The arrival of goldeneye on the reserve is always a sign that winter is just around the corner. We have a small number of these birds over-wintering here each year, and a female seen on 15/10 was the first of this winter (library photo by Ben Hall, RSPB Images). They breed in forested areas by lakes and rivers in Scotland, Scandinavia and across Siberia where they usually nest in holes in trees.
The variety of wildfowl always increases through the autumn into winter as birds move south and westwards into the UK. A first winter drake scaup which appeared on 26/11 and was still present as of 27/11 has been a particular highlight, being one of the scarcer species which arrive in the UK during the winter from their more northerly breeding grounds. Whooper swans which come down from Iceland have made several appearances so far with two birds on 17/10 and again on 19/10, and five on 4/11. Merganser have become more regular with a maximum so far of 12 birds on 7/11 and four goosander were present on 24/10 along with individual birds on 4/11 and 7/11. Up to two pochard have often been seen, another pintail was recorded on 16/10, and up to two garganey which were present for several weeks earlier in the autumn stayed up until 21/10.
Waders of interest included jack snipe with one bird which had been previously present staying up until 18/10, and another seen on 27/11. A golden plover on 13/11 followed a previous record earlier in the autumn while individual spotted redshank were recorded on 17/10, 19/10 and 23/10, and greenshank were regular with a maximum of seven birds from 6/11 to 7/11. Black-tailed godwit were also seen frequently with up to 11 birds present, while dunlin were often recorded in small numbers with a peak count of 32 on 7/11. Two woodcock were seen over the reserve at dusk on 11/11 with a further individual on 18/11.
Great white egrets have continued to be seen regularly around the reserve, often feeding in the estuary channels at low tide with up to a maximum of four birds recorded on 7/11 and 11/11. Regular sightings of water rail have also continued, while kingfisher also put in several appearances again.
Passerines have included late records of swallow on 29/10 and 3/11 and a late wheatear was also present from 18/10 to 19/10. More seasonally, winter thrushes have been very noticeable again in recent weeks with numerous redwing around the reserve and occasional fieldfare with particularly good numbers of the latter passing over on 6/11. Siskin have also been regular with up to around 20 birds present, and two crossbill flew over on 10/11. Small numbers of skylark have also been seen passing overhead on several occasions while meadow pipits have been present in larger numbers often feeding in the areas of open grass, and rock pipits have been seen a few times along the estuary. At least one Cetti’s warbler has remained on the reserve so far throughout the winter, following a year of birds being almost continuously present and probable breeding occurring for the first time.
A marsh harrier flew high over the reserve on 13/11 following a previous record of this species earlier in autumn, and a red kite was seen overhead on 21/10 after a good number of sightings earlier in the year.
A migrant hawker on 1/11 was the last dragonfly of the year to be recorded following good numbers of this species throughout late summer and autumn.
That goldeneye photo is absolutely stunning! Not just the bird, the beautiful colour of the light on the water.
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