Spring at Heslington Lake

Most lunchtimes I go for a stroll round Heslington Lake, but a few days ago (before the rains returned) I happened to take my camera with me.

The sun meant there were a lot of sleepy waterfowl around the lake:

Let sleeping mallards lie

Let sleeping mallards lie

Normally they’d never let you walk past with food, they’d be up and harassing you, but not this day.

Greylag Goose

Greylag Goose

Barnacle Geese

Barnacle Geese

Where normally there’d be eating, fighting, territorial behaviour, everywhere there was dozing. Though there were a few Barnacle Geese a little more awake, if not especially active:

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There was the opportunity to get a decent close-up look at some of the birds, and to see the structure of their bills:

Canada Goose

Canada Goose

Greylag Goose

Greylag Goose

In both these you can, I hope, see ‘teeth’ on the bills of the birds. They’re not true socketed teeth like we have, instead they are a cutting edge formed from serrations along the inside of the bill. You can see this clearly on this goose skull:

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Speaking of serrated bills, the lake in winter is always home to a few Goosander. It’s rare though to see these ‘sawbill’ ducks out on the banks, so it was a treat to spot these female sunbathing.

Female Goosander

Female Goosander

Goosander tend to winter in such a way that the females and that years youngsters stay in one place, but the older males go elsewhere. They then return and pair up.

The males and females are easily distinguished. The females are more slender and have a russet-brown head. The males have a dark iridescent green head.

Both though have the fish-stabbing bill. The serrations in this case are not for tearing up grass, they help hold fish in place, like the barbs on a harpoon.

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Female goosander

Another detail that could be observed was the dense feathering on many waterfowl that helps with both insulation and water-proofing. You can see this ‘fur’ around the back of this female mallard:

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Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

But the main feature of the day? Dozing in lunchtime sunshine.

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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