Thursday, 29 September 2016

The rarity that wasn't - epilogue

Chiloe Wigeon - One of the regulars had not seen this South American Species so here it is

Well, I have not had my eye on the ball with regard to the putative American Wigeon at Stubbers Green. Let's face it, there is nothing worse than having a really interesting bird just down the road which you can't get to see so I thought I would resist the temptation to torture myself. But I have found out today that the bird in question was in fact a common or Eurasian Wigeon.

Was I surprised? - Not really.

Like most experienced birders I have spent my fair share of time trying to clinch a female American Wigeon here and there and spent one memorable Saturday afternoon in west Wales checking through several hundred female birds trying to find that one special visitor. I have to concede that it is a great testament to the skill of Steve Nutall that the bird that many of us were fortunate to see at Belvide a few years ago was actually found and identified, as that is still the only specimen that I have seen in the U.K.

Such a misidentification is easy to criticise unless you have actually been in the position where you think you might have found one. It’s OK to say that the axillaries are white but in some light conditions, the difference between pale grey and white can be very difficult to ascertain, particularly when a bird is likely to show that aspect of its plumage for a very brief period (and you actually need to be looking at it when it does)!

Female American ducks all seem to be problematic. I am reasonably confident that I have seen a female Green Winged Teal in the U.K. but I doubt that such an outrageous claim would be treated with respect (despite the fact that one of the top birders in Britain did an identification paper some years ago that in my opinion made such an identification comparatively straightforward). Barrows Goldeneye is another subtle challenge and yes, I have even twitched a putative one of those in the past to no avail (well you have to, just in case...).

The Photo at the top of this article is yet another species that occasionally goes 'over the wall' and causes problems - I have even seen a hybrid of this species that for several days was widely twitched and ticked as an American Wigeon at Eyebrook Reservoir so hybridisation is yet another problem to challenge the aspiring rare duck researcher!

The point is that finding a Possible rarity is just the beginning. You then have to have the bottle to put your suspicions in the public domain. If you were right its plaudits all the way. If you get it wrong it is usually back-handed disparaging comments. It’s no wonder that so many people refuse to make their observations public knowledge when it comes down to trial by peer group.

Despite the fact that I first heard of this bird by a text from Kev Clements, it appears that the bird was actually found on Sunday? There is a photograph on the internet if you have a look and I will concede that the tone of the head plumage makes it look 'interesting' (although perhaps not a classic candidate for Yankee Wigeon)? I don't know who the original finder was but for what my opinion is worth, I would say to them, well done for getting the word out and allowing other people to enjoy the experience of sorting it out. It’s all learning-curve stuff and thats the way that we all learn just a little bit more about our hobby. I wish I could have seen it and been a part of the debate. - Chaz

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Possible Rarity Alert

I have had a report that a probable female American wigeon was present at Stubbers green this morning (seen by Kev Clements). Female Yankee Wigeon can be a tough bird to call but Kev has seen the birds axilliaries (armpits) which appear to be white, suggesting that this may well be a nearctic visitor.

Not very likely to get down there myself but will keep you posted - Chaz

Saturday, 24 September 2016

A promise kept

 I said I would do my best to pay a visit this weekend and given the prognosis for rain tomorrow , I thought I would bite the bullet and do it today. I was supposed to be at Spurn today with Martyn and Joseph but to be honest, its a good job I didn't. Just doing the mineral line and the edge of the Mere has left me exhausted and drenched in sweat so I suspect that I would have been less than useless chasing around at Spurn. Not sure if these problems are the result of the medication or a reluctance for the infection to give up its hold, either way, I am not yet out of the woods apparently?

Some significant increases in activity. On arrival the Marsh held five Gadwall, two Shoveler and a minimum of seven Teal although the Gadwall and Shoveler quickly nipped over the boundary zone and onto the Mere. The only other bird of note was a single Chiffchaff on the mineral line hedgerow.

The Mere held at least five hawking House Martins and possibly (?) a Single Sand Martin? I only glimpsed the bird briefly as it flew through my field of view and I was unable to relocate it, but the glimpse I had seemed to show a slight chest band. If confirmed this would have constituted a good late record for the site, particularly as they have been few and far between this year.

Thirteen Lapwing were present on the island and I was genuinely pleased to see my first Wigeon of the winter (an immature male) hiding amongst the Mallard along the fringe of the island.

That will do for me today, hopefully my next visit wont be so taxing?

Have a good weekend all - Chaz

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Heading into darkness

Today is the day! The sun is exactly on the equator and we celebrate the Autumn Equinox. After today each day will be a little bit shorter and nights a little longer until the winter solstice just a few days before Christmas. No matter what your views on the official start of Autumn I'm afraid you have to concede that summer 2016 is now confined to history.

Lots of nocturnal activity this week - not by me! By the Tawny Owls. Every night this week the Male Tawny has been calling regularly from various points around the village, in particular the recreation ground, audible from around 23.00 until 04.30+ if you are interested? A Migrant Hawker dragonfly in our garden this afternoon was also noteworthy!

I am still in the wars a bit health-wise but the doctor was pleased with my progress this week and I have another week of anti-biotics to get through before I see the Doctor again. I have managed to go swimming once so far and am trying a day out tomorrow and depending how that goes, I may well attempt a visit to the Marsh over the weekend (even if it’s only half a circuit).

Watch this space and apologise again for the lack of information over the last few weeks - Chaz

Friday, 16 September 2016

One of our special species is back for winter

You may recall that last winter we had an exceptional showing by wintering Pochard? perhaps today is an indication that we may be in for another one as Ray Fellows found the first two specimens of the season on the Mere. Ray also found a very grey-toned juvenile Cormorant, a single Snipe and a Little Grebe during his visit.

My walk back from the Doctors this morning across Clayhanger Common also presented the first encounter for me this season with a Kingfisher on the Black Track pool so hopefully that will be turning up on the Marsh now and again if the weather holds.

Big thanks to Ray for keeping me in the loop, have a good weekend all - Chaz

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Thank You

Just a quick word in appreciation for the get well messages I have received from a number of you, it is lovely of you to take the trouble.

The doctor has been keeping contact on a daily basis and I have so far managed to dodge the Hospital-Bullet but I am still a good way from 'in the clear'. Another physical exam tomorrow and that may prove decicive.

Never thought I would miss being able to count the same ducks as last week so much! You don't appreciate mobility enough until you have it taken from you - aint that the way of all things?

While I am on, you may be surprised to know that, as a practising technological imbecile I have saved a number of your telephone numbers (those of you who like me to text you when something good turns up) to my Mobile Phone rather than my sim-card. Unfortunately the said-telephone inevitably underwent catastrophic failure last week and has had to be replaced with a new imbecile proof telephone (which asks if you want to save to the sim or phone).

What this means is that some of you will need to re-e-mail me your mobile numbers if you still want me to keep you in the loop. THERE IS NO URGENCY. I doubt I will be across the Marsh in the near future for anything short of a lost Dalmation Pelican or a wandering Yank Tick (In which case  I will pay someone to carry me if necessary)!

Stay safe you lot - and thanks again to all for the get well wishes - Chaz

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A word of explanation

Some of you will no doubt be cursing me as an idle git for not doing any recent updates so I thought I had better give some information to clarify what is going on.

After a brief weekend away with Mrs Chaz since coming home I have somehow managed to contract a very nasty leg infection and some very painful cellulitus. I am currently on some high powered anti-biotics which are knocking me about and  even walking to the bathroom feels like an act of martyrdom. The possibility of hospitalisation is still very definitely on the cards unless I get some positive results in the next 24 hours, so the chances of me doing my Marsh and Mere duties is completely out of the question.

If I do get any reports from any of the regulars I will do my best to get them out as quickly as I can but otherwise I'm afraid its a case of watch this space until something changes.

Sorry and all that - Chaz