19 October 2014

Young eyes

OK, so I'm no Ian Wallace*. But I had thought my ID skills would remain better than my young son's for a few years yet...

So it was something of a surprise when, as I guided him around the view from Brandon's East Marsh hide with the words "...and there on the far island you can see three greylag geese...", I received the reply: "well that one's not!"

To be fair, he was using the scope and I just a pair of bins; the bird was also well hunkered down as I scanned it and had decided to pop its head up when he got to it.

But perhaps just as pertinently he was using a child's mind - fresh, open and endlessly enquiring - while I was using a considerably older brain which is perhaps slightly more likely to see things as it has seen things before, rather than as they really are. I suspect there's a lesson there for us all.

What he had so rightly pointed out was that my third greylag in fact looked nothing like a greylag; hardly suprising with it in fact being an egyptian goose (library photo, left).

Now, in some eyes this would be a modest find: an egyptian goose is not a super-rare bird; while it might have established a breeding population it's hardly a 'natural' incomer to our shores; and reports show that this one has been around at Brandon for a while (see report here).

But it is undeniably exotic looking, it's hardly frequent in my part of the world, and it was my son's first bona fide 'beat Dad to it' spot. In my book that makes it a pretty special find.

There were plenty of other good finds for a family morning at Brandon: as well as some fantastic bracket fungus (see picture) we enjoyed great views of a water rail (including a rarely seen flight) at the new Ted Jury hide; another sighting of that deceptively pale juvenile buzzard at same; a green sandpiper among the teal at Teal Hide; and, among the black-headed gulls on East Marsh, two lesser black back and two common gulls with their customary winter streaky heads.

Bird of the day: Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus), a relative of the shelduck originally kept in wildfowl collections; now there is an established UK breeding population with a population bias towards the east of the country.

*Many birders will know of D.I.M. Wallace, perhaps the grandest of grand old men of British birding; if you don't then do yourself a favour and beg, borrow, buy or steal a copy of his Beguiled by Birds - it's an extraordinary read.

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