It was almost Spring-like today: no wind to speak of and as the day wore on, the sky was filled with enough blue to make a pair of Dutchman's britches. So, with Katie working, I walked down to Ferry Meadows Country Park, hoping the overnight frost would have tempted something good in and that the blue skies would have tempted whatever it was I was hoping for to stay put. I had no idea what.......
It started off promisingly with the first Chiffchaff of the year, calling constantly (a female?), my highest count of the winter for both Wigeon and Great-crested Grebe- the lakes were like glass and it was interesting to observe the grebes in their various winter plumages.
I stopped off at Heron Meadow for the habitual counting of Snipe. I'd reached twelve when a voice behind me asked ''Hello, may I ask what you are looking at?'' I turned round to be greeted by a lady of advanced years and answered ''Hello, Snipe.''
''How exciting!'' she observed, clearly excited. ''Have you seen one before?'' I asked. ''No! I haven't!'' she replied, excitedly. ''Let me get them in the 'scope for you.....''
She was only about 4 foot four, so I lowered the scope and got three birds in view for her. ''Here you go......''
''Oh yes! aren't they striking!'' she noted a few seconds before the whole lot got up and flashed off east on account of the female Sparrowhawk that had just decided to wake up from a nearby tree.
This made counting them easier- 21 in all, another high count, but the highlight was certainly the expression on this venerable old lady's face. ''Oh, Snipe!'' she said, as if to confirm to herself that she had actually just seen them. ''Well, thank you so much young man.''
''Well, I say, Snipe! Good day, I must continue my walk now.''
I continued round the lake, scanning frequently, but not very much was happening on the larger of the two lakes. 33 Lapwings fed in an area known as Coney Meadow and I scanned the distant scrub, which I think looks good for a Great Grey Shrike- I say that about a lot of habitat I visit, and lots of areas do indeed look like a good place for a G-G Shrike but this winter visitor has yet to reveal itself to me. Continuing on, a few more Tufted Ducks were feeding in sheltered bay area and as I watched, two birds flew in. At first I thought they might be small grebes, but when I had them in sight, there was no mistaking......two superb redhead Smew. They had clearly just arrived because for the next ten minutes or so they preened constantly, submerging heads and flapping wings. A shame perhaps that a drake wasn't accompanying them, but still a very beautiful bird, and a nice bird to find oneself, especially as I'd managed to miss the species during 2005.
Its a non-breeder so wouldn't have counted for our list, but I think Katie may have seen a species today that I do need to catch up with. Watch this space.......