Tuesday, 21 February 2017

A tale of two estuaries

A short break with the family over half-term in Cornwall gave me the chance to catch up with two species of American duck, both relatively rare on these shores. First on the Hayle, a Green-winged Teal, the American cousin of our Eurasian Teal. We were staying in Hayle, so I nipped out before breakfast to look for it. There are usually plenty of Teal to sift through out in the channel viewable from the causeway over the head of the estuary but on arrival I could see just half a dozen. To my surprise, the Green-winged was one of them and it fed quite close in the shallows on a rising tide.
Drake Green-winged Teal on the Hayle Estuary
This was the entire Teal flock - what chance that one of the six would be the Green-winged?
Green-winged Teal
 A bit of aggression between drakes of the two species
When the Green-winged Teal stood on the mud a metal ring was apparent
Do any ringers out there think this look like a bird band from a North American scheme?
My second American duck of the trip was seen on the way home - an American Wigeon at Exminster Marshes, at the top of the Exe Estuary and just a few miles detour from our route home up the M5. Several large Wigeon flocks were evident on arrival - a slightly daunting prospect to search through them all - but a tip-off from a local birder who was just leaving suggested the bird I was looking for might be in one of the closer flocks. And so it was, picked up with just about my first scan of the bins.
A Spoonbill was also at Hayle
A young bird with horn-coloured bill and some black in the wing tips
First winter drake American Wigeon at Exminster Marshes
The Wigeon flocks were much larger than the Teal flock on the Hayle...
...but the American Wigeon was quite easy to pick out being near the front of the nearest flock
The American Wigeon spent most of the time feeding intently - a rare view with the head raised here

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