Warnham Nature Reserve is located just outside of Horsham, and borders the A24. It has 92 acres of land with a range of habitats including marshes, grassland and reed beds, and has three bird hides, feeding stations and a raised walkway through the marshes.
Inside the second hide, the largest of the three, I sat watching flocks of Great tits, Blue tits and Goldfinch squabble over the hanging feeders, the surrounding trees full of chirrups that suggested many more Goldfinch were waiting for their turn, while on the ground, 10 or so Chaffinches pecked at the seed, darting in and out of the undergrowth. A pair of Dunnocks were half-concealed in the low branches of the hedges, keeping themselves to themselves as they often do. Two Robins kept watch over the area.
By the time I left this hide, the sun had pushed through the layer of cloud and the wind had picked up, making my eyes stream with the chill of it. I longed for the woolly hat I had chosen not to wear. Following the path, I wandered in the direction of the marshland, listening to the squawking calls of the gulls on the pond. The dry leaf litter rustled occasionally from a foraging Blackbird and high above me, Magpies hopped from branch to branch.
I had several other "firsts" on this trip, one of them being a sighting of seven tufted ducks. These were diving and reappearing all over the place so I struggled to get a firm count but I got there in the end. Unfortunately, as with all my photos today, the shots I got weren't that great. My main aim was to catalogue them as a sighting though and you can at least see the tufts that gave them their name!
By this point, I glanced at my watch and realised I had been on the reserve for nearly an hour and a half; the time had quite honestly-no pun intended-flown! I left the hide and made my way back towards the visitor's centre. I paused on a bridge outside the second hide to watch a Wren that was hopping about in the reed bed and I am so glad I did as this is where I had my third "first" of the day, and definitely my most exciting one. A rustling made me turn my attention away from the Wren, just in time to see a Water Rail go sloping off into the reeds! I was thrilled to spot one and quite amazed I did when I studied the size of it. The red colour of its long, thin bill glinted in the sun and I could just make out the blueish colour of its chest before it disappeared. Sadly, I didn't manage to snap a photo but it's in my memory and that's the most important bit, I think.
Before leaving, I nipped back into the first hide to get a closer look at a group of large birds. I was yo-yoing between them either being Shags or Sormorants and since looking at the photos, I've decided they were Sormorants (please do correct me if I'm wrong!) It was quite amusing to see them holding out their wings to dry.
Just as I was about to turn to leave, a group of Mallards swam towards the hide and with them was my fourth and final "first" of the day; a Shoveller! It was a pretty good way to end my trip, despite the fact I was definitely feeling the cold by that point.
Here's a full list of my spots today:
11 Greylag geese*
7 Tufted ducks*
1 Water rail*
1 Long-tailed tit
2 Canada geese
Blackbirds (male and female)
1 Carrion crow
2 Song thrush
10+ Blue tits
10+ Great tits
1 Green woodpecker
40+ Common gulls
30+ Black-headed gulls (winter plumage)
10+ Chaffinch (male and female)
6 Mallard (5 male, 1 female)
2 Mute swans
1 Great-spotted woodpecker
1 Wood mouse
2 Grey squirrels