We hadn't been to Pensthorpe in a very long time and we were looking forward to seeing all of the captive and non-captive, native and non-native waterfowl and other birds in the grounds.
When we arrived it was almost like a winter wonderland; everything was covered in frost, and the still water was covered in a thin layer of ice, but thick enough for the ducks to attempt to skate on. We walked through the hordes of expectant geese and ducks, all awaiting a meal from us, including Hawaiian geese, puna teal, smew, mergansers, and countless other exotic species, as well as the more familiar coots, moorhens, pochards and mallards. Although the coots looked more like they were contemplating their reflection than their next meal.
We continued our walk, heading towards the conservation centre to admire the red squirrels they keep for their breeding programme. As we walked past the edge of some reeds, I heard a rustle, and glimpsed something that looked not quite like a moorhen. We froze, and waited. The rustle came from further along the bank. We moved, and waited. The rustle moved on, and this continued for a number of minutes. Our persistence payed off though; after one final rustle, the culprit flew and landed on the frozen water, pausing for a few seconds, perhaps confused by the slippery ice it had landed on, before scuttling off into shelter. My very first sighting of a water rail.
The conservation centre entertained us with red squirrels scampering over branches in their enclosure, and further on a group of shoveler on open water entertained us with some synchronised swimming. They were all dabbling in a circle, beak to tail.
The long walk around the reserve then began, surrounded by the frozen landscape in the still cold air, it was a perfect winter stroll. We went from water and marsh into woodland, glimpsing small woodland birds all around, and being surrounded by the soft 'see-see-see' contact calls of families of long tailed tits wherever we went. The woodland then became meadowland, completely still and silent.
We ended our stroll in the cafe, warming ourselves up with a hot chocolate!