Business took me to Brandon for a 9.30am meeting today, so I took advantage with an ultra-early start and two hours on the reserve beforehand.
It's a while since I've been anywhere around sun-up, and today reminded me why it's nearly always worth the extra effort. Having avoided my own rush hour, I was at liberty to wander in solitude and watch the birds tackle their own version. Gulls were particularly busy, leaving roosts in big numbers to spread around the towns and countryside looking for food. Joining them in the 'skyway' were huge flocks of wood pigeons and a regular criss-cross of crows.
Out on east marsh pool there was plenty to see. More than 80 lapwings huddled on the muddy, churned up islands. There were four flavours of gull, including an adult and first winter great black-backed gull, a species not seen all that often on my patch. Around the water were the usual good numbers of shoveller (80+), teal, tufted ducks, a few pochard and wigeon, mallards, three mute swan pairs, three cormorant and plenty of both greylag and canada geese.
In the areas around the water I found a treecreeper, green woodpecker, cettis warbler, long-tailed tits and a male sparrowhawk offering up a glorious low, slow flyby.
Sadly, one bird eluded me. It is the same bird that has eluded me all winter; a bird which I imagine every Warwickshire birder but me will have seen at Brandon and/or Ladywalk. Yup, still no bittern. I spent an hour watching the east marsh reed bed and channel, but all in vain. All I got was a cold bottom and a nagging feeling that this isn't going to be my winter for bitterns.
Bird of the day: Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus), a powerful, thick-set gull which is much scarcer than its smaller cousins.