Monday, 4 January 2010

Not All The Pochards Are.

My weekend mornings have been spent delivering the Bird North East Calendars to all those that ordered them. (I have ten left if anyone is interested at £7) It took a little longer than planned as a result of the weather although the lack of traffic almost everywhere was adequate compensation. Snow is 'green' that way, keeps hordes of folk indoors off the road, there is a climate change carbon emission reduction policy in there somewhere I just haven't quite figured out how to deposit snow on the roads on an August Bank Holiday weekend.
The skies and roadsides were devoid of life today, a Kestrel not long after leaving home and a few Canada Goose departing the ice engulfed Bothal Pond were about all I saw until I reached the coast. Even there a lone Redshank and several Curlew in the fields inland of Gloucester Lodge Farm were all that remained of the waders that frequent these fields in warmer, wetter times.
Killingworth Lake held a surging mass of wildfowl penned into the corner near the car park. Mute Swan used their weight and sheer numbers to crowd close to the edge like refugees waiting for a handout. Behind them a sea of black and white with Coot and Tufted Duck frantically picking and diving for food. In amidst the tightly packed white bodies the occasional duck was squeezed and jostled, two male Common Pochard dived repeatedly under the bodies presumably picking seed from the mud below. A woman arrived and began to hurl the contents of a 2kg bag of mixed seed into the throng. Time and time again the Pochard wriggled and squirmed through, around and over the tightly packed bodies, wildfowl crowd surfers at a packed gig to dive into the icy water. Getting a clear shot in this melee was challenging.

Common Pochard, male, Killingworth Lake.

I headed off elsewhere and after another non-bird stop to recover my better half's repaired laptop I went looking for winter thrushes. Off the main road onto narrow ungritted, six inch deep snow I stopped after a short distance to walk along a little used road with a small stream beside it. Apart from the crunch of snow under my feet all was still and silent. Later after seeing a Song Thrush fly across from one side to another I could hear a loud sharp stone-like tap which I realised was said Thrush belting seven bells out of a snail on a nearby fence post, the sound audible several metres away.I found a couple of Fieldfare in the Hawthorn, getting close is one thing as they lived up to the meaning of their name 'traveler over the fields' but getting a clean shot was tricky amidst the tangled branches and whilst nothing I shot is clean I think they pick up the character of the thrush Chaucer called the 'frosty feldfare.'

Fieldfare, Northumberland

I had presumed all the water would be frozen but as I arrived I took a quick look up the ditch line and to my surprise a Water Rail probed and prodded about 5metres up the ditch. I took a few shots and then moved to get a better angle and a little closer, with only 10metres of ditch unfrozen this usually shy and secretive ditch dweller seemed in the words of Abel Chapman "stupefied by the conditions and loth to take to the wing."

It continued to feed as I crept under the hedge and lay down in the snow to get an uninhibited view, never coming closer than 3metres. I realised when I got home that somehow I managed to miss Water Rail completely last year, probably as a result of preferring to be outside rather than in a hide. This one was worth the wait.

Water Rail, undisclosed ditch, Northumberland

Oh, and the post title, if you ever visit the hide at Linton Pond you'll get it.


Bryan Rains said...

Cracking stuff, Alan. It's an undeserved slant against Pochard. All the best for 2010.

Brian Robson said...

Thought that was you yesterday at Killingworth Lake Alan, the Pochards were showing well as long as you could seperate them from the Swans and Coots.

Stewart said...

Alan I must contradict you there. I'm afraid that All the Pochards ARE. And have been for years.
I too have been stupified by the conditions and loth to take wing so I know what the old gadgy was on about...