Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Ring-necked Duck at Tindale Tarn ...

The male Ring-necked Duck that was found on Tindale Tarn at RSPB Geltsdale yesterday was still present today as the early morning light brightened ...

Initially it swam around with its head tucked in ...





... and then bobbed around at the west end of the tarn in the company of some Tufted Ducks ...





... while mostly out of sight from the viewing screen, it did occasionally swim by ...





... then some feeding action in a reed-fringed bay ...



The first Ring-necked Duck for Cumbria was a male at Sunbiggin Tarn on 4-7 April 1982 ; the first female was on 24 April 2007 at Campfield Marsh ...

... with the complexities of returning and wandering birds it becomes difficult to determine the number of 'new' birds that have arrived in the county ... it may well be fewer than ten ...





Friday, 11 January 2019

The Cardurnock Todd's Canada Goose ... and some taxonomic background ...

The Todd's Canada Goose that Nick Franklin found on the north Cumbrian Solway a few weeks ago showed well in the late afternoon sunshine two days ago ...

It was with about 2000 Barnacle Geese but the terrain was favourable ... a flat grassy field with short turf where all the birds remained in view ...


... even when its head was down the dark plainish mantle made it relatively easy to pick out ... compared with feral Canada Goose ( Atlantic Canada Goose - Branta canadensis canadensis ) the pale bars on the mantle appeared finer and more crisp ... the bill was long but slightly less broad based than that of the nominate form ...


... it was considerably larger than the Barnacle Geese ...

After the flock was flushed the birds soon returned but the Todd's looked unsettled for a while ...


... the long thin neck was very apparent ...



The overall appearance of this bird seemed very much in line with individuals of this form B.c.interior that I had seen in the Pilling area of Lancashire on 2 Jan 2017 ...




... and in the Loaningfoot area of Dumfries & Galloway on 1 Oct 2013 ...



Looking back over the years, the early part of the 21st century saw considerable interest in Canada Goose forms and Todd's Canada Goose was discussed in two articles in Birding World in 2001 ...





Then in 2006 Harold Hanson published his monumental work that reflected 50 years of study ...


... this tome along with the one that followed a year later identified 6 species of Canada Goose with the canadensis group consisting of 78 sub-species and the hutchinsii group comprising 84 sub-species ... as the cover photo suggests, the book contains lots of pictures of dead geese and quite a lot of pictures of Canadian bogs - not the lightest of reads !

Today his work seems to be viewed as a step too far ...

The Helm guide of 2014 illustrates some forms including Todd's but the illustration left me feeling not much further forward ...



The excellent work of Sebastien Reeber 2015 gives much detail and highlights some of the ID difficulties particularly regarding the B.c.parvipes form ( confusingly called Lesser Canada Goose despite being part of the canadensis - Canada Goose species rather than the hutchinsii - Cackling Goose species which was formerly known as Lesser Canada Goose ).  He describes parvipes as presenting on of the most difficult ID challenges and interestingly mentions intergradation between Todd's and this form.

The current page on the BBRC website is revealing ...


... so Reeber is the man and we should be thinking interior / parvipes 









Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Geltsdale on Boxing Day ... diverse ducks on the Tarn ... Long-tailed Tits in expanded range ...

As the early morning mist hung in the Tyne Gap a vocal flock of 70 Pink-footed Geese winged their way low over Hallbankgate as they headed eastwards ...

,,, then on Tindale Tarn duck numbers were looking good with some Wigeon swimming out of the reeds by the screen ...




... all now looking very smart ...

... and some of the Teal were close by also ...



A male Pochard lingered among the many Tufted Ducks ...


... and a male Goldeneye showed its eponymous eye well even in the indifferent winter light ...



Along the Howgill Beck towards Howgill a feeding flock of tits was in the Alders and Willows ... several Long-tailed Tits were scattered through this group ...




... presumed to be of the British race A.c.rosaceus they certainly showed a complete lateral crown-stripe and narrow white central crown-stripe ... the shade of the underparts seemed to vary significantly with attitude ... ( a search of images of the central / western race A.e.europaeus showed wide variation with some being remarkably similar to A.e.rosaceus ) ...






The Bird Atlas 2007-11 shows widespread gains in distribution since the previous 1981-84 survey ...


The map below shows the Winter Relative Abundance form the 2007-11 survey and highlights the concentration of the population in the SE of Britain ... the tetrad at Geltsdale is in an area of very low abundance ...




... viewed at Tetrad level this becomes more clear ...



This indication of a range expansion since the 2007-12 survey in Cumbria must show a welcome continuation of the good fortunes of this delightful bird in Britain ...














Sunday, 16 December 2018

Some December birds ... in Cumbria and Cambria ... American Royal Tern ... and some other nice birds ...

The American Royal Tern at Lligwy Bay, Anglesey was undoubtedly something of a highlight ... found on the 10th December, it remained through the next day but was not seen thereafter ...

... it gave some reasonably close fly-by views as it commuted between the headlands on either side of the bay ... and some rather more distant views as it flew round just off either headland ... it became very easy to pick out even at long range with its strikingly white mantle and inner wing and surprisingly dark outer wing ...

... when it flew towards the beach in the bay the impressively large orange bill looked almost incongruous ...



Back in Cumbria and the Workington / Flimby flock of Mediterranean Gulls which still had an unusually high count of 28 birds in mid-November had finally dropped to a single adult by the start of December ... 

A look at St Helen's Beach which often holds Mediterranean Gulls ... and the cupboard was bare ... but the mix of muddy sand, rock and seaweed there can pull in other species ... a strange looking Carrion Crow with extensive white in the wing flew lazily by ...


... and the waders which are often quite diverse included some very attractive Golden Plovers ... just lit up a little in the weak winter sun ...



... in the fading light a couple of adult Whooper Swans winged their way south just offshore ... always an inspiring sight to see birds like this on the move ...


The wintering Barnacle Geese in the Anthorn / Cardurnock area of The Solway had included a Todd's Canada Goose which eluded me on several visits with the Barnacle Goose flock sometimes in inaccessible undulating ground and sometimes dispersing widely ... the search did provide quite a bit of interest though ... and some lovely views ...



... the three leucistic Barnacle Geese that have frequented the Solway in recent winters were present and remaining close together ... on another occasion there was a different and much whiter leucistic Barnacle Goose ... and then another atypical Barnacle Goose with a strikingly pale mantle but with otherwise normal plumage was among the flock ...

... and a bird with a superficial resemblance to a dark morph Snow Goose mingled among the Barnacle Geese ...


... both the bill and legs had a pink / grey mottled pattern suggestive of mixed parentage with presumably Barnacle Goose and, judging by the small bill, possibly Ross's Goose being in the mix ... 

... it was not made particularly welcome by the other birds ...