Monday, December 07, 2009

Mandarins in the forest

Mandarins are probably one of the most accepted self-sustaining exotics in the British Isles (category C1E in the BOU's British List). There is much to like about these attractive little ducks and you'll hear virtually none of the antipathy from birders that is more typically directed towards Canada Geese. The striking plumage of the drake is an obvious draw but the female is a much more subdued brown with subtle, attractive shades and patterns, quite different from most female members of the Anatinae.

Close to home there are good populations in Middlesex and Essex so I decided to begin to direct some effort in photographing them over the next year. They appear to have a definite habitat preference for wooded ponds and lakes both with overhanging shaded cover and older trees for nest holes. In these situations they are quite shy birds and to me they feel like a natural member of the avifauna that has fitted in well. Within the city they can be tame and may come for bread in situations where they have become more habituated to humans.

At the weekend, males were already displaying frantically and some were obviously paired. Females were prospecting for nest sites, often leaping vertically from the water onto an overhanging tree limb. Light levels were low and so I mainly used side lighting to photograph them in the shade against some dark water. In the last hour of the day, many more birds arrived and the excitement of the flock continued as the birds gradually move up into the trees to roost.







16 comments:

JONATHAN LETHBRIDGE said...

Those are superb shots. Make me want to go there immediately!

Dale Forbes said...

those dark shots are incredible!

Fraser Simpson said...

Thanks Jonathan. Are there any Mandarins in Wanstead Park these days? I used to do a bit of birding around there when I lived in Stratford.

Fraser Simpson said...

Thanks Dale. Sometimes very low light levels are actually beneficial.

Warren Baker said...

Fab. photo's Fraser.
Ony had mandarin duck on my patch pond once this year.

The Early Birder said...

Superb images Fraser. Haven't seen any locally since end of the breeding season but hopefully 1 or 2 will return soon.

Lisa said...

Stunning photos! well done!

Tabib said...

Great Mandarin series.
Love the colours.

Fraser Simpson said...

Thanks everyone for the positive comments.

JONATHAN LETHBRIDGE said...

"these days" implies that once there were! Please tell me this isn't true! I have never seen one here, though areas of the Ornamental Water look really good for them.

Fraser Simpson said...

Ah, sorry Jonathan that phrase was a bit mis-leading. As you say the habitat looks right but I don't recall ever seeing one - I'd need to check my notes.

Nathalie said...

Beautiful shots - love Mandarins. But please can I ask for more pics of the female: as much as I love the showy drakes, the ducks are very subtle and equally beautiful!
Another lovely introduction is the Gadwall, here the drake is stunning, you just need to get good close views to truly appreciate them.

Fraser Simpson said...

Thanks Nathalie.

In the larger wintering groups there does appear to be a skeweded sex-ratio with a bias towards the males - could possibly just be that females are elsewhere avoiding the attention of the excitable males.

Can't get better than pair in one frame!

Fraser Simpson said...

Old Gadwall images here:
www.frasersimpson-birdphotography.com/gadwall.htm

Neil said...

Great photos. I love mandarins. If your looking for localities (you may know these already) the best place Ive found to photograph them is Richmond Park. They can be found in Wake valley ponds in epping forest but are less approacable

Fraser Simpson said...

Thanks Neil for the tips. I know all the Epping Fo pools where they are shy. What ponds to you recommend in Richmond Park?