A headline in my newspaper confirmed what I have noticed over the years – ‘A fifth of British birds vanish in just fifty years!’ That’s something like forty four million breeding birds!
Sparrows, starlings and wrens plus many more native species are in decline but there has been a measurable increase in the numbers of chaffinch, great spotted woodpeckers and Buzzards.
One rare bird I was fortunate enough to see as a winter visitor to these parts was a long-tailed duck. They breed further north in the tundra and it is estimated that less than one hundred will visit our shores. Most of those that do come are to be found on the north-east coastline.
I was on a walk out past the lifeboat station to Torr’s Point on the Dee Estuary. Then carried on from the rocky point untill a left turn by the boundary fence with the Army firing range took me to a very small muddy loch behind those trees at the top of the rise where I spotted a single male long-tailed duck on the loch in the company of several others of a different species —
With the benefit of hindsight it’s companions may have been females of the breed as they don’t have the luxuriant tail feathers and are quite plain in comparison. As luck would have it the birds took off before I got my camera into focus and that male long-tailed duck in flight was a never-to-be-forgotten sight with it’s exiotic tail and wing feathers flapping in jig-time as it followed it’s more nimble mates. I’ve crept up to that small loch a few times since but haven’t had another sighting.
Thanks to Stan Wojik for the use of his photos in ‘Rare Birds’.