Sunday 25 January 2015

The Vertical Stripe

Drowning in thrushes and chats whilst writing my section of the YNU bird report, I decided I needed a couple of hours break, so picking up new colleague Tom Marshall, we headed down the LDV. It was a gloriously sunny morning and we had a look first at the Refuge from East Cottingwith, which revealed herds of 12 and 9 Whooper Swans, but numbers of duck were down...albeit briefly! We looked to the southeast and line after line of ducks were coming in from the Humber. Presumably frozen out of the valley last week, they were now returning and in spectacular fashion. Virtually all of these birds were Teal, several thousand of them. They all dropped in to Wheldrake Ings - wow!

Still very little water in the valley and so we headed round to North Duffield Carrs. Tom had asked whether we got any rarer ducks with the hordes of Wigeon and Teal and I casually remarked that it was likely American Wigeons and Green-winged Teals did turn up every now and again but were probably often lost in the massive flocks of their European cousins and so went undetected. Looking out of Geoff Smith Hide at NDC I started to scan through a collosal flock of Teal, all looking stonking in the beautiful late winter sunshine. And suddenly, I latched on to a vertical white stripe. Was I imagining this? No, sure enough, there was a cracking little drake Green-winged Teal! Unbelievable. After disappearing for a bit to have a kip in some grass,  we went round to Garganey Hide and despite the teal flock being a bit jumpy and taking off occasionally, we managed to keep track of the bird and to get arriving birders on to it. Apparently the bird was flushed just before midday and wasn't seen again (the bird was refound again today).

This is the first GWT I have seen in the York area since the bird at Newburgh Priory in March 2011, and my first in the LDV since 1997! GWTs have a place in my heart having been the first 'rarity' I ever saw, at Fairburn Ings on 16th February 1985. I was aged ten.

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