Just a quick one to let everyone know that the floating bridge is now open again! The water levels have now come up sufficiently to allow safe access to the bridge. Needless to say, we are chuffed - enjoy!
This month’s Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) was completed last week by volunteers Stuart Carlton and Matt Marsh, on what was quite possibly the coldest day of the winter so far. Almost 100% of the site was frozen, the ice cover displacing many of the birds, as can be seen by the low counts for some species. Here are the day’s results –
86 tufted duck
7 mute swan
1 water rail
8 grey heron
5 little egret
1 green sandpiper
70 black-headed gull
2 common gull
Notable absences include goldeneye, however they are back now we have thawed, moorhen, cormorant, lapwing, lesser black-backed gull and the red-crested pochard, which is also now back on site.
On Thursday morning last week, Beach Hut volunteers Pam and Allan were treated to an excellent view of a bittern in reed north of the boardwalk. Do keep an eye open in this area, you never know....
Bittern - it's in there somewhere! Ben Andrew (rspb-imges.com)
Last week Phase 1 was host to a rather unusual species of duck, one that we don't see very often at Langford and despite not being native to the UK, one which is interesting nevertheless....the red-crested pochard. Red-crested pochard are native to eastern Europe and Asia eastwards to China, with scattered small populations in Spain, France and the Netherlands. In their native range, most are migratory, wintering in north Africa, India and southern China.
In the UK, most birds are from escaped captive populations, however it is thought that genuine wild birds do occur occasionally in the south of England, most likely from the nearby Continental populations in France and the Netherlands. The species does breed in the UK and now has a self sustaining population of breeders derived from escapees. This, along with the occurrence of genuine wild birds, places them in three different categories of the British List. The British List states all birds that have occurred in Britain and is maintained by the British Ornithologists Union (BOU). The red-crested pochard is placed in Category A - species which have occurred in an apparently natural state since 1950, Category C2 - species introduced by Humans, but that now occur in an established naturalised state and Category E* - species which have been introduced, but have bred in the wild (BOU, 2015).
Male red-crested pochards are striking birds, with chestnut heads, bright red bills and black, white and brown body and wing plumage. As with duck species, the female is rather subdued in appearance, an adaptation used as camouflage when incubating eggs and brooding young. However, even females can be recognised easily due to their dark brown cap, contrasting with pale cheeks and neck, their large size and distinctive shape.
Their scientific name, Netta rufina, means reddish necked duck, rather appropriate for the male.
Also around site this week has been a smart male peregrine over Phase 2, regular grey wagtail sightings, good numbers of finches feeding on seed by the car park and shelduck back on site after their moult migration.
Male red-crested pochard. Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)