We started by watching the birds at the plentiful feeders near the visitor centre. These were birds that between us we could easily recognise: sparrows, blue tits, great tits, pheasants, mallards, chaffinches, bullfinches, robin... There were also quite a few rats enjoying the leftovers!
Then we took a short walk to the first hide. It took the children a bit of getting used to being quiet but they were pretty good (not all other bird watchers appreciated hordes of kids around though!). It was fun for them to pop open the windows to look out and then try and spot birds. Another mum had brought a spy type listening device that was fabulous for picking up bird calls too:
After a while we had to move on as the children had had enough so we headed to the next hide which wasn't too far away. It was interesting walking through the reed beds and seeing things like the bearded tit reed wigwams:
The next hide opened onto a wider stretch of water and a helpful gentleman told us the names of some of the birds we were looking at including Shovelers and Gadwall ducks:
There were plenty of useful pictures and information boards in the hides to help you work out what it was you had seen:
After lunch the rest of the group went home in the minibus but we stayed on for another few hours which enabled us to see the rest of the nature reserve. It was worth walking a couple of miles on a round trip to see the other 2 hides. We also found that people were more laid back about 2 "well behaved" children than hordes of slightly noisy ones:
On the way we caught glimpses of the famous Marsh Harriers but nothing I could photograph! This last hide turned out to be the best of the bunch though as we saw species we hadn't seen before such as a Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe as well as the Marsh Harrier plus a herd of red deer. The 3 gentleman in the hide were all very kind in letting the children look through telescopes and telling us where to look. They were of the mind that children had to learn somehow!
Our favourite bird at this hide was the heron who kept posing away and got in close enough for me to take far too many photographs before he flew away:
On our way back my son came running up to me saying he had seen an osprey. Having glimpsed one whilst driving to Whinlatter on Tuesday I was really keen to see one when I could take photographs. Of course birds don't appear to order and with my not super zoom it took a few practice shots to get a final cracker:
We were also lucky to hear the sound of the male bittern calling in the reeds. Such a wonderful place we will have to go back and see what little ones we can spot after all the flirting we saw going on today!