Friday, 5 March 2010

Dix Drake Smew

Yesterday morning I got an e-mail from local birder Steve Bell saying that he'd been to Dix Pit that morning and had seen a drake smew there at a very close distance. As regular readers will know I'd been trying to see a drake smew all winter but despite a number of birds being present in the county in what has turned out to be a good smew year I'd hitherto been unsuccessful. Therefore I decided to nip down there for a late morning jaunt.

There was a chilly wind blowing so despite the sunshine it was decidedly cold and I dressed up in my full winter gear including gloves as I scanned the pit. There was no sign of it at close quarters so it was the usual process of carefully scanning all areas of the pit and hoping that it wasn't tucked behind one of the two islands. I soon located it by the first island but before I could get much of a video of it it took off though thankfully I later relocated it right out in the middle of the pit. Videoing it at this distance was a complete nightmare. The scope was cranked up to x60 and I'd drilled down on the camera zoom to but of course it kept diving and in the bright light it was hard to see it in the camera monitor. Added to this, the autofocus that makes videoing the preferred choice in difficult conditions doesn't work too well with all white birds. Fortunately at extreme range in a photo a drake smew is a white blob with a bit of black in it and this does mean that when post processing it one can crank the sharpening "up to 11" and it doesn't come out too bad.

As you can see it sharpens up ok so the smew actually looks more realistic than the accompanying wigeon. Anyway, it's just a record shot

No ticks to add to the list as I've not formally started keeping a separate list for male and female county birds (yet!) though this was my first drake smew for the county.

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