Instead of going to Westbere this morning I slid into the car park at Stodmarsh at 06.30 and made my way along the Lampen Wall as far as the lifebuoy. Two Mute Swans were in the dyke here and were cracking through the ice before settling on a more solid area. The open patch they came out of also had 66 Coots on it most with frost on their backs. Out on the frozen lake around the open area I could see Swans and Geese with the ducks but not enough light to identify so I moved further up and climbed the steps to the Lake Tower Hide. As the light improved I counted 5 Marsh Harriers out of roost and flocks of Fieldfare were passing over in groups of 2-400 with a conservative estimate of at least 7800 all coming out of “the Jungle”. On the lake I could now see 10 Bewick’s Swans including 1 juvenile that left at 07.40, 5 Tundra Bean Geese that left at 07.15, 19 Canada Geese, 6 Greylag Geese, 3 Smew including 1 drake, 25 Tufted Duck, 15 Pochard, 105 Shoveler, 76 Teal, 89 Mallard and a pair of Pintail. A walk to the river had more Fieldfares leaving “the Jungle”, a couple of Bullfinches, 2 Sparrowhawks and on the river near the Water Meadows a fine drake Goldeneye also, the 5 Tundra Bean Geese were in the field opposite the Water Meadows between Hersden Industrial Estate and the village of Upstreet.
As I walked back adding just an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull on the lake it started to snow. By the time I reached Westbere the snow was falling heavily and I almost gave up but, carried on and headed straight to the Gaps. In exactly the same place Marc, Brendan and I had stood yesterday I went through the ice up to my Knees filling my boots with freezing water. No sign of any Goosanders today but there were 2 Wigeon, 3 Pintail, 1 Shelduck, 113 Tufted Duck with another 23 on the river and 75 Pochards. The decision was taken to head for home and out of my soggy footwear when Brendan phoned and, as he was coming in from the Fordwich end we decided to meet and look through the Gulls from a fishing swim on the south side of the lake. As I passed the Water Meadows 2 Curlews called out, a single Greylag was on the bank and a Woodcock flushed from beneath a tree.
|aythya hybrid (Tufted x Pochard)|
Scanning through the Gulls and Duck on Westbere the aythya hybrid was easily located amongst the Pochards and Tufted Ducks as were 2 drake and 1 brownhead Goldeneye. Several scans through the Gulls, only a few hundred today, eventually turned up a Yellow-legged Gull. While checking all it’s features we were joined by John Cantelo who asked about the hybrid duck. Putting him on to it the jammy bugger spotted the adult Iceland Gull immediately behind it. A superb looking bird and the first adult I’d ever seen and a new bird for the valley to boot. Now being joined by Sue Morton and Steve Ashton and with the Gull population increasing Brendan found another Yellow-legged Gull standing on the ice, this one being a “classic” example of the species.
|Iceland Gull & aythya hybrid|
A pair of Goosanders flew east overhead, the only Cetti’s Warbler of the day was flitting about in the bushes beside us and a Bittern flew out towards the Water Meadows. A final look from the island with Steve to try and relocate the Iceland Gull that appears to have disappeared added a pair of Bullfinches and a drake Smew but, alas, no further sign of the Gull