This morning's entertainment was better than any scripted drama; better by far than the painfully contrived events of 'reality' tv and celebrity competition. This morning was real, it was vital, it was visceral - this was Swan Wars.
The early morning rain quickly convinced me that the six hides of Brandon Marsh were a better bet than trecking round an exposed Napton Reservoir or Ufton Fields. So, ever the adventurer, I struggled into the waterproofs and dashed to the hide nearest the Brandon car park - the Baldwin hide overlooking East Marsh Pool.
And yes, it was bleak at first. As I sat with a few hardy souls I found myself looking out into cold driving rain. I slowly scanned the pool, counting more than 125 shovellers, 150 lapwing and an impressive 15 snipe, along with plenty of pochards, tufted ducks, mallards, a dozen cormorant, and assorted coot, moorhen, grey heron, great crested grebes and mute swans.
Then, as the cold started to set in, I saw a swan flying in towards us and noticed a flash of yellow - fantastic, my first whooper swan in Warwickshire. Sadly, it wasn't to be with us for long.
As soon as the whooper landed, the two resident mute swans went into action. Territorial in the extreme, they lifted their wings behind them, pushed their heads low and homed in on their target. They were an impressive sight, beautiful and menacing in equal measure, circling their arctic cousin like two pocket battleships (the photo, by gradders52, gives a good idea of the overall effect). There was no need for contact or combat though - a few passes, a few circling manouvres, and the whooper got the message - he was off.
It was a wonderful few minutes - nature as it really is: beautiful, exciting, unfair, rarely predictable and never, ever scripted. The return to the car parked yielded treecreeper, nuthatch, siskin, goldfinch, green and great-spotted woodpecker, and a dozen or more redpoll hanging from the alder trees. Well worth getting out in the rain then.
Bird of the day: Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis cabaret), a small streaky finch which is really only a winter visitor to these parts. Despite the excitement with the swans, I haven't seen redpoll for ages so, slightly unexpectedly, the redpolls were my bird of the day.