Saturday I swung down to the west country. The journey was good with even some snowy scenes as I went over the (relatively) high ground heading to Somerset.
First stop was a new reserve for me, Ashleworth near Gloucester for a green-winged teal. I spent about 3 hours there scanning about 500 eurasian teal without finding my target. There was about 50 pintail though, probably the largest number I've seen in one place which was nice. I gave up just before lunch and headed off for target two, long staying penduline tits on a small pit called Horsebere pool on the edge of Gloucester itself. These use to be my bogey birds, it took me about 3 years of trying to find my first one, but now they seem to be if not exactly more common at least easier to find. This pit was a very small one, and I met up with three other birders who had been with me not seeing the green-winged teal!
It's not the best photo in the world, but you can see one of the two males present feeding on the red mace heads. I gave it about 30 minutes and they weren't playing ball by coming in close so I moved to my last target, a ring-necked duck at Ham Wall near Glastonbury, about an hours drive away. I'd been there last year for the Hudsonian Godwit so I was hoping to be as successful.
Talking to the man in the RSPB hut it was showing well, so a 10 minute walk and I was in the middle of the reed bed and there were lots of ducks.
They are superficially like a tufted duck crossed with a scaup. At distance they are a black and white diving duck but with a characteristic light-grey not white side and markings on their bill. What they don't have is a ring on their neck - and no tuft!!
These two give you an idea of the differences compared to the tufties it was making friend with.
I watched it for about 30 minutes, it seemed quite happy pottering about in the reeds!!
The only other bird of note was a bittern booming away in the reeds which was nice - Ham Wall is very good for them.
Sunday I decided to go North, following the maxim of always go tho rarest bird, which in this case was a long-billed dowitcher at Rutland water north of Peterborough. It is one of those reserves where you have to pay entrance, but I suppose £5 is a reasonable price!!!
A 15 minute walk got me to "shoveler hide" where the bird had been seen most days. When I arrive it had been seen about 20 minutes before but now was hiding. The 6 of us in the hide waited about another 20 minutes before it pottered into view.
Gradually it showed itself a bit better. Dowitchers are medium sized waders, a bit larger than a redshank but smaller than a godwit. They are quite dull in plumage, basically grey, but lighter underneath with a long-bill (as opposed to the short-billed dowitcher!) and a nice eye-stripe.
Over the next half-hour it pouter about feeding quite happily but showing no sign of wanting to move closer.
It's still in that quite quiet time so there wasn't much else around, but the shelducks were looking quite smart and the black-headed gulls were getting territorial!
I managed to find a red-necked grebe to add to my year-list on the north arm of the reservoir as well before heading back home. A decent haul in quality of birds with Spring migration coming up!!!