|Tree Sparrow - (c) Alan Flavell|
The weather was fairly dull at first but there were brighter interludes during the course of the day and it didn't really rain.
Smew was the order of the day, at least as far as Peter was concerned, and much of the day turned out to be Peter Baron's 'Smew Quest' (with a nod to David Attenborough).
|Female Siskin - (c) Alan Flavell|
There were all the usual Titmice (Blue, Great, Long-tailed Tits) and Finches (Goldfinch and Greenfinch) as well as a Robin, Blackbird and two Dunnocks, but the star attractions were the male and female Siskins, a Lesser Redpoll, the many Tree Sparrows, a Willow Tit and a Treecreeper.
When I saw a Siskin on a wellington boot seed feeder I instantly knew it could be a good 'competition shot' for Alan, who was busy firing off a few rounds.
|Male Siskin given the boot - (c) Alan Flavell|
We then followed the woodland trail past the Feeder Screen round to the Kingfisher Screen, first hearing and then seeing a Coal Tit on the way, but with no sign of any Kingfishers - perhaps they should think about renaming it!
Then we followed the path more or less parallel to the River Aire to the Bob Dickens Hide overlooking the Main Bay. This was a good place to stop for lunch as it was just the right size to seat our ten-strong party of birders. Here we saw male and female Goldeneye and Goosander, Shelduck, Jackdaws, some Great Crested Grebes, Mute Swans, Mallards and Teal. No Smew though.
We moved on to the Village Bay Hide which provided a very good viewpoint, but through which was blowing a freezing cold wind - needless to say, we didn't stay too long. Before we left we did add a group of early roosting Cormorants and Gadwall to the day list, but still no Smew.
This was followed by quite a long and fairly unproductive walk through the trees on a raised path separating the lake from the river with just the occasional glimpse of the the water. From the bridge overlooking the west end of Village Bay the 'Smew Quest' continued, but we only got more views of the same birds we'd seen from the previous hide.
|Oystercatcher on a stick anyone?|
It was now time for the return journey to the car park and on the way back we met a broadly spoken fisherman who had just caught a young pike which was about two feet long. He had laid it out on the ground in his net and was removing the fishing hook which had lodged itself in its tail of all places.
|A Covey of Red-legged Partridges - (c) Alan Flavell|
We also had some futher views of the main lake where we saw a variety of Gulls, including Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Common, and Black-headed varieties with plenty of immature or juvenile birds about. We also got a better view of Laura's Great Crested Stick, which was sticking out of the water near to the bank.
As we approached the Visitor Centre a walkway led to the east end of the lake where a large group of Mute Swans had amassed due to it being a popular feeding location. After a quick chat on the car park, we all agreed to call in at Lin Dike Hide which overlooks Spoonbill Flash at the eastern end of the Fairburn Ings reserve because we would be going past it on the way home.
|Male Smew - (c) Alan Flavell|
Whilst doing this, Martyn then spotted the Ruddy Duck, which was a lot easier to see as it was staying in more or less the same place, in spite of it regularly disappearing through diving fairly often. It was unfortunate that not everyone got to see the Smew, but at least they all had good views of the Ruddy Duck.
We had at total of 57 species for the day and this made the prospect of a tedious drive home through the motorway roadworks a little more palatable. And all the way home I kept thinking: