Saturday, 26 July 2014

Early Pintail

25th July - I went down early afternoon, but only had about 30 minutes before I had to leave.  There were the usual BHG and LWHG to look through, though smaller numbers than of late and I didn't see anything unusual amongst them.  The only wader on site was a single juvenile LRP.  Shortly before I had to leave, the darkening sky began to rumble with thunder and a storm was obviously nearby.  A small flock of Mallard were flying over the east side of the lake - not unusual and I didn't pay much attention to them.  However, when they banked round on the southern side, I noticed that there were some Gadwall with them, showing their obvious white wing flashes.  I looked at them through bins and then realised that there was also a Pintail amongst them, showing its distinctive long-winged profile and white bordered outer speculum.  I followed the group as they flew round the back of the island and out of sight towards the works bay.  They then reappeared and flew back past the island.  I could see that rain was falling, though it hadn't reached me yet and the flock landed on the southern side of the lake.  It comprised 4 Mallard, 4 Gadwall and a single Pintail, the plain brown head and dull greyish bill of the Pintail was now obvious.  Suddenly the heavens opened and a deluge ensued.  I sheltered under trees, waiting for the worst to pass, but then had to leave - any record shots in the conditions and at distance would have been a waste of time.

I returned later in the day hoping to grab a record, as July Pintail is pretty unusual.  My previous earliest local bird was late August.  The Pintail was still present, but roosting at the back of the spit with the 4 Gadwall.  I attempted a record, but it doesn't show any diagnostic features at all.  It eventually woke up at about 9pm when the light was fading and a mist was appearing over the water, so again no conditions for my camera to take anything recognisable.  From what I could make out, it looked to be a female type rather than an eclipse male based on the bill looking fairly uniformly dark grey, the rather uniform plumage and the tail although fairly long and pointed, probably not long enough for a male.

For what it's worth, the record shot is below - the Pintail is the left hand bird asleep at the back (200yds away)

Bits and pieces from the 24th - a Redshank was another migrant wader just present for a single day, along with a Common Sand and single juv LRP (there had been 3 juvs on the 23rd), whilst the LWHG flock held an adult and juvenile Yellow-legged Gull.  The leucistic BHG from the other day was also present.

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