Ring-necked Duck at Burghfield Gravel Pits

30 Nov 2001 | Mike McCarthy

While engrossed in work on Friday 23rd November, Marek Walford called me to say that he was watching a Ring-necked Duck at Burghfield GPs and wanted someone else to confirm the sighting. After nearly falling off my chair with the shock of such a Berkshire rarity, I decided that such an occasion meant that work could wait! After a swift journey through the afternoon traffic along the M4 and through the lanes to Burghfield GPs, I arrived at Searles Lane. I quickly found Marek, who was still watching the bird in the large Tufted Duck flock.

It was surprisingly easy to pick out from the Tufted Ducks (despite being asleep when I arrived) due to the overall pale sandy brown colouration and the distinct white eye ring. Soon after, the bird rather obligingly woke up and the peaked rear crown, pale loral crescent and pale subterminal bill band, confirmed beyond doubt that it was a Ring-necked Duck. Later, the bird then became more active, diving on a couple of occasions and also flapping to show off the grey wing bar across the primaries and secondaries.

Marek had already made detailed notes and we concluded that it must be an immature bird because of its dark eye, lack of white "tear line", buffish fringes to the loral crescent, and the rather indistinct pale subterminal band on the bill. We were also both of the opinion that it was a female because of the overall sandy brown colouration of the plumage, and the fact that we expected a first-winter drake to show a darker head and mantle and more obvious male characteristics by this stage of the year.

Unfortunately, the bird did not hang around long and could not be found later the following day. It seems very probable that this bird was the immature bird subsequently relocated at Bessborough and Island Barn reservoirs (Surrey) on 25th-26th November.

© 2001 Mike McCarthy