Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

A thing for Redheads

Some people think I’m married to the Lee Valley Park and they’re probably right. What they don’t know is that I have a mistress called Connaught Water. It’s the quiet one; the one no one would think of. Clever really. I get my hit of Mandarin Ducks here as well as the occasional Goosander and Red-crested Pochard. The forest edges tempt me with Nuthatches, Treecreepers and Marsh Tits. Heaven.

Sunday was cool, calm and crisp – real glove weather. I wanted an hour here as a female Smew had been seen for a couple of weeks on the lake and although a Smew was already on my 2014 list, I figured I could get a pic of this elusive sawbill.

My first circuit of the lake produced a smart drake Pintail (unexpected) and the usual Tufted Ducks, Shoveler, Teal and about 17 Manadrin Ducks, most of which were hiding in the fringes of the islands that sit on the lake making life difficult for birdwatchers. I stopped to chat to a City of London Ranger who had the task of making safe the hundreds of trees that had suffered in the recent storms. He had seen the Smew on Friday but no that morning. Brilliant. I pointed out the Pintail and left. I decided I had time for one more circuit (takes about 30 minutes if you watch stuff to get round).

Glad I did as the little minx was there: happily swimming among the Black-headed Gulls. I told the ranger but when we looked to the gulls, she had gone. After scanning the island fringes, I found her again and this time kept a beady eye on her. She was a beauty. The drake is an amazing bird and generally I think the redhead is dismissed a bit. Everyone wants to see the porcelain-looking drake but the redhead has a grace and beauty of her own and that does for me.
Redhead Smew

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