Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Grey Phalarope.

Well for starters the pic doesn't match the title but not to worry, this is an 'small' image of a juvenile Wilsons Phalarope as I have none of the bird of the title. Thanks to David Baker for the photograph.

I've been searching my records again which never fails to give me material for the blog when I'm in need of a filler in the gap when I'm off the birding road and this time I came across the record of a Grey Phalarope I found at Heysham Harbour on Saturday 5 November 2005. The bird I saw as the Grey Phalarope in its non-breeding plumage becomes the Red Phalarope of the North in its stunning breeding colours. This truly pelagic bird spends almost its entire life at sea being found mainly off the coast of South Africa and western South America coming to land only to nest.

The Grey Phalarope migrates entirely over the sea as opposed to the other two species of phalarope which will migrate over land. Birds arrive at their breeding grounds in late May and once the eggs are laid the male undertakes the incubation and some females are known to leave the breeding area as early as July not many weeks after arriving there. 

The very first record of this species in Britain was in 1757 at Warley Clough near Halifax in Yorkshire, sadly like many birds of the era it had been shot, thankfully in the 21st century this kind of attitude towards birds is now mainly confined to the shooting fraternity who take out game birds in the name of sport, unfortunately there remain some amongst us who still kill birds purely as an act of persecution.

Records these days average around 200 per year and British records are usually of single birds but in 1960 huge numbers were reported from around Britain and Ireland examples of which are, circa 1,000 off the Scillies, 700 off Torquay in Devon, and 500 from Cape Clear in Co Cork.

One of this birds most curious behaviour is that of its feeding whereby it spins in tight circles on the surface of the water to stir up invertebrates. Studies have shown that they tend to spin clockwise when feeding in groups, but individuals may spin both anti and clockwise but the latter is almost always the favoured method. 

What truly amazing creatures birds are and what truly mind boggling things they do.

And finally....

My birding friend Colin Bushell - and yours - has recently returned from his latest trip this time to Colombia, above is the Highland Motmot one of the many bird species he connected with on this birding tour. Please take a look at Ribble To Amazon to see many more of his photographs and comments on his trips in foreign parts and elsewhere. Thanks for the use of your images past present and future Colin.

This time definitely finally....461 White Wagtails on Hesketh Out Marsh today, an unprecedented record by many a mile!

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