Billing Gravel Pits. A favourite local patch for me in my early teens when I used to cycle there regularly after school and at weekends. These days I rarely visit the main pits and the site is largely underwatched. Because of this I decided yesterday to check out the main lake, which is private, although parts of it are viewable from the road and from Billing Garden Centre car park.
Opting for neither, I parked my car at Cogenhoe Mill and walked the 1 km or so west along the river toward the main pit. After negotiating a fence and slogging through the willow herb and reeds I finally got close to the eastern end of the pit but progress was halted by a tributary of the River Nene which prevents access to the pit itself, although viewing is possible but a little distant and partly obscured by vegetation.
A largish raft of ducks was visible in the north-east corner. This consisted of tightly-packed Pochard, Tufted Ducks and a few Wigeon. A few scans through the scope initially revealed nothing, apart from a few white-faced Tufted Ducks – sadly no Scaup. Then, suddenly, an interesting head popped up among the tufties. Obvious eye-ring with short, swept-back streak, diffuse, whitish face patch around the base of the bill, rear crown peak and longish, pointed bill with black tip and a subterminal white band. Ring-necked Duck!
I watched it for a few minutes to ensure no hybrid characteristics were present. It looked good so I put the news out and continued to watch. Views were distant, partly obscured but good enough, although not up to allowing any photography. With grey cheeks, obvious long spectacle line and overall cold-toned plumage, this bird looked quite different to the Wicksteed Park Lake individual from early November, so likely to be a different bird.
Dave James was there this morning and managed to shoot this video:
For anyone going to look, the lake is private and views can be made from the road at the western end or from the car park by Billing Garden Centre.