The Staffordshire Bird News blog had been carrying reported sightings of the Velvet Scoter Melanitta fusca at Belvide Reservoir since our arrival into the county [late Saturday 10 May] and while we were tempted by this potential Lifer, it was placed temporarily on the back burner, something to do once we had unpacked and settled in an had dispensed with the obligatory family reunion meetings and greetings.
Thoughts of the Velvet Scoter faded into the background but during a pause in the hectic familial schedule and over a glass of surprisingly pleasant Chilean red, Fay and I suddenly decided to explore Belvide the following morning. Thoughts of the Velvet Scoter returned to the forefront.
Ever-present recollections of September 2010 suggested that perhaps we needed the service of "Tomasina" [our borrowed GPS unit]. On that previous visit we had seemingly and aimlessly circumnavigate the reservoir several times, all involving tight turns along narrow country lanes. What should have been a journey of around 30 minutes took us over an hour,
In the event, or perhaps because we had "Tomasina" dictating our moves, we found the car park without a hitch - and well within the 30-minute ETA. Punching in the gate code was another piece of cake...
... aside [stage left] I'd rejoined the West Midlands Bird Club for this very purpose; access to Belvide and Blithfield in particular. The manner in which this had to be accomplished continues to puzzle me. Our son, a non-birder, was in Staffordshire last year and it was Adam who arranged for my membership, giving my sister's [his aunt's] Rugeley address as my place of residence. I collected a variety of bumph, including the all-important membership card and gate code, on our arrival.
It would appear that even in the 21st century, with the WMBC running a rather successful website, Internet banking facilities such as PayPal remain a foreign concept to them. My membership expires later this year; what then?
We had barely started along the along the track, still within the plantation between the car park and The Scott Hide, when we encountered Graham [presumably the "GW" of the later Staffordshire Bird News entry?]. He had come solely to add the recently reported [Belvide Birding] Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata, the first Belvide record in some 15 years. We readily scanned the woodlands alongside him but thoughts of the Velvet Scoter tugged us away.
Fay and I scanned the water from The Scott Hide. No scoter. We re-scanned and then scanned again. No scoter.
We repeated this from the Andrew Chappell Hide. No scoter. Indeed, compared to September 2010 there appeared to be few birds on or around the water.
Enroute to the Gazebo Hide we met up with Kevin [mentioned earlier by Graham as the birder who might be able to put us onto the Velvet Scoter]. Kevin suggested our best bet would be The Scott Hide, looking out towards the dam wall.
Having come to within a stone's throw of the Gazebo Hide we decided we might as well have at least a cursory look to see what was on offer from here. The largish flock of Mute Swan Cygnus alor made for an interesting backdrop but there was little out of the ordinary around.
We returned to The Scott Hide.
Another 40 minutes of careful scanning from here failed to produce the Velvet Scoter. Perhaps hardly surprising as it was later reported that following a stay of 84 days the Velvet Scoter appears to have departed.
We had dipped on both the Spotted Flycatcher and Velvet Scoter. Such is life.