Tuesday 31 March 2009

Return Of Winter

Saturday started badly and went downhill from there. Up early I was down at Harbury to get my car serviced. Unfortunately, the garage had managed to lose my booking so it was a wasted trip. Not what is needed on a cold and windy day when staying tucked up in bed would have been perfect.

Being in the area, I headed over to Draycote (why is anyone's guess as it's always cold and windier there) and wandered / was blown along the path to the hide. Sat inside, at least I was out of the wind, though not much was about. No sign of the red necked grebe which was what I had hoped to see. Remember I said it got worse? Well, in came another birder who asked if I'd seen it. Seen what? Oh, there was an osprey over here earlier. Argh!! What a gutter.

Back to the visitor centre I thought I spotted the grebe, larking about in amongst the breakers, but by the time I got close enough for a shot, it had vanished off into the choppy waters. I cursed my luck and headed home for some lunch.

The afternoon brought another birding trip, this time to Marsh Lane near B'ham airport. With the clouds gathering, I opted to head to the Oak Hide, as it offers views of the feeders, the marsh and also one of the lakes. On the feeders were masses of chaffinches, a few greenfinches and pleasantly a few tree sparrows. One of these days I'll attempt to rig up some perches by these feeders as at the moment, photo opportunities aren't great.

On the lake there were shelducks, redshanks, teals, gadwells, mute and black swans and a few little ringed plovers, scampering about. At the back of the marsh I could see snipe mooching about too. Not bad... Then I looked at the sky to the north. Black. Oh dear.

The temperature plummetted as the storm clouds moved in, and within moments the hide was being battered by a horrendous hail shower, so heavy that it obscured the railway line behind the lake. I had to close the hide hatch on the one side, as it was blasting in, and suddenly Draycote seemed warm! A pair of shelduck faced the hail head on, and seemed to be eating the ice as it fell. Some teals tried to fly off and were forced to make emergency landings just past the marsh as it was impossible to fly in!

Fortunately it was over in 10 mins, and the sunshine returned to melt the layer of ice on everything. A lone snipe appeared in front of the hide, giving me a chance for a couple of shots, whilst it surveyed the icy ground. As the sun got warmer, the marsh got busier, with more snipes creeping out of the reeds, poking about in the waters.

A glance to the once more darkening skies twisted my arm into heading back to the car, and home to a warm mug of tea. Not a very enjoyable day out!

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