Saturday, 23 January 2010
Smew give me the run around - Ribble Valley, Lancashire - 20th-23rd January 2010
The week before my last A level exam of January, I really didn't want something bird-wise to take my attention away from Biology revision. News of 4 reported redhead Smew on the River Ribble in the Alston area was just the news I didn't want to get.
It was less than a year ago before I saw my first Smew up at Lower Black Moss Resr in Barley, Clitheroe, so I felt I must attempt to confirm the record as a flock of 4 would be the largest group to be recorded in the ELOC recording area.
I finished college at 10.30, so when I got the text about them, I was quick to get into action and was managed to confirm their presence at 12.44.
The birds were in loose association with Goosander but were distinctly more flighty and whilst relocating to get a better view for photography, I caught sight of the birds flying past me downstream on the Ribble. One bird seemed a little larger and has noticeably more white on the wings which lead me to age and sex this bird as a 1st winter male with 3 female.
I relocated the birds further downstream but before I had a chance to get a photo, they caught sight of me and took flight again. Their flight pattern when flushed caused them to fly almost 1/2 mile downstream each time which was rather tiresome to say the least!
I finally caught sight of them for a fourth time and was just about to press the shutter when they took flight again! I saw no reason that I was the cause but then I saw a dog walker next to the river and found the reason. I saw the birds land behind the island next to Alston Old Hall.
On the 21st Tony Cooper tried to be the 3rd birder to get a sighting of the birds but failed to locate them. As they were moving downstream, I felt that they could be heading towards the pits or surrounding river at Brockholes which would be a patch first. Robin Shenton had a look but couldn't find them.
22nd Jan, there was no news either way but my thoughts were leading to that I was the only birder to confirm a sighting and wasn't able to get a record shot of the largest flock to be recorded in East Lancashire. I was talking to Bill Aspin and were suggested that Goosander from the river roost on Alston Res, so I payed a visit before dark on the Friday but only had 1 male Goosander with no smaller sawbills in tow. I left at 3.15 so there is a chance they came in later on with the other Goosander on the river. Also present were 34 Goldeneye, female Tufted Duck and 2 male Teal
23rd Jan. I had just finished a mock exam and saw that it was approaching 4.15 so I made a decision to check the roost one more time. I quickly found a group of 5 Goosander but sadly i couldn't see any white cheeks in the red heads. I was losing hope for the birds so I decided I would check the large roost of smaller gulls (Black Headed and Common) for a Med or Ring Billed Gull (optimistic I know!) when i caught sight of another 4 Goosander, It was extremely misty and visibility was a little restricted in the fading light. I suddenly caught sight of 2 smaller birds with them and assumed they were the Teal from the day prior. The Visibility slightly improved and I could make out 2 Smew! I rang Bill with the news and he was just about to send the text that Nick Green had 2 Smew on the Ribble at the same time as me! Nick's birds are near Redscar Weir at Redscar Wood meander so are very close to being recorded from Brockholes!