Saturday, February 13, 2010

a couple of quick stops

The cold snap is behind us but it's still hovering around freezing most days and as a consequence, the number of birds in the garden on a daily basis is huge. This week we have had peak counts of Blackbirds (24), Woodpigeons (20), Goldfinch (40-50) and Chaffinch (20+). Of course all these birds encourage predators, this male Sparrowhawk missed out on this occasion but they regularly pass through and the other birds aren't always so lucky:



Having been mostly stuck at home for the last couple of weekends it was nice to get out even if the weather was 'changeable'. We decided to head for Paxton Pits first, both to drop off the books we had sorted out during our recent 'Spring clean' (hence being at home two weekends running), they use them to raise funds, and to see what might be there.

We did see four Smew, two drakes and two females, which was great, they are my highlight winter bird. Seeing them also coincided with our securing the sponsorship of the Smew species in the BTO's current Bird Atlas (see http://www.bto.org/) and contributing towards the funding of the Atlas.

The Cormorants and Herons were nest building, the Canada Geese pairing-up, noisily, Goldeneyes were displaying, yet it was dull grey and bitterly cold. We stopped in one hide hoping the Smew would come out of the cover for a decent photograph, no joy, but this Robin did stop in front of us briefly:



From Paxton we headed to Welney, always a good spot and with very good food and drink too. We arrived during a 'Swan Feed' so watched the hundreds of Pochards, Mallards, Mute and Whopper Swans feeding, together with a lone Wigeon drake. We headed out along the paths, at least those that aren't currently flooded, 'enjoying' a brief but intense snow flurry being driven straight into us by freezing winds. We were rewarded at the second hide with distant views of Bewick Swans:



And then surprised by a flock of Black-tailed Godwits:



that arrowed in to land, then feed only thirty or so yards from the hide:
The light had improved as the winter shower passed on, as you can see from the photograph.

Then after a very pleasant late lunch we headed for home. Tomorrow is digging, it's time to extend the flower border to improve the nectar sources in the garden.

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