Wednesday 17 January 2024

Patch tick

I hadn't really thought I'd get a patch tick this year, and certainly not in January. Or maybe I hadn't spent much time considering it as any new birds are just so random these days. When I think about what we've had, and what my biggest gaps are versus some of the others who bird here, there is really nothing very obvious that sticks out. So it is all about rarities, and of course these can turn up at any time. Cold snaps, such as they one we are currently in, are often good, but the expectation here is a rare (but resident) wader, pushed off an icy field, lake or shoreline, and a high likelihood of it being a very brief flyover as we have no suitable habitat. The expectation is definitely not a Ferruginous Duck swimming about on a tiny pond as that would be ridiculous.

But that is what has just happened. No doubt a Fudge Duck can get pushed off a frozen lake just as a wader can, but this is random dialled up to 11. Where has it come from? (Who does it belong to?! Ha!) Actually it looks good, or as good as a Ferruginous Duck can. There are no traces of hybridism, there are no rings, and as yet it hasn't got involved in eating bread. Looking at BirdGuides the closest and most recent drake that hasn't subsequently been reported is a bird at end of last week in Nottinghamshire, 160 miles away. Could it be this one? There has been some very cold weather there. There is another one a bit closer, in Norfolk, but that's still there, or was on the morning that our one turned up. But for this bird, wherever it came from, to end up on the smallest and most accessible pond in Wanstead is just crazy! I mean the chances of cold weather displacing any individual bird are exactly the same, rarity or resident, but in that case where are the 100 Pochard and 250 Tufties? Nope, just this one.

It's credentials are impossible to know and we will almost certainly never find out. In these situations I'd like to think it would get the benefit of any doubt. Regardless, it is a super find by Tim, and needless to say a first for the patch. It's my 168th bird here and I am within touching distance of another milestone! Jubilee Pond is tiny, and when the bird arrived was already about 75% frozen. It was thus limited to a much smaller area of open water and showed brilliantly, almost too well actually, but we are putting that down to the need to feed and there being no other option for it. All the wild Shoveler and other ducks are having to do the same.

Almost all the regular patch birders managed to see it, now we just have to see if stays. Part of me wants it to depart immediately so that it remains unblemished, but I'd like those few who have so far missed out to see it - this is a collective patch despite the competitive element. I managed a couple of brief photos late in the day in sub-optimal light. Not ideal, but on the plus side the bird was extremely close in to the edge.


  1. The bottom image clearly shows it is cross-eyed, a common trait in captive wildfowl...

    I jest, but I did see the Pied-billed Grebe that turned up at Tooting Bec Puddle some years back. That was absolutely no less crazy a bird than your Fudge Duck is. Great patch tick, I'm glad for you buddy!

    1. Cheers Seth, I am also pleased to report that it did the decent thing and buggered off immediately. Evans is trying to kill it from afar - naturally, as he didn't see it - but we've got a lot of high quality photos that show pretty much everything you need to see, and also don't show what you don't want to see.