Saturday, 2 December 2017

White-crowned Black Wheatear and a lovely Red-necked Phalarope

It was going to be a normal day today, doing the gulls. That is until early evening yesterday, when news started to surface about a White-crowned Black Wheatear in North Lincolnshire - the second for Britain and the first since 1982. The location eventually firmed up, and there were photos of the bird so it was an easy decision to be able to go. Obviously December on northwesterlies isn't an ideal time of year, and so there was the acknowledgement that it may not be a wild bird; especially considering birds in Germany/The Netherlands in recent years had been deemed escapes from captivity. But, with nothing else planned, then why the heck not head up despite any misgivings...

And there we were just after dawn, walking about a typically Scunthorpe-like area of Scunthorpe in a typically fringe of society way, just like the pursuit of twitching tends to dictate! No sign of the target bird first thing, but the finder was about and was lapping up the 100 or so birders and showing us all his photos from the day before. Certainly no rings, so that was a good thing. The urban environment wasn't perhaps ideal, but the snow could have forced it in and that said, I've seen the species regularly in Moroccan settlements. As people spread out more and more, it seemed as though locals had been seeing the bird for a couple of weeks, had taken photos and... the keeper, who had lost the bird, had come to try and catch it. So case closed?
escaped adult White-crowned Black Wheatear Scunthorpe, Lincs 2nd December 2017
I'm afraid it was. Although a bit sketchy and being 80 years old, the owner did confess that he'd lost a White-crowned Black Wheatear. A short while after the chain of conversations had been connected, the target bird did appear - on a house window sill, where it sat nodding itself to sleep rather forlornly. We left shortly afterwards, but it didn't take much longer for the bird to be recaptured and return for its rightful(?) owner.

So what have I learnt from this experience? Not much I already didn't know - all sorts of nonsense species are kept in captivity and the good old adage 'if something seems too good to be true, then it probably is'.

And so that was that. Time for a real bird, and with Dante S in tow, we headed to Covenham Reservoir and its extremely late juvenile Red-necked Phalarope. It had been 22 years since I'd last been here, a day in November 1995 when my mum drove me and Tom Lowe there on the way back from Spurn to see a Grey Phalarope and Great Northern Diver. Like the previous visit, this time was a success too: -

juvenile Red-necked Phalarope Covenham Reservoir, Lincs 2nd December 2017
It is ridiculous to think this bird hasn't moulted into first-winter plumage!

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