I have never really been interested in ticking all of the bird species boxes when it comes to bird-watching. Apart from there being a hint of the train spotter about it, I also have an environmental crisis of conscience when it comes to driving anywhere to go birdwatching, so there is no way that I would go out of my way to go and see a rare bird. I see myself more in the Bill Oddie mould, preferring to stick to my local patch. However, this does conjure up the question of what is a rare bird.
I, in common with most people have a number of birds that I really want to see. I have a friend who is desperate to see a kingfisher, and I must admit to a small amount of smugness when I tell him about all of the kingfishers that just keep jumping out at me. For me, one of the birds that I have always wanted to see is a Smew, not just any old Smew, but a male Smew. This has been the case since I saw one in a pen at Martin Mere when I was younger. They just look so neat and smart.
So, today when I waved goodbye to my beloved on my way out to Brandon Marsh I just happened to take my tripod with me in case I felt like popping in to Draycote on my way back. I didn’t mention to him that I had seen reports of a male Smew off the Farnborough bank on the Warwickshire bird news – the mickey taking would be relentless.
I got there and wandered along the bank to about the halfway mark until I saw a large flock of gulls in the distance. Time to see what my scope could do I thought. Let me see lots of black headed gulls was the answer. Then I spotted a flotilla of goldeneye and goosanders. Ah ha, if I were a Smew I would potter about with these chaps I thought. Obviously I am not a Smew and therefore I was disappointed.
I then came to my senses, who am I kidding, birds laugh at me as they fly away just at the moment that I fix them in my sights. Back to the gulls for some identification challenges (I had heard tales of things other than black headed gulls being present). Just at that moment what flew straight into the middle of my field of view in front of the gulls – Mr Smew – he just sat there for a few minutes bobbing about and looking straight at me.
How good was my day!! (A Smew is not a rarity, loads of people have seen them and therefore I am not even a semi-twitcher. Besides I was passing on my way home from somewhere else.)