With a few inches of snow and an easterly breeze, I decided it was time to give Siri a go on my up-graded iPhone rather than get frozen fingers scribbling in the notebook. As I wandered around the valley, a summary of each site was carefully dictated before I headed home, hoping to find my day list magically appearing on my computer via iCloud. And there it was. Holyfield Marsh was particularly good. Apparently I saw a lot of Shufflers, 157 apparently. And also 13 Descenders, 350 Tufted Darks, 4 Snooze (3 drunks and a redhead), 15 Great Crested Degrees and a Yellow-laked Goal. I’m not sure whether I need to train Siri better or change my accent.
With large numbers of birds restricted to small areas of unfrozen water, the apparent heightened and frenzied feeding activity was interesting. Several groups of diving Coots not only had their associated kleptoparasitic Gadwalls (the ‘Coot-mugger’) but had attracted a range of other ducks and gulls. Nearby, a swirling mass of 60+ Shovelers, sorry Shufflers, continued to stir up and sift planktonic invertebrates from a small patch of water. Such feeding behaviour is typical of the Shoveler, but I can’t recall such a large group or such frenzied activity.
I had followed almost the same route around the lake back in the freezing conditions of January 1985. On that visit, the count of Smew reached a remarkable 40 birds (with at least 19 drunks), along with a Slavonian Grebe and 300 Wigeon. A Bean Goose (‘rossicus’ say my notes) had joined the adjacent Canada Goose flock but it eventually and illogically got dismissed as an escape. I think even Siri would have got that right.