Friday, 18 February 2011

Goldeneyes at Martin Mere

February 15, 2011:
A short visit here was rewarded with sightings of a wide range of wildfowl which included good numbers of Whooper Swans, Greylags, Pochard, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard and Pintail. There was also a small group of finely-plumaged Goldeneye comprising four drakes and a female which always kept close together whilst diving and otherwise apparently aimlessly cruising the water

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Ring-necked Duck at Fleetwood Marsh

February 8, 2011:
This drake had been reported here intermittently for the past ten days; when absent it was thought to be at a nearby reservoir. Today, it spent all the time at the furthest, inaccessible part of the lake and could not be viewed closer than 250 metres.

Ring-necked Ducks nest in northern North America and Canada and are strong migrants wintering in the south of that continent. Each year a few vagrants arrive in Britain, one bird (possibly the same one) was in seen in the area last year.

Present with it were about 15 Pochard and a similar number of Tufted Duck, several Mallard, two Goldeneye, a Great Crested Grebe and numerous Coot. It kept in loose association with the Pochard and particularly with one female with which it spent much time diving.

[Above, the drake second from left, with the much larger Mallard and slightly larger Pochard]

[Here with its diving companion, the female Pochard]

In appearance and plumage it exibited all the typical characters of the drake: a distinctly domed rear portion of its head, a prominent light stripe across its bill with a white band at the base, silvery-grey flanks with a white spur only at the front plus a faint white line running along the top, and markedly S-shaped flank panels.

After a long period of diving during which it seemed mainly to bring up weed, it did a little flapping and preening before drifting away into the reed bed to sleep.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A Smew at Brockholes Wetlands but in vile weather

February 6, 2011;
Since the autumn there have been intermittent reports of Smew, both male and female/juvenile, being sighted on the Ribble in the vicinity of the Reserve or roosting on a nearby reservoir. Just before the end of the year a bird spent several days on the icy river below the M6 bridge (see earlier posting for December 29) whilst during this past week up to three birds (including one drake) were seen on the river above the weir. They would therefore seem to be wintering in the area but are very elusive and probably under-recorded since upstream from the reserve the river has virtually no public access over a 7-kilometre stretch.

In today's appalling weather (wet, dark, and with near gale-force winds) a female/juvenile Smew was on No.1 pool, consorting with at least ten Pochard and a similar number of Goldeneye. Watched for a while before being defeated by the weather, it could be seen preening and occasionally diving whilst riding out the semi-gale.

[Preening, two photos above]

A few very indifferent photos (above) were taken at long range in very poor light and through a constantly vibrating scope. Under the circumstances it was fortunate that any recognisable images were obtained.