Ten days to go till the 2014 Patchwork Challenge starts, so I thought I'd spend a few hours at Eyebrook this afternoon to get a bit of practice in. The drake Velvet Scoter was still off the dam, although I didn't bother walking down to see it as there were no less than nine cars parked by the gate. Hopefully it will stay till the start of the year to get on everyone's year list and then piss off, so I can have the place to myself again! Also, the female Ring-necked Duck put in a surprise re-appearance today, having been last seen on 10th November. It was in exactly the same place as before, just south-west of the island. Interestingly, the pale band on the bill looks more obvious now, lending weight to my theory that it was a juvenile/1st-winter when it first turned up in October.
Other bits and pieces included a Barn Owl flying across the reservoir towards Stoke Dry at 13:25 - I was initially puzzled as to why this was flying around at that time of day, until two cretins came into view, walking along the reservoir side of the hedge and flushing everything. I didn't shout at them, partly because the bloke looked a bit hard, but also because without them I wouldn't have seen the Barn Owl! Also of interest were an adult Caspian Gull (as far as I could tell - everything I could see on it looked good) and a female Mandarin off the island, and a Kingfisher and a Lesser Redpoll at the inflow.
I'm really looking forward to the challenge - I think Eyebrook will have a good year next year; there are certainly plenty of birds there at the moment, anyway.
The other notable sighting of the day was an out-of-range Wanstead birder and friends, on their way back from the Yorkshire Ivory Gull - hopefully they had decent views of the scoter, although it looked from a distance as if it might not have been quite as close to the dam today as it sometimes is.