I needed to drive down from Scarborough to East Yorkshire today, so I decided to set off early and see if I could bother some nature on the way. My choices were to go by Hornsea Mere or Tophill Low. As a drake Smew had been reported at Hornsea the day before, I decided to try and see if I could refind it today
My trip down was largely uneventful, until I neared Hornsea. I was about 4 miles outside the village when I noticed a big flock of geese in a field next to the road. I quickly pulled over and started scanning through them. At first they appeared to be purely Greylags, but I soon noticed a white goose amongst them. Snow Goose, it wasn’t. Just a big ‘farmyard’ goose. After a few more minutes I had spotted two Canada Geese, a Canada Goose x Greylag Hybrid, a single Pink-Footed Goose, and an old friend of mine, a Ross’ x Barnacle Goose Hybrid. This goose popped up on my radar in September of this year, when it appeared at Wykeham Lakes, North Yorkshire. It hung around there for a few weeks, before turning up at Burton Riggs, just outside Scarborough. A couple of days later it was seen and photographed at Filey Dams, where it was misidentified as a blue-morph Ross’ Goose. Its next stop was Tophill Low, where thoughts of blue-morph Ross’ Goose crossed the collective minds of the birders there. And here it was again, the fifth location it had been seen this year, and the fourth site where I had personally bumped into it. I love that goose.
I drove to Hornsea, noticing an enormous skein of Pink Footed Geese flying over as I drove, then parked up and started walking along the south side of the mere listening to the crackling of Mistle Thrushes. A scan over the water from first field quickly revealed a lack of Smew of any gender, but a definite presence of a Black-Necked Grebe. I walked down to the next field, where I also failed to see a Smew, as well as not managing to see the Slavonian Grebe that is apparently still there. A flock of Barnacle Geese flew over, with a single Canada in tow. Shortly afterwards a small, dark, rapidly flapping falcon flew straight past me and over the mere. My first Merlin! I’m glad I’ve spent so much of my time watching footage of raptors in flight now, as there is no better way of learning the ‘giss’ (jizz?) of the bird, other than actually seeing it.
Turns out that Tophill Low had a Greenland White-Fronted Goose today, a bird that I would absolutely love to see. Hopefully it may hang around the area for a few more days.