Thursday, 15 March 2012

Three-bird flight

I only learned quite recently what a 'three-bird flight' is. When you're hanging around near lakes and ponds at this time of year, you may notice Mallards flying about in threes - two males and one female. This is a three-bird flight - an established pair of Mallards plus an unmated drake trying to muscle in on the female. In the flight, the pair are trying to shake off the interloper or at least not let him get too near the female, who will often be loudly quacking in alarm.

On Wednesday I spent a few hours in a certain London park between a work meeting and a long-overdue gathering with the Gentlemen of Science, and saw quite a few of these three-bird flights, not all of them involving Mallards either.

First things first though. There is a heronry here and there is plenty of activity around the nests at the moment, although it was frustratingly difficult to get a clear view of any of it.

Wings on or wings off? I often just delete photos where I've cut off a bit of the subject's anatomy, but then there's no way I could get this much detail on a flying Herring Gull (first-winter) and include its entire wingspan. What I find interesting about this photo is how much wear is evident in the tail feathers - and there's still a few months to go before they will be moulted.

I didn't see many 'little birds' today though did notice calling Long-tailed Tits and singing Goldcrests here and there. And this Blackbird.

Walking past a playing field, I was so surprised to see a Stock Dove fossicking about among the cropped grass that I failed to take any good photos of it, even though it was fairly close (for a Stock Dove - I find them pretty jittery usually).

I kept scanning the skies, rather hoping for an urban Peregrine to come powering along, but it was not to be. Instead, there were quite a few high-flying Cormorants, including this group that formed a V (though my before and after shots show that the V was not popular and they prefered to fly in a sort of squiggle formation).

On the lake bobbed all the usual parkland wildfowl, including plenty of Coots. These two had a fierce battle over who knows what. Most of the photos were spoiled by Canada Geese, gulls or other Coots gliding into the frame, or the photographer failing to focus the lens correctly, but I was pleased to get one showing the bizarre Coot foot being deployed.

The trees around the lake held many Carrion Crows and also a few Ring-necked Parakeets, which mostly dodged my lens but this one was careless.

What about those three-bird flights then? Here is a trio of Mallards engaged in this activity. The reason they take to the air is that it is (probably) impossible for the intruder male to forcibly copulate with the female, something that happens distressingly often on the ground and on water.

These two Pochard drakes were also part of a three-bird flight, but I didn't manage to catch the female in the frame (she was at about 7 o'clock, I think). There were Pochards aplenty on the lake here, I don't know if they will breed but hopefully they will - Pochard is not an especially common breeding bird in the UK.

And another one - Gadwalls this time. The sun was getting low now, hence nice light and noisy photo.

The last three-bird flight I saw involved these Red-crested Pochards. Though they probably have wing-clipped domestics among their recent ancestors, these three are clearly as free-flying as they come, and they circled the lake several times, giving great views.

Finally, a one-bird flight - a lovely Mandarin drake whose origins are probably pretty similar to the RCPs. I also saw two Mandarin drakes flying together, too far for photos.

1 comment:

Christian said...

Brilliant Coot fight.