Sunday, 8 January 2012

Longham duck-fest

Redhead Smew
I don't make the effort to year-list these days, removing the need for a mad January dash to sweep up last year's long-staying rarities. This doesn't mean I don't want to catch up with them eventually, but doing so these days sometimes has to be combined with family-oriented outings. Haskins Garden Centre on the outskirts of Bournemouth does excellent lunches, sells toys and housewares and has a host of sheds for children to play in. Best of all, it is conveniently close to Longham Lakes, one of last year's Dorset rarity hotspots. While a sleepy Blue-winged Teal was undoubtedly the rarest of the host of duck on display today, a drake Smew stole the show. Enough to make the Black-headed Gull in the background of the picture below jealous anyway, as it was mobbing the Smew repeatedly, forcing it to dive frequently.

Drake Smew
Although it remained distant it was still a stunning bird. Having been used to seeing flocks of over 30 in harsh winters on the gravel pits of Dungeness when I lived in Kent, it seemed almost out of place in balmy Dorset. Redheads of Smew and Goosander were keeping it company, however, and a 1st winter drake Scaup was also present to complete a good selection. This bird was much closer, diving with a group of Tufted Duck, so that the vermiculations on the back could just about be seen.

1st winter drake Scaup

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