Tolly and I had a walk to the lake before lunch. The weather was misty and damp, but very still. One advantage of a day like this is how well sound carries in the damp air; there was very little noise in the trees so every bird call could be heard with ease. Most of the species we saw we heard first, including species with very quiet contact calls such as treecreepers and goldcrests. The sneezing “pitchou” calls of marsh tits were heard several times. We are very fortunate to have a healthy population of this red listed bird in the woods around Gilling and they are seen or heard on most of our walks at any time of year.
Down by the lake calls and other sounds carried across the water. Though at least fifty metres away we could literally hear the water run off a mallard’s back as it up ended to feed. There were several mallard present including a couple of really smart drakes, but the main attraction was a goldeneye. This diving duck is an uncommon visitor to the patch and it was great to watch it feeding successfully towards the south of the lake. We hoped that this first winter bird may yet be joined by an adult drake, one of our favourite ducks.
A shrill piping call gave us warning of an approaching kingfisher, which we were fortunate to find with the scope perched in a bankside willow. It was a male, a jewel even (or perhaps especially) in the dullest conditions. Equally bright was a grey wagtail flashing lemon yellow as it fed very close to us by the water’s edge; what a sight as it picked food from washed up fallen leaves. Fieldfares “chack chacked” above us at times and siskins called as they fed restlessly in the birch tops.
We remembered the dragonflies and damselflies we had watched in the same area on warm days in summer as we walked on a carpet of fallen leaves and took in the sights and smells of a late autumn day.