I didn't want to go far today, so despite the attractions of the Green-winged Teal and Pink-footed Goose at Slimbridge, I went to Highnam Woods instead.
It was very muddy.
Fortunately, the mud and strong possibility of rain kept all but a handful of the bloody dog walkers away, and I felt like I had the reserve - and the new hide - to myself.
The new hide is very nice, with an open back to deny those who would do ill in the hide the privacy they would like. It offers great views of the two feeder stations and feeding tables and feels very solid. All the usual suspects were present - Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Long-tailed Tits, Dunnocks, Blackbirds. I held a slim hope for a Brambling (still none this year) but none showed up. I was, however, delighted to spot a Willow Tit on one of the feeders. Very distinct with it's bull neck. The pale wing panel was not so obvious, so I was - for a moment - doubtful. To clinch the ID though, it called briefly. To clinch the ID even more, I came across a small flock of Marsh Tits a few hundred yards along the trail - all calling and showing no trace of the bull neck. Great stuff, and I was certain of my Willow Tit.
A Sparrowhawk was hunting for breakfast at the feeders as I watched. From a viewable and very clear starting point across the clearing from the pond area it launched six attacks on the feeders. On the sixth, it took a meal. I was lucky enough to record its fifth pass on my little Canon Ixus camera. The video doesn't do it justice:
Also in the Woods were a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, a Raven (heard only), Crows, Woodpigeons, a couple of Robins, two Buzzards (one appeared to be in the middle of a display flight?) and a Nuthatch.
Got a bit fed up with the mud by the end, if I'm honest... but very pleased with the quick Willow Tit Marsh Tit one-two.
Fortunately, the rain held off for the duration of my visit. So I decided to push my luck and stop at Witcombe Reservoirs on the way home. Alas, my luck ran out and by the time I'd made it to the water (having negotiated a mega-bog) the rain set in. One shower followed by another shower. No good for birding. I sheltered under the tall hedges around the abandoned house (where the Wryneck showed last year). I took a brief survey of the birds, though:
Herring Gulls (none that struck me as a YLG or Caspain! - obviously!)
Great-crested Grebes (at least 12 of these)
Couple of Mute Swans
Lots of Redwing
The aftermath of one of the showers produced a nice rainbow. I took a video of that, too:
So a semi-decent day, ruined slightly by the fact that my wonderful new tripod (190CXPRO3 - owned for less than a month) broke. One of the rubber feet fell off at some point during my walk around Highnam (impossible to recover) and then at Witcombe the lower leg section of the same leg came clean out! So, I'm going to get it replaced as quickly as I can. Fortunately I bought it from a shop and not online.
99 birds for the year now. I hope the 100th is something good!