Monday 20th December 2021

I stopped at the Reedy Ditch layby hoping that I might bump into a Hawfinch again but no luck. It was cold and wintery and the trees were full of Redwing ‘bok’ calls and the more familiar high pitched plaintiff ‘tzeee’, there were at least 40 moving through.

Next stop was the Sailing Club where a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were loitering in the river mouth and the juvenile female Peregrine was sat on a post on Gull Island again. Looking towards the Yacht Club 12 Avocet were feeding along the river edge, I later saw the same group feeding just over the sea wall on De L’Orne Scrape.

Looking offshore 5 Red-throated Divers included birds on the sea and also in flight. A Razorbill also headed west and there were another nine Red-breasted Mergansers heading east.

It was great to see a Shag on the sea. Compared to the much commoner Cormorants it was significantly blacker, with a shorter body above the water, a flash of yellow around the gape and a white chin. Nice to see it dive with an amazingly athletic leap before entering the water almost vertically.

On the saltmarsh 31 Cormorants, many with wings outspread, was my highest count at Needs Ore. They were strung out in a long line and then peeled away in small groups as the water levels rose.

40 Canada Geese were resting in the Middle Field and I quickly realised that there were six Russian White-fronted Geese with them! There were four adults and two 1st winters. It’s nice to think that maybe two of these adults are returning birds from last year. The four birds that over-wintered last year tended to associate with the Greylags. I first saw them on the 19th December 2020, a very similar arrival date.

Russian White-fronted Geese, four adults and two 1st winters (one partly hidden)
Russian White-fronted Geese, four adults
Russian White-fronted Geese, three adults
Russian White-fronted Geese, four adults and two 1st winters (one partly hidden)
Russian White-fronted Geese, three adults and a 1st winter

On De L’Orne Scrape a Kingfisher flitted between fence posts and 30 Shelduck was a good count. A Great Black-backed Gull rested with the Shelduck and the wintering Greenshank fed with a handful of Redshank.

male Kingfisher photo by David Cuddon

A Little Egret walked along in front of the hide, an area that Adam has cleared and cut short to attract grazing dabbling ducks. I’m hoping it might also attract a Water Pipit.

Little Egret

Around Black Water a pair of Magpies was slightly unusual, the female Scaup was still around. The bleating of the Teal, the constant ‘crecking’ of Gadwall and the occasional Wigeon whistle provides the sound track here.


Around Venner Island there were a handful of Pintail, three Pochard, a Tufted Duck and at least 6 Black-tailed Godwit feeding with the Curlew on Wigeon Fields.


In the hide Adam and I watched an amazing interaction between a female Marsh Harrier and a Brown Hare. The two were within 2 feet of each, staring. The Brown Hare barely moved the whole time while the Marsh Harrier rotated its head inquisitively leaning back and forward trying to work out what was going on. Eventually the Marsh Harrier jumped into the air leap-frogging the Brown Hare, the Brown Hare dashed away soon afterwards and the Marsh Harrier followed half-heartedly finally realizing it was too large a prey item.

Marsh Harrier and Brown Hare

A sea watch from Mary Monts produced a Guillemot and a Razorbill, four more Red-breasted Mergansers and an obliging Turnstone which I think is an adult as there is no moult contrast in the coverts which all look like adult type feathers lacking the neat buff fringe of retained juvenile feathers. Having said that the coverts all look worn which you wouldn’t expect if they were newly moulted adult feathers, lots to learn.


There has been a Red-necked Grebe at Pennington and one or two Long-tailed Ducks near Hill Head, I’ll cross my fingers and keep watching the sea!

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