Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Hunting Mergansers

Having visited my brother-in-law in hospital, we stopped at Bakewell on our journey home.  We purchased a bag of chips and sat at the river side to eat them.  Whilst we were watching the water-birds I noticed a small group of merganser swimming along amongst the geese, ducks and gulls.
These were Mergus merganser the common merganser or goosander.  As they all had chestnut coloured heads, I assumed that they were females and juveniles - the mature males have a bottle green head and a black back stripe at this time of year.  The distinctive white square wing patch can be seen on the wing of the adult female below, which defines this species in flight.
These birds are not often seen in this part of Derbyshire, but there were small brown trout in the river amongst the larger adult fish and this is what the merganser were after.  They swim three or four abreast with their heads under the water looking for small fish.  The movement is fast and they leave a considerable wake for a smallish bird (a bit bigger then a mallard).  They are very adept at swimming under water and their big webbed feet can propel them at quite a speed.
These birds have a serrated edge to the upper beak, which grips the fish they catch very effectively. We saw one bird catch and swallow a small trout.  Most of the fish in the River Wye are far too large for these birds to cope with.

Back at home I went to remove a pile of twigs and leaves that I had pruned from the blackcurrant bushes the previous day.  This little fellow was hiding beneath the cuttings.
I covered him up again.  The clippings will go in the bin tomorrow.

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