A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Great Reed Warbler chase - Albert Village Lake in Leicestershire!

Great Reed Warbler is a species I’d not yet managed to catch up with in the UK – not quite mega enough to warrant a 4 hour trip to Norfolk or Suffolk but sufficiently rare enough that only a small sprinkling of records occur in Britain each year. Bar a 1 day individual that took up residence in the West Midlands back in May 2015 (unfortunately on a weekday!) there hadn’t been any other birds nearby to twitch in recent years which meant Great Reed Warbler had remained off my list. 
Great Reed Warbler - Albert Village Lake, Leicestershire
Great Reed Warbler - a master of hide and seek!
Therefore, when reports surfaced of an individual found singing in the reeds at Albert Village Lake in Leicestershire a few weeks ago, I was keen to get down there to see if we could connect. Making the 2 ½ journey down to the midlands, we were soon approaching the southern reedbed the bird had been found in that morning, reports of it being extremely elusive playing on our minds and eyeing the grey rainclouds overhead ominously, hoping they would hold out until the evening.

Spotting several scopes on the opposite bank trained towards the reedbed, it transpired there was a 50/50 chance of picking the right viewpoint – heading over to the other side for distant views as the bird flew between the reeds or stick on the main reedbed side and hope the warbler revealed itself! Immediately hearing the distinctive scratchy and deafeningly loud song emanating from a nearby Hawthorn, we gathered round and hoped this impressive warbler would shortly make an appearance. 4 hours later, we were still waiting….

Tantalisingly close and a metre or so away at one point, it’s fair to say that the Great Reed most definitely won the game of hide and seek, teasing us with its song but refusing to show.
Albert Village Lake, Leicestershire
The reedbed at Albert Village Lake that the Great Reed Warbler favoured
As the afternoon wore on and with silence on the singing front for the past half an hour, we were just about to throw in the towel when our songster started up again, a brief glimpse obtained as it bombed down in to the bottom of the reed edge right next to the lake. Frustratingly we could see the reeds moving as it worked its way along, but just couldn’t see it due to the thick vegetation! Luckily at this point, fellow birder Jake Gearty (who had been watching it from the other side of the lake) ran back to the let the crowd on our side know it was on view and visible from the opposite edge – cue a frantic dash around the lake! 

After a few tense moments when the bird had disappeared, the Great Reed finally gave itself up, proceeding to work its way along the edge of the reeds, occasionally perching on an exposed stem to belt out its song, audible even at this range. Luckily I managed a handful of distant record shots – extremely hard when the bird was constantly on the move! Despite the distance, the extreme size difference from our regular Reed Warblers was apparent, as was the huge bill as it stopped to sing. Success, relief, and after 4 hours patiently waiting we had finally nailed our target. Proof that perseverance does eventually pay off! 
Great Reed Warbler - Albert Village Lake, Leicestershire
With the rain now threatening to break and the Great Reed retreating back in to the reedbed, we decided to call it a day, admiring the displaying male ducks in the bay as we passed and feeling exceptionally glad that we’d took a chance and tried our luck! 

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