With the year drawing to a close I've not been on any major birding trips since Slimbridge but there have been a couple of local trips to report.
I've still been going to my local patch, Port Meadow, regularly and often late in the day in order to look at the gull roost which can get quite large. Recently I have a very productive day when the flood waters were rather high and there was only a narrow strip of grass between the floods and the river itself. This meant that all the usual waders (black-tailed godwits, ruff and redshank) were concentrated in this narrow area. However when I started scanning I almost immediately picked up on a lovely spotted redshank which was feeding very actively along this strip.
A close up of the spotted redshank, taken at dusk with high ISO
The spotted redshank with a ruff and a pair of black-tailed godwits.
A video of the feeding spotted redshank. To view in high quality mode, click here and select "Watch in High Quality".
Having taken some video and digiscoped shots of the spotshank I then did a brief scan of the rest of the Meadow floods. To my amazement I also found a pair of Bewick's swans out in the middle of the floods.
I took some video footage but they were rather distant and it is best viewed in high quality mode only. Click here and select "Watch in High Quality".
There have usually been one or two yellow-legged gulls in the roost on the Meadow, standing out with their pristine white heads, their rich yellow bills and their immaculate darker mantles. Scanning through the gulls I managed to find one this evening.
A video-grab of a yellow-legged gull in the roost.
So all in all an excellent evening trip to the local patch with some cracking birds.
A few days later a red-head smew was reported on Dix Pit in Stanton Harcourt. This location used to be one of the top gull spots in the county and was a well know Caspian Gull hot spot. However, due to new EU regulations steps are now being taken to discourage gulls from rubbish tips (presumably to avoid the spread of disease) and falcons are now being flown at this site, resulting in much reduced gull activity. I took my two-year old son L with me to the Pit to see if I could connect with the smew. This worked out rather well as he really enjoyed watching all the huge trucks coming and going whilst I watched the distant birds. I managed to locate the smew quite quickly though it was on the far side of the water mid-way between the two view points. I did have a go at videoing it but it came out as little more than a distant blob. I also found 5 red-crested pochards (4 drakes and a duck), another species for which Dix Pit is well known. I then turned my attention to the flock of a hundred or so gulls out in the middle of the water. There was a white-headed gull in amongst them which stood out. In addition, rather than having the dark mantle that one would expect from a yellow-legged, it was much paler. It was a long way away but I did think that it could have been an adult Caspian gull and even took some video footage of it but it was not conclusive even after running it by my gull guru.
A possible Caspian Gull on Dix Pit
To watch this video in high quality mode click here and select "Watch in High Quality".
So no new year ticks but some nice local birds to see within the county and the smew is a new county tick for me.