Tuesday, December 27, 2011

It was pretty convenient when a Lesser Scaup and a Great Grey Shrike decided to spend Christmas within 15 minutes of where we were. So we walked off our Christmas Eve excesses around Prestwick Carr and got our Boxing Day fresh air with the Lesser Scaup at Marden Quarry. 

The status of Lesser Scaup is summed up pretty well by the two editions of the Collins Guide. In the first edition it appears in the vagrants section at the back as by the end of 1998 there had only been 30 British records, all since the first in 1987. There have now been well over 200 records and the species account was elevated to the main section of the second edition. A combination of head shape, small size and bill pattern make identification pretty straight forward but it would have been nice to see it flap its wings in the hour or so we watched it. (c) Richard Brown

It's always great to see species such as Goosander which we miss out on whilst we're on Bardsey for ten months of the year. It's surprising that there was a time when this stunning sawbill was not a British breeder, but they only bred for the first time in 1871 and didn't really spread across much of Britain until the 1970s. (c) Richard Brown

The Prestwick Carr Great Grey Shrike proved very popular on Christmas Eve with loads of birders and photographers lining the lane, a total contrast to the Scaup where we were the only birders around. The Shrike kept its distance however, spending most of its time out across the fields in front of Newcastle Airport. It did hover quite close to us for about 20 seconds, during which time we could check out the wing and tail pattern. (c) Richard Brown

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