It was going to take more than a chest infection to keep me off my local patch of Newchurch Common this week, and so three visits were duly fitted in on my days off from Focalpoint Optics duties.
On my first visit a real surprise was waiting for me as I scanned Sandiway Big Pool. A distant duck looked, albeit only at 8x mag through my trusty Swarovski SLCs, to have a thin pointed and quite long tail, surely a Pintail?! Needing confirmation I walked briskly round the poo, to a closer vantage point where the Pintail showed itself really well around 30m offshore. A yomp back to the car to grab my scope and camera and then a return to find it still in the same place followed. Scope views allowed the bird to be sexed as an eclipse drake Pintail, the bi-coloured beak with a line down the centre on top being one feature to help this. As well as the Pintail the female Smew was still present, tucked away in West Bay being elusive as she has been this autumn so far. More signs of winter’s onset were 13 Gadwall and 5 Wigeon (peaking at 7 two days later), and also a female Teal was added to my tally over the next two days. Ten Greylag Geese was a high count for my pools, but was beaten by 16 the next day, my record site count. Spurred on by this I did a count of Canada Geese and reached 275 for birds in view, the count probably being higher with several birds tucked away in non-viewable bits of the pool. Up to 2 Common Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Cormorant were all seen during the week too, again all more indicative of winter than summer.
On visits following up the first day neither the Pintail nor the Smew were seen again, although the latter is just being her elusive self, unlike the Pintail which will definitely have departed. My third visit did however produce a few extra highlights. First of these was a raptor calling in the Pine Belt near Big Pool, as I approached my suspicions were confirmed as a Hobby flew low out of the trees and straight over my head, stunning! Other good finds that day included a Lesser Redpoll bathing in puddles on the main track, my first of this species since the early months of 2018. A juvenile Grey Heron was on the shore of Small Pool and a Stock Dove flew over the paddocks, both species which are not seen on most visits here.
Patch-work can be a hard slog sometimes, with little reward, but this week had been different, a few good birds and in the shape of the Pintail and Hobby two big surprises as payback for my persistence!