Wednesday, 9 November 2011

On an icy wind…

The main news today was the discovery of the first smew of this winter – a red-head female on the favoured Watton NR. John Hirschfield was the finder and it was subsequently photographed by Dave Ware:

Usually we get 6 birds over wintering - the Tophill complex being one of Northern England's best spots to see them - hopefully they'll stay til March - and we'll get a drake this time!

Again for more great pictures visit Dave’s excellent blog here.

On the other hand John Hesslewood managed to record what must be the last swallow of the year over D res on the 1st of November. Other sightings from the last couple of days include two separate mediterranean gulls on D res. yesterday, 5 black-tailed godwit on Watton today, willow tit on the feeders, egyptian goose on Struncheonhill yesterday, and a dunlin on the south marsh roost.

Also check out Tony’s blog for foxes and a remarkable image of a goldcrest that isn’t blurred or behind a twig!

Now to all things geese…

It would seem the ross’ type goose has excited many folk! First off just to re-iterate – there is no suggestion that this is a genuine vagrant, and may have been logged at Filey last week. The bird was observed well today on Watton NR again and has been coming and going between here and Hempholme via D res.

It does have clean legs, but as explained by Major Tim Cowley who lived amongst them for two years – it is regarded in the US and Canada that out of a million strong ross’ population, there are reckoned to be only around 100 blue morphs – even the American birders get excited when they see one (see link)! – so the chances of one of them getting here are pretty mulch zilch.

Secondly the bird does not conform to a true ‘blue morph ross’ goose’ – these birds (which do exist! – we have had a few retorts of “you only get blue snow goose”! – again have a look on the blog above) are generally quite dark on the body with just a pronounced white upper neck and face – this bird is mottled white to a much larger extent.

Yesterday there was a concensus that the bird was a hybrid with at least a proportion of snow goose in it – however today most thoughts are coming back to a majority of ross’ – with very little snow goose, but perhaps with an element of barnacle or the like in it? There is a belief that ringed escapee ross’ geese have travelled north with populations of arctic barnacles and pink feet and interbred – possibly creating this – what we assume a 1st winter bird. Anway the debate will no doubt continue – but this is probably not one to add to your life list…

Make up your own mind on some of these photos; a distant digi-scope on D yest:

Jeff Barker’s (see his flickr page for more great pics)

David Ware’s

And HVWG’s

All sensible suggestions welcome…

The other interesting news is the arrival of a group of 13 whooper swans on D res yesterday afternoon – chiefly because we had precisely 13 in February too – the same group?:

HVWG sent these better photos:

But regular Tom Lowe managed to get a close up view of the birds from East Hide – revealing one of them was sporting a coloured darvic ring – yellow – T6H.

Submitting the details to Tom has forwarded what must be one of the fastest ringing returns ever!:

It turns out the bird is of Icelandic origin like most which over winter in the UK – and was last seen in Brunahlid Adaldal, Northern Iceland on the 19th of April. The full details have been forwarded to James for inclusion on the ringing blog.

Isn’t that half way to Canada?...

Finally a quick plug for the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s ‘Nature on the Coast’ event which is running alternate Mondays – all the details are available here:

Also at Tophill we will be running the twice yearly ‘Reserve briefing’ on Sunday at 2pm – a quick lowdown on all the projects we are currently working on a round the Reserve and ask any questions.