Escape to the country

Last week, after three long, weary months, the government lifted its “Stay at Home” Covid instruction. We quickly decided to escape to the country for a few hours. The weather was unusually warm for the time of year and we expected to find the car parks at Carsington Water overflowing with ecstatic visitors making the most of their first day of freedom in 2021. As it happened numbers were modest, ensuring our visit was a good deal more tranquil than we’d feared.

Canada geese grazing next to the reservoir

Carsington Water is the ninth biggest reservoir in England. It was formally opened in 1992 after what can only be described as an eventful construction: in 1983 four workers tragically died, asphyxiated while working in a 16 foot (5 metre) surface drain, and a year later part of the dam wall collapsed. Nearly 30 years on, however, the reservoir has been seamlessly integrated into the Derbyshire landscape and is a popular centre for a range of recreational activities, including walking, cycling, fishing, sailing and canoeing. With a good proportion of Carsington Water designated as a nature reserve, it is also a favourite spot to watch birds.

Great tit

In our experience rarities are rare at Carsington! However this isn’t a problem for us: we are not twitchers and have never been motivated by the desire to “tick off” rarities. All birds, whether uncommon or not, are wonderful and worthy of attention. Even Canada geese!

Robin

Inevitably, Canada geese were liberally scattered throughout the reserve last week, some floating serenely on the water, others grazing greedily on the meadows adjoining the reservoir, and a few honking noisily as they flew overhead in search of pastures new. You can be sure of getting your fill of Canada geese on any visit to Carsington. Not to mention mallards, coot and black-headed gulls!

An unexpected nuthatch

Although Carsington Water is an obvious spot for watching water birds, on this occasion some of the best action was on and around one of the feeding stations. Great tits and robins were the most frequent visitors, and a nuthatch the most unexpected.

Primulas prove that spring has sprung

The woodland in which the feeding station is situated was dotted with primulas, evidence that spring has well and truly sprung. And mindful, no doubt, that Easter was fast approaching a rabbit put in a brief appearance, while at one point a vole scurried across our path, way too fast to be photographed. Again, nothing exceptional here, but all such welcome sights after thirteen weeks of lockdown.

One of Carsington Water’s very own Easter bunnies

We’re fortunate that Carsington Water is just a few miles from our home town, and now Covid restrictions are being relaxed we’ll be escaping to this part of the country regularly to sample once again the joys of birding on our local patch. After all, a man just cannot see too many Canada geese!

* * *

POSTSCRIPT, Tuesday 6 April, 2pm. Having written this post over the weekend, this morning we made a return trip to Carsington Water and were thrilled to spot no fewer than 16 swallows, newly returned from Africa, wheeling and whizzing over the water. It’s official then, spring really is here!

22 comments

  1. Laurie Graves · April 7

    Oh, nice! How lucky you are to live near such a beautiful place. I feel exactly the same way about birds as you do. Still, what a thrill it must have been to see the returning swallows.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · April 9

      When the reservoir was being constructed there were fears that it would be an eyesore, a blot on our wonderful Derbyshire landscape. But as the decades have passed most people would now agree that it adds to, rather than detracts from, the local environment. The birds definitely like it!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves · April 9

        How wonderful! Yes, there is always the reasonable fear that something like a reservoir will be a blight on the landscape. Very glad that it turned out to enhance the area rather than detract.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. thelongview · April 7

    Happy springing to you and Mrs P!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · April 8

      Thank you. Our spirits have definitely been revived, now spring is here.

      Like

  3. Sandra · April 7

    I was revelling in the birds and the bunny and then you mentioned swallows! Still waiting for ours here. Beautiful photos 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · April 8

      Thank you for calling in at my humble blog.
      Mrs P had an email at the weekend from a friend in Exeter who had just spotted her first swallows of the year, so hopefully you will be seeing some in Cornwall very soon. Enjoy!

      Like

  4. Ann Mackay · April 7

    Beautiful bird images! It must have been great to see the swallows too – hope they don’t mind this chilly weather too much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · April 8

      Thank you! When I checked in the binoculars, the swallows were all wearing thermal vests, and one was even sporting a woolly hat (just like me!) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Paddy Tobin · April 8

    I am looking forward to similar freedom and a walk away from home. The nuthatch was a special one!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The June Journal · April 8

    Beautiful pictures of birds and bunny! Nice vacation 👏

    Liked by 1 person

  7. tanjabrittonwriter · April 9

    It sounds and looks like a lovely outing at Carsington Water for you and Mrs. P, Mr. P. I hope you will have the opportunity to discover more joyous signs of spring.
    Happy April to you both.
    Tanja

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · April 10

      Thank you, Tanja. With the lifting of some government restrictions outings are now back on the agenda, although a bitter northerly wind is a slight disincentive right now for nesh folk like me (‘nesh’ is a local dialect word, an adjective describing people who suffer miserably in cold weather!) I hope you and Mike are also able to enjoy spring’s awakening in the weeks to come. Best wishes to you both!

      Liked by 1 person

      • tanjabrittonwriter · April 13

        Thank you for providing the translation for “nesh,” Mr. P. When I read it, I was ready to look it up, but you saved me that step. 🙂

        We have had some spring-like days, but it’s April and the forecast for the coming week includes a daily chance of rain and/or snow. Living in an area afflicted by long-term drought, we don’t mind.

        I do hope that the northerlies will abate so you and Mrs. P can resume your excursions.

        Best,
        Tanja

        Liked by 1 person

      • Platypus Man · April 14

        Interestingly when I moved to this part of the country from London my ignorance of the word “nesh” was cited as conclusive proof that I was an incomer (and therefore to be approached with a degree of suspicion!) Mrs P later took me in hand and taught me the joys of the local dialect, including – most famously – “Ey up mi duck” which is a general, all purpose, friendly greeting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tanjabrittonwriter · April 15

        I find it interesting that you were considered an incomer, in American English you might have been called an outsider. But employing some of the local dialect is a nice way to build bridges.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Adele Brand · April 18

    Lovely shots and I’m glad it was relatively peaceful. We had huge numbers of visitors in the Surrey Hills last year, which was understandable, and a fair bit of antisocial behaviour, which wasn’t. But it’s been easier this time.

    Nuthatches are so distinctive. I heard one on my walk this morning actually, chattering away like a smoke alarm.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · April 21

      Thank you for dropping by, and for the follow; my apologies for not acknowledging sooner (we’ve been making the most of the relaxation of the Covid restrictions and the sunny weather) I chuckled at the thought of a nuthatch sounding like a smoke alarm. I’m not very good at bird calls, but this is one I shall definitely remember now!

      Liked by 1 person

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