|Smew (Library picture)|
Starting off at Brandon I arrived shortly after a heavy downpour, just after first light. Meeting up with Mike Lee at the volunteers car park we made our way (eventually) taking our regular route past Sheep Field where we normally stop over in search of Owls. This is where my day got off to a poor start!
Meeting up with Derek Bennett another Brandon regular we found to our dismay that we'd unfortunately just missed both Barn Owl and Short Eared Owl which had been quartering the field just minutes earlier. How long did you take getting ready Mike :)
Arriving at Wright Hide it was good to see East Marsh Pool finally ice free with a good selection of wildfowl on offer which included Pochard, Gadwall, Shoveler, a welcome return of a single Great Crested Grebe and Goldeneye (2 male + 2 female). On route to the Big Hide the other usual supects were also present Bullfinch, Siskin, Redwing and Fieldfare, but Lesser Redpoll was another species that eluded me today.
Coffee in the Big Hide produced Snipe to add to the days sightings and some excellent views of Bittern as the bird first flew from the reeds directly in front of the hide across to Newlands, and then returning a short while later. More views of the same bird later while having lunch. Having chosen to remain in Big Hide while some of the other guys moved on to Carlton Pool I also missed a Little Egret in flight which was seen moving West across the rear of the reserve. Not the best day I've ever had at Brandon but the Bittern is enough to cheer anyone up, Mike was also forgiven!
Next stop Napton Reservoir and I see that the 'slasher' brigade have been hard at it once more. Managed by British Waterway's I simply can't understand why they feel the need to cut down anything that has the audacity to grow here. The place looks almost baron and whoever drew up the management plan for this site wants lynching!
A walk around the windswept site and up to the top of the reed bed produced a half dozen Wigeon, 8 Pochard, 6 Gadwall and the usual 150 or so Coot.
However, I was somewhat cheered, albeit briefly, as I made my way back to the car when a very pristine looking male Smew dropped in, only to leave a short time later, probably in total disgust at the state of the place.