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.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Cruddy Shelduck and two halves of a Ferruginous

Yesterday I had a wander round Bintree Wood.  I used to go there a few times a year for a while when I lived in Bawdeswell but haven't been there much in recent years.  Willow Tit was regular there in 2007-2008 at a time when they had already disappeared from other sites in the Wensum Valley, but Marsh Tit was absent.  At the time I had several sites I watched regularly in the mid Wensum and I think this was the only one where I never saw Marsh Tit - or even where Marsh Tit wasn't common.  I didn't expect to see Willow Tit today - I suspect they are long gone - but it was interesting to find at least 3 Marsh Tits there now.  Also Treecreeper and Nuthatch, the latter also a species I didn't see there when I used to go there more often.  Siskin and Bullfinch were present and a Pink-footed Goose was heard flying over.

I had a quick stop at Bintree Mill on my way back estimating around 300-350 Lapwing before the flock flew when I was half way through counting them.  A photo of the flock in flight revealed 529 Lapwing - a few more than I'd thought!


 Lapwings, Bintree Mill, 13th February

There has been an apparent Siberian Chiffchaff at Cley recently and I've had it in mind to head up to see it for a while.  It hadn't been reported over the last week or so so my decision to head up this morning wasn't very inspired.  I started off at the coastguards where the sea was the most impressive thing to look at.  Still wild after yesterday's stronger winds even though the wind had now dropped.  A few gulls along the beach but apart from 4 Brents east nothing moving at all - not that I gave it very long.

The East Bank failed to deliver any Chiffchaffs but the Smew was showing.  A Cetti's Warbler sat out in the open, though too far away for my camera.  A walk through Walsey Hills produced a few birds but nothing scarcer than a Bullfinch.

Marsh Harrier, Cley, 14th February

Next stop Felbrigg where I first had a stroll through the woodland at Lion's Mouth.  Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Siskins were calling and a Sparrowhawk displayed overhead.  Round the lake more Siskin, Green Woodpecker and another Nuthatch called and 2 Marsh Tits were seen.  On the lake there was a feeding frenzy of Gadwall - obviously something tasty just below the surface in one particular spot (though moving around a bit I think).

Gadwall, Felbrigg Lake, 14th February

I counted 62 Gadwall in the end including one bird that showed a white collar.  Such birds are seen occasionally and often prompt questions about whether they might have some Mallard ancestry - I don't think they do though as they never show any other indication of impurity.

Gadwall showing white neck collar, Felbrigg Lake, 14th February

Gadwall, Felbrigg Lake, 14th February

There were a couple of hybrids there though - 2 Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrids - both lovely males.

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrids, Felbrigg Lake, 14th February

This Mistle Thrush posed for photos.

Mistle Thrush, Felbrigg Lake, 14th February

Jackdaw, Felbrigg Lake, 14th February

I counted about 750 Lapwing at Wolterton, a good-sized flock for this sort of location I thought, and as the flock disappeared over the brow of the hill the true number may have been a lot higher.  Blickling Lake was more attractive to families making the most of half-term than birds, though a pair of Great Crested Grebes appeared to know it was Valentine's Day.

Brown Hare, Moorgate (Blickling), 14th February

Yesterday I'd seen photos of what was initially reported as a Ruddy Shelduck hybrid and indeed with its pink legs and apparently grey tones to the body it did look quite promising for Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck hybrid.  Subsequent photos looked more Ruddy Shelduck like and later observers got the impression that it looked good for that species apart from the legs.  I decided to head down to Ringland and have a look.  The bird was quickly located and to my slight surprise it really did look good for a pure Ruddy Shelduck, except for the legs.  At some angles the body did look grey, but on good prolonged views at a straightforward angle any sign of grey disappeared and it just looked orange-bodied like any other Ruddy Shelduck.  I started to suspect it was a pure Ruddy Shelduck after all, with some sort of mutation giving it pink legs.  I did think the structure looked a bit too much like Egyptian Goose but I couldn't convince myself of that.  It had a dark neck collar making it a male and it was clearly paired to, and displaying with, an Egyptian Goose.  If this wasn't a hybrid then we might see some soon, I concluded.

When I got home and looked at my photos a few things struck me.  Firstly the Egyptian Goose-like gait seemed to come across in the photos.  Secondly I compared with photos of pure Ruddy Shelduck and the latter weren't so pale-bodied as this bird.  Regardless of whether it was greyish, buffish or just plain orange, it was distinctly paler on the body than the breast.  At some angles it did look greyish, but side on there was no hint of that.  I'd noticed the head had got some greyish smudges on it but I've noticed this, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent, on otherwise pure-looking Ruddy Shelducks before so wasn't overly worried, but now I could see that this was a good match for some other (more obvious) Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck hybrids.  Another thing that struck me was that the blackish neck collar wasn't as black as I'd thought - it was reddish brown, and broad with a diffuse upper edge - further suggesting there might be Egyptian Goose influence after all.  Finally the white thighs might be significant - shown by some other Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck hybrids whereas I think they're always at least partly orange on pure Ruddy Shelduck.  So my conclusion is that it was an Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck hybrid after all.  It will be very interesting to see if it does produce more hybrids from the Egyptian Goose.  In general hybrids of more distantly related species tend to be infertile and so far I've not come across an inter-generic hybrid that has proved to be fertile, though I have no reason to believe it isn't possible.

presumed Egyptian Goose x Ruddy Shelduck hybrid (with Egyptian Goose), Ringland, 14th February

The 6 Tundra Bean Geese were still present too, though difficult to see as they were keeping down in the long grass (or behind long grass at least).

Robin, Ringland, 14th February

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