Snow the day before was still around as we left Four Marks, but as we headed south it soon faded away and we were left with frost. We parked in the car park at the top of the canal path in Titchfield and the headed south into the glare of the low winter sun. About 200 metres from the car park a power line crosses the path, looking to the right there is a line of trees, and in one of the trees we could just make out a roosting Barn Owl, tucked down in the middle of the old tree.
To our left there was a flooded patch that was frozen, on the edge of the ice there were several Pied Wagtail searching for food, and a Robin flew out into the middle of the ice and slipped to produce a Bambi moment.
A Kestrel flew over and settled in a tree to scan the grass, while a Buzzard sat on one of the fence posts waiting for an opportunity.
At first the walk was pleasant despite the low sun, the path being gravel. However a little further along it became very sticky, not muddy as the ground beneath the sticky surface was hard, but walking was not easy, and it was very slippery.
In addition to the mud, the canal was almost full, and in places was spilling out across the path. What with the mud and the low sun that made seeing in front of us difficult the walk was not to pleasant. We stopped in places to scan the fields, but there was little about.
At Posbrook floods, the water was again frozen, but there was a small patch clear, and here there was a large flock of Black-headed Gulls.
Of the path to the right a pair of Roe Deer were laid down in the sunshine.
We passed another pair a little further on, this time though on the shadow side of the sunshine. Finally we made it to firmer ground, and then out on to the road, and the beach, where the tide was well out. Oystercatchers could be seen feeding on the edge of the water, but with so many people about on the beach there was very little else. Still it looked lovely in the winter sunshine.
We walked around the the visitor centre and had a coffee in the cafe before turning around and heading back. We decided to leave entering the reserve, just took in the view across the reed beds.
From the road we walked back on to the Canal path. With the sun behind us it felt much easier walking, even with the mud.
Movement in a branch that stretched out across the water of the ditch stopped us. I thought at first it was a Wren, but a flash of white told it was something worth stopping for. After a short wait it appeared again, a smart Firecrest.
Bizarrely, even with the frost having come out of the path and there being more mud, the walk was a lot easier, and we were able to scan the fields with the sun behind us. A Marsh Harrier flew north over the reeds, and two Buzzards flew from the trees alongside the path. A little further on as I watched a soaring Buzzard, and Sparrowhawk joined it circling higher over the reeds.
At the Posbrook floods the water had melted, the flock of Black-headed Gulls were still there. The was only one duck, a drake Pintail, up close to the reds at the back.
Closer to us hiding by the side of some grass in the shallow water was a single Snipe.
As we approached the car park once more we walked past the field where we had seen the owl earlier. Scanning the tree once again the Barn Owl was sitting more prominently in the open part of the tree. Eyes closed it was appearing to be asleep, but I bet it was totally aware of its surroundings.
While Helen showed the owl another couple, I walked a little further along the path to see if I could get a better view. This then revealed the fact that there were actually two owls roosting in the tree.
The bird tucked away to the left looks like the one we saw earlier in the morning, as it is in the same position. The other bird, probably appearing from within the tree.
A typical end of year walk, with the added bonus of the Barn Owls and a smart Firecrest.