It's 8am and minus 5 degrees centigrade. I'm wearing all my winter clothing at once, I'm standing on sheet ice, and I'm scanning the surface of Draycote Reservoir through my spotting scope. The reservoir is filled with thousands of gulls (which are basically white birds), and I'm looking for a solitary small white duck.
And I'm thinking to myself: "Can't see why anyone would think this is a weird hobby."
Actually I can and I can't. On the weird side, it was cold, early and the duck (a reported male smew) is very small. On the sane side, it was beautifully clear, bright and peaceful, the light was bringing out the colours of all the birds superbly and there was arguably nowhere else on earth I'd have rather been. So, was it worth it? Certainly was.
The walk towards Tofts revealed huge numbers of ducks and gulls on the water, along with a field full of lapwing and golden plover (about 30 of the latter, hundreds of the former). As well as the ever-present pied wagtails there were half a dozen meadow pipits, and up in the shallows themselves were a grey wagtail (one of two) and a green sandpiper.
Walking across the top end of the reservoir revealed the woodland birds - blue, great and long-tailed tits, loads of blackbirds and redwings, many bullfinch and a small flock of goldfinch and siskins.
And then, heading back down Draycote Bank, I finally found a couple of rarer birds as icing on the cake. First it was an unexpected female common scoter, with its unmistakeable dusky cheek catching my attention as I scanned for grebes. And then, just as I'd given up hope of a diver, a great northern diver bobbed into view close by. Both firsts for the year, and both sending me happily on my way to the local diner.
Bird of the day: Common scoter (Melanitta nigra), a common enough sea duck (although on the conservation Red List), but much less common at inland waters.