The forecast was for sun, and the ground was covered in snow. I had to go somewhere with the camera! The first stop was Staines Moor, where the Little Grebes were starting their dating process by giving each other little presents. Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Water Pipits were feeding along the margins of the river.
About midday I moved on to Barnes. The first thing I saw as I approached the wildside hide was an excited group of people with tripods, and it didn't take long to spot a Bittern walking along the ice at the edge of the reeds.
By then it was time for some of WWT's excellent soup, and in the restaurant I met with Brian and Debbie, out on a similar mission to my own. After lunch we wandered over towards the Peacock tower. Diversions en route included a Metaxa party in an otherwise deserted cold, birdless hide, and an attempt with about 20 others to see a Woodcock feeding in dense undergrowth. I had been telling people that if there was ice on the lake I always saw Water Rails from the Peacock tower, and today was no exception.
All in all, an excellent day!
I have been experimenting with my 500mm lens, trying both hand-held with the shake reduction enabled, and tripod-mounted without shake reduction. The former gives good results sometimes, but it depends on the shutter speed, subject distance, and how steady I am. Today was my first serious attempt at using the tripod out of doors, and it certainly seems to give consistently better results. My conclusion is that shake reduction can give acceptable results if there is no alternative, but a tripod, beanbag or similar should if possible always be used with a lens as long as this.