A short drive from home, a visit was prompted by a text-message report of a Red-backed Shrike, a migrant that isn't often found this far inland - (they fairly regularly crop-up on the East Coast). A small group of Newbury birders were already gathered at the spot so it was easy to locate the bird, which continued to fly-catch from the tops of fence posts and bushes, flying up, snatching large, winged insects out of the air and returning to its perch to gulp them down. The Shrike had a supporting cast of Whinchat, Stonechat, Woodlark, and Wheatear. This was the kind of day that makes birding a joy and a pleasure. Walking back towards the car park at the old control tower, with one of the other birders, we spotted six Golden Plover, about ten metres away, perfectly camouflaged against the gravelly ground.
Another text-message informed me that further East in the County, a Ruff had turned up at Eton Wick, where a flooded field has been attracting flocks of geese and a few interesting waders for some time. Located bizarrely within sight of Windsor Castle and Slough Sewage Works, I found the contrasting neighbourhood amusing.
The reeds and hedgerow beside the stream contained Cetti's Warbler and Chiffchaff.
Walking on past the flood, the path came out beside the Jubilee River - a hydraulic flood-relief channel for the Thames.
Now about 20 years old, the River and the attractive habitat created at Dorney Wetlands have become havens for wildlife.
Crossing the footbridge to Dorney Wetlands, I skirted Slough sewage works (a historic hot-spot for waders and the odd rare passerine), with Windsor Castle over the river to the south east.
Another bridge brought me back to the Jubilee river cycle path and better views of the Ruff down on Eton Wick.
I found about 30 Snipe and one Ringed Plover were also feeding in the muddy scrape which has held the Ruff's attention for several days now.
|Snipe and Ringed Plover|
A large flock of Lapwing also settled on the scrape but were soon off again, flushed by the shadow of a Red Kite crossing the water.
|Lapwing flock over Eton Wick|
All in all, it was a perfect afternoon's birding. Still feeling reflective - but not so discontent, I made my way home through the rush-hour traffic on the M4.