Drake American Wigeon off the Leisure Centre
Chris Townend found the American Wigeon off the Leisure Centre this morning, and kindly phoned me. I shot down there and enjoyed better views than I had on the 26th, in better light. This morning's views highlighted some huge inadequacies in my original field notes. Most notably the presence of several purplish-pink adult-type feathers on the breast and lower flanks. Looking at my original photos they appear as darker areas. Chris also managed to get some video footage and some flight shots that may finally enable us to age it correctly. Chris's instructive photos can be seen here. Pointers to it being a moulting juvenile bird include the 'v'-shaped tail feathers, the grey feathering on the median and lesser coverts and the buff edges to the tertials (white in eclipse drake I think....). The strikingly patterned lower scapular feathers were seen more clearly today. They are dark brown feathers, internally marked with neat golden-buff spots. From what I've read these are more likely adult-type feathers.
Nick managed to get down just in time to see the bird but for no apparent reason the flock took flight and moved further out in to the estuary.
Thank you for all your help this morning Chris. Great photos and great to see you as always.
I looked for it again this evening with Dave Stone but without success, although we did see the Black Brant.
On a sad note, Lu and I found this freshly dead juvenile Great Black-backed Gull whilst we were out walking the dog this afternoon. It was upriver from Mudbank, nearly as far up as West Lodge. It has a white darvic ring which, from memory, I think comes from a Portland ringing scheme. I couldn't work out how it had died but some yellow plastic around its leg might offer some clues, although this alone wouldn't have been enough to kill it.
Smoke from the big fire in Exeter was visible from Exmouth today. The Wigeon and Brents were spread out across a wide stretch of the river this evening making the task of locating the American Wigeon a daunting one.