Nine members began the walk on the heathland side of the reserve in rather unpromising mist and gloom. A Sparrowhawk flying over in the car park and Stonechat out in the meadow at the viewpoint were seen but the woods and heathland were otherwise quiet. The pond and fields by the Visitors Centre yielded a Buzzard perched in a dead tree and some Linnets flying around. The emergence of a warming sun soon increased activity and the feeders in the picnic area were quite busy with Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch.
The Zig Zag path held a flock of Goldfinch while a Bullfinch called but unfortunately did not show. In Fattengates Courtyard a very confiding Chiffchaff was picking flies off the lily pads in the pond. Nuthatches, House Sparrows, Dunnocks and a Bank Vole came to feed on the sunflower seeds left out on a couple of logs.
A clockwise walk round the wetland trail to West Mead hide provided good views of a Spotted Flycatcher perched on a dead tree making sorties out to pick off passing insects. A Blackcap was also seen briefly. A group of chats at a distance in the haze presented an identification challenge to distinguish a Winchat from Stonechats. West Mead hide was very quiet probably due to the lack of water in the scrapes.
The main draw at Redstart Corner was the Dragonflies and Damselflies around the pond. Through the day Brown Hawker, Common Darter, numerous Migrant Hawker and a couple of Willow Emerald Damselfly were seen. From Winpenny hide a very restless group of Teal was flying around along with a flock of Lapwing and, grazing in a more settled manner, were flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese.
Initially Little Hanger hide was quiet, but then a Marsh Harrier appeared and proceeded to fly close by giving great views. And then the alert was given to a large raptor that proved to be a White-Tailed Eagle. It flew around in a leisurely manner for several minutes creating panic amongst all the other birds, a treat for all.
From Hanger View Black Tailed Godwits and two Ruff could be picked out. A few Grey Herons stood like statues. Ducks were quite tricky to identify as they were in non-breeding plumage but seemed to be mainly Teal and Mallard with a few Shovelers, Pintails and Wigeon amongst them. A falcon shot by and then appeared overhead leading to the probable identification of a Hobby. Birds added to the day’s list subsequently were a Kingfisher and Reed Bunting.
In all 49 bird species were identified, while numerous butterflies including Small Heaths, Brown Hairstreaks, Clouded Yellows, Speckled Woods, and Green Veined Whites added to a packed day.