Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Comings and goings: April 2010 summary

Tufted Duck at East India Dock Basin, April 2010

April was rather unsettled with north-easterly winds making it difficult for migrants to push through, in spite of this it was an excellent month for local scarcities at the lower Lea. A drake Common Scoter was on the Thames off East India Dock Basin on the 4th and the first Swallow of the year flew north-west on the 6th; single Common Buzzards flew south on the 9th and 11th and four Peregrines were in the air together on the latter date. Single Little Egrets flew north on the 10th and 11th and Single Collared Doves were noted on the 14th and 22nd with three flying west on the 25th. A Firecrest was a good find on the 20th along with a Lesser Whitethroat, two Common Whitethroats, two Common Terns and a Common Sandpiper, making it a good day for migrants. The first Reed Warbler turned up on the 24th along with an elusive Sedge Warbler; an Arctic Tern was on the Thames on the 25th when a Green Woodpecker flew south across the river, also on 25th the fifth Northern Wheatear of the spring was on the Pura Foods peninsula; the month ended on a high when a Hobby flew north on the 27th. On the wildfowl front a pair of Common Teal lingered until the 22nd and the Tufted Duck flock reached a year high count of 52 on the 28th, a small herd of Mute Swan peaked at nine on the 27th, 11 Canada Goose including a breeding pair were noted on the 4th and Greylag Geese peaked at seven on the 25th. One or two pairs of Shelduck remained throughout, but as in previous years no solid evidence of breeding was observed; finally four Pochard, three drakes and a duck turned up on the 27th and were noted intermittently until the end of the month.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Pochard pornography

I Took this series of photos at East India Dock Basin on Monday afternoon; a flock of five Common Pochard, four drakes and a duck, have been frequenting the basin for a few days. All four drakes were courting the duck but she showed no interest, diving frequently to avoid their unwelcome attention. After about ten minutes the drakes had reached a state of high excitement; two of them relentlessly pursued the duck but the third chased the fourth, caught it and copulated with it, forcing it completely under water for at least a minute on one occasion. I feared the fourth drake would be drowned so I shouted and clapped my hands but drake three was completely oblivious; eventually drake four dived with drake three still hanging on and both birds disappeared beneath the water for over a minute before surfacing independently and going about their business as if nothing had happened. I have seen Mallards behave in this way but I have never seen Pochard (or any other aythya for that matter) do anything like this, it made for an interesting intermission in what was otherwise a fairly uneventful afternoon.