Tag Archives: Mandarin

Feeling Better Already

The foot still hurts, but I’m feeling a lot more cheerful and I’m actually starting to think again, even though it’s only a couple of hours from my last post. Julia says I’m also looking pink again after several days of looking grey.

While I was in the surgery this afternoon, despite having a book in my pocket, I just didn’t have the energy to read it. This is much more of an indicator of my wellbeing than a temperature measurement, because, as we saw earlier, I didn’t actually notice I had a temperature.

I’ve been missing my photography recently so I’ve decided to post a few of my favourite photos.

The featured image is one of the mice off a wheatsheaf loaf. I always liked making them, both the loaves and the mice. It’s actually very simple, though I never did get the knack of drying them out properly, so they had a tendency to curl up and go mouldy.

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Little and Large!

I couldn’t do without a picture of the Odd Couple. I haven’t been able to visit for a few weeks now, but I’ll be going as soon as I can walk.

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Nuthatch at Rufford Abbey

I like Nuthatches, and we had a good day at Rufford on this particular day. In fact we’ve never had a better day photographing birds in the woods at Rufford. However, I live in hope.

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Julia at Clumber Park

There are other subjects for photography apart from birds, wives for instance. This is a particularly fine example, and I would probably have starved to death if she hadn’t been here to look after me over the last few weeks.

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I forget the name of this one, but it’s quite impressive.

I’m going to miss the garden this year, it was so easy to pop out when the sun shone. Our own garden needs a bit of work after being ignored for years.

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Right place, right time

I may have to enhance the rainbow, but it’s still a favourite shot of mine.

More photographs in a day or two.

 

The Odd Couple and Strange Pigeons

We went to the park today to see the ducks. The first thing I saw was a Wood Pigeon in a tree and a charm of Goldfinches drinking from the stream which acts as an overflow for the pond. The pigeon looked a little rumpled and the Goldfinches were too quick for me, so there are no photographs of those two.

We were surrounded by feral pigeons at one point. I counted them twice, getting 57 in one count and 62 in the next. Call it 60. That’s a lot of verminous skyrats. It may be that I’m being unfair to them, as they do look quite tidy, and even seem keen on taking a bath.

The odd couple are still there, though the goose does seem to be paired up with another goose too. The three of them were together on the grass at the far end of the pond. It now looks a bit like one of those situations where a man has married but still has one of his old mates hanging round, or playing gooseberry.

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The birds seem to be paired up and defending territories, but apart from daffodils and a few mahonias there is nothing much happening to suggest Spring. Outside the walls Spring is definitely here but inside the park things are a bit behind. It may be the trees, or the stone wall holding cold air in, but it just seems like the park is a couple of weeks behind the surrounding streets.

 

Back to Basics

All these specialist bird reserves are alright, but today it was time for a trip back to the duck pond. It’s not as exciting as reedbeds and saltmarsh, but you can pull in a visit between getting a new watch battery and buying the ingredients for meatballs instead of making a full day of it.

I haven’t been for a couple of weeks and it seemed emptier today, with no gulls and only a couple of Tufted Ducks instead of the normal 20 or 30. There were five pairs of Greylag geese, which is more than usual, though I doubt there is room for five nests on the island.

The Mandarin Duck was there again today, following the geese around. I’ve never seen him with a female so he may be lonely.

That, apart from the numbers, seems to be the main difference – they now seem to operate in pairs more than they have been. Apart from the pigeons. They just seem to operate as a mob, and as soon as I even thought of feeding anything they gathered like vultures using ESP. They can’t, of course, read my mind. If they could they wouldn’t be so keen to get that close to me.

The pictures include a Mallard drinking from a puddle at the side of the pond (presumably on the grounds that he knows what ducks do in ponds) and a Moorhen standing beside the shoots of yellow flags, one of the few signs of spring produced by plants in the park. The landscape shot uses the “Dramatic” setting, which could equally be called the “Dark”setting.

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“Dramatic” photograph

 

A Tale of Two Ducks

Back to Arnot Hill Park and the duck pond again, with two interesting ducks.

One is the Mandarin drake. He wasn’t about last visit, and on the visit before that it was so dull I couldn’t get a good shot.

We have a population of around 2,300 breeding pairs in the UK, with more in Dublin and mainland Europe. In winter there can be as many as 7,000 individuals, including migrants from Europe. All were introduced, either deliberately or from accidental escapes.  In its normal range habitat destruction has reduced the population to around a 1,000 in China, and about the same in Russia. The only stable population is Japan, with 5,000 pairs. It is listed as “declining” worldwide, but is still a species of Least Concern.

The one I saw today, though small, is quite capable of holding his own against Coots and Mallards, two species that are currently getting a bit lively as the breeding season approaches.

 

The other duck caught my eye amongst the various Mallard hybrids is a pleasantly coloured individual with a longish tail that resembles a Pintail. The shape of the neck ring, from certain angles, also resembles a Pintail.

I looked up hybrid ducks and found several records that look like this, plus an analysis of how they happen. Mallards have a bit of a reputation for overly enthusiastic mating and this is one of the results.

The photograph of the duck lacking head was a mistake, but is the only one showing the green speculum which is a feature of this cross-breed.

It’s amazing what you can learn from looking at a duck pond.

A Walk in the Park

I’ve been dragging myself out of bed recently, rather than springing into action with eagerness. Whether it’s the time of year, a lack of motivation or just a natural tendency to idleness I’m not quite sure. As spring approaches and removes the time of year as a factor things may become clearer.

The late start, when linked to a bit of paper work, some hoovering, lunch and several episodes of Four in a Bed meant that we didn’t get out until the light was beginning to fail. That meant we had go somewhere close for our walk, and the nearest place with ducks is Arnot Hill Park in Arnold.

I’ll leave a description of the park until later, when I can take some better photographs. There wasn’t much light and I didn’t want to waste valuable duck watching time by taking pictures of buildings. Birds move, but buildings tend to still be there when you go back later.

We started off with a light feed of sunflower hearts and attracted a reasonable selection – Mallards, some interesting cross-breeds, Coots, Moorhens, Tufted Duck and a Mandarin drake. I couldn’t get many decent shots because they were moving too fast for the camera.

At that point a man appeared and started feeding handfuls of food a few yards round the pond. We were still able to see the birds so it wasn’t a problem.

Then, with his partner and child, he moved round to the next bay. So did most of the birds.

It was a bit irritating, but we still had things to watch, and didn’t feel any need to attract every bird on the pond.

Seemingly the man and family did seem to need to have all the birds to themselves. They worked their way round to a small beach and started shovelling food in by the handful. They also started throwing it on the path and attracting pigeons (something the signs specifically ask you not to do). Oh yes, I can be very attentive to detail when it suits me.

I’d never realised that bird feeding could be a competitive activity.

As things turned out it didn’t matter because we walked round to the other side of the pond and found a pair of Red Crested Pochard and a Grey Heron. The heron stood nice and still in a light area, but most other things weren’t so cooperative.

I’m not as excited by these Red Crested Pochard as I was with the ones we say at Rutland Water last week. I like to think the ones last week had flown in from the Continent. The two today seemed as tame as the Mallards, so I’m pretty sure they are feral birds who must spend their time lurking round local ponds.