Dec 1st. Arriving at a frosted Grove Ferry this morning with a bright shining moon and stars a plenty, I met Alan at the gate and we made our way to the Ramp for the start of the day. The was only a dozen Lapwing from the Ramp and just 6 Mallards on the pool but from here we saw 9 Marsh Harriers leave roost, watched 331 Cormorants fly out from their Stodmarsh roost, 67 Mute Swans leave the back pools and heard 2 Cetti’s Warblers and 2 Water Rails. There was 1 Grey Heron, 1 Snipe and a Sparrowhawk noted and the Lapwing flock reached 290 as they made their way to the Marsh hide. The feast hide had 13 Gadwall, 1 Tufted Duck and 1 Wigeon with a dozen Mallards while the Harrison’s Drove hide remained as dead as the Dodo it’s been all year. The bushes all seemed full of winter Thrushes and by the end of our stay there was at least 3000 Fieldfares, 390 Redwings and 120 Blackbirds. Two Great-spotted Woodpeckers and 3 Green Woodpeckers were seen around the circuit and apart from the 290 Lapwings there was nothing else at the Marsh hide. Once again the Alder Wood held the most activity with a noisy bunch of Finches at the back of Undertress Farm where there were several Chaffinches, 2 Bramblings, 12 Green Finches and a dozen Goldfinches all scolding a Little Owl sitting in the open. While watching a tree top flock of 10 Lesser Redpolls on the Alder Wood side of the path shortly after the Owls departure 2 Waxwings alighted the top of a tree behind us, staying for a short while before flying off over the farm house, also a single Goldcrest here. A stop in Reedbed hide revealed little, except a chat with Steve Ashton and 2 flyover Water Pipits before we carried on and on the Lampen Wall beside the Alder Wood the Chaffinch flock had increased to 29 with 4 Bramblings now present and several Redwings in the lakeside bushes, 3 Bullfinches seen here as well. Also while watching the Finches a Stoat ran up the path carrying a Water Vole as it went. On the lake at Stodmarsh there were 62 Pochards, 1364 Teal, 4 Tufted Ducks, 3 Great-crested Grebes, 637 Shoveler, 67 Gadwall, 164 Greylag Geese, 8 Wigeon and an adult Great Black-backed Gull on the Tern Raft. Another Sparrowhawk was seen around the Jungle and 3 Stonechats were seen between the Oxbow and Harrison’s Drove hide while Brendan found another Waxwing in the car park at Grove Ferry that although showed well when we got there it didn’t fancy it’s photo being taken, although Brendan managed a couple.
Dec 2nd. An almost identical morning this morning with clear skies, a bright three quarter moon and plenty of stars. Today, however, the clouds never came and it stayed bright and sunny throughout with just a light west north westerly breeze to cool it down a tad. Birds today were also less abundant with nothing from the Ramp except six early Lapwings. A Long-eared Owl was flopping about over the reeds at 6.40am and appeared to enter the Feast hide bushes but, there was no sign of it there later. Only 6 Mute Swans left the reserve this morning and none from the back pools but there was a family of 8 (2 adults and 6 young) in front of the Feast hide. A Water Rail cried out, 1 Bearded Tit let out a few ‘pings’, 335 Cormorants streamed out towards the coast and 8 Marsh harriers (2 males) left roost and, the reserve. Also from Feast hide were10 Teal2 Tufted Duck sand Bittern in fight towards the Ramp. It probably time to start missing out a visit to Harrison’s hide as yet again it was devoid of life and the fields behind fared no better. At Marsh hide there were 540 Lapwings, 3 Water Pipits and 1 Pied Wagtail while a female Marsh harrier passed overhead. The Alder Wood today in complete contrast to yesterday, was very quiet with just 8 Siskins, 1 Treecreeper, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Lesser Redpoll, 9 Long-tailed Tits, 1 Jay and 1 Great-spotted Woodpecker. Stodmarsh lake held 1136 Teal, 636 Shoveler, 85 Gadwall, 3 Tufted Duck, 3 Wigeon, 68 Pochards, 137 Greylag Geese, 1 Great-crested Grebe and the/a Great Black-backed Gull on the Tern raft. Four Cetti’s Warblers were heard but not seen, 1 Sparrowhawk flushed the Lapwings, a Water Rail called from within the reed bed and on the frozen corner of the Oxbow there were 8 Water Pipits and 5 Pied Wagtails.