Sharp by Nature is one year old today. To celebrate I'd hoped to be posting a picture of a New Hythe Bittern. So on Saturday at about 3pm I parked by the waterworks entrance to the country park and walked over to a small muddy area under some trees opposite the reedbed above and stood and watched.
The hope was that an over wintering Bittern would either be seen clambering through the reeds or, as sometimes happens one would come into roost just before the light goes. You'd associate Bittern watching with solitude and peace and quiet but this is a country park and the reality here is car doors slamming and engines starting as the local diving club depart from the adjacent car park. Children shouting and brakes squealing as they hurtle round the corner on their bikes, following the wide track that skirts the edge of the biggest lake. Dog owners shouting and bawling at their barking dogs, whose response is to bark even louder and then go for a swim in this lake ten yards along from me. Then there's the constant drone of the busy A228 to the West and the clattering of the trains on the track that runs just a few hundred yards to the East.
But above the din I could also hear Goldcrests, their thin high pitched calls coming from the bushes to the left and right of me, although I didn't manage to see one in the fading light. I did see two Kingfishers though, both calling excitedly as they zipped into separate corners of the lake. Overhead was an almost constant stream of birds crisscrossing the lake, heading for their chosen roosting sites. I managed to identify Chaffinches, Greenfinches and Goldfinches from their calls as well as dozens of Starlings and Redwings, but others were silent and harder to recognise in the greyness.
All this time I was watching the reedbed, my eyes often optimistically picking out the shape of a Bittern amongst the vegetation, but each one, after closer inspection with binoculars, turning out to be a clump of broken reeds. By four o'clock the light was fading fast and the madding crowd had mostly departed. This is Bittern time and I felt sure that an appearance was imminent. As I waited I saw a Sparrowhawk fly low across the lake some distance away and a Heron also took off from the distant margins and alighted in a dead tree overhanging the water before calling it a day and heading for the roost. A few minutes later a bird landed on the outer branch of the tree alongside me and there was just enough light to see that it was the Sparrowhawk, almost certainly the one i'd seen earlier. I thought I might try for a low light picture of him but before I could another of the local dogs came down the bank and jumped straight into the lake. The Sparrowhawk departed instantly and so did I!
So no Bittern seen but I wasn't too disappointed, it'd be no fun if it was too easy and I did enjoy being out and seeing the closing of the day, especially when there was such a nice evening sky over the Downs to finish it off.