A vile day of snow, sleet and rain but, in the words of Herodotus, 'Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.' That was my thought when I saw the little row of dripping photographers devotedly waiting by the reed bed hoping to catch a perfect shot of the Bearded Tits in the dim light. The birds were, as usual, busily climbing around the reed stems pecking seeds from the sodden panicles.
Des McKenzie kindly alerted me to the presence of a female Goldeneye on the Long Water. There she was, but she obstinately stayed at a distance from the shore and the bridge, and this distant shot was the best I could get.
There used to be Goldeneye regularly on the Long Water, and there is a picture of one in the guide to the water birds near the Peter Pan statue. But that poster is over 20 years old, and the birds are now only occasional visitors. About five years ago there was a male Goldeneye with a slightly injured wing, who stayed on the Long Water for a few days to recover.
Another bird shown on the poster that has now vanished is the Muscovy Duck which, in spite of its name, is a native of Central America (compare the Turkey, also an American bird). I haven't seen one on the lake for years.
Under the willow near the Italian Garden, one of the Little Grebes had caught a fish and was shaking it vigorously to stun it before swallowing it.
The pair were calling to each other, and you can constantly hear their whinnying cry on the Long Water. The Collins Bird Guide says that Little Grebes are 'Silent in winter'. They haven't read it.
On this chilly day mobs of hungry Great and Blue Tits poured out of the trees to be fed, along with some Coal Tits, Chaffinches and Robins. All chased me along the path shouting for attention. Blue Tits may be common, but they are very beautiful.
Update: both rings on the Bearded Tits have been read from photographs, and the birds traced. They were ringed on 10 November 2012 at Rye Meads, Hoddesdon. Full details here.