Sunday, December 20, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Monday, December 07, 2009
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.