Sunday, 24 October 2010

Swimmers

Walking around 'Swan Lake', we were being eyed by the ducks, geese and coots in case we had some bread for them.  Among these little 'beggers' were a handful of Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus).  In their winter plumage it is difficult to see where they get their name.  Come to think about it, it's also difficult to see why they are called Black-headed even in their breeding plumage - their heads are brown, not black!  But in Winter, the coloured head is reduced to a small spot of brownish grey behind the eye.
Well known in the UK, their numbers are thought to be around 138,000 breeding pairs but more fly in from the continent to spend the Winter, boosting numbers to over 1,600,000.  This one is a first-winter juvenile as you can see from the remaining colouring on it's wings.
Also well known for their noisy squabbling, the name 'Seagull' is a bit of a misnomer as it is much more common inland.  Especially anywhere it is likely to find food discarded by we humans.  This is an adult bird and shows how beautiful they are when you take a moment to look.
An increasing population of domestic ducks seem to be taking up residence on the lake.  Interbreeding with Mallards, they are producing some wonderful colour variations, although they all seem to be keeping their huge size.  The white ones especially, are at least twice the size of the biggest Mallards and they all seem to keep together, not integrating much with the wild ducks.
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