First stop was the Derbyshire County Council car park in Cromford Canal, a traditional winter birding spot for Hawfinch. Birds are regular here in the winter months and we were not disappointed as one was immediately spotted at the entrance to Willersley Castle. It sat at the top of a tree for a good 5 minutes and, despite the grey conditions, I managed to get a few decent shots. Note the enormous bill on the bird below!
Next stop was Carsington Water where a redhead Smew had been frequenting the dam area for a few weeks. Our search started at the Millfields Car park, and we spent a cold, but enjoyable, half an hour searching amongst the 150+ Tufted Duck, dozen or so Goldeneye, Canada Geese and Coot for the diminutive "sawbill". Unfortunately our first attempts were unsuccessful so we decided to warm up in the restaurant at the Visitors' Centre. After a spot of lunch (veggie breakfast- nice!!) we had a quick walk down to the main hide, which was surprisingly quiet, with "just" 50+ Wigeon, Tree Sparrows, a few Black-headed Gulls and Mallards.
We then headed back up to the dam wall to have another look for the Smew. Another search through the Tufties eventually paid dividends when the bird was spotted diving and fishing just 20m from the bank. Again, the bad light and the bird's constant diving didn't make it easy to get a photo, but, with persistence, we eventually managed a few record shots.
Whilst watching the Smew, we also noticed a couple of Ruddy Duck, a real rarity nowadays, a group of approximately 50 Lapwing feeding on the fields behind the dam and three Pink-footed Geese, which flew directly over our heads! Not quite sure where they came from or whether they're "real", but nonetheless a good record which I sent into the Derbyshire Ornithological Society.