|Tufted Duck (f) (Aythya fuligula) with nasal saddle, Millwall Outer Dock, London, 9/1/13|
In a flock with twenty or so birds this female stood out instantly due to the distinct reddish band around her upper mandible. Bit of tufty bling perhaps, or something else? Well in this case it's the latter - the band is a 'nasal saddle', a commonly used method of identifying wildfowl ringed in scientific ornithological studies. Each bird's band is unique thus helping plot the movements of individuals and species as a whole. Projects like this help improve knowledge of migration patterns, routes and key stopover/refuelling destinations. For waterfowl and waders, highly visible markers like this are a useful means of identifying internationally important wetland areas these birds may use.
I'd heard about similar sightings of ringed tufties in the East London area before, including an individual ringed in Portugal frequenting the nearby East India Dock Basin NR. A quick internet search and a prompt exchange of emails with a Europe-wide nasal saddle project based in Coimbra, reveals that this is indeed a Portuguese bird and the same bird that has frequented the area recently.
She's travelled a long way to reach East London (approx. 1375km) but seems to like it here and has been reported regularly in the vicinity. She, or to give her proper name - 'female 1red' was ringed LV1732 (Euring code 5) as a juvenile at São Jacinto Dunes Nature Reserve near the town of Averio, 50km south of Porto on 14th January 2011. She stayed in this area until the end of February that year when she began a migration north. She was seen again at Reserve de la Grande Noé in Normandy, Northern France, between 26th March 2011 and 8th April 2011 before departing again. On the 1st of May she was spotted in London for the first time, at East India Dock Basin NR. Since then she has re-located elsewhere, including Hillfield Reservoir in Hertfordshire, but generally remains faithful to EIDB where she appeared again between March-May 2012. It's interesting to note the periods in which she has not been seen - summer 2011, much of winter 11/12 and again summer 2012. She has spent the last 2 springs at the reserve before summering elsewhere and returning for a spell in autumn - perhaps she returns to the continent? (although she has not been recorded back at São Jacinto) Of further interest, sightings also suggest she may have paired with a similarly ringed male as the two have been seen together in the past at EIDB. I wonder where they'll get to next?
So there you go...just another boring tufty?!
|Epic Duck: Local girl (with a Portuguese passport)|
East India Dock NR is a great little site - check out the blog here.
More on Tufted ducks here and the Portuguese nasal saddle project here.