Today we parked in the Country Park carpark and walked the 2km up to the Visitors' Centre. The walk passed by the lake where approximately 100 Black-headed Gulls and 1 Common Gull were sat on the ice. A few Mallard were also present along with 6 Goosander (2 male and 4 female), but the real highlight of the day were the 6 Grey Herons that had returned to the heronry and were perched up in the top of the trees. Although a little early to begin breeding yet, it won't be long until the first eggs are laid. The site can be seen very well from bridges in the area, if you use a telescope, and the noise of the chicks can be heard from alot further away.
This area and the nearby river are good spots to see both Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail, but today we "dipped" i.e. missed, both these species! Our walk continued across open grassland , where a party of 80'ish Canada Geese were grazing the grass. Next was a small wooded area, where we managed to see and hear Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, a singing Song Thrush and a Mistle Thrush.
After a spot of lunch in the Visitors' Centre (very nice!!) we headed back to the car park adding Bullfinch (2 stunning males), Blue and Great Tit, Goldfinch, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Redwing to the list.
This site is a great place for a day out at anytime of the year. Visits during the spring will obviously give you great views of the herons, but the lake also has breeding Great-crested Grebes, Little Grebe, Mute Swans and Mallards and the surrounding scrub and woodlands hold a number of summer migrants (Whitethroat, Blackcap etc..) and Yellowhammers.
One last thing before I go. Last summer we went for a walk around the grounds and stumbled across this amazing Golden Pheasant, sunbathing in the rhododendrons. I don't know whether it was a one-off or part of a feral breeding population, but it looked good and I couldn't resist getting a photo.