Saturday, 4 December 2010

Yellow Wagtail.... In December?

....oh yes!

'Bird of the day' was a pale Yellow Wagtail found by Phil this morning at Colyford WTW. I was ringing on Seaton Marshes (more on that later) so couldn't get there until early afternoon.

Phil had only had rather poor views of it, and that was what I was expecting. But a glance through the trees and fence from the footpath which runs along the northern edge of the sewage works revealed it feeding on the nearest filter bed!

It's a very interesting bird, very interesting indeed...


Hmmmmmm....

There's a few 'odd' things about it..... aside the fact it's in Devon in December!

  • Very pale under parts, no yellow on throat/breast/belly/vent area. I did think I saw a touch of yellow on the feathering at the base of the tibia though (i.e. the birds trousers).

  • Greyish upper parts with a slightly paler rump and subtly duller cap and nape.

  • Very 'leggy' appearance - also note hind claw length (though not sure how this compares with a flavissima?).

One feature I didn't expect to see on a Yellow Wag as grey as this though was the amount of pale on the base of the bill. An all black bill would have been much better!

What about the call I hear you ask? Well - we don't know! Depsite this bird being watched for a good couple of hours today, and being flushed several times (not by us I must add!) it didn't call once!

I have my idea/theory/guess at what it may be - but what do you think??

Ok, now time to rewind the day... it was an early start for me, meeting other members of the AERG at Seaton Marshes at 06:45. I would have found getting up a lot easier if I'd gone to sleep at say 10pm the night before, and not 2am as I had!

What followed was probably the most successful cannon net catch we have ever had.It was touch and go whether it was going to go ahead because of the recent cold snap, but an increase in temperature helped the boss decide we were good to go.

We 'banged' not long after 07:30, and under the fired net were 191 birds!!

Most of these (131 in fact) were Teal, with smaller numbers of Wigeon, Mallard and Shelduck. A nice treat were two Shoveler - a species infrequently ringed in the UK.

Adult drake head on

First-winter drake side on - looks quite menacing doesn't it!

These Shoveler weren't the only gems in the net this morning - there were some waders too!

Six Black-tailed Godwits included two controls (birds already ringed but not by us). We colour-ringed the other birds with the Axe's combination (yellow/red/yellow) on their right legs, as well as individually unique combinations on their left legs. The one I processed is lime/orange/lime...so keep your eyes peeled!

A Lapwing was a first for the ringing group - and a new bird for Fraser. Very smart it was too! This, or anything else already mentioned wasn't my highlight though....

We had no idea a Ruff was amongst the mass of feeding birds when we fired the cannon at dawn...but there bloody was!!! And guess who got to ring and process it :-)

Soooooo teeny!

The bird's wing length (backed up by bill and tibia measurements) nailed it as a female. Leg colour, and most importantly active wing moult, helped age it as an adult. What a stunning bird - I felt (and still feel) so privileged to have ringed it!

All in all - another excellent day on patch. Rounded off nicely with an Estuary jaunt which showed the Bar-tailed Godwit still along with two adult Med Gulls...

one being 'Red ZTL8'

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