Here's a little quiz. Spot the Bittern!!
I spotted it first from about 250 yards away, or at least I spotted a shape in the reeds in the north eastern corner of Abbey Mead lake. I was in the south western corner at the time and I wasn't sure whether it was worth the effort to yomp all the way round to check it out. It was worth the effort though as this turned out to be the first New Hythe Bittern i've found in about two years. It's because of the camouflage of these birds and their ability to remain so absolutely still, that at first I couldn't find it when I got to the reedbed. Then it was there, just six feet away from me, beak pointing skyward and eyes levelled straight at me. It was a bit like a Mexican stand off. Neither of us wanted to move a muscle, but in the end I blinked first and went for my phone. I had to, my camera was in the boot of the car and I wanted a picture, even if it was only from a camera phone. Picture taken, I slowly retreated and left, thankfully, without flushing it.
The Bittern was my 62nd species of the year so far at New Hythe. Here are one or two pics of some of the other birds seen so far, starting with Lesser Redpoll above, one of two feeding on seed heads along Abbey Mead, very close to where I found the Bittern. These charming little birds are not a particularly common sight at New Hythe in recent years, but this year we've seen a few more, particularly during the Autumn months.
Down on the river there are good numbers of Teal, above and below. As well as Lapwings, Little Grebes, a few Gadwall, the odd Redshank and recently a Green Sandpiper.
In the Bucket Wood, where I might add the original bucket can still be found and used (to sit on!!), this Firecrest was feeding just where the wood opens out to the river. The top picture belies the fact that it took no notice of me, the job of survival being top priority on a freezing cold day.
I believe there are as many as three, maybe four on site this winter. Such a treat given that the last one recorded was I think 2008.
Here's a Goldcrest, one of as many as nine or ten seen on any one day recently around the lakes. These will leave us for the summer I expect, as they usually do.
Another, often quite difficult bird to find at New Hythe is the Treecreeper. This one was in the small wood where, in winters past, we used to stand and wait for the Bitterns to make an appearance from the reedbed on Streamside lake. This 'traditional' New Hythe Bittern roost seems to be unused nowadays for some reason. One side of the reedbed does seem to be more open now and is adjacent to one of the main walking routes around the Country Park so maybe us humans have become too much for them there?
At the bottom end of the Millstream is an interesting, sometimes flooded, reedy, muddy, dark tangle of twisted tree roots and Willows. And here, while searching unsuccessfully for a Water Rail I saw this lovely Grey Wagtail fossicking along the water's edge. The last bird before reaching the car park.
Best mammal of the year so far was a Weasel, brought to my attention by a couple of very upset and noisy Wrens. I nearly got a picture of him after enticing him back to me by means of distressed Vole impersonations (it really works well). Unfortunately a man and his dog came around the corner at the crucial moment and pop went the Weasel. So no picture of him, but here's a Grey Squirrel instead. Do they eat rose hips?