Friday, 16 December 2011

Shovel

A very chilly walk around 'Swan Lake' this morning, revealed a bout ten, small ducks swimming in circles trying to sift some food from the surface waters.  They were Shovelers (Anas clypeata).
Sadly, these rather beautiful little ducks, stayed frustratingly near the middle of the lake, making it difficult to get a good photo.  The Male is (as is so often the case) by far the more colourful with his bottle-green head, snow-white front and rich, chestnut flanks.  The Black-headed Gulls were interested in these unusual visitors.  This one seemed to be very curious.
With their faces in the water, swimming round and round in circles, stirring up the mud to sift out invertebrates, they were hiding their over-sized bills.  If you get to see the bill, you get the impression that they are front heavy and likely to pitch face-first into the water, but the bill is a rather specialised means of 'shoveling' the muddy water in large quantities to extract whatever is edible therein.
Wintering numbers in Britain, increase from summer levels of about 1,000 to 1,500 pairs, to over 15,000 individuals.  Of which, we were fortunate to have about ten on 'our' lake this morning.  Beautiful!
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