Saturday, 16 August 2014

Frodsham Marsh, No.6 tank

Ruddy shelduck 2 adults eclipse flew on from Frodsham Score at high tide
Garganey 1 f
Dunlin 2000 flew on from Frodsham Score at high tide
Ringed plover 100  flew on from Frodsham Score at high tide

Year: 272 (Ruddy shelduck)

So, where do you stand with ruddy shelduck? No discussion you might say, they're not on the BOU list so you can't count them. Well, I've spoken with my legal team, and it seems that I can count them on my year list.

Look at it this way, every year around this time there is an influx of ruddy shelduck from the continent into the UK. This isn't a mass breakout from Chester Zoo every August, it's a genuine influx, often involving small parties of birds. Ok, they might be coming from feral populations in western Europe, but 99.9% of greylags outside northern and western Scotland are feral and we still tick them.

In fact, when you read the literature, it appears that "there is no evidence of any self-sustaining feral populations existing in northern and western Europe", and the nearest self sustaining feral population of ruddy shelducks is in the Ukraine, which is at least as far, if not further than the nearest wild population.

These birds are as wild as a snow goose at Marshside, a red-breasted goose at Martin Mere and all of those Egyptian geese in Norfolk, and as for Lady Amherst's pheasant.....really? Ruddy shelduck probably have better credentials to be wild than most of that lot, they do at least breed in Europe. In fact if it helps, I've seen wild birds at a breeding site in north eastern Greece back in the late 1980's, so they are a valid tick on my European list at least. The big joke is of course, as soon as one gets accepted onto the British list, then all of the other ruddy shelducks will suddenly become tickable and nobody would hesitate to tick these Frodsham birds.

With 5000 shelduck now on Frodsham Score, it's surely no surprise that they have brought a rarity with them, just as the large flocks of winter geese bring rarities.

This was my 5th record of ruddy shelduck in the UK, and my 4th at Frodsham.

I've been experimenting with my phone over the past few weeks. I made myself an adaptor to hold the phone up to the lense on my telescope. See what you think.

This is a photo taken at 24x magnification using my Panasonic Lumix camera. I've also cropped it as far as I dare to bring the birds closer.

This photo and the two below were taken on my phone through the telescope at 50x magnification, and then also cropped, again as close as I dare without impacting too much on the quality. I'm really pleased with the results, though I think that the phone photos are a little washed out. The birds were a slightly deeper colour, more like the top photo. Also there's an almost imperceivable  dark shadow over the right hand side of the photo, vignetting creeping in I think. Still, not a bad effort considering these birds were at least 300m away and they're not much bigger than a Mallard.

Ruddy shelduck are truly lovely birds, and the sooner they're on the British list the better. The only difference I can see between an eclipse bird and a breeding plumage bird is that in eclipse they lack the black collar.

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