The low December afternoon sun at Martin Mere in Lancashire gives good light for photographs, providing the glint in this wigeon’s eye, but it does slightly bleach out the body colour.
There are literally thousands of birds around at winter feeding time at WWT Martin Mere. On our recent visit, among the larger ducks, geese and swans there appeared a number of these much smaller waders – ruffs. They seemed rather diffident, as most waited on an island bank for the larger birds to feed before creeping in to find some leftover seeds. The odd one joined in the mêlée, disappearing in a sea of duck, goose and swan legs.
By the time they got close enough to photograph with my Panasonic Lumix TZ80 the light was not good, so my shots are not too sharp.
Surprisingly, the male ruff is a startlingly attractive bird in summer plumage, with a highly colourful ruff around the neck. I was once so surprised to come across one a few feet away from me at an RSPB reserve, that I simply forgot about the camera easily to hand.
These ruffs were probably winter visitors. The RSPB suggests that the UK’s summer breeding population is very small.
According to the RSPB, these birds are now reasonably well established in the UK, having been introduced from China, where they have a reputation for lifelong fidelity. The male mandarin is a really spectacular bird.Read More »
The wigeon is another dabbling duck. According to the RSPB, some breed in the UK, but there are many more winter visitors. We were lucky to see a fair number at WWT Martin Mere at end October, the attraction probably being that winter feeding had begun.
A web browse shows wigeon to be more colourful in summer, but these are still attractive birds.
Teal are the smallest of the dabbling ducks, which may dabble on the water or ‘upend’ to get at things below (as opposed to divers). According to WWT Slimbridge, “Dabbling ducks legs are further central than other types of duck enabling them to walk well on land and graze. Dabbling ducks tend to take flight when spooked or on the move and are able to take flight straight from the water, unlike divers which have to run across the water to gain momentum.”
Some teal are resident in the UK, and many over-winter here, which this one might be is not clear to me.
This bird is of course the origin of the name of the colour teal.
We received a treat at the end of October when we encountered one at WWT Martin Mere, while we were actually waiting to see the pink footed geese coming in at dusk. This was at a relatively early stage. More and more groups of starlings joined in, and the gathering went on for more than half an hour.Read More »
The bird called shelduck in UK is more accurately called the common shelduck, and occasionally males may be called sheldrakes. We see them in their hundreds during winter visits to WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire, and also on the local lakes in Cheshire.
This is a largish bird and actually looks a bit like a goose. In fact it seems that it lies somewhere between duck and goose.
What I can say, by direct observation, is that they are fearless in that they will be the birds feeding closest to the viewing panes at Martin Mere winter feeding time. Yet they are easily spooked, creating a spectular display as large numbers of these colourful birds suddenly arise as one and take off. Hunger soon wins and they gradually creep back in to reestablish their pole feeding position.
Some stay in the UK to breed in summer, but many more are winter visitors.
Shelducks are found across the world in various guises, hence the need for the prefix ‘common’ to distinguish this particular variant.
The whooper is a large bird, bigger than the Bewick’s swans from Siberia that you are more likely to see at WWT Slimbridge. They otherwise look similar, both have yellow beaks that are not seen on indigenous mute swans in the UK.Read More »
The featured image looked like it would be superb on a beautifully sunny afternoon, low sun, but of course the sun was in the wrong place, so you can’t see the eye.
Better luck with this shot including a nearby shelduck, but then the pintail is a bit bleached with the strength of the sun.
Disgracefully, the pintail can be shot in UK in the winter, despite Amber conservation status. It is claimed that numbers hold up despite this. Sometimes I despair of some of my human fellows.
One of the marvels of autumn is the great bird migrations, some of which we can see in the UK. We were lucky enough to go to WWT Martin Mere in Lancashire a couple of weeks ago for a late evening opening to see thousands of migrating pink footed geese coming in for the night. We spent a happy couple of hours in bird hides, as the light gradually faded, watching skein after skein of geese, some going in different directions, come in to land or splash, until lake and banks were covered.
The most easily visible geese were the greylags that are at Martin Mere all year round.
The migrating pink footed geese were more difficult to see close up as they keep their distance. These are darker than the greylags, but easily confused as both have pink feet! These geese use Martin Mere as a staging post and move further south after a few weeks.
It’s not just about the geese. In the quiet of evening we also saw hares, a kingfisher, a marsh harrier, a murmuration of starlings, many lapwings, shelducks and others. Martin Mere also has enclosures containing birds from many parts of the world, and otters.
Martin Mere is also really child oriented, with things to do and a really good children’s play area. Granddaughter loves going there so that she can feed the great variety of ducks from the supplied bags of seed (small fee).
WWT Martin Mere is well deserving of support for all the conservation work they do, not only in UK but across the world – birds do not know of coountry boundaries.