On Sunday 14th January a group of eight (Nev, Graham, Lee, Wendy, Terry, Alma, Bev and Madeleine) braved the cold weather to visit this reserve in the Nene Valley, Northamptonshire. There are a variety of wetland sites as well as grasslands and young woodlands, consequently a wide variety of waterfowl and many other birds arrive with the changing seasons. We were particularly looking for the great egret which had been reported here.
Three of us were lucky enough to see the bird from the Pioneer hide almost as soon as we arrived as it flew leisurely from one end of the lake to the other disappearing out of sight at the back of a reed bed. After a few minutes the other members began to arrive, but the great egret had gone.
However, very soon many other waterfowl began to attract our attention - adult mute swans with juveniles in tow and a wide variety of ducks, but no waders. A peregrine falcon eased its way overhead into a tree on the far side of the lake.
We decided to move on along a thinly wooded path to the Paul Britten hide which would give us an alternative view of the reed bed with, perhaps, a sight of the elusive great egret. This hide is right next to what is supposed to be the waders' scrape. Little egrets had been seen from the other hide, but no sighting of the great yet. Nev found us a lovely snipe beautifully camouflaged on the edge of a small island and finally a lone teal was spotted. There was much discussion of some of the more confusing ducks. We were looking at the brown females and the gadwall. Some of us began to feel much more confident about their identification. You can't beat the real thing rather than looking in books.
After leaving the hide we stopped on the path looking out across the water from a different angle. Suddenly someone spotted the great egret off to our left not far from a little egret. Although it was partially hidden by some reeds you could clearly see the difference in size between the two. Everyone was thrilled to have seen it.
The other real highlight of the morning was our visit to the bird feeding station at the Charles Towler hide. There were so many small birds here - finches, tits etc. - a birdwatcher's paradise!
It was a very satisfying morning. Summer Leys is a place many of us will return to.