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.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

A good day with Glaucs and hybrids

I started off at Malthouse and Ranworth Broads yesterday, hoping again to see the Ferruginous Duck-like hybrid and maybe that Scaupy thing I saw at Ranworth Broad last time and couldn't resolve.  There was nothing of note on Malthouse Broad, which was largely frozen over.  Nuthatch was calling, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and about 20 Siskins as I headed over to Ranworth Broad.  As I walked out I was serenaded by a singing Mistle Thrush, Kingfisher flew overhead, and so did a Lesser Redpoll.

James Gilroy was there and had seen the Ferruginous-like duck in the channel on the right hand side.  Nice to meet James who had emailed me recently about the duck wondering if I had any insight as to what it might be.  I hadn't really, which was one reason I was keen to see it.  It appeared briefly while we were there, and didn't strike me as looking very much like a Ferruginous Duck - the shape looked good but it seemed to be dark brown, too dark and too lacking in ferruginous tones for even a female Ferruginous.  It was too brief a view though but after a fairly long wait it did eventually come out again, this time allowing a more prolonged view, although I didn't manage any photos.  The head and upperparts (especially the head) really are dark - I have never seen any suggestion that pure Ferruginous Duck can be that dark - or have I just missed it?  At some angles there even seemed to be a slight green sheen to the head - very subtle but I don't think I was imagining it.  I've seen a similar thing on female Tufted Duck before.  Structurally it did look pretty good most of the time - actually the head shape was peaked enough to resemble male Ferruginous Duck, not just female which tends to have a less obvious peak.  But sometimes - quite a few times actually - it looked a bit wrong.  Sometimes it seemed to have a bit of a bump at the back of the head.  Maybe the feathering at the back of the crown was a bit looser than the feathering at the back of the head just below?  At other times this wasn't apparent at all.

Some have suggested it may be a Ferruginous Duck x Baer's Pochard hybrid, apparently common in captivity although I gather DNA analysis of some birds thought to be that hybrid have proved them to be pure Ferruginous after all.  That's not a bad theory and explains the dark head and even the green sheen.  I'm a little surprised there's no Baer's influence in the shape of the belly patch, but maybe that's possible, and I'm not sure my problem with the head shape is really explained by Baer's.  Not sure.

Another possibility I contemplated is that Tufted Duck is involved.  That would in theory explain the head shape although female Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrids I've seen before have had a more obvious tuft, albeit much reduced compared to pure Tufted Duck.  Those birds also weren't so structurally good for Ferruginous Duck.

So for now this one isn't resolved, at least not to my satisfaction.

Also on Ranworth Broad were 8 Goldeneye.  I noticed one Tufted Duck with quite a bit of white round the face that looked a bit block-headed for a bit and wondered if that was the bird I'd seen on my previous visit.  It was just a Tufty though, and one of sevearl with a fair bit of white round the bill.  One of them even had white behind the eye - a leucistic bird.

 Tufted Ducks, Ranworth Broad, 18th January

Mallards, Ranworth Broad, 18th January

Ranworth Broad, 18th January

Another 5 Redpolls flew over, this time with deeper calls making me wonder if Mealy were involved though they didn't provide good enough views.  Two Water Rails called and another Kingfisher made an appearance.

I next headed up to Sheringham where straight away I saw two juvenile Glaucous Gulls feeding on a dead seal.

 Glaucous Gull, Sheringham, 18th January

Glaucous Gull, Sheringham, 18th January

One of the Glaucous Gulls flew off east and I headed west to see if the adult Glauc was off the RNLI or that way.  No sign so I headed off to the east end of the prom pausing to look at a confiding Purple Sandpiper.

Purple Sandpiper, Sheringham, 18th January

While I was watching that I met Robin who had seen the adult towards West Runton so I continued on that way.  I hadn't gone very far when I picked up the adult Glaucous Gull and a juvenile flying towards me.

 Glaucous Gull, Sheringham, 18th January

They returned to the dead seal so so did I.

Glaucous Gull, Sheringham, 18th January

A Shag flew past while we were enjoying the Glaucs.

Shag, Sheringham, 18th January

I then drove to Cley ignoring the road closed signs (it was easily passable) where I learned that the sparrow flock had only put in a brief appearance at the Cley Spy feeders.  I walked on to Steve Gantlett's garden knowing that he had still been seeing the hybrid at least up to a few days ago.  After some waiting the anticipated House Sparrow x Tree Sparrow hybrid finally appeared at his feeders.

House Sparrow x Tree Sparrow hybrid, Cley, 18th January

I drove on to Blakeney where I noticed the Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid at the duck pond.  Presumably this was the bird that spent last winter here though I hadn't been aware that it had returned this winter.

Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid, Blakeney, 18th January

Bayfield Lake failed to deliver anything better than a Sparrowhawk.  I was nevertheless pleased to see 2 Peregrines in a tree towards dusk at another location.  Do unpaired Peregrines roost together, and if not do paired Peregrines at this time of year suggest they might be thinking of breeding nearby?  Dunno.  Perhaps not, it is only January after all, but will be interesting to keep an eye out for them again.

Peregrines, undisclosed location, 18th January

Today I only managed the local patch where the highlight was 26 White-fronted Geese remaining.

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