When we arrived looking across the reed bed up the valley, the scene looked perfect.
We stopped to view the reed bed before heading into the reserve and were told about a fox that could be seen from the viewing point, so we headed back and sure enough tucked away in the long grass in full sun was a fox with its nose tucked under its back legs.
I moved to get a better view and it looked up to see what the fuss was.
But it really didn't care who was looking and went back again to a snooze in what was probably the one warm place on the reserve.
We set off around the east side of the reserve, and the first stop was going to be at the Knights Bank hide, but as we approached the Suffern hide turn I changed my mind, this was to prove to be the right decision.
The light as predicted was wonderful, low golden winter sunshine, clear blue sky and a still water. Gulls were perched on the posts in the the river. This Common Gull looking very nice.
I had heard a whistle as we walked up to the hide, and very soon we heard it again, then a flash of blue, and good fortune as the Kingfisher flew to the posts close to the hide.
It bobbed, and then dived into the water and successfully caught a small fish, and then returned to another dead branch that was even closer.
It then proceeded to thrash the fish against the branch.
Then gradually turn the fish until it was head first so that it could be easily swallowed.
Before it could swallow it though a Black-headed Gull flew at it and it flew off up river, still though with the fish.
That little piece of excitement over the next began to turn up. In front of the hide were a pair of Bearded Tits, and then conveniently moved through the reeds until they reached the top, and sunshine. They never came out into full view, but these photographs for me depict these birds as they are, skulking, shy beautiful spectacular birds.
In this one I love the yellow eye as if it is watching me.
The light continued to deliver, this Cormorant casting a lovely reflection.
The Kingfisher returned, however this time it preferred the other side of the river fishing from the reeds and the sticks along the edge.
It wouldn't spend long in one place, and you were able to watch the flash of blue as it flew back and forth in front of the reeds
But would quickly settle before launching another dive into the water, and always successful in its fishing.
It never returned to the close posts probably due mainly to the number of gulls about. Two pairs of Mallard flew past, again the light providing a lovely shot.
A Gadwall slowly swam in front of the reed reflections.
The Bearded Tits too moved away so we decided to move on. As we came out of the hide a Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the top of a birch tree, and Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits called from within the marsh area. A Sparrowhawk turned the calls to alarm calls, and we just saw it flash past us.
Next stop was the Meadow Hide, a Stonechat was on the fence close to the hide.
All the main birds were distant, where the water was not frozen. There were large flocks of Teal and Wigeon, you could hear the latter whistling, but they were all impossible to see. It was much the same from the Knights Bank Hide, so we decided to head to the visitor centre for a warming cup of coffee and a bite to eat.
From the visitor centre we headed to the west side, stopping at first to see if the fox was still there, it was, and raised its head to check us again before settling down to another doze.
Next stop was the Meon Shore Hide, and we were informed that we had missed a flock of Bearded Tits in a small clump of reeds in front of the hide. You could see the chaff from their feeding on the ice below the reeds. The were still a few about, but they were distant, and not photographable.
The water was frozen apart from a patch where the water entered the scrape. This allowed a heron to wade in. It was quite graceful as it slowly walked through the water, but that bill remained a threat to anything.
It then stopped and settled down for a while, the reflection looking superb, and contrasting between the open water and ice.
There were no ducks pesent at all. A few Moorhens waddled about on the ice, and Oystercatchers were roosting on the islands. Then a small party of Teal flew in, belly flopping onto the ice.
As they tried to walk on the ice, their legs would splay away from them in a rather comical scene.
The gulls too found the ice difficult to land but preferred it to the islands.
There were a few Snipe around the outside of the pool, but apart from them and the Oystercatchers the only other wader was this Ringed Plover that decided to walk across the ice between islands.
It was going quite well until it came across a little pool, and this seemed to unsettle it, and it fell.
We left the hide and walked around to the Spurgin Hide. As we walked in a Marsh Harrier flew over the reeds, and by the time we were in position it dropped into the reeds and sat carefully on a post.
As we waited for the harrier to fly again three Teal flew into the open water in front of the hide. The water was like a mirror, and the golden light was catching the teal perfectly.
Looking across the the north we found another harrier sitting in a tree, and it was then joined by a Buzzard. Finally the harrier on the post was up, but the views were distant as it quartered the reeds. It was possible though to see that it was an immature bird, probably female from the size.
We decided to leave the hide, and as we did the immature harrier came over our heads.
We decided to have one more time in the Suffern Hide, but had to stop at the bridge to watch the Tufted Duck in once again some wonderful light and water reflections.
Looking up from the ducks a small flock of Golden Plover flew into the scrape in front of the Meon Shore Hide.
Carrion Crows are quite difficult to photograph, but this individual gave me the chance at the visitor centre while it sat calling in a conifer.
In the hide the gulls were still present and in the wonderful light provided some wonderful poses. This Black-headed Gull standing on water.
Here the opportunity to see the difference well between Black-headed and Common.
And finally this Common Gull was doing a few yoga moves before bed.
Another Marsh Harrier drifted past the hide over the reeds, this time it was an adult male, probably the bird we saw in the tree from the Spurgin Hide, the grey wing patches diagnostic.
The light continued to deliver, this pair of Gadwall dozing and making the most of the late afternoon sunshine.
The Kingfisher was still about, but again on the other side of the bank, fishing from its favourite spots in the reeds.
There were also a few Bearded Tits in the reeds, and as they came into the sunshine you could just make them out. Again these are typically the views you getof these wonderful birds.
The sun was dropping fast and it was getting cold, so we decided to leave and headed back to the car. The tide was high, and on what was left of the beach were a group of Sanderling with a couple of Ringed Plover, in a more typical habitat.
And of course the Turnstone, on the beach, and the groynes.
It had been a wonderful day, in almost perfect condition, if the re was one fault it was the frozen water that kept more of the duck and waders away. That said it has changed my view on 2015, more of which will come in the other blog.