Pensthorpe, ducks and stuff


After a week of sleet and rain a patch of weekend sunshine seemed the best excuse for a trip to see some natural and some less natural avian pleasures at Pensthorpe. Locally with singing mistle thrush and mallards chasing each other round point towards spring. Although we are in winter the slight lengthening of days is now perceptible.   First to show their fantastic colours and spring time displays in all their pseudo captive glory were the mandarin ducks.

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Mandarins sharing a moment of intimacy

Feral and escaped mandarins pop up all over the county but the best spot for them last year was the breckland birding mecca Santon Downham were it is possible these tree nesting imports bred.  The next bird to show us how to do courtship properly and perhaps trying to make up for his less impressive plumage were a goldeneye. This diving duck is a common winter visitor round the coast but much rarer the further inland you go. If you are looking for photos then Pensthorpe is the place for you.

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Male Goldeneye showing of to his potential mate (unsure if she is impressed)

As well as the opportunity to get close to some more exotic species the surroundings also allow some close ups with the more common species that are more familiar to village residents such as the coot. The below shows how beautiful these birds are close up but usually appear as scurrying black blobs in their local stronghold at Hethersett hall lake.

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Coot close up and personal

With the Southern half of the reserve cut off by recent high water levels I headed down to the scrape for some more natural birding. The scrape was more of a lake and no obvious waders in sight. There were good numbers of ducks with wigeon, shoveller, shelduck, mallard, gadwall  and teal accompanied by cormorants, mute swans, Egyptian geese and a host of coot and moorhen. All of the birds including the mute swans were put up in the air when a female marsh harrier started quartering the lakesides.

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Wigeon the whistling duck with a couple of hundred wild birds adding to the captive population

A quick check on the way home of the small hide, still accessible with the flooding, produced a range of small birds including marsh tit, coal tit and chaffinch and one not so small bird.

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Blue Tit waiting patiently for the feeder to become free

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Jackdaw hogging the feeders

There was just time on the way back to take a few more shots of the residents including one of my all time favourites the smew  another Winter duck favouring the coast so not likely to be gracing any of the village ponds with his perfect plumage.

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