21 March 2010

Early spring at Leam Valley and Napton Reservoir

The slight mist that greeted me as I opened the curtains in Radford Semele
had reached ridiculously dense levels by the time I reached Napton. Realising that I'd need radar to find anything in the gloom, I turned around and headed to Leam Valley instead.

Good move. There was a little mist when I arrived, but that soon burned off and left me with a perfect spring morning. At first I could only see the larger birds in the mist - the carrion crows, wood pigeons and magpies. Then the 'tinies' appeared - singing wrens, a treecreeper and a goldcrest. Soon everything was singing in the sunshine.

Four lesser redpolls were among the goldfinches in the alder trees, dunnocks sang everwhere and two song thrushes were in good voice. The scrape looked fantastic, and although there were initially few birds on view, a little time  revealed plenty. A snipe lurked deep in the reeds, a male sparrowhawk flashed by, a pair of reed bunting were 'courting' in the reeds and scrub, a male tufted duck floated out, my first ever Leam Valley little grebe appeared, and then, at 8.37am my first chiffchaff of the year started singing at the back of the scrape.

A fantastic haul for this little reserve, and one which bodes very well for the future here - the scrape in particular is definitely starting to mature.

With the mist now gone, I decided to make a dash for Napton Reservoir. The trip added plenty to my morning - common gull, pochard, lapwing, cettis warbler, skylark, another chiffchaff, and then, in a definite case of saving the best 'til last, a barn owl. Despite the bright mid-morning sun it burst out of a hedgerow then sat watching me for half an hour, giving me my best views for ages of this fabulous bird.

In fact, it would have been a perfect day if I hadn't had to miss Napton Hill for reasons of urgent DIY commitments. Annoying enough in itself, but super-annoying when I read several hours later that a firecrest had been up there all day. Hmm, still never seen one of those then...

Bird of the day: Barn owl (Tyto alba), a familar but quite superb bird; elegant, ghostlike, haunting.

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