Monday, 31 December 2012

Richardson's Canada Goose

This post may cause a few cross words aimed at yours truly, indeed I have already had some words passed to me on other sites, but I will still go ahead and post it.

A small goose has been present on the Norfolk coast since November, a bird that courts controversy when it appears in this country, especially the south half. This bird is the Lesser Canada Goose, or to be more precise, the Richardson's sub-species of Lesser Canada Goose, Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii. This bird has recently been split from its larger cousin, the Greater Canada Goose (or just Canada Goose to you and me), something I was unaware of and so I hadn't bothered going to see the bird in Norfolk as I didn't think that it was a viable tick. After looking through a few websites and books I discovered the split and after a conversation with Chris Orders, decided to make the trip.

All seems fine, so far. The reason for the controversy is that the Lesser Canada Goose is a pretty rare wild bird in this country, most accepted records are in Scotland, although there has been one in Norfolk in 1999, but is a bird that is kept in wildfowl collections and sometimes escapes. We were worried that this bird wasn't wild, but Chris spoke to a friend who is 'up' on this sort of thing who said that the bird was showing good credentials, so we thought, what the hell.

We arrived at the birds preferred area, but no Richardson's/Lesser Canada Goose, great, another wild goose chase! After two hours of walking along some rather unforgiving shingle we decided to drive back towards Cley to see if we could see any 'little' geese. We stopped in a laybay and scanned a flock of Brent Geese, no Richardson's. A person we had met previously saw us looking and pulled over to tell us that there were several birders looking at a flock of Brents and Canada Geese on the East Bank, very kind of him, so we went there. On arrival several birders were on the little blighter and so we got our first view. A small goose, about two-thirds of the size of a Canada Goose, with a shorter bill, steep forehead and 'flat' appearance of the top of the head. The breast is also slightly darker. We walked along the bank to see if we could get any nearer for some shots, with the geese always moving that bit further away in front of us, they seemed pretty jumpy. Chris digiscoped, I took some with my camera at full zoom and tried a bit of digiscoping, but mine were all rubbish. The results are below.

 My efforts are above, which hopefully show the goose well. The smaller bird in the top two photos with the bottom photo showing the bird with its wings open.

Chris's digiscoped shot shows the bird far better.

copyright Chris Orders
Lots of birders were there looking at this bird, all happy in 'ticking' it as a wild bird. I think the debate will carry on as to whether it is a wild bird or not, with the final say going to the BOU. An interesting article about this bird and other Lesser Canada Geese can be found HERE, just scroll down to the section referring to this bird, you may find it interesting reading. Whatever the outcome, it was good to see the bird and until otherwise notified, it's on my list! (Sorry if this offends anyone) A short video (using my camera) of the bird swimming is below.

Whilst we were in Norfolk we visited Titchwell, although on a windy, cold day with squally showers, it wasn't the greatest place on earth. We saw a rather strange Golden Plover amongst the flock, almost completely white and an adult Yellow-legged Gull, but other than that, just the normal waders and Marsh Harriers.

copyright Chris Orders
We left whilst being treated to a lovely sunset.

copyright Chris Orders

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Waxy apples, Part 3

It's raining, no surprise there, so to remind us of what sunny weather and blue skies look like, the final few photos of Waxwings from a few weeks ago.

I promise that there won't be any more, not this year anyway!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Buff-bellied Pipit

A Buff-bellied Pipit has been present in Berkshire for the past few days, a bird that has been recorded in Britain less than 20 times, another possible 'MEGA'. The site which the bird was frequenting is a private reservoir, the Queen Mother Reservoir close to Slough and was only open to the public on a few days, with access being granted strictly by permit only and so myself and Chris Orders had to wait until 22nd December before the site was open and we were able to make the trip.

Chris picked me up at around 6.45am, with rain hammering the car windows, not ideal driving conditions and with visibility very poor on the A1 and M25, we were filled with foreboding. We arrived at the site with rain still falling, a waterfall had formed on the steps to the reservoir, but we started the walk to the south end of the lake, the birds' favoured spot. We met several birders, all with negative news, we looked and looked, getting wetter and wetter, but nothing, just a couple of Meadow Pipits and a flock of Ring-necked Parakeets. We went back to the car for a coffee and to try and dry out slightly, stopping off on the way to see the Long-tailed Duck and Red-necked Grebe that were both present by the sailing club.

We finished our coffee and again walked around the reservoir. The place was becoming quite depressing, we had been on site for about 3 hours and had nothing to show for our searching, except possible pneumonia. People were leaving, convinced the bird had either flown, or quite possibly succumbed to the weather, but we persevered. We continued the walk, meeting a group of 3 who casually asked, "Did you see it? It just flew over there!" We thought they were taking the mickey, but no, they were quite serious! We re-doubled our efforts, at least the bird was still there! I saw a group ahead walking quite strangely, every so often stopping to lean over the reservoir bank and scan with their binoculars and then walk with a lot of purpose-the bird was there! Feeding and preening not five yards in front of them! Hurrah!

We watched this bird for a good hour, a dark, sullied looking bird with a very bold eye-ring and almost black legs, very different to 'our' Meadow Pipit. The views were outstanding, down to a couple of feet at times. The bird was very active, not lending itself to photography, and the rain still hadn't stopped. I managed a few shots, but decided to get a video and see if I could get some stills from that. The results are below.

A single shot

A single shot

A video 'grab' image

A video 'grab' image

A video 'grab' image

A video 'grab' image

An image showing how close the bird was to us (the bird is in black and white). copyright Chris Orders

Below is the video from which the above stills were taken. You can hear the rain hitting the lens of my camera, sorry about that and a shot of the Long-tailed Duck.

The Long-tailed Duck
A rewarding day, despite the weather, with another 'Lifer' in the bag for both of us and 'Thanks' again to Chris for driving. What will 2013 bring?

Friday, 21 December 2012

Waxy apples, Part 2

The world didn't end this morning at 11.11, so to celebrate, here are some more photos of the Waxwings from Tuesday. I hope you are not getting tired of Waxwing photos, because there may be more.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Foggy Fallow Deer

I noticed this group of Fallow Deer yesterday on my way to work. They were in a field close to the village of Langtoft and seen from the Roman road of King Street. It was fairly misty yesterday, which may have led to these fairly good views of this deer.

You can hopefully see that some of the group are bucks which still have antlers, although one appears to have only 1. There is also a pale individual on the far right, melanistic or leucistic, which is fairly common in this breed.

Below is a ropey short video of the group with passing cars 'whizzing' by for good measure.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Waxy apples

I found these very obliging Waxwings feeding on apples in a front garden in Werrington yesterday. The owner of the house was very very accommodating, allowing myself and Mike Weedon to take some photos.

These are the first of a few that I took, more will follow.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Pink foot

I haven't visited Grummit's Scrape, a small site close to the village of Baston just over the border in Lincolnshire, but still in the PBC recording area, for a long time, but yesterday I made amends.

On arrival, I noted that the sun was shining right in my face, not ideal for seeing anything much, but I persevered. There wasn't an awful lot present, a few Coot having a tussle, some Mallard, Mute Swans and a couple of dozen Wigeon were all seen and duly noted. The most numerous bird present were the geese, Greylags, with a farmyard goose moulting from white to grey and a rather strange looking Canada Goose. Whilst scanning the flock a couple of smaller looking geese appeared from behind a bank and revealed themselves to be Pink-footed Geese, not a major rarity, but nice to see in a land-locked area like ours. After a while a third appeared, very nice.

Below are a couple of shots, digiscoped and hand-held with the bridge camera, but as I have already said, the light was not ideal. (What is the saying about a bad workman blaming his tools?!)

Digiscoped effort

Above and below the bridge camera efforts. The picture above shows one of the geese with a potato stuck on its's bill.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

In Flight

I have been trying to get some half-decent shots of birds flying, as of now I am yet to succeed. The shots below represent the best of my efforts so far.

A trio of Whoopers

Three Common Cranes (2 adult and 1 juvenile)

The same 3 Common Cranes (the juvenile is the bird on the right)
Hopefully, I will improve as time goes by!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Starling roost

One of natures' spectacles in the winter months is surely that of the flocks of Starlings going to roost, the 'whirling' patterns of thousands of birds as they perform a ballet of true wonder and beauty.

In the Peterborough area we have a couple of these roosts at the moment, one at Deeping Lakes and one at Maxey gravel pits. Both number thousands of birds, but it was at Maxey that I found myself this evening. A few other local birders had also come to view the spectacle and as the numbers of birds grew and grew we were all left speechless, well, almost!

The final estimate was anything between 10-15,000 birds.

Below are a couple of short videos, not the greatest pieces of camera work you are ever likely to see and there are a couple of 'voices off', but hopefully they will give you an idea of what was on offer.

These numbers do give a slightly false impression of the state of Starling numbers at the moment. This year alone, over 40 million of these birds have vanished in Europe. No one knows the cause, but changes in agricultural practice are being mooted as one of the prime reasons. One thing is for sure, if something is not done to reverse the catastrophic fall in numbers of this bird, sights like those above will be a thing of the past.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Another Berry guzzler

Another bird very partial to eating fruit is the Redwing, another winter migrant from the frozen North. Song Thrush sized with a distinctive pale eye-stripe and of course, a very obvious red underwing, a cracking bird.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Waxwing in the hand

This post is not what it first appears. It is sad and contains photos of a beautiful bird that some people may find distressing, so if you are at all squeamish please do not read any further.

Another large flock of Waxwings has appeared in the Peterborough area and once again I found myself camped by some Rowan trees waiting for these 'trillers' to come and feed so I could take yet more photos. The birds have descended upon an area very close to my house in the village of Werrington, the same area that a flock of up to 140 appeared in the last mass irruption year of 2010/11 and an area quite close to a busy road.

There I was, waiting patiently when a couple of other birders arrived. This couple then noticed a dead bird on the side of the road that I had not seen, which turned out to be a Waxwing. Very sad, to come all this way and be hit by a car. It did, however give us a chance to see the bird 'up close', marvelling at the plumage and of course, the red 'wax' tips of the secondary feathers that give the bird its' name.

Brian Stone arrived and we both looked at the bird, trying to see if we could sex or age it, but we couldn't. On return to his office Brian e-mailed me a link which showed the differences in the sex and age of the Waxwing. Click HERE if you wish to look at this link yourself (this has photos of live Waxwings, so nothing nasty). After perusal of this link I have come to the conclusion that the bird was a juvenile male bird, judging from the lack of yellow on the outer web of the primary feathers and the number of red 'wax' tips being five with the longest being 5.5mm. The birds' markings under the throat had a diffuse edge, but that is surely due to it being a juvenile, although I am not sure.

Below are some photos of the bird, showing some of the markings that I have explained above. WARNING, these are of a dead bird, although the bird is not deformed or marked in any way, it is dead, so please do not view if you are offended.

Showing how small the bird is, smaller than a Starling. The ruler is 15 cm  or 6 inches long.

Showing the diffuse edge of the black 'bib' under the throat.

The red 'wax' tips on the secondary feathers with the tips of the outer webs of the primary feathers being yellowish-white and no markings on the inner webs.

The head of the bird, showing the slight diffuse nature of the black 'bib'.
A sad end for a beautiful bird, but a fascinating chance to have one so close, I just wish that I could have released him to fly again.