Plumbers, a joiner and an electrician are wreaking havoc in what was once our bathroom and will, in ‘a good week and a half at least’ (plumber's promise), be our superb new bathroom. Radio 2 and power tools have been on at full blast. The house has been filled with alarming banging. I have been exiled to the dining room. So, on Tuesday, for a bit of peace and quiet, I left for Dad's much earlier than usual, and paid my first ever visit to the RSPB reserve at Burton Marshes.
As I entered the new visitor centre, I was surprised to see my friend Carolyn's teenage son greeting visitors. He explained that he was on work experience. I embarrassed him something rotten by insisting I take our photo and text it to his mum.
I visited Burton Marshes on Tuesday last week. My Tuesday afternoon visits there, on the way to my Dad's, are becoming something of a habit. I just sat in the car for a couple of hours, taking in the view, watching the occasional little egret through my binoculars, and generally chilling out. Just before I left, I was delighted to spot a whitethroat—a relative rarity for me—in the hawthorn a few yards in front of the car. Of course, by the time I'd got my camera out, it had gone. Still, though.
I was back at Burton Marshes this Tuesday. The weather was glorious, so I sat on one of the benches for 15 minutes, trying (unsuccessfully) to spot any of a number of grasshopper warblers I could hear singing their hearts out in the nearby reeds. They realy do sound uncannily like grasshoppers. But no joy.
I then decided to take a short walk up to Burton Point. This turned out to be an excellent decision, as I was soon rewarded with my first proper sighting this summer of a wheatear—several wheatears, in fact. A short while later, I was positively cock-a-hoop to spot three whinchats perched on a bush in a large expanse of sedge, flitting up into the air occasionally after flies. I'm sure I must have seen whinchats before, but I can't hand-on-heart swear that I have, so chalk one up on my unwritten life list.
There were a few more whinchats farther down the track, and several little egrets flew overhead. On the whole, a delightful and productive short walk.
As I returned to the car, I was even jammy enough to spot a whitethroat—the same one as last week, I guess—and actually managed to take a couple of snaps. I was particularly pleased with the first one, which I had to focus manually (as I did with some of my earlier whinchat shots) due to there being too much undergrowth in the way for the camera's autofocus mechanism to deal with.
I've always loved Burton Marshes. They're effectively man-made, exploited by farmers and the military, yet they feel utterly wild and remote. And, most important of all, you tend not to bump into too many other people there.
I can't remember seeing the Dee Marshes in snow before. They had a somewhat Siberian air to them.
The birds were keeping their heads low. I can't say I blamed them. I was eventually rewarded with a (very distant) view of a short-eared owl on the hunt. It was the long, flappy wings that gave it away. Other than that, I only spotted a few gulls and a couple of grey herons. I'm guessing there were also little egrets about, but they will have been uncharacteristically camouflaged.
Two brief visits to the Dee Marshes on consecutive Tuesday afternoons. Last week, it was very misty; this week, less so. Several egrets, and lots of geese and swans—the geese and swans being too far away to identify. Very atmospheric, though, misty marshes.