My daughter picked up a spotting sheet and pen from one of the volunteers in the visitor centre. My husband checked on the Bearded Tits but they left a couple of weeks ago. In the garden we ticked off a few things on the sheet straight away and sat watching Squirrels, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Woodpigeon, Dunnocks and a Wren. A young Magpie was making a lot of noise trying to get the attention of the adult.
We paid a lot of attention to the insects as we walked and noticed the lily pads on one of the ponds were covered in flies. I could hear Reed Buntings around the dipping pond and there were several spiders sunning themselves on the benches.
Part of the reserve is closed off from the Bittern Bus Stop to stop the nesting Bitterns being disturbed. They have I think to date 4 juvenile Bitterns that have been counted on the site. Up to date information is on their sightings page here.
No sign of any Bitterns for us though we did see a large group of Canada Geese young that were walking down towards the Bittern hide, they made it there just after we did.
We took a walk around the ponds and saw many damselflies around, the bright blue is difficult to miss.
So on to the Bittern hide, A few people were gathered by the bridge looking in to the reeds and a guy described the Little Bittern call to us and after a few seconds we could hear it in the reeds. Fantastic. I listened for a couple of minutes till it went quiet and then walked up to sit in the hide for a while. We scanned the water and reeds spotting BH Gulls with chicks, Moorhens, Little Grebe, Oystercatcher, Woodpigeons, Herons and a Reed Warbler.
A chap sat in the corner of the hide called out a Marsh Harrier over the far reeds, it was being mobbed by the Gulls and a Heron, That was amazing to watch, only my second sighting of one. We sat a little while longer when the same chap shouted out the Little Bittern was flying in over to the left and there it was!! Granted it was a brief glimpse as it flew over the reeds and down into the reedbed but there was no doubt, what a beautiful bird. I was beyond pleased, my daughter and husband saw it too but there was a little less excitement there!
From the family hide there were plenty more BH Gulls and chicks. We watched an Oystercatcher feeding it's chick. A family of Greylag Geese swam past. There were Sand Martins, Swans, Lesser Black Backed Gulls and a beautiful Little Egret too.
We stopped to talk to two of the guys who'd been on the bridge by the Bittern hide earlier, they'd missed the Little Bittern flying out. One had taken a photo of a LBB Gull stealing one of the BH Gull chicks.
From the Wader Scrape hide we saw Avocets and a family of Shelducks. A juvenile Pied Wagtail was hunkering down along the waters edge.
I've been here a few times but I don't think i've been at this time of year before, it was ridiculously noisy, mostly from the Gulls who seem to think, rightly so, that everything is a threat.
We ate a picnic by the playground whilst being serenaded by a Chiffchaff. The last stop was the Tree Sparrow Farm, just in time to see a Yellowhammer fly across and land in the trees. Very good timing as that was the last thing to tick off on the spotting sheet!
This was one of the best days birding i've had in a while, obviously the Little Bittern was a highlight but the reserve in general was a delight to walk around.