Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Draycote Water

Female Scaup
Today I'd arranged a walk around the 5-miles of Draycote Water for several members of the Brandon Marsh Conservation Team and we duly met up at our normal meeting place at Thurlaston Village at 8 am. Our hit list for today consisted of Brambling, Smew and Scaup, three species which were reported on site recently. Although we had a biting north-westerly wind and occasional low cloud drifting in, the walk was completed in gorgeous sunshine for the most part.

The first birds of the day were the normal population of House Sparrow which are resident in the area as you walk down to the water from the village. We normally take a clockwise direction and so it wasn't long before we reached Toft Shallows. I must say that although the usual selection of Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck and the remainder of the Gull roost was present the area seemed pretty quiet.

Moving on along Toft Bank and rounding Farnborough Spit, having had a nice group of Redwing, we continued our search for the reported male Smew and female Scaup, at this point unsuccessfully, but did manage 3 Skylark over, Great Black Backed Gull, Pochard, good numbers of Goldeneye and Pied Wagtail.

When visiting Draycote it's always handy to meet  the locals and so it was good to see two of the most regular visitors on the horizon, Bob Hazell and Richard Mays. It wasn't long before we had the information we required and as we approached the Visitor Centre our first positive of the day was a gorgeous looking male Smew.

Coffee at Hensborough Bank, noting a large flock of Wigeon coming in on the opposite bank, and more searching in vane for the female Scaup before Richard appeared once more, kindly locating the bird on our behalf out on it's lonesome towards Draycote Bank, local knowledge is a wonderful thing. By now we had two out of three on our hit list, along with a number of male and female Goosander, plus a distant but large flock of Lapwing, but unfortunately very little else of any note.

At the Inlet Richard came to our rescue once more pointing out the area where he had recently located a number of Brambling and almost instantly I had three birds scoped. We spent a good while in this location so that everyone had managed at least one Brambling, which appeared quiet flighty within a large group of Chaffinch and Linnet.

Lunch in glorious sunshine near the Valve Tower and by the time we arrived back at the village we'd also had of note a second view of Smew at Lin Croft Point, likely the same one as earlier, plus Kingfisher thanks to Alban, Sparrowhawk, Little Grebe, Buzzard and 3 Stoat which had crossed our path as we progressed around. Not the most prolific days birding at an extremely quiet Draycote, but a most enjoyable one and many thanks to Richard and Bob for their help along the way.