Mallardy? - Sightings, 11 Sept.

Old Moor & Dearne Valley

Old Moor & Dearne Valley
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Dearne Valley

Mallardy? - Sightings, 11 Sept.

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Precisely one year ago, at 1.10pm, an osprey made a flyby of Wath Ings and showed beautifully for thirty minutes or so and then was gone. This year things have been a little different. We have had an osprey on-and-off since September 2. The question on many watchers’ minds this afternoon was, ‘Will it show again?’

Today began with the now familiar report from Old Moor’s ‘Early Birders’. Around the reserves, visitors have asked me about this elite squad of birding insomniacs and the truth of the matter is that few know their real identities. All I can say with any certainty is that long before most of us are awake, they have already tweeted the first sightings of the day.

Today they found: twenty-one little egret, twenty-seven cormorant, one ruff, one green sandpiper, a greenshank, eight wigeon and forty-five shoveler. Not a bad start at all.

A long-tailed tit from Ian Byrom. Thanks Ian!

From Wombwell Ings, Mr Whitehouse today found: 300 Canada geese, 134 greylag, forty-six shoveler, forty-two gadwall, fifteen teal, eleven mallard, three wigeon, three tufted duck, one little egret, a grey heron and sixty-seven lapwing. Thanks Alan!

At Broomhill Flash, John Seeviour recorded 419 mallard, seven pintail, two dunlin, one common sandpiper, five yellow wagtail and a swift. Thanks John!

From Edderthorpe the news was of fifteen ruff, six dunlin, one ringed plover, three shelduck, two wigeon, one little egret, two swift and then a peregrine and a hobby that cleared the whole flash.

Lastly, for this section of tonight’s blog, at Adwick this afternoon a whinchat was seen on the northern boundary near the mound.

The stunning colours of the view from Field Pool West at the moment

Before I turn to Old Moor’s sightings, I wanted to share a small observation that puzzled me and a few other watchers on the Wader Scrape yesterday. The problem was with maybe our most familiar species, the mallard.

I watched as several mallard swam to the deeper water directly in front of the hide and began preening. Cue much splashing and feather tweaking. Then each bird made a very short but energetic flight of six or so wingbeats and took off only to dive completely beneath the water, chasing about for some ten to twenty seconds.

When they surfaced, the whole shenanigans began again.

What do you mean ‘dabbling’? This here’s a proper dive!

What puzzled me here was the purpose of the dive. Now we know that mallard are dabbling ducks not given to diving. Were they feeding? Was this a sort of rinse? Or were they – and I’m sorry if I offend the science folk out there – just having fun? Or was there something the matter? Some sort of malady?

I even did a bit of research on the subject this morning in an attempt to shed some light on the matter. Surprisingly, there are very few references out there that describe duck preening, can’t imagine why…

A local expert’s suggestion was that the birds were perhaps using the water pressure of the dive to dislodge any stray feathers or parasites and perhaps to align recently preened plumage. It sounded pretty good and I wondered if any readers had seen this behaviour recently and had any other thoughts on this mallard malarkey.

Three of today’s black-tailed godwits

Back to those sightings from today. In Old Moor’s Bird Garden were bullfinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, great tit, chaffinch, dunnock, stock dove, long-tailed tit and blue tit.

Two little egret could be found at Field Pool East and along Green Lane were common darter, brown darter, migrant hawker, small white butterflies, speckled wood and red admirals especially around the ‘sunflower meadow’.

On the Mere were two ringed plover, one garganey and a single ruff whilst on the Wader Scrape were kestrel, buzzard and a single common sandpiper.

A goldie showing off on Wath Ings – lapwings unimpressed

Wath Ings provided views of sparrowhawk, buzzard, kestrel, hobby and peregrine along with five ruff, four black-tailed godwit, four green sandpiper and nine golden plover. There were also six wigeon, a little egret and a kingfisher. Around ten sand martin focused their feeding here today and with them were the last remnants of swift and swallow.

A green sandpiper in the sunshine this afternoon

As I left Wath Ings this afternoon, a good crowd of watchers was beginning to gather. Their motivation was obvious and their object ‘that osprey’. Old Bert was there and heard to comment, “That osprey’s late”.

I left them to it knowing that any news would be put out straightway. Sadly, at the time of writing, there is still nothing to report but if I know anything about the determination of Old Moor’s watchers it’s that, while there’s light they’ll be looking.

If I hear anything later, I’ll update this posting.

Until next time.

  • Bridgey - Admit it, those puns make you smile! And thanks, the goldie in front of the lapwings was just too good an opportunity. :)

  • I gather the osprey up at Fairburn & St Aidens was running to a pretty strict timetable in its trips between the two sites. The local watchers were all set up ready for its arrival at StA when we visited recently.

    As for the mallards, I think they knew you were watching Andrew so gave you food for some more awful duck-related puns! ;) I like the goldie photo btw.

  • They were really throwing themselves into it Tom. Great fun to watch whilst waiting for the odd fish-eating raptor... :)

  • I've always assumed the same as you, Andrew, that it was part of the cleaning process. It always seems to follow a thorough preen. I've seen Garganey and Teal do a similar thing, though not quite with the same fervour as the mallards!