My head was swimming with the thought of all the brownie points this would rack up, so I was a bit nonplussed when she thought it was too far to drive. Plan B involved a much shorter drive to College Lake, near Tring, and as we hadn't visited there since the new Visitors Centre went in (it's got a tea shop, but you were ahead of me there, weren't you?), it seemed like a good alternative.
Arriving not long after the gates opened for the day, it was still rather quiet in the Centre, so we ambled out to one of the hides for a look at the wildfowl in the recently re-landscaped chalk quarry. It all looked fairly standard, with the usual species of ducks, Mute Swans and Canada Geese. Not a wader in sight. We pottered along to some woodland and were rewarded with a brief view of a Tree Creeper amongst a tit flock, but it was chilly and the tea shop was singing its siren song.
Whilst sampling several slices of rather gorgeous ginger shortbread, we received news that some Bearded Reedlings had been seen at Walton Lake, back in Milton Keynes. We'd only driven passed this site on the way to Tring! Worse still, some Whooper Swans had been spotted at Linford Lakes, not a mile from Tense Towers! What a quandary. Should we keep the faith with College Lake or just return home and pretend that we weren't twitching our own patch? That phrase is just plain wrong, I do apologise.
Hmmm, what do you think we did?
Arriving at Walton Lake, we joined several other hopeful folk wandering around the perimeter path of the main reedbed, listening intently for the characteristic twanging "ping" call. Whilst the Bearded Reedlings may well have been there, they weren't about to show themselves. So we called time on our second site of the day and went to Linford Lakes, only stopping off at Tense Towers to take on reserves of tea.
|No, we couldn't see any Bearded Reedlings either.
Safely ensconced in the Near Hide (cracking name, by the way, it isn't as far as the Far Hide), we proceeded to scan all the swans for the telltale signs of Whooper-ness. Now I must tell you that there have been a great many swans on this lake all year, all Mute, and indeed that was all we could see. Figuring that we'd missed these birds too, we continued to scan for other species and managed to spot a few Snipe tucked away in the undergrowth near the water's edge. What we should've done, was to count the swans and then count how many we'd been able to check. This was because not all of every swan was visible at all times, due to various behaviours like feeding or sleeping. After about 20 minutes, I spotted a group of three swans that were dozing in the shallows, one of whom was waking up to reveal a bill coloured with a large amount of yellow. Bingo!
|Awful shot, but definitely Whoopers!
They were a very sleepy bunch and only briefly did all three show signs of consciousness together. They were too far away for Wrong Len to capture a meaningful image, but we were just so pleased to see these beauties on our local reserve, presumably resting up after the long haul flight from Iceland. And they saved us a trip to Welney!