This is the one hundredth post on my blog, it will only happen once and is a decent enough milestone so I thought I would go back to my old favourites the birds. My posts so far have been varied, but most have stuck close to the subject of nature or books, I am grateful for the 96 current subscribers to this blog as it is nice to know someone reads it. I will admit that from time to time I find it difficult to think of something to write twice a week, but then that is one reason I started this blog – to keep my brain busy and my fingers typing out those wonderful inventions of mankind – words.
Before I wrote this I took down my Collins Bird Guide (1st edition) from my shelf and counted through the birds until I came to the 100th species in the book; which thankfully turned out to be a pretty British resident rather than an obscure pipit – the Goosander.
The Goosander (Mergus merganser) is a large duck in the Sawbill family (along with the Smew and Red-breasted Merganser) found predominantly on rivers in the breeding season and estuaries or reservoirs in winter. Although the birds are found throughout the northern hemisphere (I have seen them in Canada where they are called Common Mergansers) they are a relatively recent addition to Britain’s fauna. Originating from Scandinavia these ducks spread southwards into Scotland in 1871 but did not make it into England until 1941, today they are still only found in the north and west of the country during the breeding season – although they are more widespread in winter.
Unusually for ducks the Goosander nests in tree holes or nest boxes, (although the Goldeneye and Mandarin also do this) they feed predominantly on fish but also consume small crustaceans which they catch using their expert diving skills. Their streamlined shape, long necks and strong webbed feet at the end of their bodies are adaptations to a lifestyle of river-diving but their most specialised feature is the serrated edges to their beaks (hence ‘Sawbills’) which grip slippery fish. They are quite social birds, tending to be found in groups in winter ( in some parts of Europe they number several thousand) when they work cooperatively to hunt fish.
Typical habitat for these dashing ducks is the upland rivers of Wales, Northern England and Scotland where the clear, fast flowing water is perfect for both fish and the birds that eat them. I have seen many of these attractive birds in Britain, including a breeding pair on a river in Devon which I had excellent views of from a viaduct, I have also seen them in Cumbria on a reservoir where they flew at great speed from one end to the other. As for looks, well they have it; the male is sleek with a square, glossy-green head and an attractively patterned black and white body that lies low in the water – they lend themselves very well to art and I always think look a lot like a piece of art-deco sculpture. The female is a similar shape, apart from a short ragged crest on the back of the head, but differs quite a bit in colour; being a soft grey all over with dabs of white and a conker-brown head.
I would like to thank all 3,692 people or more that have viewed the previous 99 posts of mine, which obviously includes my lovely subscribers (tell your friends), I hope that I can continue to deliver moderately readable pieces of writing for the next hundred posts. Peace out.