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Monday, 9 May 2016

Mandarin - on 7th May, 2016

I'd had rather a stressful 24 hours, and it was warm with a fair bit of sunshine so, mid-afternoon, I decided to go out for a couple of hours or so and connect with the natural world.

My plan was to see if I could find Large Red Damselfly locally. I'd seen my first one of the year at Rutland Water two days previously, but only for a couple of seconds and didn't manage any photos. I was hoping that the wetland area by the north hide at Calke Park might be a suitable area. It was then my intention to visit another area of the park where I'd got a couple of Little Owl sites plus, last year, a breeding pair of Mandarin Duck (3 chicks raised).

I didn't see any sign of Large Red Damselfly by the hide, so decided to pop into the hide in the hope of getting some photos of Marsh Tit. I saw a Marsh Tit when I first arrived, but not anywhere where I could photograph it. Whilst I waited I took a few photos of other, more common, tit species. 

Great Tit (Parus major) - Calke Park
Coal Tit (Parus ater) - Calke Park
Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus) - Calke Park
I was on the point of moving on to my next location when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed what looked like a duck fly into the trees beside the hide. I scanned with my binoculars and eventually located it about 20 metres away - rather well hidden! It was a male Mandarin! This is what I saw.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) (male) - Calke Park
Fortunately, I was on my own in the hide and so could move about freely. From a window at the further end of the hide I had a slightly better view.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) (male) - Calke Park
Whilst this is not a rare duck, I rarely see one in the Midlands, and would not call it common. As an introduced species which has become naturalised, it is looked upon less than favourably by some people. However, I've never succeeded in getting any images of one that I'm anywhere near satisfied with. I was, therefore, somewhat frustrated at having this bird only about 20 metres away but almost totally obscured by trees. I left the hide and after a little careful exploration found a place with a somewhat clearer view.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) (male) - Calke Park
I returned to the hide and sat and awaited the bird's next move. At one point I let my attention drift, then turned round to look at the bird again, only to find it had gone. Having tried to relocate it for a while, without success, I was on the verge of departing once again when suddenly the bird poked its head out of the ground vegetation only about 10 metres in front of me for a few seconds before ducking back in again. Both frames I took were soft focus because of intervening vegetation. The next thing I knew was that a female Mandarin was emerging from the same spot and making her way towards me.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) (female) - Calke Park
She was shortly followed by the male.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) (male) - Calke Park
At no time were the two birds close enough together for me to get a sensible shot of them both. This was the nearest I could get to that!

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) (male + female (just!)) - Calke Park
I'm relatively sure, now, that the male poking his head out and then ducking (is that where the expression comes from?) back in was him checking out that all was safe for the female. The female continued forward and fed from the ground at around 4 to 6 metres in front of me. The male remained at around 8 metres distance, constantly keeping a watchful eye, and not feeding. It seemed like this went on for over half an hour but I see, from the camera data, that this close encounter only lasted 14 minutes.

I spent most of the time photographing the male. He looked relatively immaculate. The female, however, soon had a mess of stuff stuck to the left hand side of her bill. She was also a bit too close! For the male I had to wind the lens back to between 340 and 420 mm. For the female I was looking down on her most of the time and had the lens at between 240 and 340 mm.

Here's a few more shots of the female.



Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) (female) - Calke Park
I make no apologies for rather a lot of images of the male bird. I'm never likely to get this close again, and it is the most spectacular duck that I've ever seen. I was able to fully appreciate the fabulous palette of colours on the top of the head and that wonderful mauve colour on the front of the neck and upper breast area. The physical configuration of the feathering is also out of this world - a truly amazing duck!








Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) (male) - Calke Park
Sadly, my head was still elsewhere for much of the time and most of those images could have been somewhat better with more appropriate camera settings.

Suddenly, without warning, they took off in unison. I hung around for a little longer, but the most exciting thing that happened was a Great Spotted Woodpecker coming to within about 10 metres of the hide and departing again.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) - Calke Park
I never did get round to visiting the other part of the park that day. Half my objective had already been achieved - big-time, and a visit to the Little Owls will wait!

I am conscious that I've not posted about owls for a while now, and I suspect that is the way it will continue for a bit. The owl situation has been extremely disappointing and, sadly, I've little to show or talk about on that subject.

I expect my next post will be a fond farewell to some of our winter visitors.

Thank you for dropping by.

24 comments:

  1. Wow,brilliant Post Richard,just love those Mandarin Images,the very best,not seen any thing as good as these.
    Your Header says it all.
    John.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for those very kind words, John. It was a lucky encounter!

      With my best wishes - - - Richard

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  2. Mandarin duck is absolutely wonderful! Great Spotted Woodpeckers happens every day behind the window we pass the spot.

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    1. Thank you Anne. I hope that you, like us, are now getting warm weather!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

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  3. Fantastic photos, the best I have seen this month Richard.

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    Replies
    1. Gee, Bob! That's very kind of you to say that!

      My very best wishes - - - - Richard

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  4. Hi Richard, you lucky beggar getting so close to the Mandarin duck, super images of everything but the Mandarin steals the show. Regards John.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, John, I think I needed some luck like that. The owl situation was beginning to get to me!

      See you Thursday, if not before - - - Richard

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  5. If a Mandarin is not one of the true wonders of the avian world I don't know what is. And I am certainly glad you paid proper attention to all those tits, Richard!

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    Replies
    1. Ooooh, Matron - nudge, nudge, wink wink!

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  6. They are an impressive duck and these photographs more than do them justice. How I wish I could get that close to a woodpecker or a great tit.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Adrian. Maybe we should set you up with tit-charming classes? You might just get lucky!!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

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  7. What an excellent set of images mate, top class!

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  8. The Little Owl situation doesn't sound promising, hopefully all is well. I personally love the Mandarin ducks such a gorgeous bird.
    Love the GSW image and the Coal Tits look like they're having a lovers tiff

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    1. The Little Owl situation is really not looking good, Doug, with site destruction, and sites being taken over by Jackdaws and Stock Doves. Twelve months ago I could go out and see 5 to 10 in an afternoon. At those same sites, now, I'm lucky if I see more than one.

      I think that is actually what was happening with the Coal Tits! One was on the branch and the second flew in right beside it. There was a brief altercation and the new arrival moved to the position on the right that you see in the image. There were a few brief squarks and then stony silence between them!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

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  9. Oh wow Richard what great shots, love the mandarin, such a beautiful bird, but I also love the tits and the woodpecker. Wish coal tits would arrive in our garden - sigh. Have a good week Diane

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    1. Hi Diane. Thank you for your kind words. We don't see enough of coal tit in our garden either, although one puts in an appearance most weeks.

      Take good care - - - Richard

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  10. Oh WOW!
    Great photos of the most beautiful ducks there can be!
    Especially the male with it's neck feathers raised, definitely a sign he is on the outlook for his hen!
    Great post, Richard, again I would have loved being there!!
    Keep well, warm hugs to share with Lindsay

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your very kind words, Noushka. I was very privileged to have this time with these birds.

      Maybe we'll get together one day and, if we do, we'll have to keep our fingers crossed for some good sightings.

      I hope all is going well with you. Some warm hugs coming in your direction too - - - Richard

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  11. Truly an amazing array of mandarin duck. They are such beautiful colored and cheerful-looking ducks. Nice to see them in the tree. You could photograph these beautiful ducks in various poses. Too bad you could not photograph the Marsh Tit but coal and blue tits have to bring you more into the picture very beautiful. The fire damsel you can try to find another time.
    Greetings, Helma

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Helma. They certainly are spectacular - particularly the male!!!

      I found that Large Red Damselfly this week!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

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