The Safari was just about to head off to the nature reserve when we received a text from AB giving 'hot off the press' info - the mobile Smew was on the river. Nothing ventured etc we set off to the bridge. On the way we spotted a long haired youth striding purposely northwards so we stopped and JS clambered into the Land Rover saving himself a fairly long walk but having to endure a big lick from Frank.
Arriving at the river the tide was low and the only info was that the Smew was on the downstream west side of bridge. Well we both looked and looked and looked. We decided to have a check on the upstream side - that was when we looked back to see a Merlin (91) flip at great speed low over the bridge and had to bank to avoid J...he missed it although it only narrowly missed him!
On the mud there were 27 Golden Plover (92) with a smaller number of Lapwings, the channel held Mallard, Teal and Shelducks with many Curlews and a scattering of Redshanks probing the margins but no sign of our quarry. After a while AB and his dad pulled up, whay-hey reinforcements...and more importantly...with a scope! A had hardly set the damn thing up on its tripod when he said there it is...a quick peek down the eyepiece revealed a tiny dot diving about a mile and a quarter away in the distance just about recognisable as the Smew (93). So far away was it that we couldn't tell if the two larger female and single male birds near it were Goosanders or Red breasted Mergansers! Either would have been a year bird as would the Meadow Pipit that we saw fly out of marsh but despite J hearing it call above the noise of the traffic behind us we never did so it stays off the list. Easier for us to ID was the dihedral shape of a Buzzard circling over the adjacent field.
Not sure if You Tube has cut off a couple of seconds - don't recall pressing the button before the last few words of the 'commentary'.
It was cold on the bridge so once the tick was bagged it was off to the nature reserve where the southbank would be sheltered and in full blistering sunshine.
Not much was doing as we wandered up to the hide colloquially known Ice Station Zebra for its thermal 'comforts'. We immediately heard a Cetti's Warbler sing, so close was it that the hide's tin roof reverberated. Getting the camera out...just in case it showed - hahaha - we fumbled with the dial trying to move it off video from the
dot Smew. As we did a small flotilla of Pochards came in to view - one of which was the Red Crested Pochard (94) (or probable RCP hybrid as it has been noted that it has slightly barred axillaries so may have ??? genes in there somewhere - thanks to PT & PE for the 'armpit' shots! It's gone on the list as its a near a RCP as you'll find and without the aid of long lenses you'd never see those light markings...is that cheating?
Never saw or heard the Cetti's again!
We wandered back the way we'd come, staying in the sun rather than risking the freezer that is the Feeding Station and noted plenty of gulls on the way but trawling through them didn't give us anything out of the ordinary. But we were told there were more stood on the ice at the east end...off we went...
Just four species were seen, three in the pic above...two of the Black Headed Gulls sported rings - one is the far right-hand gull - both too far away to read, none of KB's Darvik ringed birds though :-(
Common Gulls are always nice - one day we hope to pick out a Mew Gull...some chance!
Another trip up to ICZ didn't give us anything new but we did get more arty full frame Mute Swan pics
Back down to the bridge where we bumped into PL and had a good chin wag - he's had some great sightings over Christmas whilst doing an infra-red project...a Roe Deer being stalked by a Fox in the Feeding Station and on the night of BOXING DAY a big adult HEDGEHOG!!!
Talking of Foxes, this little chap showed well catching voles on the island. These are the only pics of a Fox we've ever taken during the day.
Best bird of the day turned up as we were leaving when a Great Black Backed Gull came in and terrorised the Teal and Wigeon. We left perhaps too early as there was the possibility of Barn Owl and Little Owl in the calm conditions which would have looked nice in the early evening light but our toes had got very cold in our wellies.
Back at Base Camp one or more Long Tailed Tits came through with the last hint of light bringing the garden total to 17.
So half way through the first month our tallies stand at
Patch 1 = 19
Patch 2 = 35
Garden = 17
Nature Reserve = 57
A great day, made all the better by the gorgeous sunshine and good company.
Where to next? Back to Patch 2 tomorrow.
In the meantime let us know if the sun shone brightly all day in your outback.