Friday, 10 May 2013

Another rare bird...

Where is it?

I'd been stuck in the cottages all afternoon arranging the water rationing strategy and putting photos together a talk while David was preparing a fantastic feast for our supper. So after being couped up  I went out for a quick walk around the South Plateau before it was served up.

I was up on the plateau to see if the pair of Greater Black-backed Gulls that were up there last year had returned and to see if they had any eggs yet.

There are four pools up on the top. The largest and most obvious is called High Tarn. As I rounded the corner a duck lifted from the pool. I spun round expecting it to be a Mallard. I saw the bird for what was a millisecond but that was long enough. The bird had a small white panel on the inner wing which suggested it was a Gadwall. The bird appeared to drop onto the loch.

I legged it down to the cottages. A few of the island listers would certainly be keen to see this one!
Mike Harris and Mark Newell were first out the door, quickly followed by David (still cooking), Kerry and Klara.

From the cliffs above I captured some images of the 3rd Gadwall for the Isle of May NNR
The bird was quickly re spotted and the usual jokes about it being a funny Mallard or hybrid were issued.
Happy with the ID and with bellies rumbling the group disbanded and I went to the Lowlight to tell 'Rocket' Russell Nisbet and his 'boys' that the bird was present. It was however close to their dinner time and only speedy Les made it round.

Mark, Carrie and Kerry spot the bird. See footwear.

While the twitch was going on Carrie had got back only to find the house deserted with ovens on, music playing and drinks left undrunk. She guessed there was a bird in and fortunately found the group outside.

Why all the excitement? Well this was the first record of this duck for over 20 years and only the 3rd record for the island.

I still work at the wonderful wildfowl haven of Loch Leven NNR. Gadwall is a common summer visitor to the loch with up to 50 pairs nesting. I have counted over 800 one Autumn.

So why is this bird not a Mallard? This bird is smaller and more delicate then a mallard, not as broad or long. It's long rounded tail sticks out further then it's wingtips It's slightly lighter then mallard with neater round markings along the flank. It is plainer faced then a mallard. It's bill is orange with a black column from base to tip. The wing has a distinctive white patch at the base of the inner flight feathers with a less distinctive black patch above it.  The wing tips are grey. The outer tail feathers are pale.

The males are a lovely uniform dark grey with a black undertail. There will be more picture of other exciting birds to come from this week.

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