Nice - high winds, driving rain and grey skies. At least the rainbow which greeted my arrival at Abberton Reservoir promised some better weather ahead.
And indeed, in the end there were some patches of sunshine to enjoy between the squalls and the ferocious gales. But it wasn't the weather which defined this trip – it was the sight of vast acres of exposed mud in an eerily dry reservoir.
I had turned up expecting to find a full reservoir covered with ducks, geese and, above all, coots (often several thousand at this time of year). Instead I was watching at an area which looked more like an estuary exposed at low tide – an area absolutely teeming with hundreds of waders.
Several hundred black-tailed godwits dominated the site, with big flocks visible from both causeways plus the main reserve hides. Approximately 80 avocets swept for food, 300 golden plover squatted on a freshly exposed island, dunlins ran around between them all and the redshanks, lapwings and a few ruff finished the picture.
Out on the water there were perhaps 50 pintails (probably the most I've ever seen in one place), a few ruddy ducks, a male goosander, plenty of the more common ducks (mallard, tufted, shoveller, pochard, wigeon and teal), a few goldeneye, gulls (black-header, common, herring and lesser black-backed), a little egret and a single green sandpiper.
The sheer numbers and variety were breathtaking for an inland waterway site – 48 species without really 'working' the woods and nearby fields. Having intended to visit for a couple of hours, I ended up staying nearly six hours, testimony to a great day's birding.
Bird of the day: Pintail (anas acuta), surely one of the world's most beautiful and elegant ducks. How it's legal to shoot them in the winter is an absolute mystery to me, and a travesty.