Sunday, 14 February 2016

Pochard at Pensthorpe

Sunday 7th February 2016

It was a cold and windy day, cloudy with some sunny spells. We might have been frozen, but the waterfowl didn't seem to mind too much. I have a soft spot for tufted ducks, I'm not sure if it is due to their attempt at a rebellious hair style, their lemon yellow eyes or their daintily sculpted beak, but I do like these little diving ducks. I'm always equally fascinated by the elaborate feet of the coot, the one pictured below tolerated my close proximity and just kept munching on grass as I photographed it. Somewhat less easy to capture was a decent shot of the small raft of pochard on 'Old Squaw Lake', all were hiding their heads under wings and hiding entirely under trees. A couple eventually ventured further onto the open water, showing their bright berry red eyes.

Tufted duck
As much as I admire these three bird species, they were not a surprise to find here. One very surprising find was a smew (red head) on the same lake. Now, Pensthorpe do have smew in their collection, but their captive birds are found on the Mill Pond not far from the conservation shop. It is a possibility that this individual had snuck through the fence, but there was no way of seeing whether it was ringed as its legs were below the waterline... But, I can still hope that this was a wild individual rather than an escapee.

Our walk today was brisk, trying to keep warm in the chilly conditions. We made it to the woodland hide where there were woodland birds in abundance. I have written before about my hunt for a nuthatch as this is one of the few places where I get to see them well. Luckily, one did show itself to feed and perch on the trunks of surrounding trees. They can be domineering over the bird feeders, but they are beautiful birds with their dusky blue backs, apricot blushed breasts and black bandana around their eyes, making them look like bank robbers of the bird world.

All of the hides were deserted, maybe it was that we were relatively early visitors, or whether the cold conditions had put others off, it was nice to have them to ourselves. After an equally brisk walk through the woodland and around the the wildflower meadow, we made our way to the wader scrape hides. These hides are often all-or-nothing when we visit, but today was pretty spectacular. When we arrived, there were a good number of lapwing (for which I've just discovered the collective noun is desert or deceit!) alongside teal, wigeon, shelduck and others. Suddenly the flock lifted and scattered and to our amazement, a peregrine falcon sped into view and vanished almost as quickly as it appeared. Whether it was just passing and wasn't hungry, or was just scattering the birds for its own amusement before passing through, is anyone's guess.


  1. Male and female smew on old squaw a couple of weeks ago. I would guess they pond hop a bit more at this time of year as visitor numbers and free food handouts drop. But you never know may have been a wild friend:)

    1. That's interesting to know, yes, that's what I thought... but you never know! Apparently they've had wild cranes too over the last couple of weeks, but I didn't spot any of them.