… Britain’s rarest bird?

There are a couple of ‘exotic’ Pheasant species on the British list, in addition to the regular one seen in our countryside – and butcher’s shop windows! They are the rather grandly named Lady Amherst’s Pheasant, believed to have become established as a self-sustaining population in the 1900’s, along the Greensand ridge in Bedfordshire – having been released for shooting on the Woburn estate and Golden Pheasant, favouring pine woods with dense rhododendron under storey, with it’s traditional strongholds in Norfolk, Anglesey and South West Scotland. In recent years the populations of both Lady A’s and Golden are believed to have dwindled to single figures, with perhaps only a couple of ‘tickable’ individuals now surviving in the wild.

We managed to catchup with this male Golden Pheasant at the well known site in North Norfolk this morning. Arguably the rarest wild resident bird in Britain!

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With two new species added to the year list over the weekend I’m now within dribbling distance of the ultimate prize of 300. What will the next couple of weeks bring and what interesting/rare species will take me to that total? Watch this space…

Icelandic invaders

In the last two weeks a handful of the more diminutive of the ‘white-winged gulls’, Iceland Gull, have started to appear in the evening roosts on inland waters in the Midlands. We went in search of one yesterday at Hoveringham sailing pit in Nottinghamshire, with our birding pals Bob and Sue. It was a beautiful clear, crisp late afternoon when we arrived and the gulls, mostly Black-headed and Common, had already begun to assemble in their hundreds. After an hour or so of scanning the growing number of ‘large gulls’ Bob announced that he had an Iceland in his scope. Sure enough there was a newly arrived  juvenile/1st winter bird – quite pale with a hint of pink at the base of the bill, bathing and preening, towards the far side of the pit.

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Seen in the centre of these two rather distant digipics – Iceland Gull, which incidentally breed in Greenland and Canada but not Iceland, like it’s larger cousin Glaucous Gull are easily identified by all white wings and, in young birds, an overall ‘latte’ colouration. They are most safely separated from Glaucous by size, structure and the patterning of pale and dark on the bill.

Another species on the long road to 300!