After a meal with family, I made the most of what remained of a sunny afternoon by spending a couple of hours in the River Lee Country Park.
A search of likely areas in the hope that I might find a late Common Darter or Migrant Hawker dragonfly still flying was unsuccessful, but I did have good views of a Chiffchaff and several Goldcrests. Both of these species manage to get through the winter by finding insects and other invertebrates that are still active - or are trying to 'hibernate'. Goldcrests, the smallest of UK bird species, are more common and widespread in many areas during the winter, with thousands crossing the North Sea to over-winter here, despite weighing little more than five grams.
Most of my time was spent in the 'Bittern Information Point' hide on Seventy Acres Lake, and it turned out to be very successful. The more obvious bird species included Cormorants, Great Crested Grebes, Gadwall, Grey Herons, and a variety of other water birds, as well as a Great Spotted Woodpecker visiting the feeders in front of the hide.
Perhaps of more interest though were the species that are usually present in the area during the winter, but which can easily go unnoticed. Common Snipe can usually be found hiding in the vegetation on the islands, and this was the first of the more secretive species that I managed to pick out. I had very little time to get others in the hide onto the two snipe feeding, quite openly for a change, at the edge of one of the islands, before I was distracted by the explosive "pik" calls of a Cetti's Warbler at the nearest edge of the reedbed. This showed really well for a surprisingly long while as it moved along the edge of the reedbed, before moving back into the reeds - out of sight but still calling frequently. Later on it also gave a couple of brief bursts of the better known song.
A Little Grebe came out from the edge of the reedbed to feed in open water in front of the hide, and as the afternoon progressed Water Rails became more vocal, with their pig like squealing calls, before one showed very well right at the edge of the reeds. Finally, to end the afternoon, a Bittern showed very well at the edge of a line of reeds further round the edge of the gravel pit - stretching up to its full height as if alarmed by something. It was a little distant, but with a telescope views were very good.
The country park is a good area to see all of these species, but you don't often get to see all of them so well within such a short period of time.