Friday, 15 November 2013

Brent Bonus

15th November - it was a gloriously sunny morning, but quite cold.  I decided to leave my patch visit to mid morning.  On arrival, one of the first birds I saw on the near spit was an unseasonal Oystercatcher - I thought I'd be able to get a reasonable record shot in good light, but almost immediately, the flock of 500-600 Lapwing got spooked and took the Oyc with them.  I watched it fly low south over the railway and assumed it might have landed on the small flood in the meadow.  I waited to see if it might return, but it seemed to have gone, so I made my way to the meadow - no sign.  Back at the pit, it was back on the spit!  The Lapwing were spooked with annoying regularity during the morning, sometimes taking the Oyc with them and sometimes leaving it stranded.  I went back to the viewpoint and managed some reasonable records.  Judging by its greyish legs, half-formed throat collar and brownish mantle, it looks to be a 1st winter bird.

I counted 11 Snipe sunning themselves then started to pack up.  Whilst doing so, a familiar birder approached, though I think I've only seen him once before.  I told him about the Oyc and he responded with, "I've just seen a Brent Goose".  Some frantic questions revealed that he had seen a lone Brent Goose feeding in a newly sown crop field just to the north of the patch, but only by some hundreds of yards.  He had seen it 45 minutes earlier, but had lost it after it had flown south and was checking to see if it had flown in here - it hadn't, but I was now on the hunt - surely I hadn't missed a flyover Brent!  I first checked the fields immediately north of the pit to no avail, so I decided to revisit the site of the original sighting.

Parking by the farm shop and walking north about 100yds, I had a good view over several fields to the NE and almost immediately espied a lone Brent Goose feeding 2 fields over - it was very distant.  After a few minutes, a Red Kite landing too close for comfort flushed the goose and it flew off south gaining height - to the pit I thought, but as it neared the road and the edge of the patch, it doubled back and finally landed slightly closer just 1 field away.  It was still distant, but I was now struck by how pale the flanks looked and by the obvious demarcation between the dark neck and the paler breast - could this be a Pale-bellied? I was struggling to remember the possible variability in Dark-bellied, so didn't want to make a false call.  I took some record shots, which are below, though heavily cropped, but before I was able to get home and look at them, a phone call and then a text book that Graham S fortunately had in his car, said that a key feature in Pale-bellied is the lack of a dark belly between its legs.  Though distant, this bird seemed to show a white belly here - surely it was a Pale-bellied.  I was never confident in ageing it either at the distance it was, but the cropped photos appear to show an adult.

I was soon due to pick the kids up from school, but first I stepped back into the northern edge of the patch and was pleased to be able to see the goose through a thinning hedge.  Eventually, after picking the kids up and various ferrying trips, I was able to review the record shots, plus google images, Collins et al and feel fairly confident that this is indeed a Pale-bellied Brent Goose, only the second seen in Bucks - thanks to John H for the tip off!  Apparently Mike C couldn't find the bird around 2:30pm after some local shooting had started up, but I hope it gets relocated and is a bit closer!




  1. Hi Mate

    Shame it didn't get refound , where was the previous pale bellied Bird ?


    1. According to Birds of Bucks, 1 showing characteristics of hrota was at Willen on 29-30 March 1982. Don't know if that means it was a definite or if it was photographed though.

      Working from memory, so dates might be slightly out.
      Please refind the YBW on a day when I can get there!

  2. Will try my best ;-) Will have another look today !

    Thanks for the update - and yes , there is a picture of the Pale Bellied Brent in the 1982 Bird Report - I can send you a picture of it if you want ?