Thursday 1 December 2016

Baer's Pochard x Ferruginous Duck... or x Common Pochard hybrid?

Earlier this week I heard there was a Baer's Pochard at Osaka Castle. Always great birds to see, I took the first opportunity to get myself down there to have a look. I didn't know where on the various sections of moat the bird was supposed to be but I didn't foresee any great problems finding a Baer's.  I entered the castle park from the south west, arriving in Osaka by Keihan train, and as luck would have it the bird was on the very first stretch of water. I at least I imagine it was; a funny thing, is luck. I can only imagine it was so close under the trees that I didn't notice it, I would also add in my defence that the very small section of moat it was on was directly into the sun and the vast majority of ducks were in the opposite direction. Well, whatever the reason, I missed it and off I went on what was probably a four or five kilometre walk around the different sections of inner and outer moats.

Eventually I arrived back where I'd started. There were about 10 Common Pochard in that quite corner, and I suddenly felt with absolute certainty that it was going to be there with them... and that it had been there all the time. And sure enough there... there it wasn't. This couldn't be the bird, could it? So I was left wondering had there been a Baer's as well as this hybrid? Had this originally been mistakenly identified as a Baer's? Had there simply been a communication mix up somewhere between the initial sighting and me getting word of it? No idea. Not that it matters too much to me, if I'd known it was a hybrid I'd have been every bit as keen to get down there and see it. I've seen two Common Pochard x Baer's hybrids but this was my first Ferruginous cross.

Having said that, after posting and looking again at the closer images there seems to be a hint of Common Pochard on the upper parts, very fine grey speckling across the scapulars. A Ferruginous hybrid wouldn't... shouldn't, have this. Also perhaps there's slightly too much red in the crown. I didn't think Baer's had quite so much white in the out primary which made me think of Ferruginous at first, plus the generally chestnut head. Also this early in the winter it's possible a Baer's wouldn't yet show much green in the head. Perhaps a month from now there'll be some areas of green alongside reddish patches on the head? Hmmm, I'm persuaded; another Baer's x Common Pochard hybrid looks more likely.

The bird came quite close to the edge of the moat and though it was three or four metres down to the water from my position I was able to get some reasonably good images.

Perhaps at first glance, and at a distance, it might suggest Baer's but even at moderate distance its cover wouldn't stand closer scrutiny.

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