14th February: Alison and I decided early last week we were going to have a fish ‘n’ chip tea, a bottle of wine, watch the new Bridget Jones film, and open our pressies and cards. Before all this excitement, we decided to take a trip to the lakes at Hallcroft fisheries, where we had ventured several times last summer and seen many different birds. What would the winter have to offer here? All the pictures in this blog were taken on that afternoon.
We parked the car up and climbed over a fence to view a nearby lake. Wow! The first sighting was a tufted duck.
Tufted duck, Hallcroft
A rather dumpy diving duck, the drake (above) has a pied plumage and drooping crest. The female is dark brown and paler on the belly. They winter on many types of still fresh waters.
The next we identified was a shoveller.
The bird shovelled up and down, head submerged in the water, so it was quite a task to get the few pictures with its full body on show.
Shoveller with black headed gulls, gadwall and coot, Hallcroft
The male has a large, spoon-shaped bill and carries a dark green head, while the duck’s is pale brown.
Next was a gadwall: a large surface-feeding duck, which is a drab dullish browny grey colour. But look a little closer and it shows beautiful detail.
Gadwall with coot and black-headed gull
The gadwall has increased in numbers over the last few years, and it was lovely to see them. We spent ages watching these birds diving and feeding on the lake. A great crested grebe then showed up, not yet in its full breeding plumage.
Great crested grebe in winter plumage, Hallcroft
We later spotted one with its crest in summer plumage – will have to look out for their courtship displays, which are quite spectacular in spring.
Great crested grebe in summer plumage, Hallcroft
We also spotted a heron sitting in a tree:
Wandering down the side of the river, Alison spotted something over the other side of the bank. It was a kingfisher (picture at the top): sitting poised ready for a catch. We watched it dive down twice for food, and continued to watch it for quite a while, as it moved up and down the river looking for food. This made our Valentines Day an absolute success.
Another excellent day’s birding, and the wine and fish ‘n’ chips topped off the 14th February superbly!