8 Nov 2013

8 Nov 13 - Mystery Bird Photo

For a bit of fun, here is a photo of the best bird that I saw today, ignoring any species I've seen earlier this week. No prizes for identifying it (as I've given the answer further down this post). Photographed living wild in a wood within Poole Harbour.
Mystery Photo (answers below)
But first back to earlier in the morning. Joined Marcus Lawson at Brands Bay to see the Surf Scoter again, but it was distant. Rain soon set in and Marcus & I just made it to the hide, before it got seriously heavy. Eventually, braved the rain as the Surf Scoter got closer, but wasn't able to improve on the photos on yesterday's blog.

Moving on to the nearby Middle Beach car park on the seaward side of Studland, just as the rain finally stopped. Cracking views of Old Harry at the North Eastern end of the Ballard Down. Old Harry is a full height chalk rock stack, but is hidden behind the left hand grass topped stack. The small chalk rock stack at the far left hand side of the photo is Old Harry's Wife. This is a view I never tire of seeing.
Old Harry Rocks: from Middle Beach, Studland
Old Harry Rocks: A close up of Old Harry's Wife
Old Harry Rocks: from Peveril Point, Swanage (taken in Aug 2011)
Old Harry Rocks: A close up of Old Harry
The area of Studland Bay from Knoll Beach South to Old Harry Rocks is the best wintering ground for Black-necked Grebes in the UK. No pictures today as they weren't close in, but numbers starting to build up with 17 on view along with 4 Common Scoter. My peak count has been 75 birds in Jan 2011, but a few days later Steve Morrison counted a stunning 80 birds at the evening roost.

Walked around Middle Beach, South Beach wood & the start of Ballard Down hoping to find a goodie such as a Yellow-browed or Pallas's Warbler. These Eastern birds are just about annual or very rare at Studland respectively, with the best chances of finding one by checking all the birds hanging around in the local Tit flocks. No joy, but several Goldcrests in each flock, including this hyperactive bird.
Goldcrest: They frequently hover to pick small insects off leaves
Having failed to find anything more unusual than a Firecrest (& that's fairly expected at this time of the year) & carried on to explore some private woodlands within Poole Harbour. So back to the mystery photo. It's a male Reeves's Pheasant.
Male Reeves's Pheasant: sulking under a dense conifer wood. The wings look much too big for the body
The BOU (British Ornithological Union) which maintains the official British List places Reeves's Pheasant in Cat E* (covering species recorded as introductions or escapees from captivity and whose breeding populations are thought not to be self-sustaining, with the * confirming they have bred in the wild in Britain). Therefore, sadly I can't tick it (as the only categories that can be ticked are Cat A (fully wild) or C (viable, self sustaining populations). I'm not old enough to be tick anything in Cat B (last wild record was pre 1958).

Reeves's Pheasant originate from East & Central China & it's a bird I've yet to see tickably in the world. Although I've made a couple of trips to China & Tibet, it hasn't been a bird I had a realistic chance of seeing on those trips. But will be a good excuse to return.
 Reeves's Pheasant: Stretching its wing
Reeves's Pheasant: After a long wait, it finally emerged from the dark conifer wood
Reeves's Pheasant: The tail is much longer than the body. The body is about 50 cm, but the longest tail feathers can be as long as 160 cm
Reeves's Pheasant: Check out the spurs on the legs
I've no idea of the history of these birds. I would be really interested to hear any details of when & how they were introduced locally, how many there are, are they still being introduced & whether they are breeding in the wild. But there are both males and females locally, they are shy, wary birds. The local population is probably larger than of Lady Amhurst Pheasants in the UK, which are still on the BOU Cat C List (i.e. tickable introduced species). This is a species I run into on only a handful of occasions in any year & I always enjoy seeing them.

 Anyway, I've heard that people can make good money leading tours to private locations to see Lady A's in the UK, so will be happy to quote for private tours to see these cracking birds. I will even throw in a certificate on seeing one, giving my permission to allow you to tick it on your British List. Happy to give a discount to any members of the IQ40 club who have an up to date membership when they book on a tour.

Finished the afternoon off with a couple of heathland favourites.
Dartford Warbler