Well, I suppose caution was the cornerstone of success, but we made Rutland Water early morning given the conditions hadn't worsened. It was good to be the first people onto parts of the Reserve and provided a real sense of exploration. Some water areas were frozen over , but others had good concentrations of waterbirds which provided great views ( Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Goosander, Mute Swan and Great Crested Grebe.) Odd Heron and Cormorant appeared to be stoically sitting out the conditions, but numbers of Coot were as active as ever. Whilst sitting in one of the hides we had the most superb views of Water Rail picking around and out in the open. It remained for ages and, given the conditions, we took care not to disturb it. Excellent views were had of a Red Fox hunting along the edge of one of the lagoons, its progress marked by periodic "eruptions" of duck. As we returned on our first "leg" ( there are 31 hides at Rutland! ) we had good views of a Kingfisher along a dyke, and various passerines began to be more in evidence.
Calling in to the Centre, a chat with Tim Appleton ( Manager of the Rutland Water Reserve complex) provided information on where Smew had been seen, so we trudged off in the other direction this time with conditions cold , but pleasant. Sightings of Bullfinch, various thrushes, and Common Snipe added to the ever-growing list before we arrived at the appropriate viewing point after what might best be described as an invigorating walk!! Here many more duck were on show, including a male Smew. The majority were "packed" across the other side of the water body and undoubtedly included the female birds which had been reported. And so the time arrived to depart and end what had been an absolutely delightful visit to a great area.
Now for the Fens. Now it has to be said, we didn't go off the beaten track and so we encountered no difficulties at all!! To boot, we had great views of Whooper and Bewick Swans, saw a couple of large flocks of Skylark (400+ ) , several Kestrels and odd passerine species. Our intention to visit Lakenheath RSPB Reserve and walk out to the watchpoint for Common Crane had to be abandoned as time was slipping away, so we went to the Santon Downham area instead. Strangely quiet, silent even in many respects , so the day ended on a subdued note, although our success at having reached our various venues far exceeded any disappointment.