Low feeders and a relatively settled forecast saw a trip to Tophill again today. If you are planning on visiting the reserve take great care - remember the road is ungritted and unploughed so be prepared to escape rapidly if the weather starts to close! It took me 20 minutes to cover the 4 miles to the A164 tonight.
However it was all worth while - even though I didn't leave the office! This is the first time I can recall seeing a stock dove on any feeding station. The timid woodpigeon cousin never normally drops in, but was obviously forced to with the weather:
No sign of the woodcock - past experience suggests it dislikes the snow and may well have sought out the river bank where it can get it's beak in. However today saw the return of another stalwart - the water rail (not cut and pasted! - just against the snow!):
This individual was near but not under the feeders - perhaps just inspecting - but hopefully it will now grace us for the rest of winter. We had a resident rail for several winters but it did not show at all last year - presumably reaching the end of it's days. With a bit of luck this is the replacement.
That said, besides the arboreal rail of the last post this one was behaving oddly too - running a circuit around the middle of the exposed meadow - not skulky at all - maybe trying to keep warm! Here it is doing it's Captain Scott piece:
The next returnee was the brambling - these fine two individuals amongst dozens of chaffinches:
At least 3 different great spots' visited, including this fine male which would put a robin to shame for red:
The sparrowhawk made a couple of attacks and as the light went a female siskin was sat 3 feet from desk whilst on the phone!
If you fancy birding in heated comfort please ring on 01377 270690 to check the centre is open first, whilst the whole site is open as normal for the brave and foolhardy!