Thursday, 18 November 2010

Grey Phalarope

I realise that I've not posted a blog entry for a while now. Unfortunately this has been because there's not been much to write about. I'm still visiting the Meadow each day and now that it's gull season I've been grilling the roost each day hoping for something interesting though so far yellow-legged gulls have been the best that I've been able to come up with. I was contemplating finally getting round to doing the last part of my Birding USA summer holiday report but fortunately you and I have both been spared this tedium by the events of yesterday evening.

I was out at the Meadow again for the last hour of daylight so I could check out the gathering gulls as well as the wader selection du jour. Whilst scanning through the birds I spotted something small grey and white fluttering about near some lesser black-backed gulls in the middle of the flood water. Given it's tiny size and colouring I was first wondering about a little gull but it was far too small for that. It was also an extremely long distance away and as it was nearing dusk there was not much light but I could make out from the way that it was moving that it was a phalarope species of some sort. Having recently seen the Wilson's at Dowdeswell I knew that it wasn't one of those but I was wondering (or perhaps just hoping) if it might be a red-necked rather than the usual grey. The latter seems to be an annual occurrence in Oxfordshire, well at least in the last few years. Unfortunately it was so far away that I couldn't really see much detail. I tried taking some video footage but that wasn't really helping so in the end I cranked the scope up to x60 and zoomed right in on the camera so the total magnification must have been well over x200. I managed to track it for a short while but it was rather flighty and kept flying off a short distance before resuming its manic feeding. After a while I lost track of it and couldn't find it again so I went back to grilling the gulls (one or two yellow-legged again but little else of note).

Back in the comfort of my study I went through the video footage and thought that it was probably a grey phalarope but uploaded it to youTube and send Ian Lewington (the Oxon county recorder) a link in case he wished to contradict me and tell me that actually it was a red-necked. Unfortunately this was not the case though a grey phalarope on the patch is still a nice find, especially at this time of year when there's not much else around apart from the usual winter birds. I noticed that there were a few other grey phalaropes seen yesterday about the country so there was clearly a small overland passage going on.

The videograb record shot of the grey phalarope. Given the magnification and the gloom it's come out remarkably well.

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