Last Wednesday, we led our Winter Birds of Arundel walk around Swanbourne Lake. It turned out to be a beautifully still and peaceful morning, making for perfect conditions to relax and enjoy the birds.
The wildfowl put on a terrific show. When a flock of Mandarin Ducks flew by at the start of the walk, we thought we'd lucked out on this elusive duck, but we ended up seeing 30 or so in all, using the cover of the lakeside trees to get prolonged views of displaying drakes.
We also saw Pochard and good numbers of Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall. The calm conditions meant some of the drakes of these species were getting a bit frisky too, throwing some of their display moves and calling, allowing the group to learn some new duck sounds!
Until the halfway point, it had been a little quiet for woodland birds, though we had heard a couple of Firecrests at the very start, glimpsed a Treecreeper, and heard Bullfinch, Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. A Chiffchaff mixed in with a flock of Long-tailed Tits made us hopeful for what might be showing further along.
Then, as we reached the far end of the lake, it started to get rather busy! A flock of Redwings called loudly as they flew low overhead, Song Thrushes were patrolling the grassy slopes and a mixed flock of Siskins, Greenfinches and Goldfinches was showing in a stand of alders. Our rarest sighting of the day came as we scanned the distant tree line, spotting two Hawfinches! They were far away, but the telescope revealed their distinctive stance and profile.
A Water Rail cried loudly from the lakeside vegetation and a little further on we enjoyed good views of two more Firecrests and a Marsh Tit (and hearing one or two others).
The raucous Egyptian Geese caught our attention as we returned to the meeting point, with a couple of pairs noisily circling the lake then proudly perching in a big tree.
At the end of the walk, some of us continued for 'extra time' along the nearby Mill Stream. This turned out to be worthwhile, with four Cattle Egrets feeding on the far side of a meadow, a Grey Heron keeping away from its smaller cousins, and good looks at a couple of Mistle Thrushes (feeding on mistletoe!) and a Nuthatch.
Our list for the morning:
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Spotted Woodpecker