Saturday, 14 March 2015

Waterbirds in the Picture!

We have a lot of water in and around Tamworth – rivers, canals, lakes, ponds, streams, drainage channels, worked-out gravel pits, old quarries… Which means we have a wealth of water birds. I’m getting better at identifying them, but I’m not much good at capturing them on camera – birds are not very co-operative about having their photo taken! But I was quite pleased with the ones I took earlier this week, and I thought I'd share them for a Saturday Snapshot.
I'm just quackers about ducks!
As you might expect, mallards are ten a penny everywhere you go, but even though they’re so common, I always enjoy watching them. I love the iridescent colours of the drakes’ plumage, and the glorious markings on the females – from a distance they look brown and drab, but close to they’re a riot of patterns, in more shades of brown and beige and cream than you’ve ever dreamed of.
This Canada goose was just raising his wings as I took this.
And there are masses of Canada geese, all very vocal, and not a bit shy. To be honest they can be a nuisance, and occasionally seem quite threatening, because they get so used to people feeding them, that every time they see someone they rush up, demanding titbits. It's a shame, because bread (which is what they usually get given) is bad for all waterfowl - it doesn't meet their nutritional needs, and can cause wing deformities, which prevent birds flying.

Mute swans look so ungainly when they walk on land, but as long as they stand still
they still look beautiful.
There are beautiful, graceful  mute swans who tend to keep themselves to themselves. When I first came to Tamworth there were lots of swans in Tamworth - the town had one of the biggest swan populations in the Midlands, but I think the numbers have declined over the years, although the geese have increased.
A moorhen - this photo is a little blurred, but I rather like it. The moorhen was racing along the bank,
and it shows the green legs, and the red beak with the yellow tip. 
Then there are moorhens, which have greenish legs, and red marks on the face and beak, and yellow tips and end of the beak.

And a coot, with its white beak and white mark on the head.
And there are coots, with white beaks and head marks.

Birds perched on a kerb in a carpark by Borrowpit Lake, Some kind of gull
I think - not tern, because their tails aren't crossed.
Various gulls and terns flock to Tamworth, filling the air with their raucous squawks, and their acrobatic antics, and perching in the most unlikely places.
Blobby bird... An out of focus tufted duck. I do wish he'd stayed still, just for a moment!
Sadly, at the moment there’s no sign of the crested grebes I saw last summer, but I did spot a pair of tufted ducks, which are not exactly rare, but are nowhere near as common as mallards, and are certainly much shyer. As soon as I pointed the camera at them they took off at a great rate of knots, and this was all I managed to get… a blobby bird!
AI guess these hybrid ducks are oddities, but I think they are beautiful.
I had better luck with these beauties, two of our hybrids. They’re a cross between mallards and other waterfowl, and there are a few of them around. I’ve featured them before, because they fascinate me. Over the last few years they’ve bred, and I think these are descendants (if that's the right word) because they are lighter, with more colour variation.
An oystercatcher! In landlocked Tamworth!
Now this is the bird I was really excited about, because I’m positive it’s an oystercatcher, which is amazing, since they are coastal birds, and we’re about as far from the sea as you can get. It’s very distinctive, with those red eyes, feet and legs, and that red beak, which must be as vicious as it looks because it can break open oysters. Apparently they do breed on inland sites, by water, and then they eat earthworms – this one was digging his beak into the damp earth when I spotted him, and it seems to have some brown soil stuck halfway up the beak. If anyone can confirm my identification  of this bird I would be grateful - and if I'm wrong I'm sorry!

Herons are so amazing, with those long spindly legs and their elegant
necks, but they're deadly hunters, spearing fish and small mammals
with their sharp, pointed beaks.
Finally a grey heron. Isn’t he gorgeous? I am so pleased with this picture – you can see the feathers really clearly, and that wispy ‘beard’ beneath his beak. There are quite common really, but some of them look very scruffy indeed, while others are kind of faded looking. But the colours and markings on this one are particularly crisp, bright and clear. Herons look incredibly elegant  with their long, spindly legs, and graceful necks, but they are savage killers, and their sharp, pointed beaks like a spear to catch fish and small mammals.

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda at West Metro Mommy Reads, and you'll find all kinds of photos there, from all around the world.