“Did you spot the goldeneye?” I was asked by a birder at Draycote, whose superior knowledge I was tapping.
To be honest it would have been difficult to miss him: he was travelling slowly along the western side of the reservoir, displaying and calling every few seconds. I was feeling anthropomorphically sad for him – the poor, lonely creature, all alone of his kind, fated not to find a mate despite his excellent efforts – until I uploaded my files and went through them, when I realised that I’d photographed a female on the other side of the water, presumably able to pick out his call, but utterly uninterested in responding. So maybe he’ll get lucky after all, if he keeps trying over the coming weeks. The display is bizarre, and would have merited a video if I’d thought to get out my phone, but I’ve put a sequence (and the Mrs) here.
The reservoir was much quieter than on my last visit in November: this time I only saw a couple of goosanders and no egrets, and numbers of everything other than gulls seemed to be down. The birder asserted that they’re down by 90% on the same period in previous years – which if true is a huge reduction and very worrying – and he attributes the drop to the fact that angling is now permitted for nine months of the year, whereas previously it was only six: he believes that the wintering flocks arriving in the autumn and early winter were disturbed by the anglers, and have moved on elsewhere. I hope he’s wrong, because it seems clear that angling is a significant revenue source for the reservoir owners, while birders pay only for car parking and anything they choose to eat in the café – so I can’t see any likelihood of waterfowl being prioritised over the desires of those who will pay for angling licences.
Nonetheless I had a pleasant (if chilly) walk, and spotted some interesting things. I’ve put a few highlights here.