Friday, 11 June 2010

Wendover Mandarins

I've already mentioned recently how, as a family man with limited free time for birding, I have to be alert to birding opportunities when they present themselves. Yesterday was a case in point when we were scheduled to head over to Aldbury for a birthday lunch with one of my VLW's brothers. For those who don't know it Aldbury is a rather pretty village with a small pond, some ancient public stocks and a gastro pub (The Greyhound) whose food is ok but not as good as it thinks it is. More importantly it's quite close to the Tring reservoir complex though despite a recent run of good birds there ( two red-footed falcons & a red-rumped swallow) there was nothing unusual there at present. However that morning, the legendary Lee Evans had published a survey report of the various birds in the surrounding area which included a pair of spotted flycatchers in a nearby village called Halton as well as a mandarin duck with six ducklings at a pond called Hampden in Wendover. I therefore suggested to my VLW that we go back a more scenic route that would take in both these locations so after our meal we duly set off with this plan.

We managed to get lost on the short distance from Aldbury to Halton and ended up coming into the village from the opposite direction to our intentions. LGRE has kindly posted the exact house number where the birds were located so we parked up and I got out to have a look around. It's always a bit tricky looking for birds outside someone's house: they tend to get a bit suspicious if you're standing there with a pair of bins and wonder if you're "casing the joint" and I did get a nasty look from one person as he pulled into the drive. I didn't have long with both my VLW and L in the car who weren't going to be prepared to wait around but fortunately I heard and then saw the bird briefly on the roof top of the house. I raced back to get my camera but when I returned it had gone so decided to move on to the next location.

I wasn't able to get a photo this time but it's an excuse to wheel out my digiscoped spotted flycatcher shot from last year

We managed to take the wrong road en route to Hampden pond though I managed to get back on track. The pond itself was a rather small affair surrounded by trees and situated by a nice old church just to the south of Wendover. My VLW and L decided to get out as well for a quick walk around the pond. There were some coots and moorhens and a mongrel mallard all visible from my first vantage point but around the far side I soon came across the female mandarin and her six cute ducklings. As we walked further around I spotted a couple of eclipsed males, initially skulking under the trees as mandarins are inclined to do before my photography attempts moved them further out to the middle of the pond.

The female with her ducklings

The two rather strange looking eclipsed drakes. Both these shots were taken with my point & shoot camera and it was rather gloomy, hence the blurriness of the shots

It's always interesting to discover new nooks and crannies which I'd otherwise never come across when out birding and given the scarcity of spotted flycatchers in Oxon this year I was pleased to catch up with such a beautiful bird. Two more ticks for the national year list to record

National Year List 2010
178 spotted flycatcher 10/06/2010 Halton, Bucks
179 mandarin duck 10/06/2010 Hampden Pond, Wendover, Bucks

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