Sunday, 10 March 2013

Ring Necked Duck at Par - 7th March 2013

Despite the dire weather forecast I headed off to St Austell on the train but on arrival it was cold, wet and misty and I was beginning to regret my decision. I headed off to nearby Porthpean which was further away than I thought, a good 5 mile round trip made longer by getting lost a few times, but good for getting rid of some of my post Christmas lard. Eventually I arrived at the clifftop overlooking Porthpean Beach and I found an old lookout tower overlooking the sea and set up my telescope but visibility was pretty poor. I scanned for the red necked grebes and velvet scoter that have recently been reported from here but with no luck. I did see a few adult gannets offshore in the mist, a winter plumaged razorbill and around 60 common scoters.Fulmars were prospecting the cliffs and resting on the sea along with a few shags. I also saw a distant diver, probably a red throated, before it was lost from sight in the gloom and waves.

On the walk from St Austell to Porthpean I saw 2 blackcaps, brief views as they flew between bushes in gardens giving their distinctive "chack" calls and in Porthpean I heard 3 male blackcaps singing, a quiet, subdued sub-song and strange to hear in the mist and rain. Whether these are newly arrived migrants or over wintering birds is difficult to tell. I also found 20+ redwings feeding in a field on the outskirts of St Austell, presumably migrants heading back North and East.

Heading back to Plymouth on the train I decided to stop off at Par, walking from the train station to nearby Par Beach Pool where a male ring necked duck has been overwintering. On arriving at the Pool I soon found the ring necked duck diving regularly at the back of the Pool and spending very little time on the surface in the 45 minutes I spent watching it. I have now seen 4 individual ring necked ducks this year, it will be interesting to see if they return next winter as often happens with displaced North American wildfowl.

Male Ring Necked Duck

Also seen were 5 male and 4 female shovelers with 3 birds (male and 2 females) being very tame and giving good views, a pair of tufted ducks, a grey heron and the usual wildfowl - coot, moorhen, mallard, mute swan and Canada goose.

 Male Shoveler
Upending Mallards

Around 20 adult lesser black backed gulls were resting and preening on the Pool amongst the herring and black headed gulls, presumably migrant birds returning to the UK. Further migrant activity were 2 sand martins flitting over the water and nearby reed beds, an unexpected but very welcome sight after what has seemed to be a long and cold winter - unfortunately the weather is due to turn very cold again with snow and frost so I doubt they will survive for very long.

 First Winter Black Headed Gull
 Adult Lesser Black Backed Gull
Lesser Black Backed Gulls - 3 adults with 3rd Summer bird?
Heading back to the railway station and the rain was slowly starting to ease but I was glad to get home after a dull and wet day out. I had had some nice sightings to compensate for getting so soggy and I had visited 2 places I have never been to before so it had been quite an interesting day despite the weather.

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