Couple of weeks ago I visited my parents and convinced them that going to Far Ings and trying to see a Fudge Duck would likely be the best fun they’d ever had. It probably helped that I described a Ferruginous Duck as being almost the size of a Mute Swan and patterned with various iridescent colours.
Far Ings was pretty quiet when we arrived, and the visitor center had only been open for a few minutes. The gentleman in the center informed me that no one had yet reported the fudgy rascal, but there were a couple of people looking for it on the pit at the right-hand side of the approach road. We wandered down the road, checking the pit whenever there was a gap in the hedge. About halfway down we spotted a couple of chaps looking over the pit. I asked if they had seen anything, and one replied that he had been watching the Fudge only a few minutes ago, associating with the tufties. I had a half-hearted scan with the bins, but the sun was at a rather awkward angle. I decided to walk a few meters down the road and look back at the ducks, so the sun would be at a better angle for viewing. The group of tufties were further away, but much clearer. All was left was to spot the Ferruginous Duck. Now, the description of a Fudge I gave above was a complete lie, and for those that don’t know, a Fudgy looks very similar to eclipse tufties. There are a reasonable amount of differences, but the ones I found most useful were eye colour and head shape. Now the light was at a better angle, it was quite easy to see the eyes of the tufties glinting orange. Ferruginous Ducks, or to call them by their other name of ‘White-Eyed Pochard’, have white eyes, and so it was a simple matter of looking through the ducks for the one whose eyes glinted white. Once I’d spotted that, the head shape (slightly peaked) could be distinguished from the tufties, as well as the lack of tuft. The duck also had a general rusty colour about it, which was subtle but distinct. I was lucky really that it was sunny enough to see the eyes so clearly.
Below is a picture of how the scene roughly looks in my memory (note that the Fudge duck was actually in eclipse, not breeding plumage as in the interpretation below):
A wander round the rest of the reserve revealed a flock of Long-Tailed Tits, an oak completely covered in Knopper Galls, and my second skein of Pink-Footed Geese this autumn. We stopped back off at the visitor centre for a picnic and a communal magnum lolly.
At this point I was struck by an amazing idea – I would contact Robert, and Robert, using his RBA subscription (dirty twitcher that he isn’t) could inform me of any delights in the local area. I forget the exact sequence of events that happened next, but I do remember getting a text from Robert that said, in stark pixelated words, ‘Get the fuck to Spurn’. Luckily my dear mother obliged.
To cut a long story short, I saw at least three different Yellow-Browed Warblers, Pied Flycatcher, and, the undoubted highlight, my first Red-Breasted Flycatcher. The Red-Breast was an utter tyke. I hung around the Crown & Anchor for an hour or so from about midday with no luck seeing it, so we went and explored the point and saw eight Common Lizards (last of the year?) and were pleased to find that the lighthouse was open to the public. The view from the top of the lighthouse was delightful, and far outshone the ‘exhibition’ of ‘art’ that was ‘displayed’ inside for people to ‘enjoy’ (I didn’t think much of the ‘art’). We eventually got back to the Crown & Anchor at about half five where a few people were still looking for the bird. As time passed, however, they slowed dissipated, leaving me alone in the car park. Time ticked on. I looked at my watch and decided to give up at six and get into the car to leave (mum and dad were waiting for me, after all). The appointed hour inched ever closer and on the dot of six I was stood next to the car with my hand on the handle, ready to get in. Just then my phone beeped, it was Robert, asking ‘seen anything good?’ in that snide way of his. I cursed him internally. Yes, I had seen some nice birds, but I really wanted to see that Red-Breasted Flycatcher. I looked back up into the trees. Movement! I lifted my binoculars and the Red-Breast came into view. I tapped on the window of the car and luckily the bird hung around in the open for a couple of minutes allowing my parents to see it. Cracking little rascal.
Amusingly my dad has seen at least four birds that Robert hasn’t. Rough-Legged Buzzard amongst them.