Sunday, 12 February 2012

Exotic New Arrival

 A wood duck comes for breakfast

We were amazed to spot an unusual pair of ducks that flew in with a group of mandarin ducks.  The bitter cold of the previous few days has forced some of the exotic ducks to seek food away from Bushy Park.  I've never seen wood ducks in the park before but a pair flew in and joined forces with about 14 mandarin ducks.  Our elderly male mandarin, a regular visitor, was most put out to find himself competing for food with a host of younger and stronger newcomers.  A pair of coots were even more annoyed and did their best to drive off the newcomers.
A pair of wood ducks

 The female wood duck resembles a female mandarin duck and I can't tell the difference between them.  Perhaps if I could see both species side by side I'd spot the difference but, then again, perhaps they are identical.  I know very little about wood ducks other than the fact that they nest in trees, as do mandarin ducks.

Wood duck flaps his wings

It was minus 6 degrees C last night and I presume the ponds and lakes in Bushy Park may have frozen, judging by the sudden arrival of so many mandarin ducks and the newcomers.  The male wood duck showed no sign of shyness and was quite happy to fly onto our deck and compete with the mandarins for food.

 A phalanx of mandarin ducks

I counted 6 pairs of mandarin ducks and two spare males, including the elderly, balding and arthritic male who's a regular.  They all turned up for breakfast, lunch and supper yesterday and returned again this morning for an early breakfast.
 Sunset on the Norfolk Broads

We drove to Norfolk for an 80th birthday party last weekend and hoped to spend time enjoying the scenery.  Unfortunately snow stopped play but we did, at least, share this lovely sunset with some very hungry ducks and coots on one of the broads.

Same location, different view

 Grey heron shakes its feathers

 While we were out on the boat a while back we stopped to watch a heron fly onto the bank near Platts Eyot.  It spent a while looking at the river and then decided to preen and shake down its feathers.

 Bidou about to call out to some passing mute swans

Bidou still visits most days and has become quite talkative in the last few months.  She calls out to us if we don't notice her arrival and 'chats' quite a bit if we hang around to watch her feed.  She is still looking for a mate but, as there have been no passing black swans at all over the last couple of years, she seems keen to attract a male mute swan.  Apparently she did find a willing partner last Spring but the dominant pair of mute swans drove it away (or killed it).  Whenever she sees other swans or hears them fly overhead she lets out the most amazing low trumpeting sound followed by a piercing high pitched call. 

Dawn from the warmth of our living room.

I love the winter skies and dawn can be stunning, especially when the weather is cold.  The majestic silhouettes of the trees really stand out against the cold, bright skies and it's lovely to see ducks, geese and swans fly overhead.

Male red-crested pochard duck pays us a visit

The pochards have been absent for quite some time but this male turned up for a few hours without a partner.  He didn't bother to join the other ducks for lunch but loafed around for a while before heading back to wherever it is he had come from.