Thursday, 13 March 2014

Northern Shoveler

 A female Northern Shoveler
The Northern Shoveler, as its name suggests, is a bit of a northern duck. I'm not speaking about the north of England though. They breed largely, if not wholly, within the Northern Hemisphere taking in North America and the northern areas of Europe and Asia. In the winter they range further south of the equator and can very rarely found as far south as Australia.

Why am I discussing the humble Shoveler? Well, today I saw a beautiful drake fly through the sunlit mist at The Scrubs to reveal itself to me briefly before disappearing off southeast. You may be saying, 'so what', but I was in heaven. My morning had been made and my day set up. The reason for my jubilation was that the drake I saw was only the third time in 20 years that a Shoveler had been seen over my patch.

I remember the first time I ever saw one. It was during the winter of 1977 and I was sifting through the assembled waterfowl at Brent Reservoir when I happened across a flock of what to most people is a common duck. I was mesmerised by the males finery and the spatula-like bill that both sexes possessed. I have always liked Shovelers despite not being a great lover of ducks. The bird I saw today made me realise that even ducks can have an amazing grace about them.
A pair with the male coming out of eclipse plumage


Warren Baker said...

Nice one David ;-) That would make my day here too!

Joe Beale said...

David, I can totally empathise - this is perhaps the upside of patch watching. On my local patch I had one Shoveler just briefly in 2012, which was the first there since the 1960s. Then in 2013 a second bird showed up, this time a female sitting on the frozen pond and allowing good views. The 2013 bird really made my day as it kindly hung around and showed well. It remains one of my favourite birding memories despite of course being, nationally, a common bird that in some places wouldn't merit a second glance. That's the nice thing about a patch, though - you get to really enjoy common birds in a way you maybe wouldn't otherwise. And I think Shovelers look good too, in my opinion.