On January 1st 1997 I had spent a memorable morning at Holmethorpe Sand Pits in the company of Gordon Hay. We had found an Iceland Gull, at first light on Mercer's Lake; a Peregrine had blasted through above our heads (it was still a notable species then); recent cold weather had left a whole suite of wildfowl to pick through, that included Scaup, Pintail and Smew; unfrozen ditches had given up Water Rail, Jack Snipe and Woodcock - it was a splendid few hours of local birding. I had to return home for an afternoon family get-together, so left Gordon on his own shortly before mid-day. And just after mid-day he was treated to the sight of six Whooper Swans fly in, circle the lake, and fly out again. To say that I was disappointed to have missed them is not to be down-played. In fact, only yesterday I was thinking about them, and still managed to give out a huff.
News broke this morning that five Whooper Swans had been found yesterday (18th) on Earlswood Lakes, just outside of Redhill, and this morning a single bird was still present. Before I could go and pay my respects to it, this too then left - only to be relocated at the scene of my 1997 miss! My chance for redemption, revenge, call it what you will, was there for the taking.
The bird, thankfully, was still present, sat in the middle of Mercer's Lake. It may not have been as close as it would have been at the much smaller Earlswood Lakes, but second-bites are all the sweeter. This is not only a species that I had not seen before at Holmethorpe, it is an Uber-patch tick. Double bubble! To add more pleasure to the morning, I walked across to the Watercolours pits and watched the female Ring-necked Duck at close quarters. This is the same bird that Gordon had found at Priory Park, in Reigate, and I had seen back in December and January. Getting a decent photograph was thwarted by a stand of reeds between us, so I had to make do with some clearer views at a distance. As always, a big thank you to the finders and disseminaters of bird news - it is great to share in these events, and all within seven miles from home.