On the way from the car park to the bridge, I was assailed by the sound of 50-60 redpoll and siskin in the birch and alder trees near the river. I spent half an hour watching but the trees were very high and it was difficult to get a good angle.
Siskin. (click photos to enlarge)
I pressed on to the bridge, watching for any kingfishers. There is an entrance fee for the park of £6.60. I hoped it would be worth it. I signed up for gift aid as requested and then tried the local tearooms.
I had a cappuccino with a scone, jam and clotted cream. The 'cream' bore no resemblance to clotted cream at all, more like white rubber. I took it back and asked if I could just have another jam. He was very apologetic and said he had lots of cream and would get me some more. I was sceptical but he brought back a portion of cream which was even slightly runny in places and was more like the real thing (this being Rodda's Cornish clotted cream. Even though I'm from Devon I have to admit that Rodda's is hard to beat).
I had been advised to take the Historical route to the lake and I complied. I saw more redpoll, heard several nuthatch and then one showed well for me, picking out a bug from the bark of a tree.
Nuthatch with bug
A scan of the lake from above the plantation revealed no goosanders. I found the Chinese Bridge and was just about to look at the entrance to the grotto (open weekends and Bank holidays) when I glanced down the lake and saw in the distance what looked like goosanders. The binoculars confirmed. Great!
They were nervous and swam off at my careful approach. I went round the other side of the lake where the light was better. I got some reasonable shots of the three males and one female, infinitely better and closer than the very distant shots of them at Dungeness a few years ago.
Female goosander, male behind
Someone spooked them and they flew off. A pair of Egyptian geese flew off as well. I took some good shots (well they looked great in the viewfinder) and as they reached the optimum distance the camera froze. What was it? As they flew past I saw that my memory card was full!!
I waited around and noticed that the lake is surrounded by trees so the larger birds have to circle in order to gain height. They also came in to land on the water from upwind. A couple of swans circled the trees outside and came round the upwind end of the lake and started their descent. One of them overshot and ended up on the ice sheet in the middle of the lake.
I watched the goosanders a while longer as well as looking for the kingfisher without success, before going back to the car.
Despite the rubber cream I enjoyed my afternoon there and will go again.