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Monday, 6 June 2016

Blue- winged Teal at Carlton Marshes: My 1st Suffolk one since Bill Oddie's 1987 Minsmere bird

On Monday 6th June, ever since 9.30am when I had a BINS message (can't pick up my birding Twitter at work & I don't have a smartphone!) I had been waiting with baited breath to see if I was within a chance to twitch a great Suffolk bird and Lowestoft mega, a BW Teal. A great find by Andrew and my first Suffolk bird since Bill Oddie memorably found one on the East Scrape at Minsmere almost 30 years ago, way back in September 1987. I remember my visit there then that as I passed Bill Oddie walking along the western scrape path, he told me in passing without stopping, about the female Blue- winged Teal he had just found giving me brief but precise directions as to its location. I walked over and had good views of the bird then. Bill Oddie is a really great birder, true icon and national treasure, whose done so much to spread and engender a love of wildlife amongst the masses. He should be back on TV presenting wildlife, come on producers give him a series, please! But I digress. It was a fine sunny evening & I walked or rather half ran down the 1.5 miles going along the western walk of the reserve to the scrape (difficult to o carrying bins, scope tripod and a large camera bag on your back!) accompanied by Ian from Bradwell) and met Dick W on the way up who said the bird had been showing but had disappeared behind a grassy island. A few people were there including Paul & Jane F, just ahead of me (as always!!!) and regular correspondent Paul W. It was Paul who did really well in refinding it. The stunning male Blue- winged Teal, was over the far side and extreme right hand side initially. It was an absolute stunner of a bird with blue grey face cream with white "half moon" crescent skirting around the lores, bill and front of the face. It had clearly spotted brownish rear underparts & flanks and distinctive white circular area at its rear flank patch with black at the extreme back end of the body and a distinctive slightly pointed tail. When it was feeding, it upended frequently showing its white rear end and pointy tail. When it swim left it showed a more pronounced cream white crescent on the face than when it swam left, the crescent wasn't so obvious, starting to moult into eclipse plumage? It flapped its wings several times showing showing a full set of feathers and the distinctive pale sky blue forewing and green speculum. I managed a few "record shots" (please excuse the poor record shot but it was very distant!!) but digiscopers would do much better and I hope poor Jane finally managed to get some shots that she would be proud of. The shots showed me looked really good. It swam with the Gadwall (it was a smaller bird than this although slightly bigger than accompanying Teal) sometimes it would disappear behind a grassy island only to appear again swimming fast to the right. At one time it walked up a grassy bank and started pecking at the ground before swimming again in the water. Also seen on the scrape were 3 Lapwing juveniles almost fully grown, the adults were chasing off Grey Heron. Plus a fine Greenshank feeding over the farside once seen close to the BW Teal. Finally, a Barn Owl flew and hunted over the western meadows in bright sunshine concluding a memorable evening.

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