Friday, 8 February 2008

Fudge Duck

I forgot to mention the Ferruginous Duck from last week (Fudge Duck for those unwilling to risk the pronunciation). The bird was found on the lake at the old American Adventure Theme Park, near Ilkeston. The site is fenced off these days and patrolled by heavies from a security firm which I'm told erected signs reading "NO BIRDWATCHING". To say the least it wouldn't be on my hit parade of birding destinations, but this duck is special, and a smashing find.

Closely related to Pochard and Tufted Duck (species they closely associate with), Ferruginous Ducks breed chiefly in wetlands north of the Black Sea and winter in north Africa or areas south and west of the Sahara, with smaller populations in France and Spain. Their numbers are crashing as their breeding habitats are drained for farming, so they are set to become an even rarer sight for UK birders. Up to 10 birds a winter reach Britain now, but in the future, who knows?

There is one other thing I should mention; Ferruginous Ducks are popular among wildfowl collections and birds from zoos, bird sanctuaries, etc, do go a-wandering wild in the UK. This means birdwatchers are always likely to discuss the natural origins when an individual turns up. Now this Derbyshire bird arrived in winter, is notably shy, exhibiting all the behaviours of a wild duck, so a 'true' vagrant it is.

They are best identified by their white bottoms as no other wild duck in the UK has anything to confuse it by. Beyond that Ferruginous Duck males like this one have a wonderfully rich colour, a chestnut brown that shines purple in the sun. Even at 200 yards, it was gorgeous. A picture can be seen here.

I bet that duck is still drawing in many a birder, relocated as it has to the smaller waters of Loscoe Dam.

In other news, the home patch I've been neglecting still harbours results. At King's Mill Reservoir a Water Rail was showing well, always smaller than you think, and the electric blue flash Kingfisher shot by me. The only sad news I have to report is the probable loss of a Barn Owl, the lifeless white lump seen lying on the surface of the dual carriageway under which a pair had successfully nested last year. The truth is, this tragedy always seemed likely.

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