I Chased a Duck around a Lake

Common Tern

Chew Valley to be precise, which is a big lake. And on the way I visited a Bird Fair and heard more early reed warblers, which I tried to turn into sedge warblers. It’s a close call sometimes. The sedge is truly manic but a reed warbler can have his inspired moments when it comes to variation and innovation.

The first of these singers was at Herriott’s Pool, where my migrant duck was supposed to be. I moved on to Stratford Bay, which was largely quiet until one seabird that didn’t behave like a gull appeared about a kilometre out. Then another. Then four. I wasn’t expecting these, being a whole twenty days earlier (that of course could have been the double exclamation title of this post) than my 2009 record at Willington in Derbyshire.

That they were terns wasn’t in any doubt and that some of them were definite common terns was clear. By now I was counting sixteen of them and certain individuals had the clean upper wing and sharper trailing edge of arctic tern. At that distance it was hard to be sure and in spring the common tern’s outer primaries are still fresh enough not to make much of a dark wedge. As a clincher none of the birds showed contrasting underparts so I think they were all commons. It would be way too early for arctic anyway, I’m sure.

Super. But I didn’t have my duck. I’d only ever seen three, at five year intervals, the last at RSPB Otmoor, also in 2009. Not even the long-staying ferruginous was showing although a few of the female tufted ducks tried to fool me by having pale-ish butts.

As a matter of course I stopped at Herons Green and there (wouldn’t you know it?) he was. A garganey. Close enough for scope filling views but not for my camera. Never mind: the picture here is better than I could ever manage. Bird number 153 for Somerset too. It’s turning into quite a good county.

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