RSPB Leeds Local Group trip to Rutland Water on 17th February 2024

41 of us set off from Leeds in light drizzle, but this soon stopped and we enjoyed dry, overcast conditions for the duration of our visit to the reserve. We welcomed Di and Geoff on their first outing with the group. Arriving at the Egleton Visitor Centre at about 11:15 we were joined by Kirsty and Robin, long-term friends of the group, as we started our explorations of the area. Recent sightings of smew, scaup, great northern divers and common scoter meant that these species went to the top of our list of target birds for the day.

Our party headed towards Lapwing Hide, overlooking South Arm III, where the scoter and diver had been visible earlier that morning.  En route we encountered green and great spotted woodpeckers near Sharples Meadow. From the hide distant, but clear, views of the common scoter and one of the great northern divers were quickly attained, as well as a plentiful supply of goldeneye. The smew took a bit longer to track down, eventually being seen from both Shoveler and Buzzard Hides. During this hunt we were delighted to also come across a Bewick’s swan, seen from Dunlin Hide. This was certainly a bonus bird for many of us.

After lunch we headed south past the visitors centre to see if anything would present itself in the area of South Arm I. This quickly turned into a rather mucky trek through large puddles and thick mud along most of the paths. It was here that Tony had to be helped to safety after one of his legs disappeared thigh deep in a water filled hole at the side of the path. He later remarked that it was like the scene from “The Vicar of Dibley”! Representations were made to the managers of the site.

It was a rather mud-caked party of birders that assembled for our 5pm departure. Our tally of birds for the day came to a creditable 65 species on the site, but with so much of the viewing at great distances the chances for decent photography were quite limited. Many of us did however add some notable ticks to our annual bird checklists.

A big thank you to Russell our driver for the day and of course to Pauline for organising another great day out for us. Thanks are also due to Steph and Sue for taking on the administrative tasks during the coach journey. This was their training day, as they are in charge for next month’s trip to Upper Teesdale. Sue was particularly adept at finding creative ways of arriving at a head count of 41, despite opposition from some mischievous travelers towards the rear of the coach, who suggested a range of other numbers as she valiantly got the job done. She is sure we didn’t leave anyone behind.

Geoff and Maggie Craigs.

(Photos are by Geoff Craigs unless captioned otherwise)