Waxwing, Broadstairs, 26th December
A quick stop at Oare Marshes produced Avocet and at least 22 Ruff, but no sign of the Little Stint that has been wintering here. Plenty of Pintail there but I couldn't pick out anything more interesting among the wildfowl.
Next day we were in the Lakes visiting my parents. A drive round SW of Keswick produced plenty of nice scenery but not many birds - Grey Wagtail and 5 Goldeneye.
On Monday we all headed up to Caerlaverock where we would meet my brother from Dundee. I went up early to do some birding beforehand, heading to Milton Loch where a Ring-necked Duck has been. I had a look at nearby Auchenreoch Loch first, the site where I saw my first ever Lesser Scaup 25 years ago when it was still a 'mega'. Plenty of duck on there including 10 Goosanders and 22 Goldeneye but I couldn't pick out anything among the large raft of Tufted Duck. A quick drive round some nearby roads to see if another small loch had anything on it (it didn't) produced a Red Kite.
Now heading over to Milton Loch I tried looking from the east side first. Not much viewable from here, hardly surprising given the brightly-clad shouty-man walking a noisy dog round there. Back on the south side a quick look out soon produced the hoped-for drake Ring-necked Duck.
Ring-necked Duck, Milton Loch, 28th December
It was out to the left and I knew there was another viewpoint further down the road so I moved here for a better view but was disappointed when I got there as none of the birds that had been there were still there. There was a load of shooting going on at the back of the loch and I figure they'd scared it off. A few Tufties had moved to the east end but the Ring-necked Duck didn't seem to be among them. There was a female Scaup, and I counted 44 Goldeneye. A Tree Sparrow called behind me, a Siskin flew over and 2 Ravens flew over too.
Not being able to see the Ring-necked Duck here I figured it may have moved off to Auchenreoch Loch, being as it's so close. I stopped by the cafe (where a Nuthatch was seen) and could see that nearly all the ducks were at the far west end (as many of them had been at dawn). The layby further west provided better views so I headed down there and scanned the flock. Very quickly I picked up the Ring-necked Duck. Slightly concerning was the apparent absence of white round the base of the bill, except at the top, but everything else looked fine. From this distance the white seemed to be restricted to the portion directly above the culmen, not down the sides as is normally the case with Ring-necked Duck. Restricted white here is sometimes a sign of hybrid origin but everything else looked so perfect I'm loathe to play the H card on this one. Maybe closer views would have revealed some white down the sides of the base of the bill - or maybe they would have revealed a hint of a tuft...
Ring-necked Duck, Auchenreoch Loch, 28th December
I think it was pretty reasonable to assume the bird seen at Auchenreoch Loch was the same bird I'd seen earlier at Milton Loch, but in a twist to this tale I gather via Lee Evans that on Wednesday locals are reporting that there are two birds, one on each loch (both seen at the same time, apparently). So maybe in fact they were different...? Can I count it on my self-found list?!
I headed off to Caerlaverock next where a Tree Sparrow was on the feeders as I went in but the star bird was a second (or was it third?) Ring-necked Duck. This one showed a bit closer, though it tended to keep to the back of the pool. Still a few juvenile feathers present, especially along the flanks, but a nice strong white surround to the base of the bill, unlike the Auchenreoch bird.
Ring-necked Duck, Caerlaverock, 28th December
On the same pool was this Scaup.
Scaup, Caerlaverock, 28th December
A Peregrine sat in the hedgerow beyond the pool and thousands of Barnacle Geese occupied the fields all around. I couldn't see the Green-winged Teal from here so moved down to the Folly Pond hide where, eventually, I picked it up (thanks to overhearing someone else who found it first). It was tucked in to the edge and I grabbed a couple of shots before it swam off behind an island.
Green-winged Teal, Caerlaverock, 28th December
My brother and parents were now here and after seeing some Redpolls in the car park we returned to the Whooper pond where both Ring-necked Duck and Scaup continued to show. This Little Grebe was close to the hide.
Little Grebe, Caerlaverock, 28th December
I felt it was inappropriate to leave without a couple of photos of Whooper Swans...
Whooper Swan, Caerlaverock, 28th December
After lunch we tried the tower that overlooks Folly Pond and found the Green-winged Teal consorting with Teal below us, though later we couldn't see it from Folly Pond hide again.
Green-winged Teal, Caerlaverock, 28th December