Finding myself in Edgbaston to pick up my new guitar, it would have been rude not to drive the couple of miles up the road to admire the Great-Northern Diver that had (Somewhat ridiculously) taken up temporary residence on the Swan Pool in Sandwell valley!
So, with my Les Paul Studio sitting on the back seat, it was a short drive through the back streets of Edgbaston and Smethwick to our destination. A quick walk out to the lake edge and the GREAT-NORTHERN DIVER was showing on the far side of the pool.
Having seen around 40 the previous day, i chose not to walk around to the other side to get a closer look, and after a short time, decided to cross the road to Forge Mill Lake. Sadly, the amazingly close views of the previous day, and with them seeming almost 'common' i was left somewhat with a glazed look in my eyes. Around 20 Goosander were feeding there, as were very good numbers of Pochard. Moving around the the partially rebuilt RSPB center, i looked over the feeders, and soon found my main target. WILLOW TIT.
Sadly, this is a species that has all but disappeared from my home county, and it is hard to believe that i once had both Willow Tit and Tree Sparrow visiting my garden! Within a few seconds through, the bird had flicked onto the feeder, collected its seed and flew off to eat/stash it away somewhere, and i didn't see it again.
Somewhere nearby, i found myself watching a party of RING-NECKED PARAKEETS, as they flew around calling, and eventually settling on tree's in someones back garden, where i was able to scope them through a hedgeline, 2 metal fences and across a school playing field! Thankfully, being the school holidays, there were no issues with doing so!
Having such a great start to the year was made even better when Neil Duggan offered me a day out, collecting a local rarity and then heading down to Slimbridge for their spectacular wintering flocks!
The TWO-BARRED CROSSBILLS were being as elusive as ever, but were tracked down in a stand of pines as they called incessantly for a while before flying out and disappearing altogether! As i had hoped,the Two-Bars became my 100th species for the year. A good number of Common Crossbill were also showing, some landing in trees adjacent to the path!
With short winter days, time was limited, so we then started towards Slimbridge, but a spur of the moment trip had us dropping into Lineholt, were other than a distant flock of 10c Redpoll sp (Associating with Goldfinch on the Golf course) nothing was seen. Interestingly, one or two looked fairly pale, but with the light and distance they were hard to ID with certainty.
Our arrival at the car-park at Slimbridge was greeted by masses of circling Lapwing and Golden Plover over the tack piece, and it was here where we first headed. Bewick's Swan were dotted along the flooded fields, surrounded by thousands of Lapwing, Golden Plover, and hundreds of Black-Tailed Godwit!
It was clear though, that the most activity was from the Holden tower, as following a very high tide, a large layer of silt created ideal feeding opportunities for thousands of birds. And i mean THOUSANDS! Around 3000 each of Lapwing and Golden Plover, nearing 2000 Dunlin (The most i have ever personally seen here in winter) and similar numbers of both Wigeon and Teal, it was immense!
This is surely the meaning of birding in a British wintertime!
Despite these massive numbers of birds, numbers of White-Fronted Goose and Bewick Swan were seemingly well down, with only 170 White fronts and only 30 Bewicks! The reasons for this are clear though just by walking outside and looking at the sky. A very mild winter (and hence the almost no-stop rain) means our northern and eastern visitors have no need to venture so far west to find sufficient food, so they are currently feeding somewhere in Germany or the like. Certainly not in the UK!
While scanning Teal and the very far edge of the Dumbles however i was surprised to find a female GOOSANDER sitting in with them just off an area of floodwater, well back from the estuary edge! Certainly not a bird i exactly associate with flood water!The resident BRENT GOOSE was showing fairly well on the Dumbles edge.
The Zeiss hide was very quiet in comparison. But 4 Avocet made up for the lack of birds as they roosted on the somewhat flooded flash. A Cetti's warbler was showing stunningly well on the edge of the reeds, which was a real privilege!
With the light fading, and after a quick check of the 'south finger' we decided to look for Egrets at Court lake at Frampton. A Kingfisher, 6 Little Grebe, 10 Pochard and very good numbers of Tufted Duck were noted, but we failed to see any Egrets.