Aqualate Mere - 28 Aug 16

Another early morning visit to Aqualate just over the border in Staffordshire. Mainly spent in the hide with the camera at the ready.

There have been upwards of 350 Mute Swans at Aqualate for several months now. This morning they seemed to be restless with many dispersed around the lake rather than in the usual melee; some flying around the lake.

And others, like these, flying off.

Another leaving.

 ... here with its bill shut – well it is supposed to be a mute swan.

And another group gets airborne.

Many of the Canada Geese were feeding out in the fields and only arrived later: these two came in much earlier and came a lot closer.

And did their best to do some formation flying.

One of the groups returning from the fields. Note the strange angles they get to in order to lose height quickly. This must be quite hard to co-ordinate so you do not crash into each other. Note too the single Greylag Goose – with the orange bill – amongst them.

More crazy flying. The Red Arrows are never like this.

This drake Mallard is moulting in to breeding plumage with fuzzy edges to some of its new feathers.

A more-typical drake Mallard with a few new feathers.

Not 100% sure they all left during the summer: however there are a few returning Shoveler, as here. The well-scalloped flank feathers tell us it is an adult duck.

It is a testing time with many ducks in eclipse plumage. This bird looks confusingly like a duck (Greater) Scaup with extensive white on the face and I can see no hint of a ‘tuft’ on the nape. There is however some pale in the undertail and I conclude therefore it is ‘just’ a duck Tufted Duck. Any Scaup in the UK at this time of year would be most unusual.

Likely a different bird, with the merest hint of tuft – you would not notice that unless you looked hard.

Here is a trio of duck Tufted Ducks. While none shows so much white on the face as the first example and there is less risk of misidentification, the vestigial ‘tufts’ seem equally absent.

This little fellow was all on its own and managing quite well with no parent to supervise: a juvenile Moorhen – the brown stripe along the flank separates juvenile Moorhens from juvenile Coots. The latter are usually much blacker.

At this age there is no hint of the red shield of the adults.

Of course there was a Kingfisher to pose.

And not just posing – searching for ...

 ... and catching fish.

Here, against the lower mandible, we can see the spine of what seems to be a Stickleback.

It seemed to give the Kingfisher great problems in getting it aligned to swallow.

One can imagine the Kingfisher is scowling: the Stickleback looks petrified, as well it might. Likely is a Three-spined Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus).

Time for a rest and digestion.

Different bird, different perch.

The Usain Bolt pose! Note that this bird is ringed on its right leg.

Somewhat easier to see the ring as it scratches.

It is hard to photograph flying dragonflies. This just about shows enough to separate this Migrant Hawker from the similar and slightly larger Common Hawker – the width of the front brown stripe on the thorax is the clue. The best diagnostic mark – a yellow triangle on top of segment 2 – is not visible here.

This is sharper picture but there is nothing to positively identify it from this angle.

Stationary dragonflies are no problem. A female Common Darter obliges.

The hard-working bit in close-up.

This Speckled Wood butterfly seems to have been in the wars, with some of its left hind-wing missing. Not too surprising as you often see these butterflies fighting for territory along woodland rides.

Not sure I have done this before: here is the view across the water from the hide. While the wide angle exaggerates the effect most of the birds – there are >250 Swans in view here – are a long way from the hide.

(Ed Wilson)