Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Ducks and Ponies

We started our walk yesterday walking along the Nutbrook Trail which took us past the fields where the Wildlife Trusts Konik Ponies are being grazed. On the rise to the side of the path, the ponies were keeping one eye on us as well as taking an interest in the horse and rider which had gone on ahead of us.
One pony decided to come further down the slope to find more, fresh grass. As it came closer, we could appreciate its lovely, thick, shaggy coat, necessary to keep it warm in the chilly wind.
Having found a particularly juicy clump of grass, it cropped it close then stood chewing for a few minutes with a satisfied look on its face.
All the while, its mate was keeping a sharp look-out from a higher vantage point as we continued on our way up the hill.
Having spent some time appreciating the Snowdrops and Daffodils on Shipley Hill, Malcolm and I were getting a bit chilly to say the least. So we headed for home and the promise of a hot cup of coffee. On the way home, we stopped at the small lake which acts as an overflow to Shipley Lake, to look at the small group of Gadwalls which have set up home there.
Seen from a distance, Gadwalls (Anas strepera) seem to be rather dull, grey and uninteresting ducks, but seen a little closer and in good light, the drakes plumage has some beautiful barring and speckling as well as the distinctive black rear-end and bill. The female, while looking more like a mallard, has a fine yellow/orange bill and is noticeably smaller. Their 'quack' is very different too. Quieter and rather more croaking than the Mallard, it is distinctly frog-like.
With fewer than 2000 breeding pairs in the UK, they are on the conservation 'Amber List' for species with an 'unfavourable' conservation status. Their population increases in the winter to about 25,000 individuals. This RSPB video is from Vimeo...
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