• Claire Stott

Wildfowl Wednesday

Wednesday 8th April: Isolation Day 17

We are now mid way through our third week of social distancing and fortunately I am still finding ways to keep occupied and stay in touch with nature in between working from home.

The government guidance means no more photo trips away from home so I am spending all my permitted outdoor time in ‘the patch’, home to a flock of mallard ducks who I have watched and photographed regularly over the years, in fact they are probably the most photographed mallards in mid wales!

The past couple of weeks has given me even more opportunities to capture various aspects of their lives including their spectacular courtship displays which consist of many subtle behaviours, along with a few more dramatic moves!

Although the mallards begin displaying as early as November, as indeed they have done here, these have certainly increased in intensity in the last couple of weeks. For once the conditions have been largely on my side and the action has taken place under glorious sunshine.

I was thrilled to finally achieve this image as a mallard drake performs the unusual grunt-whistle, accompanied by (as the name suggests) a strange grunt followed by a whistling call.

Mallard grunt-whistle display sequence

I was particularly pleased to capture the first image in this sequence, where an arc of water droplets is clearly visible, scooped up by the bird’s beak. This water splashing is characteristic of this behaviour and it is also sometimes referred to as the water-flick.

This is another rather odd behaviour where the mallard drake contorts his body, pulling up his tail and wings to display the bright blue patch on the wing to passing females.

Head-up, tail-up posture

This is known as head-up, tail-up and is very difficult to capture on camera as it only lasts for a split second, and is usually performed by groups of mallards together, making it difficult to know which one to focus on!

One display which is fortunately much easier to capture is the bill-shake, a more simplified behaviour where a drake rears up high out of the water and shakes it’s head.

Mallard bill-shake

Hopefully all the mallards’ efforts will be rewarded and we will see a new generation of ducklings very soon.

Share the ways you are staying in touch with nature using hashtags: #naturetherapy #mentalhealth #neednaturenow

All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © 2020 www.greyfeatherphotography.com

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#birdwatching #outdoors #aberystwyth #wildfowl #spring #birds #mallards #drakes #courtshipdisplays #birdbehaviour #birdphotography #naturetherapy #mallardducks

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