Saturday, 16 January 2016

Smew Begins Day and Ice Brings it to an End

16th. I had been informed by Sam yesterday that he had re-found the redhead Smew on its return to patch so dressed in multi-layers I braved the icy paths down to the lake and met up with Sam before a trip to Gosforth Park Nature Reserve.

Icy Patch

 It took me a few minutes to find the Smew, but find it I did and it gave a good sighting if you avoided facing directly into the sun on this bright crisp and icy cold morning.  If anything it was a better sighting than in the poor light of New Years Day, but unfortunately it wasn’t good light for photography at that time of day, such was the direction of the sunlight.  Good to talk to a couple of old friends, and especially good to see BR making it down to the lake.

Smew. (bad light)  
There were a couple of contenders for being Scaup.  Sam and I are confident that one of them actually was a Scaup.  Sedgedunum Warbler had found three Wigeon on the larger lake before we had arrived and we soon had those in view along with the likes of Goldeneye and Goosander.  Sam had managed to take some excellent images of Goosander yesterday.  I’d been occupied with more mundane tasks such as shopping!

It wasn’t too long before we were off to Gosforth Park.  No longer flooded, but very icy and/or muddy in places, and much of the pond under ice.  Some of the pathways are closed because of ongoing work, which ought to be noted if you’re a member and planning a visit.  Apparently the Smew had been here yesterday but had naturally been drawn to the delights of Killingworth Lake.  There’s certainly plenty of fish for it there.  I’d been so careful on the ice I perhaps overlooked the other obstacles and caught my foot in the vegetation and fell flat on my face.  There wasn’t too much blood and I survived to continue the day, perhaps protected by all my many layers of clothing.  The feeding station was unusually quiet for such a cold day, although we heard Great Spotted Woodpecker.  The rest of the reserve that we were able to visit was equally quiet.  The pond held Wigeon, Teal, Mallard and Shoveller.  I added Common Snipe to the year list and a little later Jay also, when it flew over the pond.

Our next stop was Prestwick Carr.  I hadn’t (perhaps foolishly) expected conditions to be quite so bad, but it proved impossible (at least it would have been dangerous) to advance very far along the bumpy road.  Sheet ice here was lethal and where the ice had broken up was fairly deep water with in places ice underneath it.  A recipe for disaster, but we did very carefully plodge through the water as it reached almost half way up the Wellington Boots.  I refrained from taking a photo of Sam in the water, remembering my fall earlier.  I didn’t want my day to end with me and camera equipment flat out in icy water.   Surprisingly I wasn’t feeling too cold.  We’d seen a couple of Kestrels on arrival and Common Buzzard was heard before being seen perched (another new one for the year for me).  Again things were very quiet as far as bird life was concerned, but we did have decent sightings of two hunting and calling Short-eared Owls which alone made the trip up there worthwhile.  After a bite to eat we decided that it would be wise to make an exit and return home so the day was cut rather short.  The Willow Tits can wait another opportunity.  As we made off we watched as fifteen plus Pied Wagtails wandered across the frozen flash to the right of us.  We checked for Grey Wagtail but found none.  Unsurprisingly there were few folk about, but we did see three or four.

Not the worst part of the walk.
On arrival back on patch we both got an eye on a Grey Wagtail as it flew across near my home so with that one added to the year list I’m giving Sam a good run for his money, not that we ever take numbers seriously!

So I was home in time to listen to the match.  Two good performances in a week.  Can I be dreaming, and it is really the height of summer?


  1. Nice to bump into you and Sam, only managed an hour but it was good to get out and see the Smew a lake first for me.

  2. Good you got down Brian. First for me on the lake too when seen on New Year's Day. Trying to find out when last Smew was seen here. Must be many years ago. At least when we get a bird like this on patch they do tend to show well.