Saturday, 6 February 2010

Rescuing Gulls & Chasing Smew

Not much to report of late. I had been intending to take another of my "Grand Day's Out" to Norfolk but first the weather forecast was for heavy rain (inaccurately as it turned out) and then I came down with a nasty cold so I've had to postpone that until next week. In the mean time things have been rather quiet. Last weekend I took L on my regular Saturday morning shopping trip via Dix Pit for a quick look around. There were plenty of wigeon, teal, shoveler and hundreds of coots, modest numbers of pochrd and tufted duck and hidden in amongst the submerged tree branches were six red-crested pochards, four drakes and two ducks. Not many gulls on the water but I could distantly see quite a few on the tip itself.

After finding the knot last week a few days later when the sun actually came out I went back to see if I could get some better photos. Fortunately they obliged and I was able to get a couple of good shots from across the river. Whilst I was there I met Jeremy Paxman, who I understand used to live in Oxford though he now lives somewhere outside the city itself. He was interested in my birding activities and asked me a few questions though he was rather ignorant on the subject himself and didn't even know a moorhen from a coot for example. He was happy to looking through my bins at the knot though and asked a few questions about lapwings and curlews. He also told me a story about Ken Clark, a keen birder, crawling around in the bushes looking at some LBJ only for his wife to point out that it was a sparrow.

All five knot posing for a group photo...

...and one of them on its own.

There have been a few drake smew sightings in the county and I've chased a couple up with not much success. Four drakes were seen on the Allen Pit at Dorchester at the start of the week so the next day I went down to take a look. Much of the pit was frozen over and all the birds were concentrated in the unfrozen southern end but despite careful scanning there were no smew to be seen. The day after I got a call from Jason Coppock to say that a pair of smew were on his local patch at Thrupp Lake at Radley. I had a few things to do at home but mid morning I went down for a look. Despite careful looking I couldn't see any smew but as I was leaving I drove along the north shore road, pulled in and looked from the car behind the islands on the lake. Sure enough there was the red-head but no sign of the drake. When I got back home I saw on Bird Guides that they had been reported as having flown off shortly before I set off so the red-head must have come back again.

Once I'd come down with my cold I didn't go out for a couple of days. In fact I think that all that standing around in the cold looking for smew was probably what gave it to me in the first place. However, after a couple of days I was getting twitchy to see what was about and when I heard a report of a ruddy shelduck that had been seen on Port Meadow the previous day I decided that cold or no cold I should get down there. There wasn't much to be found that day, with a couple of common shelduck being about the pick of the bunch but I did see a rather forlorn lesser black-backed gull on the far side of the floods sitting there half submerged with a few interested crows starting to gather round. I had half a mind to let nature take its course but something about the sorry state of the bird struck a chord with me so I went home and got my wellies and waded out to it. It's wings seemed ok but it didn't appear to be able to stand so perhaps both its legs were broken. Being in the cold water was obviously taking its toll and it didn't really put up any resistance when I picked it up.

The injured gull was incapable of moving and just sat there half submerged in the water
I stuck it in this bag in order to take it home.

I brought the bird home and rang St. Tiggywinkles who said that they would be happy to take the bird. I have in the past taken injured birds to the local vets but I do wonder just how much care and attention they actually get whereas all the staff at St. T's seemed genuinely to care about the bird. I'm going to ring up in about a week to see what happened to it though to be honest I wouldn't be too surprised to hear that it had succumbed as it was in a bit of a sorry state. The bird was ringed so I reported it and was amazed to get a very prompt response - my last submission of a little egret last summer took weeks to get any sort of response back at all. The gull had been ringed at a landfill site in Gloucestershire just over two years ago and seen periodically within the same county ever since. This might have been its first foray into another county - something it'll not repeat again in a hurry if it lives to tell the tale.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - ring Blue CPK [Adult]

Ringed 15/12/07 SGD Stoke Orchard landfill site, Gloucestershire. 51.56N 02.06W
Sighted 19/11/08 JDS Grundons landfill site, Gloucestershire (2 km, N, 340 days)
Sighted 09/12/08 JDS Priding, Gloucestershire (26 km, SW, 360 days)
Sighted 11/08/09 JDS Gloucester landfill site, Gloucestershire (16 km, SW, 1 yr 239days)
Sighted 18/12/09 JDS Grundons landfill site, Gloucestershire (2 km, N, 2 yrs 3days)
Injured 04/02/10 AH Port Meadow, Oxfordshire (60 km, ESE, 2 yrs 51days)

Just a few ticks to add to the year lists by way of record keeping. I hope next time to be able to report on my Grand Day Out to Norfolk - fingers crossed!

Oxon Year List 2010
087 red-crested pochard 30/01/2010 Dix Pit
088 shelduck 31/01/2010 Port Meadow
089 grey wagtail 03/02/2010 Radley

National Year List 2010
094 grey wagtail 03/02/2010 Radley

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