Amwell has traditionally been a good wintering area for Smew with, in some years, the birds reaching double figures. This year, however, numbers have been relatively low with only three birds present before Christmas which subsequently left the site and just four birds now, a male and three females. I therefore headed off for Tumbling Bay where the birds have been spending most of their time.
As I approached the lock I checked out the lone Alder where Siskins often feed low in the branches. No Siskins today I'm afraid, but there was a single Goldfinch that was so intent on feeding off the seeds in the minute cones, that it allowed me to approach quite closely and even manoeuvre my position to get the sun behind me. Why aren't all birds this cooperative?
I continued on my way to Tumbling Bay and could see all four Smew half way up the lake. What has been a feature this year is that the birds are very flighty, more so than in previous years. So much so that the nearest that I could approach the females was 100 yards when they would take to the air. The male wasn't much better but I did manage to conceal myself behind some elders before he saw me and flew.