Ducks

by Robin Fuller June. 03, 2020 180 views

The Seaton Wetlands are a permanent home to a variety of wildfowl and a wintering ground for many others. The relatively mild, southern, coastal climate means that the Wetlands are usually saved from the harshest UK winter weather. Therefore they are a valuable any year and especially important when colder parts of Britain have freezing conditions. The River Exe marshes about 25 km away offer a much larger area of wetlands and marshes, helping to draw birds into the area, some which use the Seaton Wetlands. Some of the photos I present here may have been taken at Bowling Green Marsh (https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/bowling-green-and-goosemoor/) and along the Exe estuary at Topsham. However, they are of species which occur at both sites.

Shelducks are almost always to be seen at Seaton. They normally nest in holes, often using rabbit holes in coastal sand dunes. At Seaton they have nest sites specially constructed when the wetland scrape was made. The number of breeding pairs in spring and summer is usually high.

A pair of Shelducks. The male is to the left, distinguished by the red knob on his forehead.

A pair of Shelducks. The male is to the left, distinguished by the red knob on his forehead.

Shelduck may have as many as 10 ducklings in a brood - just as we see here. They are out and about as soon as they hatch, feeding themselves when guided to the right places.

Shelduck may have as many as 10 ducklings in a brood - just as we see here. They are out and about as soon as they hatch, feeding themselves when guided to the right places.

The ducklings are proficient swimmers from the start.

The ducklings are proficient swimmers from the start.

This young Shelduck has largely fledged and has lost its downy feathers. However, it has not developed the colourful plumage of its parents.

This young Shelduck has largely fledged and has lost its downy feathers. However, it has not developed the colourful plumage of its parents.

Teal are seen at Seaton all year round. They are small ducks, usually found around the wetland margins and on the intertidal marshes at low water. They may be found with other smaller ducks especially Widgeon.

In springtime many go around in pairs, maybe with several pairs together. The green flash on the side of the female and the darker green side to the male's head are very distinctive.

In springtime many go around in pairs, maybe with several pairs together. The green flash on the side of the female and the darker green side to the male's head are very distinctive.

Male (left) and female (right) seem to sit very low in the water as they swim They feed in shallow water on plants and seeds.

Male (left) and female (right) seem to sit very low in the water as they swim They feed in shallow water on plants and seeds.

They also use mudflats. This male bird's bill has evidently been feeding in the mud.

They also use mudflats. This male bird's bill has evidently been feeding in the mud.

The male is intricately and subtly marked. The green colour on the side of its head has meant the term 'teal' is widely adopted to name a colour that is a greener and darker hue of turquoise.

The male is intricately and subtly marked. The green colour on the side of its head has meant the term 'teal' is widely adopted to name a colour that is a greener and darker hue of turquoise.

The plumage of the female is better geared towards camouflaging the bird as it feeds, when sitting on the nests and is probably of benefit to the ducklings that mother is not easily seen.

The plumage of the female is better geared towards camouflaging the bird as it feeds, when sitting on the nests and is probably of benefit to the ducklings that mother is not easily seen.

Widgeon are grazing ducks often found close together in large flocks, constantly whistling to each other. Though they can been seen at Seaton, there are greater numbers on the Exe marshes (where this photo was taken).

A small flock of Widgeon grazing marsh grassland.

A small flock of Widgeon grazing marsh grassland.

The males have a distinctive russet head with a pale cream forehead. The females, like Teal females, are better marked for camouflage purposes than for show.

The males have a distinctive russet head with a pale cream forehead. The females, like Teal females, are better marked for camouflage purposes than for show.

Four males and two females, looking like they are having a bit of an argument. As the photo was taken in March, I suspect they were forming pairs and suitors were warding off rivals.

Four males and two females, looking like they are having a bit of an argument. As the photo was taken in March, I suspect they were forming pairs and suitors were warding off rivals.

The distinctive markings of the male are more clearly seen to see in this photo.

The distinctive markings of the male are more clearly seen to see in this photo.

Mallard ducks are the most widespread of British ducks. Their colours are striking and, if they were rarer, I am sure people would take special delight in seeing them. As it is, feeding the ducks is still a favourite activity of small children, including those visiting the education area at the Seaton Wetlands.

Three males or 'drakes' with dark green heads and a single female duck. It is an odd phenomenon that Mallard drakes substantially outnumber ducks in the national population.

Three males or 'drakes' with dark green heads and a single female duck. It is an odd phenomenon that Mallard drakes substantially outnumber ducks in the national population.

The iridescent head of the Mallard drake is an extraordinary mix of greens and/or blues depending on the light and the viewing angle.

The iridescent head of the Mallard drake is an extraordinary mix of greens and/or blues depending on the light and the viewing angle.

The female, like other duck species, is more drab than the drake, but with a prominent blue wing bar. This is displayed more prominently when wings are open (see the 'Birds, water, camera action' post).

The female, like other duck species, is more drab than the drake, but with a prominent blue wing bar. This is displayed more prominently when wings are open (see the 'Birds, water, camera action' post).

Mallard duck and ducklings.

Mallard duck and ducklings.

The ducklings are proficient swimmers almost immediately after hatching from the egg.

The ducklings are proficient swimmers almost immediately after hatching from the egg.

But all that swimming around can get very tiring.

But all that swimming around can get very tiring.

Shoveller ducks are not commonly seen - by me anyway - at Seaton but thay are a characteristic species which is obvious when you see it. The bill looks almost out proportion with its head. The males have the green head of a Mallard and body colours reminiscent of Shelduck, but in a totally different pattern and distribution.

A male Shoveller (left) and female (right). They dabble with that shovel-shaped bill for seeds and invertebrates.

A male Shoveller (left) and female (right). They dabble with that shovel-shaped bill for seeds and invertebrates.

Gadwalls are a duck species I see occasionally at Seaton. They are year round residents in the UK and, I would guess, are found at Seaton in all seasons. They are dabbling ducks, upending for aquatic plants and invertebrates.

The male Gadwall (foreground) is finely marked but without notable colour. The female is, like the other ducks described here, dressed in camouflage colours to help protect her, her nest and her ducklings from predation.

The male Gadwall (foreground) is finely marked but without notable colour. The female is, like the other ducks described here, dressed in camouflage colours to help protect her, her nest and her ducklings from predation.

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