I have always been a big fan of Anas, so what better yesterday than to score two of the finest looking duck sp. to reach British shores? We start with a certain drake Blue-winged Teal which has been present for a good while now on the eastern edge of Glasgow at Frankfield Loch. After starting south west Scottish birding last month with a bang at Saltcoats with two Balearic Shearwaters north, the opportunity to see what must be my most desired vagrant duck in British waters, and the possibility to keep the good birding form in the area going, was not to be frowned upon.
Hence yesterday afternoon I made the very short pilgrimage to the loch, somewhat inconveniently situated on the edge of a Taylor Wimpey housing estate that was bustling with suburban people returning from their trips to the shops. This made peaceful viewing a bit of an issue, but the distance from the bird in question was not a problem due to the fairly compact size of the loch. It took no more than a minute to locate the gorgeous drake Blue-winged Teal, somnolent as it roosted determinedly amongst numerous Eurasian Teal. Aesthetically, I had expected the Anas discors to be abysmal. Thus when noting its well developed white facial crescent and its near complete moult (albeit apart from some dinginess around the flanks), I was a delighted man. It was in fine fettle, quite unlike the Teals beside it whose moult was considerably further behind this Nearctic gem.
I had to make do for half an hour with admiring its intricately patterned, dark centred flanks. It was not letting me see its full face: with a bird of this beauty, full views are a must. Eventually, a Grey Heron disrupted the sleeping party and the bird in question took to the air, joining a group of Shoveler and thus easy to pick out. Here my first dazzling flash of sky blue wing coverts (which were verging on complete moult) and full facial views were had: it was a beautiful moment. The word ‘oooft’ impetuously escaped my lips. Euphoria ended as it landed slap bang in the middle of a sheet of golden mid-afternoon light, leaving it mostly silhouetted for a good 10 minutes as it mucked around with the Shoveler. It meandered away from the light, at which point I was able to appreciate full views of it feeding. This was a brief affair though: within a couple of minutes it found a muddy edge to rest and was back roosting once again. What a stupendous bird though, one of my most wanted species in the UK. If it sticks around into the winter I’ll be paying it another visit with my DSLR, wherever its Clyde escapades take it. I rarely mention lists nowadays, but I can say now that this puts me within one of 300 species in the UK. This realization was made when I decided to look at and revise my British list for the first time this year. What will no. 300 be? The mind boggles (as if I really care!).
On the way back I stopped at an undisclosed site I had noticed previously whilst out and about in Glasgow, simply because I thought it looked good for wildfowl. I wasn’t expecting to see anything much at all, so was very surprised when I connected with a drake Ruddy Duck! I was exhilarated, delighting in the bird’s gleaming russet beauty for a good 15 minutes. Given the cull of this species, I had not seen a Ruddy Duck for two years. The cull has resulted in near extirpation of Ruddy Duck in a Scottish context, with previous strongholds in Fife and Aberdeenshire now ceasing to hold any birds whatsoever. In said counties, the species was once expected at certain sites annually. Now, seeing Ruddy Duck anywhere in Britain, let alone Scotland, is a rare and precious moment. Hence I am not releasing any information as to the location of this particular Ruddy Duck. In my eyes at least, it would be total injustice to put it on DEFRO, as much as I love White-headed Ducks. There is a pun in there somewhere.
I think it’s fair to say my birding so far in SW Scotland has been very productive. Whether this is representative of the birding quality in the area as a whole, only time will tell. However, I expect that future birding here, especially around Glasgow, will be less productive – not that I am slagging the area. As it stands though, its showing its full birding colours.
Thanks for reading,