One of the first sunny days in March, I had the afternoon free so took a trip to EWT Hanningfield Reservoir.
Walking towards the visitor centre I was welcomed by the blue and great tits flitting around the trees by the feeder. Upon entering the reserve the great tits were singing loudly, along with the robins. Getting to Lyster hide the water level was high enough to cover the mud under the hide, giving the feeling that I was sitting on a boat as the sound of the water rippled in the wind. The cormorants were together on the rafts and a large amount of coot and tufted duck were visible in the distance, with two mute swans floating amongst them, along with a small flock of lapwing flying past. Two great crested grebes were close to the hide, they began to turn towards each other, and I thought perhaps they might begin a courtship, but they soon parted and one energetically dived underneath the water.
Heading to the path along the edge of the grazing meadows you could hear there were waterfowl present. The usual greylag and Canada geese were about along with various mallard. Teal were also feeding in the field, and at the far edge a very large flock of wigeon were present that appeared to move along in a great grey wave.
Taking the woodland path a muntjac deer was foraging in amongst the trees, and a grey squirrel was casually watching me walk past from a fallen tree. The path around the edge of the woodland was slightly muddy, with a song thrush, blackbird, and robin making use of the area to forage. Having reached Oak hide, when the wooden window flaps were lifted the hide was filled with the sound of teal filter feeding in the muddy water close by, the females’ green speculum and beautifully patterned brown plumage clearly visible. The males were not far away either, their russet and teal head looking boldly coloured in the afternoon light. The ‘kreeing’ of the black-headed gulls could be heard, with the gulls showing both winter as well as summer plumage.
Moving onto Point hide a flock of Chaffinch were feeding along the shoreline, every so often flying back to the trees for cover, just the flash of their white wing bar visible as they disappeared. Abundant waterfowl were observed from Point hide, including shelduck, gadwall, goldeneye and plenty of tufted duck. The island close by was dominated by gulls, including more black-headed, common and lesser black-backed, as well as carrion crow. Pied wagtails were also present along the shoreline in front of the hide.
Continuing along the woodland path, looking up you could see the long-tailed tits flitting about in the tree tops. After a while of looking I caught sight of a goldcrest high up in the canopy. A treecreeper made an appearance, scuttling up the tree before flying to the bottom of another and repeating its upward climb. Stopping nearby I could hear the sound of debris hitting the ground next to me, and looking up sure enough there was a squirrel above me. Reaching the clearing to the grazing meadow again, a male muntjac was feeding nearby, not at all concerned by our presence, or that of the noisy geese. A grey heron stood at the edge of the reservoir, a serene image before it was time to head back.