16 January, 2010

*Straws, Clutching at.

Spent the morning trolling about the Exe, seeing a lot of very nice birds - waders [assorted] were performing particularly well in the funny light today - but no sign of the frickin' Smew. Of course.
All the wind and rain may have had something to do with it, the vast amount of muddy water [and the remains of a couple of acres of woodland, it seems] rushing seaward almost certainly did. R-B Mergansers and Tufties were making do [though going backwards very quickly whenever they surfaced, and having to fly back upstream every couple of minutes!], so why the Smew wimped out I do not know.... The wonderful mass of Avocet and Blackwit at Bowling Green, then later out on the Clyst and Exe flats made me feel a teeny bit better, but not much. :( Even repeated Avocet flypasts didn't help [and have you seen Avocets flying past? Guaranteed to bring a smile!]. Ok, too much weather? Shelter at newly ice-free Bowling Green! Can't find dinner in fast river? Go to Bowling Green! Even Matford! Exminster Lagoon? Straws straws straws.... I went up to CWP for a reason - its where they are. They don't belong here, the freak weather's gone and so have they... :(

After a long wait and think at Exton, I decided on Plan S*. So, off to Slapton to see if the redhead that had been hanging about there was feeling more co-operative. Making the trip in record time [despi-LONG RANT ABOUT DRIVING DELETED] and having very quickly scanned the Upper Ley for low-flying Bitterns / GWEs / Marsh Harriers [one day I'll see Her Ladyship actually at Slapton!] I saw that Friday's entry on the blackboard had had 'Same again' added for today - the thickest straw so far. Trying not to run, I got to the funny 'part bridge, part gazebo' viewing platform to find a couple of birders playing hide-and-seek with the Long-tail. "Smew's over there" they say. The scope's out before I finish saying "Cheers". Result?


Oh what a glorious little bird! Have I mentioned how much I love Smew? I have? Oh.. ok then. At the back of Ireland Bay, asleep when I got there, later had a preen, a few dives by the reeds, then was harassed by a white-headed Mutant Canada Beast but evaded it via impressive diving skills. Stayed watching it for a while, got very rained on, didn't mind. :D
The male Long-tailed Duck was there, but very slippery indeed. Mostly underwater, his plumage merged with the light coming off the wavelets as he stayed low on the surface. That meant his dark cheeks were often all you could see, making him seem like a smaller darker bird, such as say the Little Grebe that was in the same area - tricky! The Black-necked Grebe was a little more obliging, though also staying on the east side of the Ley. Most obliging of all, however, were the pair of G-C Grebes who were displaying just off the pillbox as I was leaving. One wasn't quite in summer plumage, and they didn't get all the way to the Weed Dance, but still - mid January.

On the Home Front; no sign today of the Fieldfare, though no Blackbird dared disturb the apples...

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