Sunday, 16 December 2007

Doubling Ducks


Seemed like a while since the girlfriend and I had been on a local twitch, leafing through my entries here is was the Rutland Red-necked Grebe in October, so it was due. A quick browse of Birdguides (where would birders like me be without such websites?), came up with a nearby Long-tailed Duck just across the county border in Derbyshire, at a LNR called Williamthorpe Ponds. Upon arrival it turned out to be quite the typical modern local nature reserve, a small pocket of wildlife much surrounded by Acme industrial complexes Ltd.

...when the duck eventually stopped diving.

This Long-tailed Duck (#204 for my life list) has been a long stayer, present on site since late November, and true to form there it was, a mucky looking 1st-winter drake, with a tail of diminutive standards. Still cute faced as ducks go though, rather round of head with the facial expression of a sated puppy. These guys ordinarily winter at sea, and are fairly common on our northern coasts, hence the local twitch value of this inland bird here in the East Midlands. Most LTDs seen around the UK will have come from the breeding populations in Iceland and Greenland where they nest on lakes and freshwater marshes, feeding largely on crustaceans, molluscs, and aquatic invertebrates, during which they dive for long periods.
Our bird seems happy where he is, and quite fearless of man. Just a little patience and views within 10 yards would come. A really nice bird.


As ever, just being out and about brings its own rewards, this time a wandering Water Rail. Icy days seem to encourage them out of the reeds and this one walked with a couple of yards of us, utterly oblivious. It made for quite the most memorable encounter, and I could hear others squealing in the reeds. Check the video links below.
Other birds around included the regular winter ducks, both common grebes, and I heard a Willow Tit or two.

How cool?

The second scarce winter duck of the day was this gorgeous Smew back at one of my local haunts, Kings Mill Reservoir (you know it well by now if you read my bird blog), a neat stop off on the way home. Apparently only the fourth record for the site (check out the local recorder's website for more info), it drew in many a local birder, and happily a few non-birding passersby.
Winter males are always striking, for me their look harks of Walls vienetta, you know, that fancy white ice cream with the embedded wafers of chocolate. Historically Britain receives more wintering females than drakes, though I'm not so sure that's necessarily true these days, with around 200 mainly finding sites in the south-east, migrating from the lakes and rivers of northern Scandinavia and Russia where they breed. His diet mainly consists of small fish, larvae and invertebrates.

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