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Friday, 9 January 2009

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup: 12th November – 28th December 1994

Back in the 1990s I regularly watched the Edward Richardson Reserve on the northern edge of Lechlade, just over the border in Gloucestershire. It constituted two main pools, one with extensive dead trees close to housing on the southern side and a more open, less disturbed pool overlooked by a hide. The reserve remains largely unchanged to this day, although the old ramshackle hide has gone and it is further hemmed in by housing. During autumn the muddy edges to the main pool attracted waders, and in winter the open water was often frequented by teal and a few diving duck. On 12th November I made a quick stop at the hide late afternoon on the way home and immediately picked out what appeared to be a drake Lesser Scaup with the tufties and pochards. In those days this was a very rare bird indeed, with just six previous records so the identification needed plenty of time, careful note taking and expert input from Jon King and Ian Lewington to ensure that the more likely hybrid candidates were fully excluded. Luckily it stayed at the reserve over the next few days enabling the identification to be clinched, including views of the all important upperwing pattern and bill detail. On 15th November it was seen to roost at nearby Little Faringdon GP which is on the right side of the county boundary thus becoming the first record for Oxon as well as Glos!

During the latter part of its stay the bird ranged more widely out into the eastern section of the Cotswold Water Park to the west of Lechlade as well as occasional forays back onto the Little Faringdon GP, you had to be quick (or make many visits) to catch up with it in the county! Accepted by BBRC as the 7th record for Britain.

Stuart Thomson

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