Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Pitsford Water :: 03 January 2022

A late night watching TV resulted in another late rise from bed. I jumped on my laptop as I ate breakfast and chatted with my wife. We decided that we should go for a walk and despite the suggestion of Brandon Marsh we opted for Pitsford Water - up to three drake smew have been showing there on and off for the last few weeks and had been reported around Scaldwell Bay the previous day.

The car park at the Fishing Lodge was shut and the public car park on the western end of the causeway rammed and so we abandoned the car in the layby at the top of the hill heading back to Brixworth. It was a squeeze as nine or so cars were doing the same. On the way down to the feeder station I picked out my first yellowhammers of the year and then both tree sparrow (just the one) and a female reed bunting; apparently the feeders had been stolen again. There were lots of coot and geese on and along the water's edge but no white ducks.

We reached the Bird Club Hide and found Alan and Anne Peilow in residence - they'd only recently arrived and reported that no one had yet reported smew that morning. They also relayed a message from people they’d met that a drake pintail and the long-staying wood sandpiper had both flown just before they had arrived. I set up my scope and started scanning around. Little and great white egret were soon added to my year list and a heron sat up out of the water, apparently in a tree when viewed through the bins, but on a more substantial broke branch when viewed through the scope. Numerous fishing parties of pochard could be seen in every direction amongst coot and wigeon.

Great white egret
Grey heron

My viewing was interrupted when Anne spotted the wood sandpiper working a bay far to our left. I took some record photos but fortunately it gradually moved closer and was only distant. Eventually it turned and started work away from us again and my heart sank - just as I was about to return to the scope it took to the wing and flew towards us appearing to try and land almost in front of the hide. At the last moment it veered away and landed to our right. It was closer in the water's edge and we had good views, but the bird was in shadow against the reflected sky. I took my opportunity to snap off a few photos in the hope I could save one. In what seemed a very short time it took off again and flew far back along the water to the Scaldwell Hide area.

Wood sandpiper
Wood sandpiper
Wood sandpiper

Back on the scope I soon picked out a drake pintail and then we added two more on the left-hand bank. Eventually we left having dropped both a pair of bins and the eyepiece cover for the scope leaving Anne and Alan to their lunch. We made our way round to the Scaldwell Hide and from there could see one of the pintail drakes had relocated to the lagoon between the two hides - there were also two female pintails, making five in all. We couldn’t find the wood sandpiper though.


We started to make our way back to the car when I had a call from Kevin Heath to say he had found the black redstart at Borough Hill Daventry and been talking to a couple who had been to Pitsford earlier - they reported that they had seen a single drake smew in Walgrave Bay. Unfortunately, I wasn't going to be able to make that as even now it would be after 2.30pm before we got home for lunch. If it had been reported earlier then we may have taken some lunch and has a go, but we hadn't planned that far ahead. Let’s hope I get another opportunity.

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