Monday, November 12, 2007


M' colleague (m' boss actually, but hey ho) has only given me her camera for a day or two (is she MAD?!), so I wandered up the Thames today, snapping some pretty common birds, to see what the camera was capable of.
I'm sure you'll indulge me the photographs above...

Black Headed Gull.
Almost all these gulls (our most common inland gulls) have lost their summer back heads now (chocolate-brown heads really, but they look black from a distance) - leaving just a smokey smudge behind each eye. This particular bird was not born this year. One can tell that by the lack of mottled brown in its wing feathers, (just grey and white) and the fact that it has brightly coloured legs - this season's gulls would have a duller, pinky tinge to their legs, rather than a bright orange/red colour. Larus ridibundus is the scientific name for this gull - literally translated as "laughing gull". Strange? When I see them, all they seem to do is quarrel and fight!

Or Water hen. Much more timid than the similar coot (hence their name of "Skitty Coots" in some parts), with a distinctive red and yellow bill, instead of a white bill and 'skull cap', and for want of a better word, a "petticoat" under its dark back, with 2 patches of white feathers at its rear end (undertail coverts), which it constantly flicks when disturbed (pretty well all the time).
Moorhens do not live on moors as their name suggests, Moorhen is purely a corruption of Merehen.

I think I disturbed this coot at toilet! Note its indignant pose! Also note the coot's fantastic lobed feet and the crimson coot eye...

Canada Goose.
Not strictly a native bird, but ubiquitous now. Very vocal.
In the second year of their lives, Canada Geese will find a mate, and (unless one is killed) stay with that mate for the rest of their lives...

Grey Goose.
Not a (wild) Greylag, as some would believe. The Grey Geese around the Thames (and surburbia in general) are pretty well all hybrids and / or domestic geese, feral if you will. Truely wild Greylags only breed in Scotland in the UK.
Another undignified pose!

Mallard duck.
The Drake Mallard (a dabbling duck) is the boldly coloured, recogniseable bird, but I hope this photo, of a very obliging duck shows that the female has beautiful plumage too - more so than the drake, I would say.
In common with many waterfowl (ducks in particular), homosexuality is rife in Mallards.
Male-Male relationships account for about 1/5th of all breeding (or non breeding as it 'appens) Mallards in a given population.
"Ooh...'Ello Ducky!"
That all said, virtually every species of domestic duck owes its existence to Mallard genes, apart from the Muscovy Duck, that is. Everything else is part Mallard.

Tufted Duck (Drake).
One of my favourite waterfowl (and Anna's too). Named for its very obvious tuft on the drake's heads. The male is a striking duck with a "Blue-Grey" (yes indeedy) bill.
The female is less black and white than the male - more of a chocolate brown colour with pale broen flanks. The tufted duck is a diving duck (unlike the mallard for example). Both sexes exhibit glorious golden eyes.
We had the great pleasure of seeing a family of Tufted ducks grow up on the river Lea, under our balcony last spring, when we were living in Tottenham. The ducklings were diving very well after just a day or so - incredible to see!
This photo has taken over (possibly permanently, we shall see) from the Blue-eyed Lemur, on the home page of "Blue-Grey".

I also visited the station three times today, with my eyes upwards, hoping to see the Peregrine fly in, or on its perch.
No joy today - I'll try again tomorrow - it would be such a shame to miss the opportunity to take its photograph with this camera, whilst I'm in possession of it.
Fingers crossed for tomorrow...

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