Yesterday (30th December), was a cold, wet, miserable, relentless rain shower of a day. However, it did have some redeeming features to gladden the heart.
Forsaking our normal haunts, The Admiral and I drove across town to Caldecotte Lake, where reports of some excellent over-Wintering wildfowl species appear regularly at the eponymously titled blog by Keith. In fact, who should we bump into as soon as we stepped out of the car? The great man himself! Keith was helpfulness personified and gave us an up-to-the-minute report of what was about and where it could be found. His enthusiasm for wildlife and his knowledge of the Lake seem to radiate out in every direction and illuminate all who meet him.
Walking anti-clockwise around the southern part of the lake, we first encountered 3 Goosander, Mergus merganser, (a male and 2 females) by the boating platforms. Sadly, we were unable to photograph these birds with any success because every time they approached the shore, they would be scared away again by folk walking their dogs.
At the southern tip of the lake, we spotted a few Siskin, Carduelis spinus, and a Tree-creeper, Certhia familiaris, before the rain set in for a prolonged period. By the time we reached the opposite side of the lake from our starting point, we were the wrong side of damp and in need of a tonic to lift our spirits. This arrived in the form of a smart male Smew, Mergus albellus, which, although too far out in the centre of the lake for great photos, generated sufficient warmth and excitement to evaporate the rain from a drenched birder or two.
With our optics suffering from the weather, we now had the choice of returning to the car the way we had come, or continuing around the lake. We opted for the latter, as it meant we could pop into a local hostelry for a warm drink en route. This turned out to be a more excellent choice than we imagined.
On leaving the pub (it was a coffee and a hot chocolate, ok), it was still persistently precipitating. However, we immediately spotted a large bird, fairly close to the shore on the northern half of the lake. Having just dried off and packed away our bins and cameras, there then followed a short hiatus whilst these were hurriedly extricated again! Our lenses were brought to bear on another temporary resident of the area, an immature Great Northern Diver, Gavia immer. As we watched, it drifted closer still, so despite the poor light and the rain, we were able to have a fantastic view of this Winter visitor, preening, stretching and diving.
After about 10 minutes, it decided that the show was over, and swam further out into the lake. As we walked back below the pub, a Kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, flashed passed in a blur of azure lightning, to further raise our happiness quotient.
Then, squelching back to the car, we spotted a small flock of Reed Bunting, Emberiza schoeniclus, and a pair of Bullfinches, Pyrrhula pyrrhula, to complete an excellent morning's birding.
Thanks, Keith, your blog site is fantastic, be it the virtual or the actual one!