Saturday, 29 November 2008

A Freezing Morning's Duck Stroking

Myself and 13 other like minded people were at a VERY COLD Seaton Marshes this morning before daybreak to catch and ring wildfowl. It really was absolutely freezing and by the time we had finished three and a half hours later I was colder than I can remember being for a long, long time! My feet were so cold they were really painful, I could hardly walk and driving home was interesting with no discernable feet!! It was worth it though. I absolutely love ducks, I used to keep and breed various breeds of utility duck some years ago, have always had a soft spot for them and enjoy getting an opportunity to handle some wild ones. We used the cannon netting method and caught 130 ducks (Shelduck, Wigeon and Mallard) and two Moorhens and thankfully no Corvids making removal from the nets nice and smooth.

Waiting to be processed

We caught 15 Wigeon, some of which were re-traps, having traveled to Russia and back. It's a shame that most of our recoveries of ringed birds come from local 'sportsmen'. I'd never seen Wigeon in the hand before, they are so small and delicate, real cuties! Oops sorry! Just slipping into Robin Stroker mode there for a second. Here's a photo of a pair, it's a bit blurry I'm afraid, as were a lot of my photographic attempts today, the result of shivering most likely. Lots of shivering was in evidence all morning!!!

And also one of Fraser fitting a ring to a lovely little drake.

The cold northerly wind was a real problem making working really difficult, Fraser and Mike set up a superbly crafted windbreak thus:

Its amazing just how many of us could get behind this once it was in place

We also caught stacks of Mallards including this female. She was wearing quite an old ring, possibly from 3 or 4 years ago. Originally caught here in the Axe Valley but this is her first time as a re-trap.

An old friend

Here's another picture featuring a female Mallard, or so it would seem. If you look closely the wing pattern, the black line along the top of the blue wingbar should be as defined as the lower one. Aapparently the white in the lower edge of this black band indicates she has 'farmyard duck' genes! Shock Horror!!

We also caught a good number of Shelduck with a good proportion being fresh birds too.

Fraser and Steve examine the plumage

Enough Shelduck for everyone, they really are lovely birds.

All in all an interesting and enjoyable morning despite the biting cold! By mid-afternoon I'd thawed out enough to take the dog on the beach and have a quick look at the sea. I could see 57 Shelduck and 10 Common Scoter. Distantly visible at Seaton Hole was a lone birder. I think it was a Gavin Haig, very elusive on patch at the moment. If it was he, I suspect he may have counted differently to me, let me guess.... More than I saw I think....

Here's a view from The Yacht Club of Seaton Hole, with the mystery figure just about visible, honestly, would I lie!? He's just beneath and to the left of the small gabled building right in the centre of the picture. Go on open it, I guarantee you'll be disappointed!! :)

May be going off line for a while soon. The Trojan is still with us despite attempts to eradicate it. It looks like a format might be the only answer. Bad news. :((

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