Sunday, 16 December 2012


I've been studiously avoiding waxwings for the last month because I wanted to see them on the Reserve, not at some shopping mall or trading estate. Unfortunately they caught up with me, close to my home at Brampton and I just didn't have the will-power to avoid them! Seven of the little beauties spent two days on some guelder rose bushes near the Great North Road and so they became my birds of the month. Back at Paxton, it was nice to see that we have at least two smew on the site and big numbers of teal and wigeon, when we are not frozen up.

Now I hear that we have had waxwings on the Reserve; three at the Education Centre at the week-end. Then today I was walking past Washout Pit and pointed out that there could be a bittern in there; we would never know. Ten minutes later a visitor was in the same spot when a bittern flew out! I consoled myself by walking down the Meadow Trail at 3.30 when the starlings were gathering over Cloudy Pit and I was treated to a beautiful sunset and an air display. It seems the starlings have moved from the Hayling to Weedy Pit.

Our midweek volunteers have now done three days work on the shore and islands at Pumphouse and a Friends' Sunday work party put in a morning on hedging and fencing. We still need another day up there, which will be fun if we get the right weather. On our last session it was bitterly cold and foggy, but it was still rewarding to see pipits and wagtails feeding very close to us on the ground.

I'm always amazed at how long a snipe will stay-put during a work party. We flushed several birds late-on in the day that we must have almost trodden on earlier.

This week we experienced a couple of nights with temperatures well below freezing. The lakes began to ice over and the trees were covered in hoar-frost for most of two days. The low winter light made for some fairy-tale photo opportunities. Looking in close-up at the branches, I saw that the ice crystals were all on the same side of each twig and leaf and that they were almost half an inch long. How can you resist looking at a million spiders' webs, all bejewelled with frost?

Now we seem to be expecting more wind and rain, but we still have a week to go until Christmas, so we could have some more snow by then.

Speaking of which; I've asked for a load of bird feeders for Christmas to put in the scots pine in my garden. Hard weather can bring some special guests such as redpolls, tree sparrows and bramblings, all of which have been see locally in the last week. I want some of them in my stocking!