First stop was the Geoff Smith Hide in the hope that a nice drake Smew had dropped in. It hadn't. The drake Greater Scaup was still present, but was fast asleep. There was tonnes of wildfowl present but most of it was spread all over the water so not really possible to count. I did notice Great Crested Grebe was still present, along with plenty of Whooper Swan, Pintail, Pochard, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Shoveler, Gadwall and Mallard. There was a couple of Ruff, Redshank, Lapwing and Golden Plover along the riverbank, along with 2 Reed Bunting and several Fieldfare.
Rather unhelpfully a couple of people walked along the riverbank (beyond where the public access stops) and flushed (high) hundreds of birds off the river which all flew onto the reserve, making counting anything totally impossible.
Next stop was Bubwith Bridge. North Duffield Ings was frozen over, as was the majority of Bubwith Ings. The small pool that wasn't frozen contained Pintail, Shelduck, Wigeon and Teal. However it was the river here that held the main attraction; Common Snipe. 62 of them, some feeding, some roosting. There was also about 50 Lapwing and 6 Redshank here (and another 100 Teal). Scanning through the Snipe I picked up about 12 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 10 Tree Sparrow, 6 Reed Bunting and 30+ Fieldfare.
Next stop was Intake Lane (just behind Bubwith Village). Ollie and Chris had tipped me off that there was a large flock of passerines here but they hadn't got time to check them out properly. so I went to explore. It was pretty remarkable! The field was stacked out with Skylark. I counted 420 feeding in the stubble, then just as I was leaving another flock of at least 250 flew in and joined them! A flock of 670 Skylark is a pretty remarkable sight! Also here was at least 30 Corn Bunting, 38 Reed Bunting, 14 Yellowhammer, 15 Tree Sparrow and 5 Meadow Pipit.
Driving towards Ellerton I found a flock of 177 Linnet feeding in a cover-crop (really shows the benefit of these schemes) in with this flock was at least 2 Brambling, 17 Reed Bunting, 30 Chaffinch, 3 Yellowhammer, 2 Corn Bunting, 18 Tree Sparrow and 30 Chaffinch. Another 25 Skylark flew over.
A short drive later and I located another flock of Skylark, this time 144 that showed to really close range. Unfortunately I couldn't pick out anything more unusual amongst them! Something flushed this flock and as I looked up a cracking juvenile male Peregrine flew low overhead. It wasn't wanting Skylark for tea, I expect it had its mind set on Woodpigeon supper! A Barn Owl was the last treat of the day.
So a good selection of farmland birds with the following totals:
- Skylark: 851
- Linnet: 177
- Reed Bunting: 63
- Corn Bunting: 32
- Yellowhammer: 17
- Tree Sparrow: 43
I know Ollie and Chris recorded quite a few flocks of Skylarks at other locations today (not sure of final numbers yet), but it is pretty obvious that there has been a large hard-weather movement over the weekend, as these birds were certainly not present yesterday and given more time today I'm confident we could have found a lot more!