Today Bun and I very uncharacteristically left the patch to get an early addition to both our life lists. Our target bird was the Ring-necked Duck on Cheddar Reservoir in Somerset. This bird has been about for a while but has been mobile between Cheddar Reservoir and Blagdon and Chew Valley Lakes. The latter two are huge, so we were waiting for the duck to settle down on the smaller reservoir before attempting to twitch it. The plan almost worked perfectly, I only say almost because we did locate the duck after about one and a half hours of scanning, but it was at the northern end of the lake and hence we could only view it looking directly towards the sun, which was a bit crappy. Non the less though it was a very smart duck indeed, much more attractive than I had imagined it would be, with a very distinctive shape (which was a good job as it was mostly in silhouette!) I managed to get one half decent photo of it, annoying because it could have easily been so much better.
Two superb bonuses here were a trio of Black-necked Grebes, showing down to about 100ft. Quite near for a Grebe, certainly nearer than you see them in Seaton! I can definitely tick Black-necked Grebe now ;-) And also a female Red-crested Pochard.
Black-necked Grebe- not at all distant :-)
A small collection of Somersetians on the banks of Cheddar Reservoir.
Then we moved on to Green Ore near Wells, Somerset to look for Tree Sparrows. Fortunately we had bumped into Alan Bundy and Dave Helliar at Cheddar who gave us pinpoint accurate directions to the site. I'd only gotten quite poor views and no photos of Tree Sparrows in Norfolk last January and at first I thought history would repeat itself here because although there were 25 of them they were mobile and elusive for some time, I was determined to stick it out until I got a photo though. So much to Bun's delight we stood in the freezing cold for about an hour and a half before I struck it lucky. Worth it though - well I thought so.
Most views were like this, they were very tricky to get near to.
Lovely - and as rare as hen's teeth in the South West.
Seeing as it was getting near sundown we decided to pop over to Shapwick/Meare Heath to see the Starling roost. Neither of us had seen this spectacle before and I'm sorry to say we still haven't. We did see possibly close on a million Starlings but they flew over very high, probably to roost at Westhay to the north. Apparently they are a bit hit and miss like that. About a hundred or so other people also missed out this evening. I'm sure we'll have chance to go back one day though. A nice couple of bonuses here were a Bittern coming in to roost and a juvenile Marsh Harrier, which flew directly overhead. I took a nafftastic snap in the encroaching gloom. All in all a fabulous start to 2010! ;-)