Saturday 1 March 2014

A Long-tailed Duck in the West Midlands

The 'Battle of Oldsquaw'
The Maggot-Drowners vs The Twitcherazzi
Photo By Adam Archer

The Long-tailed Duck is a very scarce but regular visitor to the West Midland region during the winter period and it is always worth a quick visit if there is one nearby. The species breeding habitat is predominantly the tundra pools and marshes as well as the sea coasts and mountain lakes of the North Atlantic, northern Europe, Russia, northern Canada and Alaska. During the winter months the species migrates south throughout coastal northern Europe, Asia, along both the east and west coasts of North America and around the Great Lakes region. The most important wintering site however is the Baltic Sea where over four million birds congregate.

The setting of an urban park north of Birmingham seems a pretty unlikely setting for such a coastal specialist however they are not quite as fussy as you might think. It is a species that has even turned up on my local patch at Alvecote Pools on several occasions however I have yet to see one there. Amazingly an adult drake graced the patch with its presence during the summer of '69 (as Bryan Adams would say) from the 28th June to the 13th July and a group of four birds were present on the 13th November 1983, the joint maximum count for the region. 

Long-tailed Duck (first-winter male)
Powell's Pool, Sutton Park National Nature Reserve, West Midlands
Photo by Dave Hutton

I caught up with a female Long-tailed Duck last week, just up the road at Alrewas Pits in Staffordshire, however that particular individual was not quite as obliging as the Sutton Park bird. This first-winter male loafed around totally unconcerned just a few metres away despite the noisy, weed-smoking anglers, the barking bull terriers and the stone-throwing youngsters. Unfortunately standards seemed to have slipped around the park since the 1520's when the hunting rights for the area came into the possession of King Henry VIII. If only he was still around today to keep an eye on how the local townsfolk abused the National Nature Reserve and Scheduled Ancient Monument. I am sure heads would roll.  

Long-tailed Duck (first-winter male)
Powell's Pool, Sutton Park National Nature Reserve, West Midlands
Photo by Dave Hutton

Over the past decade there have been just three sightings of Long-tailed Duck in the West Midlands County, these are listed as follows:

2014 - Sutton Park National Nature Reserve - first-winter male - 23rd February to present
2005 - Marsh Lane Nature Reserve - immature female - 20th November 2004 to 5th January 2005
2004 - Bartley Reservoir - immature female - 31st October to 12th November

No comments:

Post a Comment