A misty morning greeted us on our way to Park Hall, making navigation somewhat of a lottery for some of us. When found however, the feeding area near the visitor centre quickly drew attention. Up to three Willow Tits vied with Great, Blue and Coal Tits for the seed and nuts. Good numbers of Chaffinches on the ground failed to attract a Brambling to add to their number, but 4 pairs of Bullfinches made up for it.
The Head Ranger took across to the wood which is the hiding place of up to 4 Long-eared Owls, and helped us look for them. Well to be honest he found them, and it took some time for all members of the group to lock on. A bundle of camouflaged feathers standing upright and asleep on a branch close to the trunk deep in the canopy of a very tall pine tree among many pine trees perhaps gives some idea of the problems of locating these beasts. Yet our Head Ranger found three, and after some difficulty telescopes were focussed and all members of the group achieved reasonable views.
A walk around the main quarry in the park produced a Goldcrest feeding on a birch tree, and 4 Redpoll fed with a Goldfinch on another birch. The “Golden Plover field” was devoid of their namesake birds, but a couple of thrushes caused some discussion as to their identity. One was obviously a Mistle Thrush, and after more patient scrutiny as the birds ducked below the tufts of grass, the second bird was identified as a sub-adult Mistle Thrush. A final look at the feeders allowed us brief views of a shy female Yellowhammer stealing fragments of fallen seed close to the undergrowth.
After a very chilly lunch, stoically endured beside Tittesworth reservoir the group hastily retreated to the welcoming warmth of the Visitor Centre for hot drinks and a short browse round the shop.
Out in the middle of the reservoir was a solitary Canada Goose but many more were found patrolling the car park at the entrance. The feeding station there had a busy collection of Chaffinches, various Tits, House Sparrows and an elusive Nuthatch.
We had no competition for space in the bird hide overlooking the lagoon on the other side of the causeway and even without Richard’s help managed to add another 9 species to our list. These included a fly-by of 5 teal and an exciting 30 sec appearance of a male Mandarin duck just before it flew off over the trees.
Another good and varied day of bird watching but the highlight for me was, despite being nearly the last to spot a Long Eared Owl, managing to focus the scope on to it!
Richard Howells and Louise Adams