I got a message from Jerry this afternoon saying there were three Red-head Smew in the small piece of ice free water in the corner of Brooklands lake. I don't very often get the chance to see one of these super little birds so how could I resist the lure of three?
Eddie was just arriving too as I parked the car so together we started walking along the west side of Brooklands lake. It was almost completely ice covered and to make things worse, shrouded in mist, which cascaded from the mill like warm, halitosis laden breath. A grey, gloomy scene indeed. There were a few gulls standing on the ice which we checked in case the Med Gull that Jerry had also seen earlier had returned. It hadn't, so we turned our attention to the east bank where we could see the three Smew on a very narrow patch of water. As we watched, one of them flew north and a minute or two later the others did the same, we then realised that somebody else was walking along the bank above them. Never mind, at least we saw them.
Abbey Mead was also ice bound apart from one patch towards the east bank. There were dozens of birds crammed onto this piece of water. We could see Pochard, Gt Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Gadwall, Coot, Mallard, Canada Goose and Tufted Ducks along with various gulls, but no Med Gull and none of the less common species of ducks. We continued along the river path where we saw Redshanks and multitudes of Teal, more here this year than I remember seeing in recent years, plus a flypast by two Goldeneyes and some Bullfinches that still managed to look stunning even in the late afternoon gloom. A final look around Brooklands on the way back produced four Water Rails wandering aimlessly around the ice covered reedbeds and a chance look over my shoulder revealed another Marsh Harrier flying very low along the river, my second this week, or more likely the same one twice. Eddie seemed to think this was the same bird he'd seen recently at Holborough marsh just to the north so maybe it's hanging around.
Finally, while watching one of the Water Rails I had the rare opportunity to watch and photograph a Cetti's Warbler. Pity the light was so bad but a real treat nevertheless.