Monday, October 27, 2008

Groundhog Day

You may recall that I headed down the M40 a couple of Sundays ago to add a scarce duck from the aythya family to the life list. Well, it was definitely a case of history repeating yesterday when I did the exact same thing.

It's funny how things turn out sometimes, isn't it? On the way back from Calvert Lakes after our successful twitch, my Dad and I had been remarking upon the fact that we had now seen most species of duck that regularly turn up in the United Kingdom. One omission, however, was the Ring-Necked Duck, which obligingly appeared at Foxcote Reservoir near Buckingham a few days later.

We simply couldn't turn down the opportunity to go and have a look for it. And when Kay caught wind of our plans she was keen to tag along too. Another pair of eyes to help in our search was more than welcome and after a few frantic phone calls, emails and texts, my Dad arrived at my house at about 8:00am and Kay was dropped off by her other half Max shortly afterwards.

The journey down was notable for a few things. Firstly, at least five Eddie Stobart trucks passed me on the motorway, their names unfortunately eluding me in the mist and rain. Drat! Secondly, my directions had been pulled together rather hastily and we got a little bit lost in Buckingham. After driving around the town a few times until everyone was dizzy, we finally got our bearings and found the reservoir. Well-signed it isn't!

Once in the hide we began our search for the uncommon duck amongst the more familiar species. Kay latched onto a suspect within minutes, but after a careful inspection the bird was dismissed. This happened a few times over the next hour or so, but eventually, the Ring-Necked Duck popped up on the far side of the reservoir [lifer 229!] [year tick 216!]. Once we were on it, it was unmistakeable and we had good views, albeit distant ones, for about half an hour.

There was a good variety of waterfowl on display. Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Northern Pochard and Ruddy Duck were all present. I love Northern Pochards, so much harder than those southern poofters. Also on view were Great-Crested Grebes, Little Grebes, Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, a Cormorant, and what we believed to be an albino Pheasant. I actually thought it was a Little Egret until I had it in the scope.

After a sandwich and a celebratory swig from the hip flask, which Kay politely declined, we headed home. There was a moment of panic when I managed to get my car stuck in some mud, but after a bit of nifty manoeuvring we negotiated our way back to the M40 without too much bother. I had a bit more success with the Eddie Stobarts on the way back - Amy Elizabeth and Maggie were added to the list.

An enjoyable and rewarding morning's birding.

I had planned to talk about my birding at work this week, but the duck hunting has put paid to that for now. However, I will leave you with a picture that I took in the grounds during my break last Wednesday.


I first found this chap on Tuesday, but didn't have my camera with me. I took the camera to work the following day and struck lucky. Being new to butterflying, I have only seen one Comma before, so it was nice to have the opportunity to snap this beauty.

Plans are now afoot to have a go for the Caspian Gulls at Stubbers Green next Sunday, so expect another episode of Eye To The Telescope soon afterwards.

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