Ruddy Twitchers

Today’s birding consisted of a Lancaster Breeding Atlas tetrad. I was doing SD45L, which is the area shown in the map below.

Note the word ‘airfield’. This is the Black Knights parachuting facility, and they were doing a roaring trade enabling people to jump out of their light aircraft today.

The birds, in addition to the uncountable Rhea pictured above, included Tree Sparrows which are always a bonus on a breeding bird survey. Birds which wouldn’t be breeding but were nice to see included a first summer male Wheatear passing through and a Rock Pipit presumably about to depart.

It’s a twitcher’s cliche but the Ruddy Shelduck the two Pauls (Ellis and Slade) had found in a field at Fluke Hall was just off my route home, so I decided to make a minor diversion and have a look for it.

As I looked in the field it was supposed to be in a message came through that it was still present but mobile. That mobility immediately delivered as it flew back into the airspace above the field calling repeatedly. As it tried to land it was chased off by a territorial Common Shelduck, and I grabbed the video below.

It was never really achievable but a photograph of the Shelduck taking feathers out of its exotic namesake would have been stunning. It was spectacular to witness. Other birders I met said they has seen the visitor chased off by several Shelduck earlier – ruddy unfair.

And when I say ‘exotic’ I use that term in its’ broadest sense. Ruddy Shelduck is one of those birds you just have no idea on the credentials of. It could be an escape, or it could be a wanderer from the feral populations in the Low Countries. The least likely option is that it’s a wild bird, and I’m not pretending otherwise.

Regarding yesterday’s blog Paul Ellis kindly supplied the picture of the Kincraig Lake Pied Flycatcher I was referring to. Thanks Paul.

Footnote – I’ve realised some readers may not know what a Ruddy Shelduck looks like. Here’s the bird well out on the marsh next to a Common Shelduck. You can at least see they are very different looking birds.

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