Today I went on (would you believe?) my first non-patch birding excursion of the year, and had a trip over the border into Nottinghamshire. The first port of call was Clumber Park, where the target of the day was hawfinch. We got on to one by the Chapel very quickly, giving brief views, and after a short walk connected with one which gave good views as it perched on the edge of a tree. After a while a group of hawfinch-hunters had arrived at the Park, and seven birds gave good views to the small crowd, which were assembled close to the Chapel.
The light was terrible this morning, so these are the best you’re getting…
As well as the hawfinches, our secondary targets didn’t disappoint either, with good shows from lesser spotted woodpeckers (one in the same tree as a hawfinch at one point), and a marsh tit which decided to perch for a few moments right by my head.
On the lake there were also good numbers of goosander, plus shoveler, tufted duck, pochard and great crested grebe, and the trees also yielded a wide range of woodland birds that included great spotted woodpecker, nuthatch, treecreeper and lesser redpoll.
It was only 10.30, with our target birds all got with stunning views, so we decided to have a trip to Idle Valley NR (formerly known as Lound Gravel Pits) to find the smew that’s been sighted there recently. Almost as soon as we pulled up two birders put us on to the handsome drake among the multitude of ducks, which also included goldeneye, pintail, teal and gadwall. After a while we saw he wasn’t alone, as a female was also present, but she only showed for a few moments before slinking off into the undergrowth. Although males are by far the best-looking smew, I’d never seen a female before and so was pretty chuffed to see her!
Elsewhere on site two little egrets were around, some shelduck were lurking around, and we got a noisy flyover from 15 whooper swans. Not a bad stopoff at all!
After this we decided to check out Budby Common. There’d been a great grey shrike here recently, and although we kept our eyes open we didn’t really expect to see it (and didn’t!), but we added a few species to the day’s tally, which included tree sparrow, yellowhammer and siskin, and my companions also managed a green woodpecker, making it a three woodpecker day for them (although I managed to miss it completely).
A cracking day all in all, with some of my very favourite species seen.