Always good for a few hours birding, I took advantage of a necessary visit to the Outdoor Store to drop in on a few of the key pits before the football started in the afternoon. I hadn't birded there since last Spring, so I was concerned I'd spend more time trying to remember the various good access points to the pits than actually birding. As it turned out, it was like riding a bike... you never forget!
Of course, every pit had varying numbers of Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard and all but pit 12 contained Wigeon. Without any given purpose, I won't count Gulls (scan through them, of course)... so let's just say there were lots of each pretty much everywhere except GBBGs, or which I saw very few.
Pit 12 brought me my first Common Gull of the year (photo above of the first one I clapped eyes on) alongside my first Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebes and Goldeneye (3m/1f) of the year. There were perhaps 20 Mute Swans present, frequently taking flight and - every time - amusing as they attempted touchdown on the ice. Plenty of Black-headed Gulls but no candidates for Med.
Pit 17. A Great Spotted Woodpecker (seem to be running into these all over the place recently) made a racket along the shore. There were five Goosander (3m/2f) loitering along the far side.
On pit 16 there were four more Goldeneye (3m/1f). Around the edge I spotted a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest (although I only saw one there were more) - a welcome tick.
Pit 74. More Goldeneye (4m/6f), c.15 Cormorants often in flight. A Buzzard flew over the area and stirred great numbers of Wigeon into flight along with some Lapwing. A smaller flock of something took flight, too, but the view was simply too distant to identify them. I made my way around to the hides, but they didn't help. One Black-headed Gull's pursuit of a young Herring Gull (which had caught a small fish) was probably the highlight. Like a dogfight.
En route back to the car from the hides a Buzzard provided great views as it circled and called above the field I was walking past. It didn't seem to mind my presence and flew towards me a number of times, affording me the luxury of photographing a raptor head on rather than the usual rear view as they retreat to a 'safe' distance.
Final stop for today was pit 41, site of a few drake Smew sightings recently. Alas, a couple of scans revealed no Smew but I did pick up three Red-crested Pochard (1m/2f) for the year list and get good views of a small flock of Siskin feeding in trees along the shore.
Plenty of pits still to investigate, and plenty of Winter still to go. Many of the larger areas of water are still partially frozen.
Year list stands at 67 this evening. There are some differences in content (still no Wren or Pied Wagtail this year!), but I'm running pretty much parallel with last year in terms of numbers.