Everything has it's beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius
Sometimes the picture doesn't have to be perfect; it's the captured moment that counts. - me
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Sunday, 7 June 2009

Surprise at College Lakes.

Saturday was my last day of my week off from work, so I was determined to head off somewhere. The sky was grey, as rain clouds began gathering; as I began gathering the camera and bins. I jumped into the car, and headed for College Lakes. I’ve been a couple of times before, and always enjoyed it. They’re still in the process of giving it a makeover, but already it is a reserve to be proud of. It’s even got ‘comfy’ chairs in some of the hides that overlook the two large lakes.

There’s plenty there for visitors of all ages; and right now, there are some very special visitors.

The very first record of them here in Buckinghamshire.

And they have babies!

And they’re not birds.


The reserve was buzzing with excitement a few weeks ago, when they were first discovered right outside the ‘Window in the Woods’ hide, giving some rare daytime views of this nocturnal mammal.

As I pulled into the new car park, the rain came pouring down from the grey skies.
Don’t care.’ I thought to myself. ‘I’ve got a big coat.’
Camera safely tucked under the coat, I made my way to see if I could see the ‘star attractions.’
I quietly opened the door, and squeezed inside. Five people were already huddled together, (it’s a small hide), and whispering in hushed tones.
After about ten minutes, an all too brief glimpse of a little furry face appeared, as it made its way through the undergrowth, and then disappeared from view. The raised cameras all silently dropped back down again. It was all too quick for pictures, but it didn’t matter that much. We’d all seen it with our eyes. One couple had been waiting over an hour for a glimpse.
I stayed a little while longer, and was rewarded with another very quick sighting. No pictures again, but a thrill just to see it, however brief.

I quietly left, and joined the rain, taking the anti clockwise route round the two lakes.

Stopping at the next hide, I sat and watched an Oystercatcher on one of the islands, flying to and fro, poking in the mud, searching for food for one of its young.

Swifts were hurtling across the water with House Martins and Common Terns, while Lapwing and Redshank were going about their business, alongside the Canada Geese.
The only downside to this great reserve, is the distance from the lakes to the hides. Being high on the raised banks, affords good views over and across the lakes, and fine with bins or a scope; but not very good for pictures, unless you’ve got a telescope stuck on the end of your camera. But I guess it suits the birds, which is the main thing.

But it’s not just wading birds here. With meadow, marsh and woodlands, there’s plenty to offer the intrepid explorer.

So I explored a little further. A Linnet gave me a nice rear end view from the top of a tree,
while a distant Dunnock could be heard, heartily singing in the rain.

I carried on towards the top end, where a large area of grassland, beyond the lakes, graces the area. There seemed to be Orchids growing everywhere I walked, so, picture time.

Two shades of Common Spotted Orchid; I think, and a white one I’ve no idea of.

And this one?

Not sure if it’s a Fragrant Orchid, or Early Purple Orchid. But very nice.

And this,

White Helleborine.

Further along the path some sort of Stonecrop?

But I could be hopelessly wrong.

At the grassland area I watched a Kestrel cruising the sky, looking for a tasty treat.

Dotted around the reserve are old pieces of farm equipment.

Not sure of the reason; maybe it’s their last resting ground, put out to grass as it were, but certainly interesting to see it all.
At the highest point of College Lakes is a hide called ‘The Munt.’

The soil mound it sits on was left for two years to settle, before work began constructing the hide. It gives some great views from up there, and it was from there I sat watching a Buzzard, soaring in the sky. His soaring was short lived, however.

A Common Tern decided he didn’t want him anywhere near this bit of airspace, and pestered him relentlessly.

I wonder if Santa will bring me a nice big lens this year?

It was a struggle to get anything in the conditions, but I persevered.

Even when he sat on a wooden post, supporting a nest box, he wasn’t safe from the Tern.

In the end, he decided enough was enough, time to leave, and cruised off into the distant trees.

The rain stopped for a while, so I made my way to a small wooded area. Long Tailed Tits were flitting noisily from branch to branch above me, as I made my way along the path. Blue Tits, Great Tits, Blackbirds and Willow Warblers were all singing from the trees, happy that the rain had stopped.

As I emerged to meet the track round the lake again, a Skylark was singing high in the sky, pounding out his song, as he climbed higher and higher, eventually disappearing from view.

I stopped off at one last hide, before leaving, to watch the Swifts and Martins skim over the water.
And the Terns.

It had been a great day, despite the efforts of the weather.


  1. Wonderful pictures, looks like a fantastic place to visit. Congratulations on the Polecat, I think Simon King on Springwatch is still looking for them lol.

  2. A wonderful account of yet another excellent field trip. The site of the polecat must have been a lifetime highlight. I so wish I had a reserve not too far away that I could visit - living in upland Northumberland has lots of advantages but everywhere reserve-wise is so far away. Hope you return to work has not been too traumatic after your week off!

  3. Another wonderful day out Keith and fantastic news about the Polecats. You'll have Simon King green as well as me this rate :D

    It's amazing how the "smaller" birds will see off much bigger birds; particularly when their young or nest are threatened.

  4. wow! what a lovely flowers,nice to see and soothing too. this always gives me a sense of relief.THANKS KEITH!

  5. Another great illustrated read, Keith. Just like being there with you. Well spotted with the polecat.

  6. How fantastic to have seen a polecat, and I just love 'The Munt'! Great blog.

  7. Excellent post again Keith and as Springwatch have found the polecat doesn't seem to hang around much for a photo call, but unlike most of us you did see one.

  8. Enjoyed the soaring and skimming pictures...such grace. The flowers are beautiful and delicate. Thank you. A~

  9. Thanks Paul. Certainly is a great place, and the fleeting glimpses of the Polecat were a real bonus. Poor old Simon. Lol

    Emma, thank you. Work will definitely slow down the visits for the time being.

    Tricia, thanks. It’s been a great week, and the Polecat sightings finished it all off rather well.

    lolit, thanks for your comment. The flowers are so much easier to photograph; they don’t move around like the birds. :)

    John, glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you.

    Omi, thank you for stopping by, and your kind comment. the Polecat was great to see; first time I’ve ever seen one, albeit briefly.

    ShySongbird, thank you. Glad you enjoyed it. someone at the reserve said the Springwatch folk were planning a visit there to see the Polecat.

    Andrea, thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. The Orchids are really beautiful, and there were so many there.

  10. Flower/plant pics are great, and the old farm machinery make for interesting pictures of times past.

  11. Thanks Les. There's quite a selection of the farm machinery dotted around. It's really good seeing it standing there, like individual monuments to old times.

  12. You always find the nicest places to visits - and we get the benefit of seeing all your beautiful birds and blooms!

  13. Excellent summary of your trip, and wow so many birds seen, nice flower captured. Must have been nice relaxing time to, to be one with nature. Excellent post. Anna :)

  14. Shelley thank you. Having that week off work, I wanted to try and get out somewhere everyday.
    Glad you enjoyed the pictures.

    Thank you Anna. I wish sometimes I could spend everyday like this, just soaking up what nature offers.

  15. I enjoyed my visit and look at what you posted. All of the machinery is related to hay or cutting, raking hay up to keep it off the ground and getting moldy and then the curved tines are for putting it in a row. Nice but old and in need of some tender loving care.

    The big lens you mentioned. I got one finally and bought Sigma as I couldn't afford Canon which was about three times as much. It weighs about 6 pounds and is not easy to lug around. It has image stabilization built in but you can't hold it steady enough at 400mm to get a super sharp shot unless you increase the shutter speed, or, unless you are shooting pictures of things at 400mm that are larger than small birds. A building or a car would be fine and could be hand held.

    The only way to use it for birding is to make sure and use either a tripod or a monopod. My opinion only, of course. Others may have better results.

  16. I can feel the majesty of the birds through your photos. When I am driving, sometimes I see hawks (or some big bird) circling in lazy arcs. No one else seems to notice, but to see that weightless beauty always thrills my heart. Your photos capture that.

    Hope you catch that polecat! I would love to see it. :)

  17. What A Lovely Set Of Photographs !! You Have Taken These Photographs With Very Style And I Love That..Great..I have statred a new website And Would Like You To Check It .Unseen Rajasthan
    for travels and tours.

  18. A fine read again my friend with some lovely photos to accompany it. I was just reading about the Polecats on the beds birding blog . How cool is that !
    Hope you get to see them Keith...

  19. Abe, thank you for taking the time to let me know what the farm machinery is. That’s very interesting, and I really appreciate that.
    I use a Canon 100-400 IS lens at the moment, but always ‘need’ something bigger. I’ve got a 1.4 and 2X converter, but lose auto focus with them, and have to rely on manual. The old eyes aint as good as they were, so I’ve rarely used them since I got them. Maybe I should practice more. :)

    Jen, thank you. I could watch the birds of prey for hours, soaring in the sky. Glad you like the pictures; one day I’ll get something a bit better. ;)
    I’d love to get a shot of the Polecat; maybe a return visit soon.

    Unseen Rajasthan, thank you for stopping by, and leaving such a nice comment.

    Nick, cheers. I managed two very fleeting glimpses of the Polecat while I was there, but unfortunately all too brief for pictures. A return visit is on the cards. ;)
    Quite a coincidence that you were reading about them on the Beds. site.

  20. The title of this comment is: Surprise at HoldingMoments Website

    WOW! You have a fabulous website - with some really amazing photos. I liked the landscape one where it was misty with the water reed things, and of course your Grey Squirrel - hey, how come we spell 'squirrel' differently?
    The bird shots where the birds were on the water and there was a reflection were very good too.


    I hope Santa brings you the exact lens you want!

  21. Jen, thank you very much for your lovely comment about the website, it means a lot, thanks. It was something I've wanted to do for a while, and finally made it happen at the end of 2007.
    Aaaa, the squirrel. Oooops, spelling mistake. Corrected now, thanks lol