When all the paths are deep with mud after a wet February, the place to head for is Sandy in Bedfordshire where the paths are, well, sandy. Up on the greensand ridge to the east of the little town the land is free-draining and supports a different kind of scenery. What's more it's also the headquarters of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).
A few species which I rarely see in my home area are plentiful here, like the "masked bandit" above, otherwise known as a Nuthatch.
At present some of the conifers are being removed to return the area to a mix of heathland and deciduous woodland. I read that Exmoor ponies are going to be used to graze the land, when they arrive you can be sure I'll share some photos of them.
The area shown above is the site of an Iron Age hillfort and the ditch and embankment can still be seen to this day.
This part of the reserve is a great place to see birds of prey; Buzzards and Hobbies nest here and Red Kites, Kestrels and Sparrowhawks often patrol the skies.
I must admit that I rather like photographing trees of all sorts, whether they are native to the area or not.
I'm not always successful when I try to flip back and forth between looking for photographs and looking for birds; sometimes I end up failing on both counts.
Blue Tits seem to be everywhere this year, probably because it's been relatively mild and higher numbers than usual have survived the winter.
I rather liked this exotic-looking dead tree....
….and these logs which have been left to decompose naturally and provide homes for insects. I should think it was only sawn up because it had fallen across the path.
Part of the wall which surrounded the estate belonging to the house which is now used as the RSPB's headquarters.
Silver Birch trees always look good whether they are thriving or being recycled by fungi.
There's time to call into the hide and see what's on the bird-feeders....
I eventually managed to get a shot of this little Coal Tit. They have a habit of rushing in to the feeder, grabbing a single seed, then flying off again. I intend to take a more leisurely meal in the pub at Eaton Socon.
A birdwatcher's list:
Magpie, Buzzard, Wood Pigeon, Sparrowhawk, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Wren, Dunnock, Red Kite, Green Woodpecker, Pheasant, Chaffinch, Nuthatch, Coal Tit.
Also a grey squirrel, rabbits and a mouse.