The Safari set off down the motorway in the wind and the rain yesterday to meet up with our Best Boy LCV some two hours later in the Midlands and the boy had a plan! There are a nice selection of scarce ducks on some of his local patches which were well worth a look as is the massive gull roost at the end of the day.
We started off with a dip though, there was no sign of the long staying Scaup at the first reservoir. There were several Little Grebes (82) on the water, a couple of dozen Tufted Ducks and a Pochard or two. Once we'd convinced ourselves the Scaup was definitely not present LCV took us on a short walk along the embankment to a small wood where he was confident a Tawny Owl would be waiting for us. It was, almost totally hidden in an Ivy covered tree. If you have Ivy on your trees don't be tempted to cut it off it does little or no harm and is an important habitat and food supply for a myriad of creatures. After a good few minutes staring at them LCV said "hang on a mo - there's actually two!"
|We're sure you'll be able to see both owls|
Always good to get Tawny Owl (83) on our list early as despite being Britain's most numerous owl they aren't a species we come across very often.
After another unsuccessful look for the Scaup on the way back to the car it was time to leave for another site, one we'd never visited before.
At the car park there was a small feeding station set up and few bird boxes scattered around the trees. The only birds in sight were a Robin and a couple of male Pheasants.
The main feeding station down the track in the woods was very gloomy, too gloomy for pics really but hey-ho we took a few anyway.
|Coal Tit - only marginally better than our previous attempt with this species|
By far the best birds here were a Nuthatch calling somewhere in the canopy above us and a very brief female Bullfinch (84) which LCV says rarely visit this feeding station.
We moved on to the first hide overlooking the reservoir and the first bird we saw was the hoped for Smew (85). The distance was a bit far and the light far too poor for a decent pic.
We don't think we've seen so many Goldeneyes in one place before, they were everywhere. But other than them and a fair number of Great Crested Grebes the water was pretty much deserted. To our left a sheltered bay held a few Tufted Ducks and about two dozen Pochards while a bund tight against the reedbed had a few Mallards and Gadwall hauled out on it until something unknown flushed them towards the reeds. A Kingfisher (86) tazzed past all brilliantly blue and speedy but sadly didn't stop so we could have a proper look at it.
From there we wandered a bit further to the next hide. The sun thought about coming out for a few minutes but didn't think very hard. It soon gloomed up again. The hide overlooked the water but there was also a lively feeding station on a little promontory before the water. Here were several Chaffinches and Reed Buntings along with the usual Blue and Great Tits as well as a good number of Tree Sparrows (87).
Shoveler graced us with its presence for a while.
Find of the session went to LCV but wasn't a bird - a huge queen Wasp, it wasn't that warm in the hide!!!
Job done here we finished off at the spillway not finding anything yellow, Grey Wagtail and the rare here Yellowhammer nor the overwintering Common Sandpiper. A flock of Lapwings lifted off a field in the distance and came over the reservoir.
A quick stop at a housing estate saw us driving up and down a street with very few trees looking for a flock of Waxwings that had been seen the previous day. We couldn't even find a tree with any berries on! Three laps later we gave up and headed to the third and final reservoir where another scarce duck and hopefully three decent gulls would be on offer.
Straight out of the car we saw yet more Little Grebes.
At our feet as we scanned the water for the dodgy duck and the incoming gulls we spotted a Pied Wagtail going about its business.
It took ages to locate the Velvet Scoter, normally it's been close by but with a win surfer whizzing across the water the birds weren't in their favoured areas having been scattered to the four winds.Velvet Scoter (88) like these off Patch 2.
But before too long our wind-surfing fiend drove straight at it and it flushed right the across to the far side. LCV picked up a female Goosander (89) and a drake Pintail (90) while looking at the gulls.
In the gulls of which most, many thousands, were Black Headed Gulls and a lot of Lesser Black Backs, far more than we've seen all year we didn't take too long to pick out an adult Yellow Legged Gull (91) and later another adult a 2nd winter bird too. All were too far away in the gathering dusk for a pic.
Also away in the far distance we picked out a near adult Mediterranean Gull (92) which like the Velvet Scoter eventually drifted just about close enough for our lens.
Annoyingly try as we might we couldn't pick out any of the Caspian Gulls that were later reported as present by others watching elsewhere on the bank.
So the day ended with two out of three ducks and two out of three gulls, A great day it was too spending quality birding time with LCV mostly scoping gulls, just like the 'old days' - is he old enough to have 'old days'?
The Mediterranean Gull brought our Photo Challenge tally up to 68.
All that remained was a nightmare drive back of nearly three hours.
Where to next? We might get the camera out this weekend, Monty has been to the vets for the snip and hadn;t taken to it too well so needs a bit of TLC which will have a bearing on our safari-ing.
In the meantime let us know who's been seen out of season in your outback.