This morning I had a trip to Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve near Castleford. I’d read they’d currently got a drake smew there, and so this was my target bird for the day.
I started out at the first hide, where people were saying they’d recently seen stonechats, but sadly I managed to miss them completely. Trudging on through the mud (it was a lovely day, but the previous day’s rain had made things treacherous), I eventually got to the next hide, and was greeted with a host of ducks including pochards, goldeneye, shelducks, tufted ducks and teal, but no sign of the smew.
In the next hide along the smew had been sighted! I had a brief look down someone’s scope (which was about 20 times better than mine), and made haste down to the main bay area, where it seemed to be bobbing around happily with little heed of the assembled birders and fishermen on the banks.
When I got there, and as I was scanning the bank, I suddenly made out the unmistakable silhouette of a perched kingfisher, no more than 8 feet in front of me. As someone who only ever seems to manage the briefest glimpses of kingfishers as they dart past, this view was something I’d been waiting for all my life. Even though this part of the reserve was busy, at this moment there was no-one there but me and the kingfisher, and I stood for a good minute watching it before it darted off.
And then, not far at all up the path, was the smew, swimming around close to the water’s edge. Even though that was my target bird for the day, I’m afraid he comes second to the kingfisher, although he was a beautiful bird nonetheless and a lifer I never expected to get so easily!
Other highlights included two flocks of siskins, and four snipe giving amazing views in front of the Cut Hide.
Full list time (yearlisters in bold):
Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Mallard, Goldeneye, Teal, Shelduck, Ruddy Duck, Smew, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Snipe, Kingfisher, Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Pheasant, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Willow Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin, Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook. [Plus a Kestrel on the M62 on the way]