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Bittern, Bearded Tits then your mate poo's on your head.

St Aiden's is a relatively new RSPB reserve in the heart of Leeds. The reserve in Allerton Byewater is on reclaimed land from the coal mining industry. I don't often visit St Aiden's as it's one of those multi use reserves with every type of recreational activity. These activities include cycling, dog walking, jogging and even open water swimming. Many of these as you can imagine do not seem to fit with a RSPB reserve.

People with dogs off leads are the largest problem for me, many are completely inconsiderate and quite genuinely think they own the place. I do not have a problem with anyone with a dog on a lead and picking up after their animals.

I had seen many images of Bearded Tits over the last few weeks all from this reserve and understand how unconcerned with all the activity of their human watchers they are. This week I had seen close up wonderful images of these usually elusive birds taken close up with phones, It was time to visit. Friday morning was a two hour window before a hospital check up, and off I went.

The morning was beautiful with a staggering sunrise and low lying mist. At one point I did wonder if I would see anything never mind a small bird such was the mist. The reserve was as usual locked and does not open until 9.00am. You can park outside and walk in so this I did, it was warm, really warm and hopes were high. I was armed with a great little map from Phil Smithson, this had circles on it exactly where the Beardies had been seen last so there I went first…aaaand nothing. In fact everywhere I went there was nothing, nothing at all.

I walked up and down the path many times and saw nothing, no small birds at all. I have grabbed defeat from the jaws of success many many times but this is embarrassing. Children had fabulous images of these birds on their Fisher Price photographic equipment. After wearing out a pair of shoes I gave up and started walking back to the car. I saw a group of crows mobbing something low over the reeds, but what was it?

A bittern flew over the reeds low and slow, in complete silhouette you could still tell this was a Bittern and this was better than any Bearded Tit, I convinced myself.
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Above and below, Bittern. A superb bird to see in flight.
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I couldn't dip on a Bearded Tit within a few miles of my home surely. Its now 3.00pm and I finished work and I was thinking about those Beardies again. The temptation was too much and off I went, camera and 600mm lens in hand. There was a group of birders in exactly the same spot as I was this morning, so they were there, I was sure of it. I walked very fast towards the birders position and there it was a single Bearded Tit, walking up and down on the path perimeter.

Walking up and down? I have seen many beardies in my time but have never seen them behave like this. Up and down, up and down the path it went, never flying and never climbing. I have seen them drinking low down in reedbeds but not like this. The bird was completely unconcerned with the three birders photographing it, the lenses within inches of the birds body, well not quite! But if you have seen Bearded Tits/Reedlings you will know how difficult and elusive they are. This bird was posing, defiantly posing!

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Below: Greylag Geese, but not good friends.
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