14 October 2014

Fish, no. Birds, yes!

Day two of the fishing weekend started predictably slowly: 6.30am is a hell of a start time when 2.30am was the previous night's finish time...

Coal titStill, not to worry. Lessons had been learned from the misadventures of previous years, so consumption had been, if not entirely quashed, then at least half-heartedly moderated. So, come Saturday morning, spirits were high, sausages were consumed, and fly fishing was on!

Or at least it was for the others. The elbow injury that had kept me off the waggler and on the pole the previous day certainly wasn't going to hold up for six hours of constant fly casting, so reluctantly I had to admit that this was nothing more than a social trip for me. A bit of internet research also proved that there were plenty of local opportunities for a quick bit of birding if I got bored with watching my friends cutting a dash in their fly gear.

And it turned out that this wheeze was a bit of a masterstroke. Because as my friends thrashed the surface of a sluggish lake to absolutely no good effect at all, I discovered Whelford Pools, a smashing local nature reserve in the Cotswold Water Park run by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.

Formerly a pair of gravel pits, the site has been carefully nurtured and now features a wonderful blend of wooded edges, tiny pools, deep water, shallow scrapes and islands.

Blue tit
Well stocked feeders at the first hide gave me an opportunity to get the camera out, and the second hide offered a splendid view across the main water.

A little egret perched amid grey herons and three cormorants on the far side; more than 120 lapwing called and wheeled around the site;, a shelduck slept on in their midst; four great crested grebes sailed majestically over the deeper water; and there were good quantities of some favourite winter wildfowl - 28 teal, 6 shoveller and 4 gadwall.

A quick walk round to a yet-deeper pool behind added a pair of wigeon to the haul.

Goldfinch young and oldIn all I found 25 species of bird, not to mention an amazing wasp's nest, in a visit lasting less than 90 minutes. A disappointing fishing trip had turned into a delightful birding one.

Bird of the day: Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - an almost unheard of sighting when I started birding as a boy, still uncommon when I started again a decade or so ago, and still capable of raising the pulse rate after all these years, despite having become a far, far more normal sight at sites right across the UK.

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