Recently I have been mixing up the times of my Farm visits. There seems to be more gull activity on the lakes early afternoon and as I had not seen the pale phase Glaucous Gull another late visit was to be my chosen tactic. Pete and Devilbirder (DB) were also in attendance which would provide extra sets of eyes and an added expertise particularly in identifying Caspian Gulls. I struggle to pick the less obvious candidates out despite burying my head in books Gulls of Europe Asia and North America by Olsen and Larsson.
True to form both Pete and DB were off and running in the Caspian Gull department with three birds identified two 2nd winter and one 1st winter and photographed but still no sign of the Glaucous Gull. DB then drew our attention to a duck that was clearly showing some signs of Ferruginous Duck but ducks are a tricky subject with so many possibilities of hybridization not to mention escapes from collections!
The trio shuffled closer to Elands Island to capture all the evidence required to confirm the identity of this interesting bird. The bird was regularly preening therefore it was only a matter of time before a wing flap took place.
The duck was smaller than the Pochard and showed the head shape, bill and reddish-brown colouration of a female type Fudge duck. The first indicator of a Pochard hybrid was the slight tinge of grey running through the mantle. There was also a distinct difference in colour in the breast to the flanks again showing signs of hybridisation.
The bird took a couple of wing flaps before settling down with the mix of Pochard and Tufted. The edge to the wings showed characteristics of Pochard confirming our cautious approach to the initial appearance of the bird.
The internet is a great tool in these situations as comparable photographs are at hand. I carry a kindle which is loaded with bird books including Helm guide to Wildfowl by Madge and Burn. If all the former fails then a study of photos on the laptop at home will provide the answers!
Incidently the Glaucous Gull paid a brief visit to the lake before disappearing over the wires. My pictures of this moment were rated as awful by the small band of birders!
For a complete breakdown of the hybrid duck, Caspian and Glaucous Gull pics see Pete Alfreys blog. http://peteralfreybirdingnotebook.blogspot.co.uk/