New duck visitors are attracted to the raised water levels at the FB's!

Just visible, the masts of the A raters sailing on the Thames

April, and raised water levels have consolidated, which has influenced the range of species visiting the filter beds, although winter-visiting gadwall have now left for their breeding territories. The water quality is constantly improving and it is possible to view submerging tufted ducks looking for molluscs and aquatic insects as well as  seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic plants. There has been a small posse of tufties present all this year, the male a smart black and white and the female a dull brown.

Red-crested pochards
There are  new arrivals to FB. 4, and these two red-crested pochards were displaying yesterday (showing an intention to breed). This is a plant feeder and dives for stems, roots and seeds of aquatic vegetation. In his display, the male passed these items to the female and it is useful to see that the FB's can now provide the range of food that these ducks seek. These are larger duck than  pochard, and there is a useful size comparison with a male pochard, which remains at FB. 2 (nearest the Surrey boundary) where it has been most of the winter (see December post). The male red-crested pochard has an orange-brown head with a red beak and pale flanks. Females are brown with pale cheeks. In flight they show whitish primaries.  

The female red-crested pochard receiving gifts
There is a large population in Spain and nearer but smaller numbers in France, Netherlands and Germany and occasional wild birds may come to the UK from the Continent.These ducks are perhaps the progeny of those that have escaped from wildlife collections, perhaps from Bushy Park Wildlife Gardens, but are now breeding locally and can be seen flying along the Thames between Kingston and Teddington. The RSPB estimates that there are between 10-21 breeding pairs in Britain. It looks that this may be number 22!


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