Thursday 30 August 2018

Knot again at Farmoor 29th August 2018

My local reservoir at Farmoor is going through a good patch this late summer, proving popular as a stopping off point for various wader species passing overland and bound for winter homes in both this country or further south, which in some cases means as far as southern Africa.

So far this year Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Turnstone and Black tailed Godwit have graced the sloping sides of the central causeway to the delight of both birders and the general public, as they are usually very confiding and will allow close approach. This very trusting nature makes them all the more endearing and my sense of wonderment never reduces as I regard these tiny travellers looking up at me from the concrete shore of the reservoir, already having covered phenomenal distances to get here and probably about to embark on yet another feat of barely credible endurance and distance, to get to where they finally will call a halt and attempt to eke out an existence on some coastal shore through the winter months, before repeating the effort all over again as they head north to breed. Many will succumb, for the threats and dangers to birds are multiple and come on a daily basis.

A few days ago a juvenile Knot arrived at Farmoor, yet another feathered, independent world traveller, hatched at the very top of the world, by the Laptev Sea, in the barren wastes of the Arctic Circle and left by its parents, once it was able to fly, to find its own way in the world and more to the point,  to fly southwards to escape the soon to become uninhabitable climate and terrain where it was born and raised in the briefest of seasons. The Knot is but one of six Arctic wader species that spend nine months of their life wandering the world. The individual currently stood before me was the epitome of this life of ceaseless wandering in order to survive, covering half the globe on its travels. guided by nothing more than instinct and genetics. An American author, Peter Matthiessen, said of these waders breeding in the Arctic and then setting off on a nine month odyssey  'One only has to consider the life force packed right into that puff of feathers to lay the mind wide open to the mysteries - the order of things, the why and the beginning'

A juvenile Knot is a bird of beauty, but it needs a practiced eye and a long and studied look to appreciate the nuances of its plumage. This is not a bird that proclaims its beauty by feathered ostentation but one whose attractiveness derives from a slow, gradual contemplation by the beholder.

Their body feathering is immaculate. Each fresh feather, precisely overlapping its neighbour on its upper parts, is pale grey with a darker central shaft and narrowly pale buff fringe at its tip with a thread thin sub terminal black line running inside the semi circle of buff. Look closely and you will see a bird with what appears to be exquisitely and delicately scalloped upper parts while its breast is the subtlest of pale, peach flesh yellow. The white areas on its rump are barred grey and streaks and chevrons of grey adorn its flanks. A broad white supercilium gives it a slightly quizzical demeanour as it glances up at me standing on the causeway. It walks on olive green legs and feet, and its bill is of medium length, black and pointed.

Knot are one of the scarcer waders to visitor Farmoor but for all that they can be seen occasionally, although not annually, on both their Spring and Autumn migration here. In Spring they are transformed, as are many waders by a pre-nuptial moult into a much more colourful breeding plumage. In the case of the Knot it becomes a terracotta red bird on its under parts and face and a confusion of spangled black, grey and buff on its upper parts

A Knot at Farmoor last year in summer plumage

The juvenile Knot at Farmoor this summer - compare this plumage to the
Spring male in the image above
In winter all Knot adopt a non descript plain grey plumage on both their upper and under parts and this juvenile, currently gracing Farmoor's bleak shore, will soon commence moulting into a similar grey winter plumage. The fact that this juvenile has not yet commenced any moult would surely indicate that it is a late hatched bird only now making its way to its winter home wherever that may be.

The Knot that arrive at Farmoor are usually on their own but very occasionally two may arrive together  which contrasts with their reputation for being a supremely sociable bird, that in winter gather in huge numbers at favoured high tide roosts such as Snettisham on The Wash in Norfolk or Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, where they perform spectacular flights in flocks that resemble wind blown smoke or ever changing holograms. Indeed such gatherings, which can reach to over a hundred thousand individuals, packed shoulder to shoulder at high tide and moving like an animated carpet of unfolding grey before a rising tide, form one of Britain's more noted wildlife spectacles.

Knot were once considered good eating and were popular because the dense flocks, both airborne and on the ground meant that many birds could be killed with one shot. Thankfully that is a matter of the past and we can now enjoy the spectacle of these birds at rest and they in turn can find some sort of peace whilst they await the receding of the tide and resume feeding in the shortened hours of winter daylight.

I sat on the wall and watched the Knot wandering along on a frieze of green algae where the water met the concrete, picking up tiny morsels with its black bill.The feeding must be good as it would regularly cease feeding and start preening or on one occasion lift one leg into its belly feathers and standing on the other, tuck its bill into its mantle feathers and go to sleep.

I was no more than a few feet from the bird but it was completely unafraid.  It was I that was more worried of disturbing it, but it showed no alarm whatsoever provided I made no sudden movement. The sun shone every so often from between scudding grey clouds illuminating the water slapping against the concrete, propelled by a strong northwest wind that was warm on my face. I like to think the periods of tranquil calm that descended on us both as we ceased any activity brought a certain bond between us but with a stretch of its wing the Knot would signal the end of such fanciful musings on my part and recommence its quest for food.

Sated by an hour spent in solitary communion with the Knot, I wandered further back along the causeway and found three more waders, two Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin, sharing a space by the water's edge, their cryptic plumage camouflaging them wonderfully well on the mosaic of moss, discarded feathers, gravel and detritus strewn on the shelving concrete.

Adult Ringed Plover
The Ringed Plovers were an adult, that was still in full summer dress and made to look very smart by the other, which was a juvenile, its face patterning mirroring the adult's but its feathers, although fresh were duller brown and its legs and bill without any strong colouring. The plovers too, were very confiding and showed little anxiety, just moving a foot or two away, if they considered I took too much advantage of their trust, in that slow, furtive plover way of theirs, . The Dunlin was also a juvenile but was now acquiring the grey feathers of winter that will eventually completely replace the brown juvenile feathers that were partly visible in its plumage.

Juvenile Ringed Plover
Juvenile Dunlin
I left them to rest and feed. Soon enough they will decide to fly onwards and leave Farmoor and me the poorer for their absence.

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Sandpipers at Slimbridge 19th August 2018

Wood Sandpipers are a very good wader to see and this year's arrival of waders, returning from their northern breeding areas has included a good number of Wood Sandpipers, with some, on occasions, showing well. One such Wood Sandpiper is currently at Slimbridge WWT (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) and has been present for over a week now, although at times it can be frustratingly elusive

This Sunday seemed an opportune time to go and try my luck. It is only an hour's drive across the North Cotswolds and two junctions down the M5 Motorway to Slimbridge, so I left my home at seven in the morning to arrive at Slimbridge an hour later. For no reason I can fathom, Slimbridge does not open its doors to birders or the general public until the comparatively late hour of nine thirty and not a minute before, but if you are a member of the WWT, which I am, you are allowed in by a back gate from eight fifteen onwards, to use the hides sited along an area called The Holden Walkway but not into the rest of the grounds until the hallowed time of nine thirty.

This was not a problem as the Wood Sandpiper was being seen from two hides, the Robbie Garnet Hide and the Stephen Kirk Hide which lie in close proximity to each other along the Holden Walkway and overlook a lagoon of open, shallow water called The Tack Piece. 

I wandered down the walkway and entered the Stephen Kirk Hide and looked out to where the sandpiper had been reported as 'showing well' yesterday afternoon. The result was, I suppose, inevitable and highly predictable.There was not a sign of the sandpiper, just two Avocets feeding in the shallow water and a host of extremely noisy Greylag Geese. Distantly, up a broad channel to my right, five Black tailed Godwits and a smaller wader were feeding but it was not possible to identify the smaller wader with my binoculars as it was just too far away. I sat and tried to be philosophical about my circumstances. I was not too downcast as the Wood Sandpiper had been reported from here on most days so it was likely it would turn up eventually. I did have all day after all but how long did I want to sit here?

Something flushed the godwits and the smaller wader and they all flew towards the water in front of the Hide. My totally unrealistic hopes that the small wader might, by some miracle, be the Wood Sandpiper were put to rest as it settled unsteadily on the mud in front of the Hide. It was a Common Redshank and it had an injured leg, causing it to use its spread wings to balance and thus show the diagnostic broad white wing bars as it fluttered on the wet mud.

Being Slimbridge, it was hardly as if there were not other things to go and see, and I reasoned that this might be the best plan and I could return to the Hide later to try again for the Wood Sandpiper. I resolved to walk to the other end of the grounds and to another Hide, the Hogarth Hide, in front of which, I was informed, four Common Cranes were in residence, two adults plus their two almost fully grown young. Being so early in the day, the grounds were virtually deserted and as I made my way to the Hide, inevitably I was distracted by some of the less natural residents of Slimbridge WWT.  

Flamingos chiefly, of which Slimbridge has six species, from differing areas of the world 

American Flamingo
The intensity of the flamingo's varied shades of  shocking pink, lurid and incongruous under what was currently a grey and oppressive sky seemed almost too much to assimilate and accept as they were, in my opinion, far too exotic to be standing in captivity on the dank muddy banks and in the muddy waters of  their small and drab enclosures. I have seen flamingos in the wild in Africa where they congregate in their thousands if not millions, ribbons of restless pink flowing across vast blue lakes under a bright sunlit sky and entirely natural, but here it all seemed too strange, contrived, excessive and out of place but nonetheless they still looked beautiful.

American Flamingos
The evolutionary adaptations that have formed them cannot fail to engender a fascination and, in their own unique way, impart an indefinable beauty of curves to these tall and slender birds. Anything with such an extraordinary long neck and equally extraordinarily long legs cannot look anything else but elegant and graceful

Greater Flamingo
I stopped to admire the different species, especially the Andean Flamingo's which have become foster parents this year to two young Chilean Flamingos. The chicks are markedly different in size and presumably age, and were having a spat when I encountered them, the smaller of the two very much the aggressor, the larger indulgently not responding. Looking at them squabbling, their lumpy bodies covered in thick grey fluff, the smaller bird jabbing the other in the chest with its stubby black bill, and then comparing them to their sugar pink and white foster parents, it was hard to imagine them one day attaining the same pleasing perfection of colours and growing to be as tall as the adult flamingos currently guarding them.

Young Chilean Flamingos

Adult Andean Flamingos
I moved on and after a short walk entered the spacious and comfortable Hogarth Hide which I had all to myself and, taking a seat, looked out at an uninspiring and bleak prospect of mud, water and tall rank vegetation. This was one end of what is called South Lake. A strong but warm wind was blowing, creating a constant rippling movement through the tall vegetation and, beyond the perimeter fence, the hills and horizon were lost to view in a miasma of low cloud and a slow moving rain storm being borne on the wind

Two Common Snipe and a Ruff were prospecting the muddy shore where it met the water of South Lake  and a couple of Black tailed Godwits flew in, landing in a splash of orange plumaged bodies  and black and white wing bars and tail. They were soon on their way again, long legs extended beyond their tails and long bills pointing forward. The Common Cranes were hunkered down in the grass, all four close together, the two juveniles distinctive with their gingery brown heads. Their male parent constantly elevated his neck and head above the vegetation to check on the surroundings. Ever alert and watchful his white neck and charcoal grey head would rise every thirty or so seconds above the swaying grass to check all was well, the square of crimson feathering on his crown obvious even in the dull light.

I sat here for forty five minutes hoping and waiting for the cranes to move but they remained where they were and I grew restless, wondering if maybe the Wood Sandpiper had by now returned to its favoured Tack Piece. I made the long walk back to virtually the other end of the grounds and when I got to the Holden Walkway I decided to try the Rushy Hide which lies just before the other two Hides, mentioned earlier and looks out onto another area of shallow water adjacent to the Rushy Pen. This Hide has no seats and so you just stand and look out of the viewing slats. I entered the Hide and was astounded to find it full, well almost, there was one space left at the far end of the small Hide  which I promptly occupied. Something was obviously interesting everyone, expert and amateur alike, as cameras and optics were all pointing to a nearby muddy corner of the shallow lagoon, interspersed with scattered scrapes.

The view of the lagoon from the Rushy Hide
The corner of the lagoon to the right of the Hide that
was favoured by the Wood and Green Sandpipers
I looked in the direction that everyone else was looking and there, to my delight was the Wood Sandpiper, feeding and wading in the mud and water together with  two or three Green Sandpipers.

Wood Sandpiper
Such an elegant bird, its slimmer form, longer neck, small head and longer legs compared to the slightly more robust, stockier, shorter legged Green Sandpipers, gave it a graceful more delicate presence, not that the Green Sandpipers were unattractive, and to see both species so relatively close to each other and to me hidden in the Hide, was a real treat. Seen together these two closely related species look so very different, although some in the Hide still had difficulty discerning which was which.

The Wood Sandpiper was liberally spotted and chequered with white on fundamentally mid brown upperparts, its head showed a prominent white supercilium and it sported a finely streaked beast band diffusing into pure white underparts. Its legs were pale yellow rather than the greener legs of the Green Sandpipers.

All of us with cameras clicked away as the Wood Sandpiper fed energetically along the margin of the lagoon or waded deeper into the water, mud clinging to its feet and legs as it withdrew them from the water. It wandered back and fore, mingling with the Green Sandpipers, never still and constantly active, changing direction frequently to pick at invisible items on the water's surface. For half an hour it remained faithful to this secluded corner of the lagoon, fortuitously right at my end of the Hide.

Then something caused an alarm amongst  the Green Sandpipers and with a melodic, loud whistling tooo wheet wheet call the Green Sandpipers took off, as did the Wood Sandpiper, and they all flew right down to the far end of the lagoon and out of sight. The dark upperpart plumage of the Green Sandpipers  contrasting strikingly with their pure white rumps, bringing to mind an image of a giant House Martin

The Hide rapidly cleared after the Wood Sandpiper's departure as everyone recognised the show was now over. I remained, partly because I hoped the Wood Sandpiper might return but also because there were other waders to admire and there would undoubtedly be some really good photo opportunities. In the end I resolved to spend the rest of the day here as it was very enjoyable to watch and photograph the comings and goings of the birds and their activities. If the Wood Sandpiper did return that would be the icing on the cake.

Undoubtedly the main attraction after the Wood Sandpiper departed were the Green Sandpipers that  soon returned and were never absent from the lagoon throughout. At least seven were scattered around the lagoon and some came very close indeed, right in front of the Hide in some cases. Being shorter legged than the Wood Sandpiper, they are a less elegant in movement, more hunched in stature and their plumage is much darker. The upperparts, including the head, are dark brown with a very slight greenish gloss in a good light and their eye is surrounded by a white ring but their head lacks the prominent supercilium of the Wood Sandpiper. The breast band is also dark and prominent, sharply demarcated from the rest of the pure white underparts.When they take off the white  rump, as mentioned, is in stark contrast to the dark upperparts.

Green Sandpiper

There was much else to see apart from the Green and Wood Sandpipers.

Here are some of the highlights during an enjoyable day long vigil in the Rushy Hide and which became even more pleasurable as the predicted sunny spells arrived on schedule just after noon

Black tailed Godwits

Ten or more Black tailed Godwits were stood on a nearby scrape, usually perched on one long leg in the lee of some vegetation to shelter from the still strong wind, their long straight bills tucked cosily into their back feathers. They were dressed in variable plumages, the adults either in a scruffy transition from their breeding plumage of barred, brick orange underparts and chequered brown and black upperparts to the more uniform brownish grey of winter plumage, or they already had completed the moult into winter garb, whilst a couple of juveniles looked immaculate in their unmarked, entirely orange underparts and upperparts of dark brown, scalloped with orange fringes, not a new feather out of place.

Juvenile Black tailed Godwit
The godwits had probably come from Iceland and were now either here to spend the winter or move on southwards to mainland southern Europe.

Initially they slept, reluctantly moving when disturbed by another bird but then, retracting one leg into their belly feathers and snuggling their bill into their back feathers, they resumed their dozing on a now warm and sunny day.

Adult Black tailed Godwits moulting from their breeding
plumage into winter plumage. The individual in front is

much more advanced with its moult than the one behind
Later in the day they became more active. One bird waded into the water and decided to bathe, thrashing the water violently and rapidly with its wings, tilting its body from side to side to immerse itself, ducking its head below the water in order to throw it over its back.

When thoroughly soaked it just sat in the water as if exhausted or maybe savouring the coolness of the water and maybe the fact it stopped its moulting feathers itching, then waded out to preen its bedraggled feathers and adjust its plumage, a process that was both lengthy and thorough and of which it never seemed quite satisfied.

Black tailed Godwit in its winter plumage

Black tailed Godwit still in almost full breeding plumage
Finally, as a group, they all waded into the water and fed, feeding by probing their bills deep into the mud below the water with a rapid thrusting motion and if they found something, retracting their bill and throwing their head upwards in a characteristic jerking motion to propel whatever they had seized down their throat and long neck.

Green Sandpipers

Seven at least graced the lagoon, most feeding at the end nearest to the Hide and coming very close at times. Their compact forms endlessly moving through the water and mud, their white underparts shining against the dark water as they waded through it.

On flying, an individual bird would call an excited melodic tooo wheet wheet that rang through the air as it flew off at high speed, an indistinct blur of black and white, even the underwings were dark so the white areas of plumage became almost disembodied as the bird disappeared into the distance.

Their dark upperpart plumage could be seen to be spotted with white or buff when seen close to but it was not nearly as distinctive as on the Wood Sandpiper.They were also more confiding than the Wood Sandpiper, feeding along the edge of the lagoon, passing right under and along the shore in front of the Hide. One bird on seeing the Black tailed Godwit bathing was stimulated to do the same and literally threw itself about exuberantly  on the water right by the godwit before floating in the water presumably enjoying the sensation. It floated there for a couple of minutes before vigorously bathing, flapping its wings energetically and throwing itself around in the water to get itself thoroughly wet and then stood on the shore to preen and put its plumage in order before resuming feeding.

Another, in the late afternoon sunshine squatted on the dry mud, its belly flat to the surface, drooped its wings to its sides and sunbathed, the very picture of late summer indolence and contentment. In a bird's life this state of relaxation must be such a rare indulgence.

Note the dark brown underwings and barred axillaries


Along with Rook and Smew they have the shortest name for any British bird and which was first used in 1654. They get their name from the remarkable plumes that grow around their head forming  into an extravagant collar or ruff of many different colours and patterns on each individual male and which they adopt in the breeding season. The males then assemble at a lek to perform their demented displays and mate with the smaller, dull coloured females that are called reeves. Previously they bred in large numbers in eastern England but were over exploited as a food source and combined with the reclamation of wetlands the consequence was they became extinct as a breeding bird in England by 1850.  One hundred years later they returned and began to lek at a few sites in East Anglia and this year Frampton RSPB in Lincolnshire was a well known site to which to go and observe Ruffs lekking but this is now a rare event and will remain so as they will never be able to regain the overall numbers that were present in England all those years ago.

Adult male Ruff

Juvenile male Ruff
At least three Ruff were present but each bird kept very much to itself. They wandered busily and ceaselessly amongst the other birds or along the shoreline, forever on a quest for food. Their silhouette is unmistakeable, with a large bodied round shouldered appearance and with a  head on top of a longish neck that always seems slightly too small for their body. All were males, and the two adults were now in their newly acquired silvery grey winter plumage with markedly pale heads and orange yellow legs, the other was a juvenile with browner overall plumage, slightly orange below and neatly patterned with buff edgings to its upperparts and with green legs. I watched admiringly as one  of the adults stopped briefly to stretch its wings.  It is done slowly and almost contemplatively, each wing in turn slowly extended with the corresponding leg stretched out below it. The action is supremely relaxing even to the watcher. Many birds at rest do this and invariably when waders do it standing on their long legs it strikes an almost balletic pose and one of supreme grace and balance.


One or two wandered the grassy areas around the lagoon and one bird got caught up in the current frenzy to bathe in the lagoon's shallow water. As with the Green Sandpiper and Black tailed Godwit it undertook this task with some vigour and application and like them sat for a time motionless in the water, floating somewhat dishevelled, up to its neck,  in the water. They are familiar birds, thousands migrating here from the East to spend the winter in our milder climate, when they can be seen whirling in a flock that alternates black and white above fallow or grass fields that often form their winter home. Others are resident and breed in whatever suitable habitat is still available for them.Their superficially black and white plumage is in fact something more, the upperparts shot like silk with subtle shades of colour.They are not black at all on their upperparts but bottle green infused with purple and blue iridescence. Their head adorned with a whispy black crest.

Lapwing bathing

Common Snipe

Invisible at first, they betrayed their presence when they were disturbed from their secret hiding places in the sparse vegetation on some of the scrapes, flying  a short distance to land and immediately crouch, before sidling into cover. Their plumage is a basic camouflage of brown, black and buff but of extraordinary complexity which assists them to meld into invisibility in their favoured habitat of dead reeds and grass. Today, in the afternoon, they became emboldened and emerged to feed furtively along the edge of the scrapes, never straying far from cover. They mainly eschewed wading in the water and inserting their preposterously long bills into the submerged mud but instead nibbled at the moss and weed at  the water's edge, using the sensitive tips of their mandibles  with some delicacy and finesse. Its bill is proportionately the longest of any British bird and seems outlandish when seen from any angle.


This duck is unique in that it is the only duck that migrates to visit our shores in summer rather than coming to spend the winter, leaving again in the autumn to spend its winter in southern Africa. A male was asleep on a small muddy scrape with a few Eurasian Teal for company. All are currently in their eclipse plumage of dull browns as they await the re-growth of their spectacular and colourful breeding plumage. The Garganey could be distinguished by its slightly bulkier and larger build with a distinctive profile caused by the longer bill. I could tell it was a male and a Garganey as it lazily stretched out each wing to expose the pale grey areas on its forewings.Their head pattern is more complex than a teal with a  pale supercilium above a dark eye stripe and another smaller dark stripe on each of its cheeks. It sat for a long time, content in the sun before taking to the water to feed with some teal, its head mostly under the water as its sifted through the muddy waters.

Male Garganey. Note the pale grey forewing and broad white
fringes to the  speculum

Eurasian Teal. Note the darker grey forewing and different
pattern and colour to the speculum
I really enjoy the rare opportunity, such as today, to have the time to photograph birds actively doing things rather than just standing about. I like recording action shots of bird's various idiosynchratic behaviour, especially that which is unknown to me. I feel a fascination at the strange shapes birds adopt at times, such as when they are bathing and invariably when I take the time to just sit or stand, to watch and record, I usually learn something new about the birds that I am currently observing. For instance I had no idea that, prior to bathing, Black tailed Godwits, Green Sandpipers and Lapwings to name but three species would sit in the water, inactive for a short period of time and appear to find the experience pleasurable.

Black tailed Godwit and Green Sandpiper bathing
There were other birds enlivening the day as well as the waders. Two amorous Wood Pigeons, came to drink but then got overcome with passion and nibbled each others cheeks in a display of affection, the pupils in their pale eyes contracting to pinpricks in their ecstacy. August is the peak breeding time for Wood Pigeons so I could well understand their behaviour.

Amorous Woodpigeons
It was yet another example of bird behaviour I was a stranger to and had not seen before. Goldfinches and Linnets were regular visitors to  a stony area, made wet with trickling water running off from the lagoon, the small finches landing with an accompaniment of conversational twittering notes, to drink and bathe.

Male Common Linnet
European Goldfinch
A Grey Wagtail put in a very brief cameo appearance in front of the sleeping Teal as did a Common Sandpiper, that arrived later in the afternoon.

Grey Wagtail
Two Little Ringed Plovers always remained on a distant spit of sand and stones, never coming closer, maybe deterred by the larger birds nearer the Hide.

Juvenile Little Ringed Plover
Avocets, constantly wading through the murky water, swiped their recurved bills through the water, a rhythmic. rapid scything motion from side to side, hardly stopping to swallow any food items they gleaned. Most were adults but one was a juvenile, the black areas of its plumage smudgy brown but otherwise indiscernible from the adults

People came and went but the Hide was never again as crowded as when I first entered it in the morning and often I was left entirely on my own. The Wood Sandpiper, despite my hopes, never returned. A young Marsh Harrier arrived, rising up and over the surrounding trees at the far end of the lagoon in the middle of the afternoon, long winged, the outer primaries on each wing splayed like five separate fingers as it flew, clothed entirely in a dark sinister brown plumage with a pale  creamy head and the birdlife on the lagoon erupted in alarm.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier
The Avocets in particular took extreme umbrage at this incursion by the harrier, protesting with loud sharp calls and making high speed stoops at the harrier, and then returning to settle with black and white wings held out for that extra second to emphasis their alarm and readiness for another attack. The harrier carried on across the lagoon and was gone and the lagoon settled down to its  previous soporific existence.

After the harrier had departed so did I but decided on one last look at the nearby Robbie Garnet Hide just in case the Wood Sandpiper had moved to the Tack Piece. It had, as I found it feeding distantly with a single Black tailed Godwit. It was a long way down a channel of muddy water and did not look like it would be coming much closer. Looking to the end of the channel in my binoculars I found, to my great pleasure, two adult Common Cranes and scanning left, there were another three, standing in some rough grassland. They soon became restless and took to the air, circling low but landed back from where they had taken off. They called, a loud bugling sound, and then all five took off again, three disappearing over the distant hedge and rising high up in the sky but the other two settled once more in the grass, obviously a pair, their bodies a towering grey presence even at the long range I was viewing them.

Common Cranes
Now it definitely was time to go and armed with a coffee purchased from the excellent Slimbridge WWT cafe, I headed for Oxfordshire and home.

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