Saturday 16th January.
At least the snow's gone, but still most areas of water frozen over. Which must mean it's still cold, but odd that it doesn't feel quite so cold. Must be acclimatising to it.
Not a huge effort put in today, not the best weather to deal with. At Brookleys Lake, amazingly, the Ferruginous Duck (you know, him up at the top there!) was back! Wonder where it got to last week? The female Scaup still around, 30 Mandarins and a Peregrine with prey in it's talons. Another Mandarin bites the dust, was that a Queen song?
Uttoxeter Quarry was still largely frozen, but there was an excellent Goosander total of 46 birds. I then finished along Watery Lane at Blithers to try the gull roost, the deep end being free of ice. But in truth this was a mistake, battling against the thickening mist.
A much nicer day forecast for tomorrow, I think a gull day is called for. In particular there's this second-winter Glaucous Gull around Albert Village. After being fortunate enough to find a second-winter Iceland Gull at Coldmeece a year ago, I do know that second-winter "white-wingers" are really smart birds. So I'd quite like to see this one.
Sunday 17th January.
Albert Village Lake, Leicestershire, 9:30 - 12:30.
I have a lot of family history in and around Swadlincote, it's an area I know really well. So I am embarrassed to admit I've never birded this lake before.
Similarly to Stubber's Green, it's a lake near to a rubbish tip, hence it's attractiveness to gulls. Incidentally, it's a well known fact that Albert Village was the venue for the 1992 winter olympics! Well, there is Swad dry ski slope nearby, what more do you need?
There were a few large gulls on arrival. Not a huge number, about 100 birds, but a relatively high percentage of them being Great Black-Backeds. Also on the lake were 7 Pochard, 2 Cormorant and a Green Woodpecker on the surrounding slopes, being reclaimed colliery land.
But no Glaucous Gull. As the gull numbers dwindled, I thought I'd get a bit of shopping done in Swad, then return to the lake to see if gull numbers increased. They didn't.
So, what to do now? I don't think it's in the area. I decided to cut across country to Croxall, I could have a look round there and Whitemoor Haye. When I got the Croxall a pager message appeared, "2nd winter Glaucous Gull at Stubber's Green".
Now, logic will dictate that if a rare gull is seen at Stubber's during the day, there's a good chance it will appear in the roost at Chasewater. I cut short Croxall, skipped Whitemoor Haye and headed over to Chasewater.
I got there way too early for the roost really, indeed the bird being re-found, along with a first-winter Glaucous at the nearby Highfield tip. That made the anticipation grow! So I waited along the west shore for the rest of the afternoon. Eventually two other birders arrived to join me, and I think we all found the first-winter Glaucous at the same time. A really dark looking thing with the paler primaries, a bright pink bill with black tip.
Then as it was almost dark, the second winter Glaucous was found on the left hand edge of the flock. What a beauty it was too, ghostly pale. When it, and most of the other gulls, took off to the north, in a strange way it was similar to watching a Barn Owl in flight, it was that pale.
As Chasewater is completely frozen, albeit thawing slightly, it was strange to see Chasewater being used as pre-roost for Blithfield! But it goes to show, patience (about two and a half hours at Chasewater, three hours at Albert Village) and persistence (all day in the field) will pay dividends.