Saturday, December 23, 2006

In search of a Smew

The fog lifted! Thankfully, on the first day of the Christmas break, the fog has finally lifted after a miserable week. We decided to head out for a walk around our local nature reserve at Pitsford, as the Northants rare bird page (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/northantsbirds/) had a Smew sighting that was 4 days old but nothing could have moved far in the fog.

Unfortunately we got there and realised we had forgotten our boots so it was 7.5 miles of slipping on mud in trainers, with progressively wetter and colder feet. Also the fog had gone but had been replaced by low dark cloud and to add to the miserable feeling there was the continuous sound of guns from a nearby farm, which is actually very depressing.

Still on with the walk. Within the first mile we saw a pair of these birds. At first I thought Twite due to the markings but I don't think the shape is right and the legs are too brightly coloured. One of the Northants bird club members (Terry) suggests a Meadow Pipit.















The birds were very nervous today. With the low cloud noise travelled a long way so we didn't see very many birds up close. We did see Treecreepers, a Bullfinch, Tree Sparrows and a large flock of Redwings but all skittish and at a distance.

This Great Crested Grebe, showing winter plumage was hunting near the shore. There were lots of Wigeon, quite a few Tufted Ducks, Pochards and a few Goldeneye around too.













We decided to stop for lunch at the last hide on the walk, the Rotary Club Hide. Approaching the hide I spotted the Smew Drake on the far bank and a female 'Redhead' Smew:













The light was appalling for snaps and the distance about as far as my camera can handle but this is a slightly better snap of the drake:













Finally the second Redhead Smew joined the pair:










This is only the second time we've seen Smew and it made the discomfort, continual gunfire and wet feet much more bearable!

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