Saturday 28 January 2017

Hybrid Greater Scaup on a calm day in Mie

Last time in Mie the wind was a big problem; checking scrub for LBJs was out of the question, anything on the sea was lost in the troughs and on top of that glare made gulling a non-starter. What a difference a week makes.

Yesterday was flat calm, bright but not overpoweringly so, great weather for my route a week earlier. However good habitats I like to visit come thick and fast over 30 km of coastline. There's no way to cover everywhere in a day and this week I'd planned my day to cut out a few of the usual spots, including some estuaries, most fields and harbours to fit in a longer gulling session.

One broad, reed-filled ditch surrounding an overgrown corner, showed how many birds make use of the habitat. I stopped for what seemed no more than a couple of minutes, but probably was, an saw 14 species including a Wryneck. Wintering Wrynecks are probably more common than they seem but they are difficult to find, often lurking in reeds or a patch of unassuming scrub that is more easily overlooked than the birds themselves. On the very infrequent occasions I've seen two or three Wrynecks in the same general they can seem quite noisy and aggressive. This bird perched up briefly before dropping never to be seen again.

Wryneck perched briefly before dropping into the tangle of vegetation. Unfortunately the running engine and unchanged camera settings resulted in disappointing shots.

Common Reed Bunting

Rustic Bunting

An Eastern Buzzard at the same spot, there are so many birds here, there will often be a Buzzard, Goshawk or Kestrel around. This one was the centre of attraction for a swarm of small flying insects, the bird twice snapped at them so I imagine it was as bothered by the attention as I would have been.

Switching to the water, a hybrid Greater Scaup x Tufted Duck was the highlight. There are huge rafts of Greater Scaup off-shore along this coast, visible as far as conditions allow, thousands, probably tens of thousands, of birds must winter here. If there are any scarce divers or scoter it's possible to pick them out from a good distance but something like this bird requires the kind of view only given by ducks closer inshore, and then usually only at high tide. These images aren't great because of distance and are necessarily heavily cropped. The scapulars are barred as in Greater Scaup but the ground colour is much darker so the effect doesn't stand out as clearly.

Hybrid Greater Scaup x Tufted Duck, only the second time I've come across this pairing but I'd bet a pound to a penny it will be more common, even without taking females into consideration.

Common Sandpiper

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