WE’RE MISSING one of the regulars on our traditional and slightly delayed Boxing Day birding walk. My friend from schooldays David hasn’t been able to migrate back from Cumbria to his home town this year so this is the perfect opportunity for John (back from Plymouth) and I to add two brand new species to the list of Boxing Day birds that we’ve built up over the last 30 years or so.
On our way to the Main Hide at Anglers Country Park we meet local birder Peter Smith and ask him to point us in the direction of today’s star birds:
“Is the American Wigeon still around?”
Pete explains that it’s out towards the centre of the lake. And he directs us towards the Greenland White-fronted Goose which has joined a flock of Greylags in the fields beyond.
“We’d like to get them on our list, so that we can tell David, who’s been coming round with us for the last 30 years but can’t make it this year!”
“That’s ‘griping off’!” chuckles Pete.
Sadly, we don’t get the chance to ‘gripe off’ David. I’ve no doubt that we saw the American Wigeon and the Greenland White-front, but we didn’t have the birdwatching skills to pick them out amongst (a) the hundreds of European Wigeon on the choppy water’s of Europe’s largest pond-liner lined lake and (b) amongst the other 77 grey geese (we counted them!) in the field.
David also missed out on an us getting slightly lost. After puzzling over the geese for 5 minutes we decided to press on directly to Walton Park but soon found that the footpath started veering off unhelpfully in the direction of Crofton. Still, we can’t complain because we spotted around 33 species including Goosander, Tree Sparrow and Pink-footed Goose (the latter probably an escape but, as a native, it can still go on the list).
And there was a bonus; because we hadn’t managed to get out on the Boxing Day bank holiday we were able to finish our six mile circuit at the Squire’s Tearooms in the Anglers Country Park visitors centre.