Not too far on we found three larks foraging in the grass, i'm pretty sure they're Woodlarks, confirmation would be good. You'll probably need to click on the picture for a closer look. We continued towards the small ponds accompanied by the wistful song of Willow Warblers and the monotonous two note call of Chiffchaffs, neither were seen, preferring to remain hidden among the foliage of the oaks and birches. In the fir trees though, Coal Tits, Great Tits, Blue Tits and a juvenile Goldcrest made brief appearances.
The ponds are very small, very shallow and very dark, typical of heathland water and reminiscent of the peaty pools and streams of the New Forest. The dragonflies and damselflies like it though and if it's good enough for them it's good enough for me. Chasers were the main dragonflies with a female Broad-bodied above, male Broad-bodied below and my old favourite the Four Spotted Chaser below that all patrolling the small area over and around the water.
We sat near the ponds for a while soaking up coffee and sunshine and it was here that we spotted a flycatcher, a Spotted Flycatcher, who sat in a tree spotting flies, and then flying out to catch them and returning to the same perch. It's what they do. This was one of two seen today and the first for me for about three years I think.
As we returned along the path towards the car park we heard an unfamiliar voice and eventually located the owner in the top of a fit tree, a Nuthatch. While we loitered here a couple of Bullfinches overflew us looking brilliant against the welcome, long overdue and I understand very temporary, bright blue sky.
Our final stop was in the shade of a fairly big fir tree adjacent to an open, sunny area. It was here that we watched a female and a splendid male Stonechat, the second best looking male on the reserve.
We were also lucky enough to watch a female Redstart feeding a single juvenile Redstart above. It was still very spotty, front and back but there's no mistaking that red tail. You'll need to click on these pics, they were a bit too distant for my 300mm lens.
This is mum and junior sitting on the branch of a tree opposite our shady nook. This would have topped a very good birding session, but there was more to come. Firstly in the shape of a single, scarlet crowned Lesser Redpoll and later, the stars of the show, two Crossbills who landed in the tree we were sitting under and fed on the cones above us. Only one was viewable, a splendid brick red male who hung onto a large fir cone, silhouetted against the sky, showing clearly the crossed bill in perfect action. What a fantastic, unexpected bird, i've only ever seen one in Scotland.
On the way back to the car park a single Tree Pipit gave us a super display as he continually took off from some overhead wires, climbing high and then 'parachuting' back down to the wires again, singing loudly.
A nice end to a great day.