Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Lough, Diving ducks (InDucktion)

In recent days I have been returning to the Lough in Cork city more and more. I had hoped to take a look at some of the common species living there and with any luck get some good light shots. The results varied. On several occasions ring bills and icelands showed up in the distance but for the most part the ducks supplied the greatest interest.

In particular I have a fondness for pochards and indeed other members of the Aythya ducks which unlike mallards and shovelers actively dive below the surface for food.

A number of weeks (months) ago a number of pochard showed up at the Lough. I didn’t count them but the number at a guess was about 25. With them I managed to judge that one of these ducks looked out of place. Indeed I soon learned that this was in fact a male ring necked duck. Unfortunately since it was practically dark at the time and the duck was very much asleep out on the water I gave up and decided to come back the next day. It had apparently moved on when I did return but at least I got to see it!

The ring necked duck is a rare American species not unlike a tufted duck in appearance but with a different head shape and without the distinctive tuft.

My girlfriend maintains that pochards are not as nice looking as tufted ducks; she says that their colours clash with each other! I have to say personally I would count the pochard as one of the nicest looking ducks seen on the Lough. Usually it is quite unusual to see a pochard here. They do come and go but very rarely do they stay for more then a few days. This winter I was delighted to see not only the already mentioned flock of them but also a single individual who remained to take advantage of the food offerings of excitable children and their families. To my knowledge he is still there (or at least was last week).

In contrast to the vivid males female pochards are quite brown looking. Still I do find personally that female diving ducks look nicer then dabbling ducks. Why I am of this opinion is hard to say, perhaps it is the detailing around the eyes and the shape of the head that set it apart from the plain camouflage plumage of say a female mallard.

Tufted duck
Tufted ducks are amongst the most common species of duck in Cork city. The Lough has dozens of them constantly active around the edges of the water, this makes a nice change from some of the other species such as shovelers which seem to prefer staying near the central island. It can be quite hard to see that it is closely related to the pochard. I guess the clue is in the very similar looking bill. I have had limited success getting a shot I like of these ducks, a phenomenon made all the more frustrating by the fact that they willingly come over. I just never seem to get the settings on my camera quite right for a bird this dark. Ah well. I’m going to let you guess which one the female is!

By the way for the sake of convenience I have customized my flickr photo gadget on the right to have a dropdown list of species so as to have easier access to each species. It currently only has ducks but when I get the time I will put in all the species I have so far photographed. Just click on any of the thumbnails to get a bigger version on a new page.