A diary of my birding activity covering highlights and photos from my birding adventures. Mainly Norfolk (UK), occasionally beyond. I might mention the odd thing that isn't avian, but for moth and other insect news check out my mothing diary.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Shelduck hybrid on the patch

I spent some time birding the local patch this morning.  First stop was a gravel pit that's been pretty rubbish recently.  In 2013 it was great - Temminck's Stint and breeding Avocets were among the highlights.  Early last year they filled it in and began excavating a different field - with no standing water it went downhill and apart from an escaped Ruddy Shelduck that spent all year there with a couple of Egyptian Geese, we hardly saw a thing.  It's an active working gravel pit with no legitimate way to view, but on Sundays and evenings we sometimes sneak it to have a look.  A lot of extraction has been going on recently but still no standing water.  Even so I managed two birds I'd not seen there before - 2 Mute Swans flying over and a Marsh Tit in the roadside hedge.

At another site only a small section of the water is visible from any roads or public footpaths.  As I arrived today I met the landowner who was very friendly and interested in the birdlife there.  He's told me that once the shooting season finishes I'm welcome to go in and have a look round, so that's excellent news.  After he'd gone I noticed what at first resembled a Ruddy Shelduck among the Egyptian Geese.  But it was an oddly dark, slightly chestnutty colour - more like Cape Shelduck I thought.  Clearly not a Cape as the head wasn't grey, but could it be a hybrid?  At first there seemed only to be a slight hint of grey on the head - a little in front of the eye and a little behind/above.  I've seen otherwise pure-looking Ruddy Shelducks with a little pale greyish colour on the head so not sure that's a barrier to a pure bird (though I'm also not sure that those birds were 100% Ruddy).  But then it put its head down revealing a really obvious small patch of darker grey on the centre of the crown - surely that was outside of the range of pure Ruddy?  And the rear of the bird wasn't just dark orange it had blackish markings in it, like on Cape Shelduck.  I won't say I'm 100% positive yet, but I think this bird is a Ruddy Shelduck x Cape Shelduck hybrid.  Unfortunately after looking at it I only had time to take one or two rushed photos before it walked out of view.  Hopefully I'll see it again and get some better pics.  The anomalies don't show up well on these photos.

probable Ruddy Shelduck x Cape Shelduck hybrid, Bittering, 25th January

Interestingly (well, I thought so anyway) I'd seen a photo of a Ruddy Shelduck recently that struck me as oddly dark and I'd wondered if this might have been the same bird.  I can't find where I saw that, unless it's the bird shown on the new NE Norfolk Bird Club website (here).  I don't think it was that photo I saw, but I do think the bird in that photo is also a Ruddy Shelduck x Cape Shelduck hybrid, though a female whereas mine was a male.  On that bird note the dark greyish colour on the inner webs of the tertials - I don't think that occurs on Ruddy Shelduck.

All this makes me wonder about those Ruddy Shelducks I've seen with a little grey in the head.  When I first noticed this I wondered if they could have been hybrids but decided against it.  Some were in a collection with Cape Shelducks too, another was the long-staying escaped (blue-ringed) bird that's been on the patch for the last couple of years.  Maybe these are hybrids, if not F1 first-generation hybrids?  Anyone seen grey in the heads of wild Ruddies?

The only other bird of note here was a Woodcock.  As I headed back these 3 Roe Deer posed for a photoshoot.

Roe Deer, Beetley, 25th January

 Very rude of this one to stick its tongue out at me.

Roe Deer, Beetley, 25th January

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