Monday, 16 February 2009

A Whooper Swan at Cote

Last Saturday a Bewick's swan was posted as having been seen at Cote, over in West Oxfordshire. This was the area where one had over-wintered last year and which I went to see with L (my two-year old son) in tow. Therefore, that Sunday morning I suggested a little drive over there for those who were interested. I promised that there would be no need even to get out of the car for people who came along so as well as L (who had little choice in the matter), B my eleven year old daughter also elected to come along.

I'd been given fairly detailed instructions from the finder of the bird as to where to locate it and my fellow county lister JC had already ticked it earlier that morning (unencumbered as he was by the inertia of getting two children ready to go out!) so it was in an optimistic frame of mind that I set off. We stopped off briefly at the West Oxford Sailing Club lake at Standlake where there were 5 red-crested pochard still present and it was some half an hour later that we arrived at the appropriate spot.

I could only see five swans from the road-side, one of which was asleep but as I scanned about I did notice a herd of deer in the field with a very nice grey partridge close by, another year tick for me. There were also a few fieldfares and skylarks flying overhead. The swans that were awake were all mutes but eventually the sleeping one woke up and showed itself to be a yellow-billed swan. However it looked like a whooper swan to me rather than a Bewick's so I made a couple of calls to JC (who hadn't actually looked that closely and would come back) and the original finder (who had only seen it very distantly the previous day). All the swans had moved down into a dip so that they were hidden from sight from the road side by the time JC returned so we walked down into the field behind a hedge to get a better view. From there we saw a flock of about 50 mute swans and the whooper (which it definitely was) at the back of the flock. I took a few photos and then we left the birds to their grazing.

The Cote whooper swan

I later heard from the original finder that the bird that he'd seen the previous day had been smaller than the whooper so there may in fact have been two birds present though unfortunately there was no sign of either bird the next day.

On the way back we stopped off at Dix Pit where apart from the usual ducks there was the very unusual sight of a great northern diver there. Presumably it was one of the two Farmoor birds, which had hopped over to Dix for a change. Two kingfishers also gave a brief but dazzling view as they flew past.

Finally there is a belated tick for a ruddy duck which I saw at the previous month at Dix Pit. At the time I had scoped the bird distantly from across the Pit in rather hazy viewing conditions. The size, brown colouring and white markings across the cheek looked correct as did the pointy-up tail and it was diving frequently as they tend to do. The only thing which made me hesitate was that instead of it appearing to have very little neck, it had a long stretched out one. More recently I discovered a photo of a ruddy duck with its neck stretched out in just the manner that I saw. To back this up, there had been sightings of two ruddy duck at Dix throughout the month of January so I am now confident in giving myself the retrospective tick.

2009 National Year List
113 grey partridge 15/02/2009 Cote
114 whooper swan 15/02/2009 Cote
115 ruddy duck 24/01/2009 Dix Pit

2009 Oxon Year List
104 grey partridge 15/02/2009 Cote
105 whooper swan 15/02/2009 Cote
106 ruddy duck 24/01/2009 Dix Pit

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