Answers and so­lu­tions

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding -


We start our wa­ter bird chal­lenge with what ap­pears to be a duck, judg­ing by that flat­tened ducky bill! The bill is big and dark and about as long as the head of the duck it­self. This may make you think about the Shov­eler and its out­sized bill. But the pro­por­tions of the bird and the colours seem wrong for Shov­eler, and the bill it­self is not long enough. In­deed, the head looks large in pro­por­tion with the rest of the bird, which those fa­mil­iar with these pages will re­call, is an in­di­ca­tor that this is a small bird. The back and wings are plain brown, and look un­der the wa­ter at the rear end and there ap­pears to be a sub­merged tail, al­most like a beaver’s. Face-wise, there is a dark crown and bold ‘hor­i­zon­tal’ pale and dark stripes, point­ing to this be­ing a Ruddy Duck.

KEY FEA­TURES †Large head, big duck bill †Striped head †Plain brown body, low in wa­ter †Long ‘beaver tail’ un­der wa­ter


Here, we have a wader in flight. Now, just about all waders are as­so­ci­ated with wa­ter, so we have many birds to choose from. A few things should strike you straight away. Firstly, the bill is quite short and very slightly down curved. This rules out snipes, Wood­cock, god­wits and curlews. The long white wing bars rule out plain-winged species such as most Tringa sand­pipers (as does the dark rump, as most of the Tringa species have white rumps) the long tail with barred outer tail feath­ers doesn’t seem right for the chunky Calidris sand­pipers ei­ther. In­deed, that long tail is an im­por­tant fea­ture in it­self, as is the bowed pro­file of the wings, which are typ­i­cal of Com­mon Sand­piper. This mainly fresh­wa­ter species has a dis­tinc­tive flight style on bowed wings.

KEY FEA­TURES †Clearly a wader †Ob­vi­ous white wing-bar, dark rump †Shor­tish, down curved bill, long tail †Wings bowed down­wards


To make things a bit more chal­leng­ing, this bird isn’t even show­ing its head. It ap­pears to be right in the mid­dle of a plung­ing dive, ap­par­ently from a swim­ming po­si­tion, hav­ing leapt from the wa­ter slightly. This in it­self rules out cer­tain wa­ter birds, such as dab­bling ducks. The legs are set well back on the body, as is typ­i­cal for a bird which ob­tains food by swim­ming un­der­wa­ter. Plumage-wise, this is a very dark, al­most black bird, above and be­low, with a crow-like gloss to the plumage and bronzy in­flec­tions in the man­tle and wing coverts. Also no­table is a pure white patch on the rear flank just above where the legs emerge. This in it­self, but es­pe­cially in com­bi­na­tion with the rest of the fea­tures, points to this div­ing bird be­ing a Cor­morant.

KEY FEA­TURES †Dark bird in mid-dive †All dark, al­most black with bronzy wings †White flank patch †Leap­ing par­tially out of wa­ter

Black­ish plumage Leap­ing out of wa­ter in dive White flank patch

Big, dark bill, big head Striped face, plain body flat­tened ‘stiff tail’ un­der the wa­ter

Long white wing-bar Plain brown back and rump and tail Bowed, flicked flight­style

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