Tuesday 1 April 2014

Common Scoter, the Black Black Duck of Farndon

Today, feeling determined, decided to tackle the 9.5 mile hawton farndon home route. It was such a lovely spring day, I really wanted to make the most of it, so tuned into 6 Music (later Radio 4, I'm getting old!), grabbed a drinks bottle and headed out.

Early on, it was apparent that I wasn't the only thing enjoying the weather. Brimstones were plentiful on Boundary Road, let alone Sconce Park where today a chiff chaff could be heard singing in the oak wood. Peacocks and small tortoiseshell were also plentiful, but I still haven't seen a comma. Forget-me-not grew wildly from under garden fences.

At Hawton, oil seed rape is beginning to flower, and in Farndon Willow Holt, a number of chiff chaffs were singing loudly, and as ever, invisibly, in the trees. Either that or one bird was an expert ventriloquist. Still no sign of the lovely wood anemones of last year however.

It was at the end of the Holt that I first saw something that really caught my eye. As you leave the river path via the gate, I noticed that the little dyke that leads to the river near The Boathouse was full of toads. I haven't seen a live toad until today his spring, although seen plenty of lifeless unfortunates on the road near Coddington Pond, and this little dyke was full of them, some in mating amplexus too. There were also matts of frogspawn.

I had only been talking last night with a friend about how you never see frogs and toads by London Road lake in the ditch any more. She theorised it was disturbance by the ducks.

So, I carried on trucking, the longest run I've had for a while with my injuries, the sun warming my back. As ever the last few outings by water I've had, I was hoping to see sand martins or perhaps a swallow - they've now been reported in the county, but I saw something, actually two things, even better.

The first was on the power station reach. As I came opposite those big orange cylindircal buoys that perhaps mark the approaching weir to boats, I noticed three very strange ducks. Two were black, jet black, with rather pointed tails and a yellow beak. The other was a uniform dark brown with a pale patch on the side of the face under a dark cap.

A black duck? What could that be? I suspected at the time - for once, I didn't have my little field glasses when I actually needed them - that they might be common scoter. That certainly seemed to be the case when I looked them up back home, but surely these are marine ducks?

The answer is that indeed that they are a marine species, but make use of inland waterways when migrating. A proper birdwatcher confirmed my sighting later on. I was rather proud of myself.

As I came further round the river, I noticed a metal detectorist rooting along the bankside; it transpired it was a friend of mine who had a very old 2p as a poor result for his efforts. But his treasue hunting aided me, because as he approached, he flushed a dazzling kingfisher from a near side of the river bush; it then headed North into the reeds on the other side. It was a metallic turqoise, glowing like a jewel in the mid afternoon sun. It looked like a hummingbird at first.

Such a wonderful sight they are, and how rarely I get to see them.

Oil seed rape coming into flower at Hawton
Frogspawn at Farndon
The common scoter. Obviously.
Spot the cormorant
Small tortoiseshell
Peacock, slightly second hand

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