Us, the volunteers at the RSPB Haweswater reserve today had an end of year trip down to Leighton Moss, just outside Cumbria, driven and lunched by our knowledgeable RSPB staffers Spike and Dave. OK - it was a Christmas trip.
We got a treat with Bearded tits, a Cetti's warbler, Marsh tits, side-by-side Redshank and Spotted Redshank, and a Kingfisher to finish off - with clear December visibility while the light lasted.
Walking towards the Public Hide, we soon heard Water rails' unusual shrieking, almost like a bird of prey. About 10 Bearded Tits were coming to the grit trays by the footpath. The others identified a Cetti's warbler by the path - I got a glimpse of the cocked tail, a bit like a Wren but much bigger. A pair of reed buntings also came down to the path.
There wasn't a vast array on the water at the Public Hide, but plenty of Coots and Tufted duck, with a cormorant going overhead. The path round through the trees to the Lower Hide was plentiful, with a first for me, Marsh tits, and 3 Treecreepers, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Blue tit and Long-tailed tit, with some plentiful ear fungus and candle snuff fungus.
At the Lower Hide, we saw Gadwall close up, Teal, Wigeon, Greylag geese, Cormorant and a Black-headed gull. On the way back to some large cakes we picked up some Spindle red fruit.
In the afternoon we headed round to the "salt water" hides Allen and Eric Morecambe, the latter sloping downwind. There was a ringed Raven but we couldn't get a close view. Lots of Lapwing were a delight. Spike spotted a Spotted Redshank and we were able to see it right beside an ordinary Redshank as a good comparison: longer straighter bill and longer legs. There was also Shelduck, Shoveler, Pintail, Mute Swan, Greenshank and Gray Heron. "It's all about birds of prey" said Dave, unsuccessfully scanning all the visible fenceposts - though we finished off with fine views of a Kingfisher on close-by fence-posts.
On the way back we parked in a nearby layby to view the starlings. Only a few were seen, but we were rewarded with lots of Little Egrets like cotton wool in a distant tree coming into roost - after a while they moved more into the tree undergrowth. I estimated by 30 but Spike insists that flocks are always undercounted, so it could have been more.