Mallards and Beech Mast

Top end of Newmillerdam woods this afternoon.
Top end of Newmillerdam woods this afternoon.

WE WERE surprised to see so many Mallards, about 50 of them, in the wood at Newmillerdam this afternoon, feeding under beech trees on the slope above the eastern shore of the lake. It has evidently been a good year for beechmast.


moorhen in MidgleyAnd talking of water-birds in uncharacteristic places, we passed a moorhen, pecking at the turf of the grass verge on the double-bend by the Black Bull at Midgley. I imagine that there must be a pond hidden away somewhere nearby.


goosandersThat was on Saturday and on Saturday morning, before breakfast, I had the best bird tick that I’ve ever had while sitting on the sofa with a cup of tea; four goosanders flew across our street, heading towards the Calder.

Although they were a hundred yards or more away, the low morning sun picked out the blocky ‘black and white’ pattern on their underwings. My first thought, even though I knew it was wrong, was Shelduck but a quick look through the book proved that the goosander is the only duck with the white wing-square that I’d seen. Other ducks tend to have streaks or bands of white running along the wing. Even its close relative the Red-breasted Merganser differs slightly by having the white wing-square divided by black line.

goosandersApart from the Mallard, the Goosander is the duck that I see most often on the Calder.

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  1. I did not know that mallards eat beech nuts. In Holland we have a mast year too. They say that when there is much mast in autumm we will have a severe winter….
    I like your paintings of the ducks and the moorhen, especially the colours. Taking pictures is fun but I’m still struggling with the different settings. Last weekend it took me so long that I did not manage to take a proper pic of the two buzzards in the sky. Sketching is a lot easier… ;-).

    1. Yes, it seems a whole lot easier when I don’t have to worry about depth of field and exposure compensation. I drew the mallards from memory as we sat in the cafe. I knew that they’d fly back down to the lake if I’d stopped and started messing about with the camera.
      I don’t know about a hard winter but it’s certainly been a fruitful summer and autumn in our garden. I ate the last of the autumn raspberries yesterday. It’s time to cut back the canes for the winter now.

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