I've blamed everything from wind and rain for the lack of an appearance and now I can add perfect calm, bright conditions to the list of reasons for a no-show...
Whether it's still actually there I haven't a clue, but in the several hours I've spent attempting to re-find it I have at least become more familiar with many of the wood's other residents. Bullfinches are easy; treecreeper and great-spotted woodpecker a doddle; goldcrest and jay, not a problem. Today I even spooked a couple of woodcock as I crept around in search of the cryptic 'crest. (Freeman's frequenter Bill Myall mentioned that he too had flushed a couple of woodcock there a week or so ago).
Anyhoo, the day was glorious and I spent a good three and half hours rooting around the Aldcliffe patch.
Freeman's Pools held the usual mix of tufted duck, goldeneye, wigeon, little grebe, coot, etc. The only notable change here being the deliberate removal of some fencing to allow the horse of dubious ownership into the reserve to graze. It would seem that some people just do exactly as they please.
As I walked along the cycle track the liquid calls of northbound skylarks became evident. A group of five flew by while a few minutes later a flock of twelve passed over.
With water levels at the flooded Wildfowlers' Pools dropping daily the birds using the area is changing frequently. Last week this site and nearby fields was full of waders. A feeding flock of some 140 dunlin, 200+ redshank and 60+ curlew were all head-down enjoying the delights of mud-dwelling invertebrates. Today, just a handful of redshank, oystercatcher and lapwing were present along with the usual gadwall, coot, mallard, teal and goldeneye.
I headed on to Stodday ETW seeing little of note en route. The expected estuary birds were all seen, many gathering on the far bank as the tide peaked. A flock of 120 or so golden plover came in to roost with the more numerous lapwings.
The walk back to Freeman's Pools was fairly uneventful. I flushed a pair of grey partridge from the tideline, a group of five lesser redpoll were in the small tress along Dawson's Bank and several hundred pink-footed geese were on the other side of the river.
I had another go at hunt-the-firecrest on my way home but unsurprisingly that ended in failure.