On a somewhat chilly and breezy day, Helen and I concluded our Birding Weekend by visiting Rutland Water today. I didn’t discover until sometime later that it was exactly three years to the day since our last visit here. Rutland is a massive inland body of water and the Bird Watching Center, which is split between two visitor centres, has around thirty-five hides in total, covering a rich variety of habitats.
The stand-out species for which Rutland is famous is its Ospreys. Each year a number of Ospreys return from their over-Winter homes in Africa to breed at Rutland and therefore provide a wonderful wildlife spectacle for visitors to enjoy. Helen and I were aware that at least one nesting Osprey was sitting on eggs today, from a perusal of the online live webcams prior to our arrival, and so we were hoping for some good viewing.
On arrival at the Anglian Water Bird Watching Centre near Egleton Village, we decided to make straight for Lagoon 4 where three hides, Sandpiper, Dunlin and Plover all provide unrestricted views over to the Osprey nesting site atop a tall post strategically placed in the middle of the lagoon. We chose to go into Sandpiper Hide for our first stop to see what we could find.
Very soon we could see through our binoculars that an Osprey was indeed sitting on the nest. However, because of the height of the nest we could only see the top of the bird’s head when it occasionally shifted position. For the rest of our time in the hide today we kept a keen eye on the skies for any sign of other Ospreys. As we watched the lagoon in front of us we saw some Common Terns screeching-noisily as they flew around above one of the islands. A Great Crested Grebe looked to be sitting tight on a nest along to our left, and a Ringed Plover was darting about on a spit of land that jutted out into the lagoon. A variety of distant waterfowl completed the list of birds we could see from our current vantage point.
After about half an hour or so, we decided to relocate and walked further up the reserve in the direction of Bittern Hide. As we walked along the path we began to hear some very distinct birdsong coming from the hedgerow we were approaching. Another couple of birdwatchers were also there, watching for any signs of movement, binoculars poised and ready. After striking-up conversation, we quickly learned that the bird in question was a Nightingale. Fantastic! – Neither Helen nor I had never seen or heard a Nightingale before and we quickly understood why such a fairly drab-looking bird has such a marvellous reputation. The singing was amazing, in terms of its richness, variety and clarity. The bird could only have been about fifteen to twenty feet from us, and its song was very clear and loud.
We stood, spellbound for around twenty minutes hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive bird, during which time other birders duly-arrived, stood watching (and listening!) for a while before eventually moving-on without having seen the bird. Sadly, the Nightingale eventually stopped singing and Helen and I decided we weren’t going to be lucky either, so we dragged ourselves away and carried-on up to Bittern Hide near the top of the reserve.
Bittern Hide looks out onto a small lagoon and is surrounded by reeds. It would indeed be the perfect location from which to see a Bittern, but alas, that didn’t happen today (not whilst we were present at any rate). As we watched the reeds to our right, we were treated to a close-up demonstration of stealthy-hunting by a Grey Heron. The bird very patiently made its way slowly across the shallows in front of the hide, studying the water intently, watching for any tell-tale movement below the surface. After a few minutes, without success, the bird suddenly launched itself into the air with a loud screech and Helen and I scrambled to capture some images of the bird as it flew past us.
Next we visited Shoveler and Buzzard hides, both of which have provided us with great bird sightings in the past. Indeed, Shoveler Hide was where I was lucky-enough to photograph a Long Billed Dowitcher on a previous visit to Rutland Water.
Today it was mostly Black Headed Gulls and Common Terns that were present. A pair of Cormorant were sunning their wings on one of the islands and an assortment of waterfowl including Tufted Duck and Gadwall were dabbling-about on the water.
Turning back along the path in the direction we had just come, we couldn’t resist going back to have another listen to/look for the Nightingale. The bird was singing once again but still not showing itself. I overheard a lady bird-enthusiast, who was present, saying that the bird had been in exactly the same location last year at the same time. I made a mental note of that detail!
Just as we left the Nightingale location and began to walk back down the path towards the Visitors’ Centre, Helen spotted an Osprey flying right over our heads in the direction of the nesting site on Lagoon 4. The bird was carrying a large trout and so we snapped-away with our cameras trying to get the best shots we could of the bird and its unwilling cargo. Unfortunately, the bird (and trout!) were somewhat-silhouetted against the bright sky, but we were nonetheless happy to have had such a close-encounter with the Osprey.
Another couple of hours visiting an exciting birding location had left us with some great memories. A Nightingale has now climbed much higher on my ‘desirables’ list of birds to see!