Posted by: mynaturaldiary | September 4, 2016

Eclipse Season

It’s the eclipse season. Not the astronomical kind, but the birding kind, when male ducks make a visual transition from the bright colours displayed in the breeding season to a more drab appearance at the end of the season. At the RSPB reserve the RSPB reserve at Saltholme, an eclipse female Tufted Duck can be seen, to the top left of the photo below. Notice the bigger bill, and slight tuft towards the back of the head of this duck. In breeding plumage, the root of the bill is brown, but in eclipse plumage, this turns white. At the bottom right is a very similar looking bird, but this is a female Scaup. Notice the difference in bill shape and the dark patch at the end of the bill, and the abscene of a tuft, despite also having a white patch around the base of the bill.

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Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) (top left)

                                                       Scaup (Aythya marila) (bottom right)

They weren’t the only ducks on the reserve; the Wigeon are returning back in numbers.

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Wigeon (Anas penelope)

The males haven’t yet developed the signs of the bright yellow band they develop later, so they too are in eclipse.

The skeins of geese have also returned to the reserve.

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 Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

This all points towards autumn and thence winter, and yet a few refugees from the summer still linger. A few Common Tern haven’t ventured south yet.

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Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

Neither have the Swallows.

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Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Both these birds have a big journey south to Africa ahead of them.

In the case of one Swallow, it buzzed a passing Sparrowhawk, keeping it moving.

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Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)

That wasn’t the only predator. A female Kestrel passed close by.

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Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

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You can tell from the tail feathers that it’s a female, being barred, rather than slate grey with a broad dark band at the end if male. Also the head in the picture above is camouflaged; for a male Kestrel it is grey.

On the water was an immature Great Crested Grebe.

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Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)

This is quite different looking to an Adult, with its pronounced crest.

Little Grebes were on the Main Pool.

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Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)

A special visitor, a Black necked Grebe was also on the Main Pool. It was in non breeding plumage.

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Black-necked Grebe  (Podiceps nigricollis)

Waders included Black-tailed Godwits.

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Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa limosa)

and a Lapwing chasing a Greenshank

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Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)

The Greenshanks were feeding on the waters of Phil Stead Hide.

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Greenshank (Tringa Nebularia)

Another tiny wader seen was a Little Stint.

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Little Stint (Calidris minuta)

This bird is a passage migrant, seen typically at this time of year.

A regular on the reserve is the Little Egret.

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Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

Needless to say that bill is used for hunting fish.

Finally, a distant Wheatear was seen close to Paddy’s Pool.

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Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)

This bird, like the rest of the summer migrants will soon be on its way south, ready to make way for the winter migrants.


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