Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Winter Ducks.

On Monday I drove over the county boundary to Wraysbury Gravel Pits in the hope of seeking out a few of the migrant species that often frequent the various large lakes formed after the extraction of gravel to build the M25 motorway.

As I climbed over the style to access the footpath that would take me alongside the New Hythe Pit I was initially greeted with a flurry of activity as various species including Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch,  Blackbird and Redwing dived for cover while overhead I could hear the distinctive chattering 'shack-shack-shack' calls from a number of Fieldfare. Both the Redwing and Fieldfare are winter visiting Thrushes and typically vary wary of any intruders so I had to wait patiently for them to settle high above me in order to snap a cropped record shot of both in the frame together.

Moving on I scanned the open water only to find that most of the ducks were typically too far away for the lens on the farthest side of he pit but I was delighted to spot that my quarry including 3 drake Smew and 8 Goosanders plus a number of Goldeneye were in fact on site together with the usual Mallard, Coot, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Grey Heron, Cormorants, Mute Swans, and Great Crested Grebes.  

I eventually managed to capture a male Goosander (Mergus merganser) which had been drifting close to the bank but out of my sight and promptly decided to swim away to join its distant companions. The next two species, Goldeneye and Pochard were fortunately a little more obliging.

Male Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

Male Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)

A few other species kept me company during my stroll including a small flock of Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits (constantly uttering their scolding call as I walked by) and the very noisy Rose-ringed Parakeets whose piercing screams nearly drowned out the constant background sounds from the nearby motorway!

My final quarry was the extremely shy and one of the smallest sawbills, the Smew. The males are often referred to as the 'White Nun' due to their distinctive white and black streaked plumage.
Male Smew (Mergellus albellus).
Every winter this dainty species migrates southwards from its northern boreal breeding grounds in Finland, Sweden and Russia. Small numbers can usually be found at regular overwintering sites from December until March throughout the southern counties of the UK. Unfortunately I couldn't get any decent views so had to dig out an image taken during a visit to this site from just a year ago.  FAB.

Click here to link to WORLD BIRD WEDNESDAY for more images from around the globe.


  1. A lovely variety of birds here and I enjoyed these photos and this post very much, thank you.

  2. A wonderful series, I especially like the image of the pochard, I find it and amusing pose.
    I'm glad you dug out the picture of the Smew, not a species I am like likely to see for myself.

  3. i was all in love with your pochard. then you had to throw in the 'white nun.' WOW!!!

  4. Great post Frank, what a fabulous walk that was well worth the drive.
    Those four Duck Images are stunners.
    (Oh for another Smew down here, must be at least five years since we had one.

  5. Those ducks are great!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  6. A Goldeneye and a Smew, very nice captures Frank.

  7. Wonderful images of your lovely wildlife Frank..
    I used to see the Parakeets in Cheshire but havn't seen one since the 1990's..
    Take care..

  8. Hi Frank,
    Lovely images of some stunning birds! Am particularly envious of the drake Smew, a stunning bird! I have got a couple of rubbish digiscoped efforts of a Red-head Smew on my blog, but I am even more embarrassed about them now!
    Follow me at HEDGELAND TALES

  9. Frank, am I allowed to like all of these images. Because if I am, then I do. That green parakeet so adorable and that duck with his head propped up is showing you attitude. Carol

  10. Hi Frank, what a great outing. I love all the birds and ducks. And wow, the last one the Smew is just beautiful. Wonderful photos, thanks for sharing!

  11. Hi Denise. Thank you very much.

    Hi Martha. Yes, it's a typical pose when the Pochard is getting ready to display. Glad you like the White Nun.

    Hi Theresa. Well, I had to keep something in reserve for the finale!

    Thanks Monty. The Smew is not the easiest to locate even when you know they are around ... I was fortunate yesterday for once.

    Thanks Gary.

    Cheers Roy.

    Hi Andrew. I'm sure it won't be long before the Parakeets return to your area.

    Hi John. We all have masses of 'so ..so' shots. Sometimes you just get lucky and take the opportunity when it presents itself.

    Hi Carol. You can say whatever you like. Compliments or critisism are always appreciated from you.
    I'm not so sure you would be so appreciative of the Parakeets if you experienced the daily screaming of a sizeable flock descending on the garden feeders!

  12. A great time for you on your outing! The photos are really nice, and I too, love that Male Smew. He's just gorgeous!

  13. Great photos and what a good place to visit with all that number of different birds and ducks.

  14. ...my, Goldeneye, Pochard, Smew, first time I've seen each of these; wonderful photographs Frank.

  15. I don't believe I've ever seen a Smew before. Beautiful!

  16. I was out today looking for our winter ducks, too, but I sure didn't see anything like that smew!
    Holy smokes, what a gorgeous creature. BTW, thanks for visiting my blog as well.

  17. wow frank, these are all so beautiful. many of the names contain "common"...i kept thinking, "what's common about these", they are just so special!!

  18. HI Frank...enjoy your bird shots, so nice to be seeing them again!!
    The White Nun is beyond belief..!
    To see Parakeets in the wild still is hard for me to imagine since all I ever saw was in a cage...but they have them here in places!!

  19. That white nun is absolutely gorgeous!

  20. Excellent selection Frank.
    We have a few Goosanders visiting my local at the moment; lovely birds.
    You managed to get closer than I seem to. Good shots of the Goldeneye and Pochard too. They dive for cover when I get close lol
    And the Smew. A stunner.

  21. Beautiful colors in those ducks! Nice job with the photos, Frank!

  22. They are all superb but the Male Smew is simply awesome:)

  23. Thanks Mona. The Smew is definitely in my top 10.

    Cheers Mick. Overall numbers appeared low but made up by the quality.

    Hi Carole. Delighted I could present something new for you.

    Hi Lois. It is a secreative little beauty so not that easy to get in front of the lens.

    Thanks Caroline. I'll be checking in to see what species you may have spied.

    Hi Debbie. Common or not they are ALL special to me as well.

    Hi Grace. It's good to back sharing some of my wildlife exploits again.

    Thanks Reena.

    Thanks Keith. I'll admit that sometimes I just get lucky!

    Hi heyBJK. Thanks for the visit .. appreciate the compliment.

    Hi joo. Thanks very much.

  24. So many great bird shots. The male Smew is different to any bird I've seen, love it!

  25. Hi Frank and happy new year. I'm happy to see you again. I'm going for the smew as I've never a male ;-) But all your pictures are splendid.

  26. These are terrific Frank, yet I must confess I have never seen a male Smew before and he really is quite handsome!

  27. Really great to see you back on the blog. Better yet to see you out in the field observing a photographing birds.

  28. Hi Pieces of Sunshine. Thanks for visiting from so far away. Delighted you enjoyed viewing the Smew.

    Thanks Chris. It's good to be on-line again. Happy New Year my friend.

    Hi Mary. I have posted a few pics of Smew before ... just about a year ago. I always make an annual winter visit to see if I can catch up with them and rarely fail.

    Hi Red. Thank you for keeping an eye open for my return. I'll drop by tomorrow for a chat.

  29. Hi Frank, great selection of species there and some lovely pics, I tend to see Smew at Dungeness but never close enough for a pic like yours, that's a particularly great image :-)

  30. Such lovely duck and shots of them!

  31. Thanks Alan ... I was very lucky not to disturb it!

    Cheers Arija.

  32. Marvelous photos, Frank! It's a thrill to see a Smew - I've only seen one in a zoo, same holds true of course for the Rose-ringed Parakeet. Lovely images of the Goldeneye and the Pochard!

  33. The Smew is awesome, what a great finish to this wonderfully photographed post. I can relate well to the challenge of bringing a bird into photographic range. Good stuff!

  34. As always, Frank, an entertaining and informative post.

  35. The Goldeneye, Smew, Parakeets, Pochard and many more to greet you. Fantasic photos.

  36. Hi Frank, It's so good to hear from you again.. Hope life in the UK is great for you!!!! I really enjoyed seeing your winter ducks.. They are so different from most of ours here. I especially loved the male Common Pochard.... Awesome!!!

    Have a great week/weekend.

  37. Those ducks are beautiful!

  38. Fantastic shots of the ducks -- I especially love the pose of the pochard!

  39. Frank, nice captures of the goldeneye, pochard and smew! Of the three, the goldeneye is the only one I have ever seen.

  40. I've been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this site. Thanks , I will try and check back more often. How frequently you update your site?
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