I signed up to a 4 hour Bittern watch session on Saturday, sounded like a good idea at the time!
Pre-planning meant binoculars were cleaned, camera lens cleaned, batteries charged, scope checked and cleaned, tripod checked. Bike tyres pumped up from flat to 40psi, bike loaded into car. Sarnies made, coffee made, cakes identified and choc bar sorted. (The final two items never made the trip and were eliminated by my lousy memory despite pre-pre-pre-planning checks!)
I parked in Rye Road, unloaded the bike, strapped my camera bag to my back and headed off to the Otter Hide. Not too quick as I realised my front brake was kaput, this will be fun!
Stopped for a quick chat with Allan Meadows - who I was relieving - before arriving at the hide. I haven't been here for probably 15 years or more. I have a distant memory of coming here once before and seeing a Heron at the far end of the pond / lake / mere.
Allan hadn't had any luck with the Bittern but did say there were plenty of warblers in the reeds and reasonably close, which proved to be the case.
I arrived at 12.20 set-up camera & scope, food & drink (this is when I realised the cakes & choc bar hadn't made the cut!) bins at the ready, note book handy, and we're off!
Previously (from RSPB Rye Meads} I'd noticed a good crop of Pochard on the water, today there was one, a nice male but too far away at the moment. I could hear the warblers in the reeds opposite but couldn't see any to start with. Fifteen minutes later I'd taken about 10 shots of the male Pochard as he swam by the hide, once with the missus,
and god knows how many Warblers in the reeds. They just seemed to suddenly appear and then disappear again a few minutes later.
Some shots weren't too bad others were deleted on the spot! The light wasn't helping, cloud and poor light with no breaks in the cloud visible. Usual shooting conditions then!
I thought at the time that most of the warblers were "Reedies" but discovered bck home that most were "Sedgies"
I kept checking for the Bittern, no joy, there goes that Pochard again, going back the other way. More warblers, more images, more deleted, a few kept more in hope that expectation.
At 13.00 a Hobby flew over headed for RSPB RM (I know this 'cos I noted it in my note book!).
First sarnie disappears, ham & coleslaw in a Ciabatta roll - nice (a la Jazz Club!), a cup of coffee, nice and strong - shit that's bloody hot! A visitor - and a question I was going to be asked more than once this afternoon "Is this the best place to see the Otters?" Er . . . maybe the Otter Hide name should be changed to "Hide"? (One for you Jenny!).
Pochard going by again and at quite a rate of knots, more pictures which look OK - very similar but OK. Warblers quiet, Bittern even quieter! (Is there one here?)
Couple of Buzzards overhead, Cetti's singing away to the left but I can't see him, that Pochard again - if he looks at me like that next time . . .
A couple of ladies enter the hide, "Good afternoon" I say - No answer, just "a look". Please yourselves. They sit and whisper for a few minutes, then move to the right of the hide and open a window which looks out on to very little (which was why I didn't open it). More whispering, two minutes later they've gone. Did I imagine it?
Jay Ward popped in, took a few pictures, saw a Hobby, had a chat and popped out again on his way round the Stansted Abbott hides then on the Amwell to see the Black Tern. He had been as successful as me regarding Otter sightings at the Otter Hide.
More warblers and a Grasshopper Warbler reeling but I couldn't see him anywhere despite searching with bins & scope. More sarnies & coffee at regular intervals, along with that Pochard which is starting to give me a complex. I'm wondering if it's a "drone" Pochard which Jenny S has launched to make sure the volunteers had turned up as promised. Paranoid? Moi?
The rest of the pm followed the same pattern, sarnies (until they ran out at 13.55), coffee (which lasted longer), warblers, Pochard, warblers, Pochard but no Bittern unfortunately.
So, no Bittern on the Bittern watch and no Otters at the Otter Hide so next time maybe I'll just watch from the hide!
Oh yes, the sore bum & no brakes bit - relate to the bike which I haven't ridden for some time, that padded saddle needs looking at and I now know how the front brake works and why it "fails" if I take the wheel out! At least I didn't fall off!