A forgotten sparrow

I didn’t get much time to go out and about today and so decided to once again head for Lady Anne’s Drive to see what was about. There had been reports of a ruddy shelduck in with the hundreds of pink-footed geese – most probably escaped from a collection rather than wild, but you never know!

I forgot to add this photo of a female house sparrow, taken at Sculthorpe Moor, to yesterday’s blog – one forgets how lovely they can be!

One of the great things about birdwatching is never really knowing what you’re going to see, and also – for me – just getting really good views of birds you have seen a lot. So even though I have had great views of wigeon, lapwings and so on already this year, it’s still great to see them. I parked at the south end of the roadway and got out the telescope to start scanning through any geese I could see in search of the shelduck. After about a minute something – probably a raptor – made everything take wing. I was able to look at the geese in flight and managed – to my delight – to find the ruddy shelduck amongst the geese, as it’s black and white wing pattern and ruddy coloured breast and neck were very obvious in flight. I followed it until the bird landed and then, of course, lost it in among the geese and the vegetation.

So now I wandered up the drive every so often stopping to scan the geese. I saw marsh harriers, a red kite, some grey partridges and various waders, but searching amongst the geese was difficult as a lot of them were hidden by higher vegetation. I therefore headed toward The Lookout where there is a better vantage point from which to scan the marsh. There were a handful of other birdwatchers there who had not yet seen the shelduck, and so it was with a degree of satisfaction that I was able to find it after 10 minutes or so: It then played hide and seek amongst the grasses for a while before stepping out into the open for a couple of minutes of good views.

This is a bird often found in wildfowl collections. In the wild it should be in north Africa (we saw 30 or so in Morocco a few years ago) or the far east, but they do turn up in western Europe from time to time. It’s unlikely that this one will be accepted as a genuine record by the powers that be, but I’m going to add it to my 2023 UK list though, despite not knowing its provenance, as it was flying freely in the wild. I guess if December 31st comes along and I have exactly 200 on my 2023 UK bird list I might have to have a serious conversation with my conscience before celebrating my 200 species in a year!! I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it…..

Brenda writes: “I’d like to tell you about someone in my congregation at Wells who died a couple of weeks ago. His name was Chris Beale. He started his career working for the Wildfowl Trust, as it was then known, working alongside the legendary Peter Scott at Slimbridge. Then he worked for the Countryside Commission nurturing the environment in north Norfolk. That’s what brought him to Wells. But the thing that he was proudest of was The Midden. He bought what had been the tip on the edge of Wells and turned it into a veritable Eden, planting thousands of trees, and creating a place in which his family grew up and where his son still lives, and to which people can come to stay on the Caravan and Motorhome Club campsite they have there. I took his funeral today. He was buried at The Midden and was carried there, in a cardboard coffin, on the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway. It has to be the most unusual funeral I have taken and also a first for the undertakers, and it was absolutely right for a very special man whose vision created a very special place.”

New species for February 10th:
Birds: ruddy shelduck

Birds = 117
Moths = 3
Wildflowers = 15