Monday, 28 March 2016

28th March 2016 Birling SW9 8am - 8.45am & Pulborough Brooks RSPB

Storm Katie duly arrived overnight although the associated rain had ceased earlier than forecast. In difficult conditions at Birling in 45 minutes we saw just c.30 Common Gulls pass eastwards and a couple of Fulmars offshore over the stormy seas. A text from Matt Eade alerted us to the continued presence of Gordon Beck's American Wigeon at Pulborough RSPB so after a quick look at Newhaven Harbour where not a single Gull was present on the sandblasted beach we headed west. We joined Bob Self and Bernie Forbes in West Mead Hide from where the drake American Wigeon spent most of its time asleep along the bank of the far side of the pool. 
Common Gull c.30 E
Pulborough Brooks RSPB
American Wigeon 1 first-summer drake
First-summer drake American Wigeon at Pulborough RSPB
Despite not ideal viewing conditions, on seeing the bird and considering the time of year, we were surprised at how insipid and lacking in contrast its headsides appeared and how little green it showed. We didn't see it flap so speculated this was likely age-related and suggestive of it being a first-summer? An online image search lends support as here's a first-summer drake photographed in February 1997 with an almost identical head-pattern:

First-summer drake American Wigeon, Santa Ana NWR, Texas (Kevin T. Karlson)
By way of contrast, here's an adult drake American Wigeon that I digisicoped with the same camera and scope in Japan in late February 2012:
Adult drake American Wigeon at Kuomoto, Japan