December 21st   Leave a comment

I went off patch to see a ring-necked duck and a smew at Cameron reservoir this morning. The far end of Cameron Reservoir is 14 km from Crail so I can’t fudge that into my “10 km from home” rules. But I’m hedging my bets in case I ever decide to expand it to 15 km. I haven’t seen many ring-necked ducks in any case. They are North American vagrants (or escapes from wildfowl collections, although my money is on the former considering the weather this autumn and the timing of its appearance). It was a tough bird to find even though I knew it was in with the tufted ducks. The light was awful and the tufties were keeping about 200 meters away. It was also roosting much of the time so not showing anything very distinctive. Once it did a bit of feeding and preening it was obvious, although I don’t understand why it is not called a ring-billed duck. Then when it back to roosting it was easy to find having learnt the subtle features – head and tail shape, and particularly, the white eyelid, that made it stand out from the tufted ducks even when its distinctive bill and front of head pattern was tucked away.

The female ring-necked duck that has been at Cameron reservoir for a couple of weeks. The bottom middle bird is a female tufted duck to compare the head shape.

There was a lot else to see. Waterbirds are great for variety and ease of watching. I sat down at the western causeway, scanned with my telescope and drank a cup of coffee. The only thing that could have been better was the light. The smew was nearly in full adult male plumage, gloriously black and white and a lot easier to find than the ring-necked duck. There were four scaup among the tufted duck as well, approximately 60 goldeneye, two goosander, and lots of teal, wigeon, mallard and mute swan. Pink-footed geese and greylag geese went over occasionally. There was a big bunting and finch flock along the wooded edge of the reservoir, flying down to the adjacent fields to feed. Perhaps one hundred chaffinches and the same number of yellowhammers, fifty reed buntings and a few tree sparrows. Wooded wetlands are great habitats: one day Kilminning.

Drake smew (JA)

Posted December 21, 2020 by wildcrail in Sightings

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