Friday, 20 February 2015

Smew found at last!!

Holmethorpe Sandpits which includes Mercers farmland and lake is a regular site for wintering Smew. The number of birds present varies each year but this site remains Surrey’s hotspot for this species.

This year a single redhead has been regularly reported on Mercers lake and occasionally on Watercolours one by the housing estate. This species is usually a relatively easy bird to find but the lakes are at an unusual high level and the fishing platforms have been washed away. This has provided ample cover for the bird restricting good vantage points to scan the lake.

I would need to take my shoes and socks off to count the number of times I have searched in vain for this bird this year. I have even been on site when the bird has been reported but have failed to connect on each occasion.Two days ago the story was the same plus I missed a Red Kite over Mercers farm by minutes. This species would have been my 109th species seen at Holmethorpe.

Today I parked up by the housing estate and spoke to Gordon who found it highly amusing that I was still looking for the Smew. He also added that I had just missed another Red Kite. I was feeling a sense of de ja vous but marched on to search the North side of Mercers lake for the Smew.

I walk up and back along this side of the lake produced nothing. I was beginning to think I was not going to see this bird and turned my attention to the gulls that were arriving to roost on the lake. I walked to the South side of the lake and found a spot to scan through the gulls. I had been scanning for around fifteen minutes when I noticed a small sawbill sat on a branch just above water level at the North edge of the lake. Bingo! I had finally seen the Smew!
I noted the Smew’s position returned my scope to my car and squelched my way through the mud swamp of a path to the location of the bird. The path is some way above the water level and there was plenty of foliage to creep up on the bird which was partially obscured by a tree stump.  After about a five minute wait the bird moved from its position and began feeding in between the submerged branches. The light was not great but I took some shots of the bird before making my way back to the car.
That was by far the most difficult Smew I have ever had to catch up with!!

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