Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Minimal effort

While the Northern Isles and Scilly have had their share of October rarities already this year, there haven't been many to chase within striking distance of home so far this month, apart from a flurry of goodies on Portland today while I was busy at work. But it was the desire for a change of scene, without much physical effort or lugging my gear too far, rather than desperation, which saw me heading off to Exmouth on Sunday morning where a Ridgway's Cackling Goose, Branta hutchinsii minima, has been present for the last few weeks.
Ridgway's Cackling Canada Goose: a bit of a mouthful, but worth a fortune in Scrabble.
A smart wee bird, whether tickable or not
A similar sized bird to the Dark-bellied Brents with which it was associating - conspicuously not with its much larger cousin...
...the more familiar, larger and lighter feral Canada Goose
Now before all the purists out there start castigating me for twitching untickable dross, let me explain. First, I like the Exe Estuary. Unlike Swineham, it is always full of birds, even if, like Swineham, some of them are escaped from wildfowl collections. Second, while I have seen presumed wild Richardson's Cackling Geese among flocks of Barnacles on Islay and at Caerlaverock, I'd never knowingly seen Ridgway's before, in or out of a pen. And third, I couldn't face trudging around the patch, and just fancied going a bit further afield without having to make much effort. The Exe is good for that: in several places you can just pull up and scope it.
The Ridgway's in context with the Brents
It took off with two Brents and headed out into the Estuary
A few Pale-bellied Brents (which breed in Svalbard, Greenland and Canada) like this one above, and a Black Brant (which breed in Alaska), were also with the Russian Dark-bellied Brent flock on the Exe - indicative of their ability to pick up all sorts of rough trade.

Brents on the Exe
The chances of the Ridgway's being accepted as a wild bird may therefore be slim, but, as finder Matt Knott points out in his blogminima breeds just a short hop across the Bering Sea from Russia, and the Dark-bellied Brent's breeding grounds on the Tamyr peninsular are about the same distance away from minima's breeding grounds in Alaska as their wintering grounds - albeit in the opposite direction. So, with a little imagination, it isn't wholly inconceivable that it hooked up with what is, on the face of it, an unlikely carrier species.
Sika Deer back near home at Arne
A little more bashful in the woods
Not much point in this leucistic Sika trying to hide - taken at Middlebere last weekend
Water Vole at Arne
After Sunday morning's jaunt, I was back home in time to watch number 1 son and the rest of Wareham Rangers U-13s retain their 100% league record this season, and take a walk around Arne with number 2 son and his mum. Sika Deer serenaded us in the woods, Spoonbills gathered by the dozen in the channels, and an array of autumn funghi presented endless opportunities to remind them via the medium of hackneyed puns that, despite going AWOL around this time of year in search of rare birds, I can still be a fun-guy to be with.
Some funghi
Some more funghi
Even more fun guys (groan)
Insert bad deer pun of your choice, I'm done here


  1. Hi Peter,

    Thought you might enjoy this birdwatching blog http://thesecretbirder.blogspot.co.uk/

  2. I was really interested to see you Canadian Geese pics as at this time of year they take over NY State. They land and feed in such quantities that their presence is seen by many as an extreme nuisance. In some towns fine wires are spread on the village greens to discourage their landing. Their piles of poop can be massive!
    I trust they are more benign in your area.
    I love the take off picture - good work