In the last few months I have been spending some time watching the ducks at Daventry Country Park. There don’t tend to be any unusual ducks there (at least not when I’m looking) but there are usually lots of them in the winter and several of the usual species.
One duck that I usually find there all year round is the gadwall. At first glance it is just a brown duck – the drakes and ducks are both brown. But, when you look more closely (unfortunately something my photo is not good enough to allow), there is an awful lot of detail – grey stripes and speckles – which makes them look very dapper indeed. The female looks very much like a mallard female, the picture above is a drake. Both sexes have the white flash on the wing bar, but the drake has that black patch at the rear end along with a black bill (the female’s is black on top and orange at the bottom) and beautiful chestnut feathers on the wings above the white bar.
Although the gadwall is here all year round, the numbers are boosted in the south east and midlands with birds from eastern Europe.
I don’t remember seeing gadwall when I was growing up (even on visits to Martin Mere). This might be because I just didn’t notice them or because back in the 1970s and 80s there weren’t many in the UK, especially not outside the south east. Numbers have increased about 5 per cent a year for the last 25 years. The release of captive birds, including a large number in Leicestershire, is a possible reason for their increased range and numbers.
So, next time you decide not to notice a grey-brown bird with a white wing patch – have a change of heart and a closer look – they really are a lovely dabbling duck.
Flushed with the success of actually completing a nature survey last year (Bumble Bee Conservation’s Bee Walk) I decided to start the New Year off with more naturing and decided to look for flowering plants to submit to BSBI ‘s New Year Plant Hunt. I’d had a bit of a look round Daventry last week and saw quite a few plants in flower including daisies and clover so I was hopeful it wouldn’t be a complete dud.
I should mention, that I am at least as bad at recognising plants as I am bees, but I took my camera with me to get some shots so I stood a slight chance of finding out what they were at some point. Unfortunately, a lot of the shots were not very good, but I still managed an ID of all the plants. Final count was 15! Not bad for an hour of looking around housing estates in Daventry really. (I also found a couple of mushrooms as well that I am hoping I have ID’d).
These are two of the shots I’m not ashamed of, first Blackthorn flowering over two months earlier than I would have expected and then a plant I have seen quite often but never recognised; green alakanet. I had thought it was a member of the speedwell family, but it isn’t. I am not surprised to discover it is a member of the Borage family – I thought those leaves looked familiar!
The full list of flowers that I found is as follows:
- Common Daisy
- Common Dandelion
- White Dead Nettle
- Red Dead Nettle
- Common Groundsel
- Common Ragwort
- Common Whitlow Grass
- Common Field Speedwell
- Green Alkanet
- Creeping Buttercup
- Common Mouse Ear
- Common Bittercress
- Shepherd’s Purse
- Smooth Sow Thistle.
The word common means that these should not be a surprise, but I have learned the names of 5 new flowers already and it is only the second of January!