Dinton Pastures Country Park – 21/01/2024

This return visit after a period of ten years came at the end of a particularly cold snap. Most of Black Swan Lake remained frozen, but at least there was some areas of open water. One of these, where visitors feed the ducks and swans had attracted a fair gathering awaiting hand outs. Black-headed Gulls were numerous and 40 Canada Geese and eight Mute Swans were in attendance. A few Common Gulls were stood on the ice and a Moorhen was near the island. Coots looked comical as they tried to stride over the ice to where the food was being offered. A Robin and two Dunnocks were seen at this point but a redwing had caught the eye earlier in scrub. A Treecreeper had also shown obligingly on the side of a tree as it searched for insects. 

Common Gull – Ben Andrew (RSPB-images.co.uk)

Further around the lake scanning larger areas of the open water, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Shoveler were seen. Some of the latter accompanied gulls (all Black-headed) on sheets of ice. A Grey Heron that flew left over the lake very soon returned in the opposite direction. A Pied Wagtail meanwhile was on the grass lake side.

Sandford Lake was completely frozen with the exception of a very small area kept free by a few Mallards. A couple of Little Egrets were disturbed from the wet woodland bordering the lake but nothing else. It was the same fate at Lavell’s Lake. The recently replaced Teal Hide offered good views of the reedbed, but nothing appeared from it. At Bittern Hide, at least we saw a few birds but not many. A Common Buzzard remained perched in a tree at the back of the lake for a considerable time. At least five Red Kites were in the sky and a Grey Heron flew in to land on the ice. A Moorhen was then seen creeping along the edge of the reeds closer to the hide.

No Bittern sighting on this occasion, we settled for checking the feeding station on leaving the hide. Two Long-tailed Tits were on one of the feeders and both Blue and Great Tit visited. Having heard shrill calls earlier, two Ring-necked Parakeets drew attention sitting in a tree a few yards further back.

A second Treecreeper flew in front of us as we joined the path back around Black Swan Lake. The wind began to increase as Storm Isha approached from the west and ice could be heard cracking around the perimeter of the lake. It was time to return home before the worst of the storm arrived.