As I turned on to the entrance track the first bird I saw was a Marsh Harrier floating sedately on the breeze and a Stonechat perched in customary fashion on a small bush further along.
At the car park I checked the feeders and found four or five Reed Buntings availing themselves of the offerings. Also in the car park was a large flock of juvenile humans, still in their winter plumage and squawking and screeching like they do, I believe the collective noun is 'Kindergarten', I think they were there with their mothers for a wildlife adventure. I decided I wouldn't 'tick them off'' , unless of course they got noisy.
I left the visitor centre and the first thing I did tick off was a bittern which flew up from the a small reedbed alongside the first small pond on the right as you start the circuit.
Highlights also included this Stonechat (above) and a Slavonian Grebe on the way to Christmas Dell hide and a male and female Smew distantly from the hide itself. A curlew was on the flooded meadow to the left along with a small party of Meadow Pipits and a Common Snipe. It was here that I was stopped by a slightly distressed gentleman who asked me if I could spare him a couple of minutes, being of a suspicious nature I took two steps back and warily asked him what for. Anyway, to cut a long story short he was an RSPB volunteer who was going round painting the little seats that are dotted around the reserve, this explained my green backside, bizarrely he was drivng around doing this in his Mazda MX5 sports car, honest, and he had turned left in front of Denge hide instead of right, went through the gate and proceded about 400yards up the track looking for the next seat to paint and got stuck in the mud. I was quite relieved really, I thought he was going to ask me for money. I walked up the track with him to the car and after much pushing and grunting and groaning the car was still stuck so I rang the visitor centre for him and asked for the ranger to come out and save him, which I believe he did a bit later.
I made my weary way back for a sit down in Denge Marsh hide next but there wasn't a great deal going on here apart from a Black Necked Grebe, Ruddy Duck and all the usual suspects. I walked along to the small viewpoint and saw a small group of Bearded Tits pinging their way through the reedbed one of which had a ring on it's right leg and heard Cetti's and Water Rail but didn't see either.
I added Barnacle Goose, Greylag, Heron and Pheasant before making my way to the ARC Hanson hide. Predominantly Gadwall here, stacks of them but also managed three Goosander, and a male and female Goldeneye as well as another Bittern which flew across the lake from the reeds to the right of the hide. In all 47 species for the day. I took the pictures with my new camera......................i'm glad I wore my walking boots because the learning curve is very steep!