Sunday, 17 May 2009

Digiscoping Today Week 2: Mandarin Duck

In a previous post 'New Life on the Ponds' I mentioned finding a male Mandarin Duck but due to the distance between me and the subject (80- 100 yards) I couldn’t get a decent close image using my DSLR. So here was the dilemma; whilst I was carrying my Swarovski scope and compact camera I hadn’t picked up the tripod but I did have a monopod and it was very, very windy. So in an effort to steady the ‘rig’ I plunged the foot of the monopod into the soft ground next to a tree and held the scope body against the trunk to gain some stability whilst trying to focus, keep everything absolutely still (practically impossible even using both hands) and get a decent picture. On this occasion I purposely used very little zoom on the camera and here are the results.
I must try to remember the tripod in future!

The Mandarin (Aix galericulata) is one of the most ornate of all waterfowl species, closely related to the North American Wood Duck, and has been revered in Far Eastern culture since at least the fifth century; they were thought to be monogamous, and therefore a symbol of fidelity so pairs were presented as wedding gifts to Japanese newly-weds. It was introduced at the beginning of the 20th century with the bulk of the UK feral population, estimated at 3500 breeding pairs in 1988, located in southern England. Formerly abundant, numbers of Mandarin in their native Far East have declined due to habitat destruction (mainly logging) and over-hunting to a total population size of around 80,000 birds (1970-1987). As a non-native species it is not protected in the UK.
As you can see the orange head and ‘sails’ and especially the dramatic, tapering white eye-stripe makes the male unmistakable. In contrast the female is similar to female Wood Duck with grey head, pink bill and heavily spotted breast but the key field mark is the shape of the white marking around the eye that extends backwards in a long narrowing tapering line whereas in the female Wood Duck it is shorter, broader and blunter.
Mandarins feed by dabbling or walking on land and mainly eat plants and seeds, especially beech mast. When breeding they are a secretive species, feeding mainly near dawn or dusk, and perching in trees hanging over or nearby still or fast-flowing water during the day. Normally only one brood; a clutch size of 6 to 12, with incubation taking 28-30 days with fledging in 40-45 days. It is quite normal to see Mandarins forming small flocks in winter, but they rarely associate with other ducks.


24 comments:

  1. Some lovely shots there of the Mandarin Duck.

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  2. I think that was a pretty good result Frank.

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  3. Nice photos and a very interesting post about those ducks. I am always interested in the posts about the numerous non-native species in Britain. It seems that they co-exist happily with native species. In comparison out here any introduced species has grown to plague proportions and created huge problems. Very different, apparently.

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  4. Great shots with scope. It's something I've never tried, might look into it at the bird fair this year.

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  5. Phil & Mandy. Snap - Monopod to the rescue! A Spotted Flycatcher near here would get me out in any weather!

    Roy. Just acceptable in the circumstances.

    Mick. Well, Canada Geese are also an intro species & many would admit that their expanding no's are already unacceptable.

    Paul. Thanks. The Bird Fair would be an ideal place to 'try before buying'.

    Have a good week everyone.

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  6. Cracking digiscoped shots Frank.
    Got some Mandarin Ducks near me, but they weren't at home when I last visited. They really are stunning.

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  7. I not so secretly really like mandarins - just worried that the parakeets will usurp their nest sites. Very nice images too.

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  8. Frank, I am looking at your pictures of the Mandarin and my jaw is dropped in awe. ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS! You have certainly gotten digiscoping down and your wonderful pictures prove it. Well done.

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  9. Great shots Frank of a very pretty duck.

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  10. Nice shots Frank! I really loved the first shot the view is stunning with the the Mandarin in the circular shot!! ;) Oh it's 25here today in Victoria...that is why I'm on the computer now...I'm already redder than a lobster from yesterday..we don't need to add on it do we! LOL

    Crista

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  11. Keith. Thanks. I think they like to play 'hide & seek'.

    Mark. RRP's seem intent on Starling sites at the moment but the time may come when they start search elsewhere.

    Hi Kim. Thanks for the approval. It has to be one of the most colourful species to photograph. So when are you going to post a male Wood Duck for comparison?

    Thanks Richard. I see you are starting to get some colourful visitors now.

    Hi Crista. The 1st view is exactly what I see thro' the scope before zooming in with the camera attached. Good idea that you keep in the shade for a while. Take care.

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  12. Beautiful photos! I've never seen one.

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  13. These are amazing pictures of an amazing creature...and I thought the wood duck was striking!! Your style of digiscoping really paid off..you captured some great shots.
    What a beauty..so many colors! Wow! would love to see one myself!!

    ps. i just got info on # of species we saw on our bird count..we saw 94 species in our 7 hour trek and 15 of them were warblers..not a great # for this time of May. :( but thanks for asking the question on my post!

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  14. Excellent digiscop shots. I see you also caught a part of a Canada in the first frame. Your Mandarin duck are quite beautiful.

    I enjoyed your previous post of the roe deer. I'm a little supprised at them shedding their velvet this time of year. All of our american deer shed in late summer/early fall.

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  15. ...he is a gorgeous duck, and your digiscoping photos are beautiful!!!

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  16. What a striking creature the Mandarin Duck is and well done on the digi photos.

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  17. I think you got some beautiful shots with that scope! Those ducks are so pretty!! They look so fat!! Ha!

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  18. Hi Mona, Tina, Salty, Kelly, Jan & Ginny. I'm pleased you enjoyed this colourful chap.

    Tina, thanks for the update on your Cape May sightings. Pretty good no's I'd say & certainly more than I got in ONE day in autumn.

    Salty. Roe Deer are the odd one out. They cast in Nov / Dec. Grow in winter & rubb off velvet in May.

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  19. Wow! Love the last capture of your Mallard...perfect!

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  20. Nice shots of the duck. There was one around a pond a couple hours away from my home, but it was an escapee so I didn't make any effort to go see it, plus I have seen them in zoos before.

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  21. Hi spookydragonfly. Thanks, it was the best image (but Mandarin not a Mallard!)

    Hi Tucker. Thanks for commenting.

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  22. It's unfortunate when non-native species are introduced into any ecosystem, but that is a beautiful duck. I hope to get a closer look at one of our native wood ducks.

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  23. I am stunned at how good those shots are given the wind and the lack of a tripod - you certainly have a talent (resourcefulness?)

    Thank you for joining Digiscoping Today!

    Dale
    http://alpinebirds.blogspot.com

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