Thursday, 11 March 2010

American Wigeon at Caerlaverock

March 9, 2010:
There have been reports of two separate American Wigeon (both males) in north-west England/south-west Scotland since the start of the year. The American Wigeon is a scarce bird and in a normal year there are only usually about 10+ reports for Britain. They nest in Canada and usually winter on the Atlantic coast of the Gulf of Mexico or on the Pacific coast of North America. The first bird seen in the area was at Caerlaverock WWT (Dumfries & Galloway) on January 17 but was only present for two days although reported elsewhere within the general area during the following weeks. A second bird was sighted several times on the Lune estuary in late January/early February before disappearing but one arriving at Martin Mere in early March could be the same one. The Dumfries/Galloway area bird returned to Caerlaverock on February 15 where it has largely remained since.

I saw it there on March 9 on the lake frequented by the Whooper Swans, a place it seems to favour. There were also many Tufted Duck and Eurasian Wigeon on the lake and it was with the Wigeon that it was usually associated and tolerated.

It is a very handsome, finely marked bird, its white crown and broad green irridescent eyestripe (which appears black at some angles) readily separates it from the commoner species. It spent short periods asleep, drifting aimlessly on the water. At other times it scooped up water to drink and occasionally scoured the bank for food amongst other ducks.

The male hybrid Scaup x Tufted Duck reported earlier in the year appeared not to be present that day but it might have been overlooked as attempting to identify it amongst constantly-diving Tufted Ducks wasn't easy.

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