Rutland Water – 17 Mar 2016

168 – Long Billed Dowitcher

It’s the middle of March now and Spring is definitely upon us at last! At Rutland Water today lots of birds were singing in the trees whilst the sun shone brightly. It was 10ºc and it was nice not to have to be all bundled-up to keep out the chill, Wintery air.

What seemed like scores of volunteers were present on the site today, cutting grass, pruning trees, repairing hides etc. It must be a tremendous operation to organise and maintain such a large nature reserve and get it all spruced up for the forthcoming surge of visitors who will descend on Rutland during the Spring/Summer season!

My main reason for going to Rutland today was to try to see (and photograph) a very unusual visitor – A Long Billed Dowitcher. According to Wikipedia, their breeding grounds are in Siberia and North America, and it is a very rare visitor to Western Europe. This particular bird has been on Lagoon 3 in front of the Shoveler Hide at Rutland’s Anglian Birdwatching Centre at Egleton for over three weeks now, so I had high hopes I’d manage to see it today, as it seems to be in no great hurry to depart!

On arrival at the hide there were a number of other birders already present. A very kind eldery gentleman made way for me to sit in his spot on the bench, and even pointed out the Dowitcher for me, which I spotted readily. It was quite a long way off, unfortunately, and was snoozing-away with its long bill hidden from view, initially. However, patience paid off and after waiting a while, it did stir and allow me to see the extent of its long bill. The bird looks like a cross between a snipe and a godwit, if I’m honest!

Long Billed Dowitcher

A heavily cropped image of a rather distant Long Billed Dowitcher. New bird no 168!

On my last visit, I photographed a group of Smew from the Plover Hide, and hoped I might manage to get an even closer view of the very impressive drake bird on this occasion. (They have continually been reported at this location since my last visit.) Unfortunately, and as is so often the case in birding, there was absolutely no sign of them at all today. I did spot an extremely distant Ringed Plover on one of the island though – my first one of 2016. I do miss seeing large groups of mixed waders – they are very much my favourite birds.

From the Bittern Hide I watched a very impressive Grey Heron patiently waiting to snatch some lunch from the murky water it was standing in, and at the Osprey Hide I alternated between watching another Heron probing the undergrowth, and a pair of Blue Tits pecking away at a bullrush seed-head.

There were a number of Great Crested Grebes on the various lagoons today, but no sign of them performing their very impressive mating displays. I’ll photograph that one of these days!

Lots to see at Rutland, as ever. It remains a very impressive birding-watching reserve.

About Alan Gordon

I am a retired teacher and former RAF Musician. I live near Sheffield and enjoy taking photographs of wild birds throughout the UK.
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