Thursday, 21 May 2015

Surfin' Gadwall

A pair of gadwall Anas strepera dabble in a stream outflow on the estuary

It has been a wild and windy Spring in the far north-west of Scotland, but the birds seem to be just getting on with life and take the weather as it comes. I couldn't venture into the hills the other day as it was too stormy, so I went along the shore of the Kyle of Durness to see what was about. There was a small flock of dunlin with a sanderling, ringed plovers and a few whimbrel, all waiting for the wind to change so they cold fly north to Iceland. And in amongst a flock of black-headed gulls bathing in the fresh water of a steam entering the sea water, there were a pair of gadwall. They were dabbling for food in the fresh water, as they normally do, but as the sea rose, they had to take to the sea and swim. That wasn't easy for them as the waves were rolling into  the bay. They had to paddle into the wave crests to reach calmer water beyond, then they drifted along to a bit of sheltered water behind some rocks. I hadn't seen a dabbling duck ride the surf before. Although I had watched red-breasted mergansers in big surf on a wide beach a few days previously and they, as expert diving ducks, simply dipped into the approaching waves and popped up behind them. Quite a contrast with the gadwall - they ought to stick to the fresh water.

The duck led the way into the waves

As they are dabbling ducks they didn't like to dip their heads into the waves, but kept their heads up like novice surfers

True to fashion, the water ran off their backs and off they went

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