Venus Pool - 23 Aug 16

This is the result of some two hours in the public hides at Venus Pool today. A fine day with good lighting from behind the hides. Some of the highlights you will see below are 3 Little Egrets; a juvenile Mediterranean Gull; and both Common and Green Sandpipers. And would I leave out an opportunity to show a Kingfisher?

A ‘gaggle’ of geese – here all Greylags. They were muttering away to each other.

Very imperious!

And having a good stretch of one wing showing the very pale forewing that is very obvious in flight.

And a different bird showing the upper and under- wings.

This bird is beginning to fold a wing away.

Looks quite complex but all seems to go back in place.

Several of the Greylag Geese had these rather unattractive neck rings. I was told that these had been put on birds breeding in Yorkshire. The theory is they are easier to see and read than leg rings. The birds also have metal BTO rings. What potential mates will make of the adornment is to be worked out I guess.

And here are two more.

Two of the juvenile Greylags were very tame and would allow you to stroke them! Here they are on the boardwalk at the back of the hide, oblivious to humans. The bills are less orange and with a pinkish wash at this age.

This shows the difference in bill-colour between adult and juvenile Greylag Geese. The plumage is significantly different as well, this juvenile lacks stripes on the flanks. More basic even the feathering on the back is quite different and it lacks the eye ring of the adult. I think this is from a more recent brood than many of the juveniles present.

A Greylag majestically takes to the air.

Two Canada Geese step it out. Would not win any synchronised walking award though.

The end of this island is often used by loafing Cormorants, as here.

There were three Little Egrets today, often hiding behind vegetation. Here we can see the yellow feet that is one sure way to eliminate any other species of egret (apart from the New World equivalent, the Snowy Egret). The birds are now out of breeding plumage: in season the bare skin in front of the eye turns from blue-grey to a reddish colour.

Stepping out with the aigrettes (plumes) on its back and neck blowing in the wind.

A landing shot shows the full extent of the yellow on the feet / legs. Greylag Geese look / snooze on.

Another landing shot: here we see the wing ‘stalled’ with the alula extended (the small feathers at the front of the bend in the wing) to provide directional control.

From this angle we see the underside of the feet are less yellow – they are bright yellow in Snowy Egret (though often, in practice, grey where birds have been feeding in mud).

This was behaviour I had not seen before: seems to be taking a rest and using its bill as a prop. There was nothing else about its demeanour to suggest that it was unwell.

A few minutes later looked alert-enough.

... and began to preen, getting in to a strange contortion.

 ... and again.

Some bits can be hard to reach.

Need a good shake after a preen.

And you then need to get all the wing feathers in line ...

Just the very bill-tip showing here between primaries 3 and 4.

This was definitely the odd-one-out of the trio of Egrets. It almost always had its neck stretched with a hint of a kink, recalling a Great White Egret. Its yellow feet indicated otherwise but it also had yellow on the bend of the leg which is potential indication of Snowy Egret. The colour of the bare skin eliminates that species. Just an ‘odd’ bird.

Here we see a juvenile Moorhen stepping it out. behind it a drake Mallard that is rapidly gaining breeding plumage with new barred feathers along the flanks and more almost sprouting.

Just look at those long toes on Moorhen.

Many Lapwings look rather ‘messy’ at this time of year: I suspect this is a juvenile moulting in to adult plumage.

This Lapwing having a wash. Retains a surprisingly glossy-green look even with a purple-flush.

Here is a dryer bird.

Another wader seen today was this Common Sandpiper. The pale fringes on all the feathers tell us it is a juvenile.

This just about got away: it is a Green Sandpiper but ... I had to check why the ‘arm-pits’ look so barred. All my books show this area as ‘dark’. There are however several photos on the web of birds that look like this. [Greylag Goose behind].

Unfortunately I was unable to get another clear shot of this bird as it was only momentarily flushed from cover when a Grey Heron landed nearby. But there is no doubt over its identity.

The markings are unmistakably Snipe: but ... where is its head? It was facing directly away and preening its breast.

Now we can see it is a Snipe and it scratches its chin.

And apparently has a drink.

Because it is an action-shot it is not quite sharp but I have included it as it shows how the Snipe can open just the tip of its bill to grab food when it is probing in soft ground.

Something I did not notice at the time: this Black-headed Gull is wearing both a numbered ring and a metal BTO ring. Need to track down where it is from. A bird fledged this year.

Also a juvenile – we can see the brown coverts on the inner wing. Note too the black feathers on the leading edge of the wing next to the white alula.

And seen here just as the feathers all go back in place.

This adult Black-headed Gull still has remnants of breeding plumage on its head even if the wing-tips show it is moulting those feathers.

This was a surprise: I took the shot of what seemed to be an unusually well-marked Black-headed Gull and only when I did so did I notice it had a rather thick all-black bill. This is a juvenile Mediterranean Gull – perhaps my first-ever of this age: and my first record of this species this year. A species that is increasing in the UK and now an established breeding bird, often starting in Black-headed Gull colonies where hybrids are not unknown. A juvenile Common Gull would have a greyer belly, a round-looking head, and the eye would look more staring as it lacks the white eye-lids.

A near-adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, probably a 3rd summer bird. The bill has some black at the edge of the red spot and the sides of the breast has some spotting. The winter spotting this species acquires is largely confined to the head with it reaching only as far as the neck.

Eventually one of two Kingfishers did the right thing and landed on the stick provided for just that purpose, right in front of the hide.

This one, like the Aqualate bird, was also checking for flying fish!

A Kingfisher up a tree: whatever next.

This Carrion Crow must, I think, be a juvenile. The top of its head and feathering around the bill looks distinctly fuzzy. Note also there is some white in the wings. This species is prone to patches of white especially in the wings.

An immature Blackbird rooting about in the wood-chippings around the woodland hide. Still a hint of yellow in its gape.

Different immature: no yellow gape on this one.

This Greenfinch inside the feeder cage was showing the effects of a tick. Look at the swelling on the side of the face and behind that the blood capsule. The bird seemed alert and active-enough despite this.

(Ed Wilson)