Aqualate and Newport - 17 Jul 16

The results of my now usual early Sunday morning trip to the Natural England hide at Aqualate Mere

At this time of year ducks can be hard with even the drakes in their sombre eclipse (moult) plumage and juveniles yet to acquire ‘real’ plumage. The camera can help see what my eyes cannot these days.

These 4 are Gadwall. The first clue is the rather extensive orange/brown at the side of bill, but it is not that easy. Gadwall ducks show white bellies and these don’t, though they are at an angle and it might be hard to see that. What we can see is the white speculum, distinct on the uppermost bird. I would not like to say whether these are juveniles or ducks.

And here we can identify 3 Teal flying by. The speculums appear green, though that always needs checking as the angle of the light can make blue seem green and vice versa. The clinching ID feature is the border to the speculum: in front the white border widens towards the far end (distally) – only duck Teal show this; and at the rear border is always narrow. On Mallard the front white border is always of equal width and the trailing white is always much broader. Now could you see that when birds fly by? [Tufted Duck below them and behind them; some of the 300+ Mute Swans behind].

Not sure what set these off paddling at high speed – there were a number of such panics from the Coots as well as these Tufted Ducks. I kept hoping for an Otter to appear, but no such luck.

These duck were paddling as they were juveniles probably yet to fledge: here we see them with Mum on the left. Note the rather dull eye as well as the rather ‘blurred’ plumage.

When I arrived there were fewer than 30 Coots visible: suddenly at 08:00 a great whirring indicated c.450 had flushed out of the far side reeds: here c.100 of them.

An Oystercatcher flies by calling.

There were 3 Common Terns flying around, mainly at the other end: but one came close and I managed this shot. We see the dark wedge on the outer wing that separates adult Common Terns from other similar terns. Only adults would have complete black caps.

This shot just about shows the dark trailing edge to the underwing.

Rather obscured by foreground weed both features are seen here.

Another Aqualate visit means another Kingfisher photo: but hold hard ...

A Kingfisher with no visible means of support!

That’s better.

From a different angle..

Not all bird: this rather unusual-looking snail.

The ‘U’ shaped mark on segment 2 identifies this as an Azure Damselfly.

Later I cycled again to the small farm pool near Newport. Again a bit windy around the pool area for the hoped-for damsel- and dragon-flies

Almost complete ‘mating wheel’ of Common Blue Damselflies – the club-shaped mark in segment 2 of the upper male identifies.

The marking is rather clearer on the resting male.

Black-tailed Skimmer at rest on the ground: one of the few species of dragonflies that regularly does this.

Here is another resting on ears of wheat in the adjacent field

And this is the close-up of the ‘gearbox’ that drives the wings: note the left hind-wing has a nick in the trailing edge. Wing damage is not unusual either through fighting or when they are flushed form rest in vegetation – many dragonflies I hear crashing out of grass before I see them.

(Ed Wilson)