Monday, 3 August 2009

Assumed Uttoxeter RUDDY SHELDUCKS make overnight splash


WILSTONE RESERVOIR (1745-1900 hours)

Shortly after 0730 hours this morning, I took a call from the Drayton Bank Hide at Wilstone Reservoir informing me of the appearance of two unknown species of wildfowl feeding to the right of the hide. Having been in the hide close to dusk the night before counting Green Sandpipers, I could not work out from the description what the birds were.

Anyway, an hour or so later, Dave Bilcock texts to say two RUDDY SHELDUCK were in front of the hide and showing very well. There was the answer !!

Frustratingly, I was committed for much of the day and unable to get away, and after hearing from Mike Campbell that the birds were still present at lunchtime, I eventually got down early evening.

Fortunately, both birds were still present and showing well. I joined Ian Williams just beyond the new overflow (who was photographing them both) and enjoyed excellent views as they postured aggressively on the mud in front of the Poplars. After a short while, they took flight and went directly to what had become their favourite feeding place just to the right of the hide. I walked round and again enjoyed superb views as they dredged up weed from the shallow water.

The two birds were a distinct pair and were adults. The female had a striking white face and forehead whilst the male still had a hint of a summer black neck-collar. In every other aspect they were very similar in plumage, although there were some plain differencies in the tertial patterning. I was soon joined by Dave Bilcock, and then later by Joan Thompson, the two birds remaining until at least 1900 hours when we all left. During the observation period, the birds were very mobile, flying on three occasions when disturbed by noisy individuals walking into the hide, particularly those with dogs not on leads ! On one such occasion, they flew high and east, reaching the Poplars in the SE corner of the reservoir before heading back and briefly landing near the spit opposite the car park steps. Every time they returned to just right of the hide. On a couple of occasions they climbed out of the water and on to the shingle bank in front of the hide - the plain grey legs could clearly be seen to be unringed. Also, in flight, the primaries and secondaries were in immaculate order, with no missing feathers, damage or gaps.

There has been a small arrival of Ruddy Shelducks into Britain during the past week perhaps indicating that they are post-breeding dispersing migrants from non-naturalised populations in the Netherlands and Switzerland. Disregarding the presumed escaped female on the River Thames in Barking Bay and off Crossness (London) on 31 July to 2 August (in fact this is the bird which was previously seen at Tyttenhanger GP), the long-staying female on the Eric Morecambe Pools at Leighton Moss RSPB (Lancs) and the 3 birds at Rutland Water (Leics), those that can be linked to the Dutch population include two off Old Montrose Pier, Montrose Basin (Angus) on at least 20-27 July, a drake at Loch Leven (Fife) on 30 July, two at Coate Water CP (Wilts) on 31 July to 1 August and a pair at Frolesworth Manor Lake (Leics) briefly on 1 August. What were presumably the latter pair flew in to Uttoxeter Quarry (Staffordshire) at 2035 hours on 1 August and it is my assumption that today's Wilstone pair are in fact one and the same.

The only previous record of presumed wild (and when I say wild, I mean from non-naturalised populations rather than outright escapes) Ruddy Shelducks at Tring Reservoirs was of a flock of five juveniles on Wilstone in August 2005, seen earlier in Lancashire and subsequently at Sidlesham Ferry Pool, West Sussex, before migrating south over the English Channel.

Dave Bilcock and Ian Williams both obtained excellent images of the two birds, Dave's being reproduced above.

In addition to the shelducks this evening was 1 LITTLE EGRET (roosting in the central bank of trees), the drake EURASIAN WIGEON, 6 Shoveler, 7 Tufted Ducks, 8 Gadwall and 6 Common Teal. A total of four GREEN SANDPIPERS remained from yesterday and at least 3 juvenile WESTERN REED WARBLERS were feeding at the edge of the reedbed.

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