Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The White Pheasant - a 2-Beaked Problem

On Tuesday we met at the largest car park in that part of the Yorkshire Wolds and shared cars to our ultimate location. We hadn't even completed parking up before we noticed at least 4 Red Kites perched in various trees. We looked over the gate and the whole place was crawling with a Fieldfare flock, which was interspersed with a few Redwing and even fewer Brambling. Also present were some a Goldfinches and some distant high Skylarks were passing overhead.
It was unusual for this site as there was virtually no wind. However, when it did start several of the Red Kites took to the air, and there was a fine aerial display with a couple of minor skirmishes, both between each other and with a passing Buzzard. After we'd enjoyed the spectacle for quite some time we walked back along the tarmac road we had arrived on. It didn't take us long to find several small birds feeding in the bushes and especially in the beech trees. These were mostly Blue Tits and Great Tits at first, but then we heard some very nasal calls, and then we noticed that several birds were coming down to some tiny puddles on the side of the road. Some of these were Tree Sparrows and Chaffinches, but even though the light was difficult it was possible to see that a third species was present, and in decent numbers: Bramblings. 
At first the light was atrocious and several class members couldn't see any detail, so we crept forward to get a closer view. Eventually the white rumps of birds flying in could be seen against the dark road surface and the remaining vegetation. Later, after being pointed out by Bridget, more details of these 'orange Chaffinches' could be made out. We were able to observe them for over half an hour, and later found a larger group among fallen leaves, feeding on the Beech mast. There may also have been a Marsh Tit among these birds, but it remained elusive, so we'll have to count that as the one which got away. A Jay flew in briefly, but was just a silhouette against the very bright sky, although it was heard calling later from deep inside the estate grounds.
As we reached a gateway there were more and more birds, but eventually they started flying off south, and when we returned at lunch time, they appeared to have vanished - the mystery of the disappearing Bramblings remains unexplained to this present day. Overall we saw more than 50 birds, the highest tally during 10 years the course has been running, but would we be able to locate any during the afternoon session. As I type this after my sandwiches I've heard a Pied Wagtail and several Jackdaws fly over.
In the afternoon the views of the Red Kies became even better. However, apart from an avalanche of flying pheasants behaving like aerial sheep, there wasn't so much of interest. The Bramblings were never see again. Meanwhile Chris Cox sent in his pic of a very strange white Pheasant... 

Red Kite (c) 2013 Chris Cox
 Red Kite (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Kites Buzzard & Kestrel? (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Buzzard (c) 2013 Chris Cox
 Buzzard (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Fieldfare (c) 2013 Maggie Bruce
 Female Brambling
 Male Brambling
 Fairies' Bonnets
 Red Kite
  Hen Pheasant
 White 2-Beaked Pheasant (c) 2013 Chris Cox

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