A sad day today - my favoured pair of boots have finally seen the inside of the dustbin. This morning I could no longer ignore the fact that I did not have any feet! My trusty pair of comfy steel toe capped boots had one leak too many and my feet were blue and rather cold. I felt like a displaying blue footed booby when I was walking! So I have gone and got a new pair of lined, water proof boots, much warmer!
Having been rude yesterday about the year list I have obviously spurred the local birdlife into action - we have had two additions this morning. The best being a brief fly by from a single waxwing. Seen more as a silhouette and heard calling as it flew from the berry desert that is the office garden - it was way too late for our berries the local fieldfares and redwings had devoured them by the end of December! Waxwing was the first species recorded this year that was not seen in 2009 so a bit of a bonus bird.
The other addition was far more mundane - two grey plovers at the north end of the reserve.
Having said earlier that the year list was stuck on 109 obviously spurred the local bird life into a greater effort. So determined was one treecreeper to get on the year ist that it flew into the office and was clinging to the posters on the wall - honest!!
Winters icy grip has re-established itself again the last few days - my daughters school closed Thursday afternoon and Friday so I have been based in my office at home which has an intermitent connection hence my lack of posts. Back in the office today in the glorious sunshine, although it is slightly cold!
We have had all the windows replaced in the volunteers accomodation last week - not before time as you could put your hand through the frames of the cold ones, this will hopefully make the house warmer! Of course when these things are planed you cannot plan the weather and so on Wednesday and Thursday when the old windows were coming out it was a blizzard here - the office was colder than ever, evan colder than when the boiler broke! They are all in now and it certainly has made the place look smarter, there is less of a gale blowing down the stairs but we will have to see whether we have to turn the heating down to see what sort of a difference it makes to warming the place up!
With the return of the snow and ice we have had another influx of farmland birds searching for seeds. This time the main highlight though has been corn buntings with a minimum count of 200 on the reserve over the weekend, unlike the last spell though there are no yellowhammers!
The wardening team carried out the February goose roost count on Sunday. Unfortunatley due to my wifes shift pattern I was not able to join them - it had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that the temperature was below minus eight! The geese have again reacted to this weather and many have moved south but there was still a healthy 13000 coming out of roost. Other ducks of note 1300 wigeon, 490 teal, 700 mallard and 230 goldeneye.
The one disappointment in this cold weather has been the lack of winter gulls such as glaucous and iceland gulls and no cold weather ducks like smew - as a result our year list is stuck on 109 still!
After several unsuccesful attempts at seeing the bittern, my wife had concluded it just wasn't going to be (and I was hoping that I wouldn't see it again to try to maintain a happy home life). Today, the two of us (along with baby Grace) decided to visit the reserve on my day off to make the most of the fantastic weather (only two degrees, but sunny and calm). We'd had a pleasant visit (with 36 Great Northern Divers offshore a bit of a highlight) and decided to check the south end of the Loch before heading home. However, whilst driving, my mind inadvertantly switched to autopilot and I realised I'd taken the turn to the airfield hides instead. We decided to pop to the Fen Hide whilst we were there and met a couple who'd had a brief view of a large brown bird dropping into the reeds and, suspecting it was the bittern, had waited a couple of hours for it to reappear. After no further sightings they left the hide... Within a couple of minutes Susannah heard a tiny rustle in the reeds and focussed her binoculars onto what suddenly appeared to be an eye - less than ten metres from the hide. Like one of those 'magic eye' pictures the rest of the bird came into focus - the bittern! It provided amazing views as it slowly slunk away through the reeds. It took me slightly longer to pick it out (the bouncing child hanging off my binocular strap didn't help) but the thrill of the golden and black stripes slinking through the dense vegetation reminded me of no less than seeing my first tiger in India. What a sight - and the whole family went home happy!
If last year seems like a long time ago now, then why not relive some of its highlights with the RSPB Loch of Strathbeg Annual Bird Report 2009?
A 38 page PDF containing the full species accounts of last year's birds (including highlights such as Stilt Sandpiper, Citrine Wagtail, King Eider and 202 other species!) is now available. Drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you a copy out (it's about 500kb, so it shouldn't jam the inbox).
We'll have printed copies available for a small donation on the reserve by Monday (all being well) - come and ask at the office if you'd like one.