On the journey we had some good birding with some 15 Red Kites seen including a group of nine flying together at Peterborough, some Buzzards and Kestrels and a Little Egret flying in front of the coach.
Rutland Water is a superb site to visit at any time of the year and is of course the international home of the Bird Fair every August. The reserve dates back to the 1970’s and is over 1,000 acres in extent and has many designations including SSSI and a globally important Ramsar wetland site, regularly supporting more than 25,000 waterfowl.
The weather was unseasonably mild, but grey and with a strong breeze. Rain was forecast and the first spots started as we got off the coach. Luckily the rain remained very light and patchy so never more than a minor nuisance.
Tim Appleton, the reserve manager, greeted us as we arrived and strongly urged us to go to the north arm of the reserve where most of the scarcities were lingering. After some detailed instructions from Tim the group decided to go here first- a part of the reserve I’d never visited before, so it was almost like visiting a new site.
As we got to the road that Tim’s cottage was situated on we stopped to look at a number of Redwing and Fieldfare feeding in the field. A large oak on the other side of the road yielded Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit and Goldcrest. Across the lagoon good numbers of Cormorant had started nesting in the trees.
The end of the road was to be our viewing area over the north arm. Goldeneye were plentiful here and I soon picked up two Black-necked Grebes together which the group quickly got on to. George then spotted another two small grebes which were more distant. Tim, ever helpful, drove up and managed to get onto the two more distant birds which were a third Black-necked Grebe with a Slavonian Grebe. While some of us were looking at these someone else picked up a Great Northern Diver straight out not too far from the right hand side woodland. Amazingly a Red-necked Grebe (found by Raymond) popped up almost next to the diver. For a good comparison a Great-crested Grebe (one of many here) was at one stage with the Red-necked Grebe; the latter showing its shorter, thicker and dusky neck.
Quite amazing to see the Great Northern Diver and four species of grebe from one spot. Elsewhere on the reserve we also saw a couple of Little Grebes so managed all five regular grebe species- only about the third time I’ve managed this. Kate, a new member on her first coach trip with us, scored four lifers-a pretty impressive start!
Working our way back feeling elated at our success we entered the Shoveler Hide where there was a good variety of water birds. A Little Egret was feeding close to us and several Pintail were up-ending. It was good to see a cracking male and four redhead Smew- always a star of winter birding.
Large numbers of Lapwing were about and possibly put up by a Peregrine as one was seen by at least one of our group. The only raptors I saw on the reserve were a further two Red Kites, though the weather was less than ideal. Other waders seen included a couple of Snipe, Redshank and a handful of Curlew. A few days after our visit a Long-billed Dowitcher turned up at the reserve and was still present as I write this two weeks later!
An excellent day’s birding was achieved by all in friendly company. My thanks to Tim who is one of the most helpful wardens I’ve known.