han vuelto a bajar bajo cero.

      Mantente a salvo (y abrigado) - - - Richard

    2. Dear Richard, now this is a place I did visit during my years in the UK!
      I remember seeing lots of grey herons and ducks, but that was nearly 10 years ago so I've forgotten many things about it.
      I'm glad you spent such a nice time there. Regarding the decline of the little owl populations, I've also noticed that in my area. They used to be very abundant in the rock piles that farmers tend to accumulate in the corners of their fields, but it's been ages since I last saw one. It's sad how we treat nature and so many things are changing in the environment that I must admit I sometimes get a bit anxious about it.
      It's quite cold in my area at the moment but not as cold as it should. I hope the snow comes soon (it probably won't though lol).
      Best wishes for you and your family.

    3. I was delighted to hear that you have visited Rutland Water, Guillermo. It is a place where I have spent many hours, mainly as a volunteer of the Osprey Reintroduction Project,

      The state of the planet is very worrying, and I am very sorry to hear that Little Owl populations are also declining in your area.

      It has been colder than normal in this region for this time of year, and it has also been much wetter. I hope you get your snow - we have already had some, but it has gone now.

      Thank you for your kind words - stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Precioso reportaje. Antes por aquí también se veían bastantes mochuelos, ahora no tanto. Alguna noche veo una lechuza, es muy bonita. Besos.

    1. Tienes mucha suerte de poder ver búhos, Teresa. Aprecia la experiencia mientras puedas; es posible que pronto desaparezcan.

      Mis mejores deseos: mantente a salvo - - - - Richard

  12. It is very sad to see how species are disappearing... Beautiful images Richard... Take care

    1. The state of the planet is quite distressing, Ana. There are far too many humans wanting far too much from the limited resources the planet has to offer.

      Thank you for your kind and sympathetic words - stay safe - - - Richard


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